95 Holland America Amsterdam Cruise Reviews

Let me start by saying that this is my 4th cruise to Alaska - first on HAL. I think that the average age on this cruise was 75 - There were about 40 kids(teens and below) on this cruise. I don't know if it was because it was early ... Read More
Let me start by saying that this is my 4th cruise to Alaska - first on HAL. I think that the average age on this cruise was 75 - There were about 40 kids(teens and below) on this cruise. I don't know if it was because it was early June or the demographics of HAL, but sometimes it felt like it took hours to move down the hall or board a tender, etc. Embarkation - Due to a SNAFU, I ended up parking our car at the port and had to get there early. Lines were short and were probably on the ship within 15 minutes of parking. Granted, I dropped off the luggage with a porter first. And some of that time was spent going up the gangway behind someone in a walker. Cabin was a decent size and was ready when we boarded. HAL seems to have a policy of serving food for the first two days. Needless to say, getting some snacks took a while and it also took a while for the other folks to figure out the lines. Dining - The food was pretty good overall. The Pinnacle grill was not to be missed. My parents stated that the Italian restaurant tasted like Chef-boyarde(sp?). There seemed to be something for everyone and with the specialty lunches served on the Lido, no one went hungry. Ports - We had been to Ketchikan before. The biggest disappointment for us was that the duty free liquor shop had closed down. It rained all day in Juneau. Did a little shopping and used the free internet in the library that was next to the ship. Icy Straight - went whale watching with Misty Bay lodge. Saw a ton of whales. Anchorage - We took the kids the the museum and they had a great time with the interactive exhibits. Then took a bike ride along the water. Homer - Rented a minivan and the seven of us did our own tour. Found the Bear Creek winery. The kids had fun on their swings. Kodiak - It was a sunday and we walked into town. The six year old stayed in the kids club. The brewery was a hit. Sitka- Great weather and a beautiful town. Easy to walk around. Kids club- My six year old really enjoyed it. My eight year old mostly did. Pools - The pool on the aft of the ship seemed warmer than the spas. My kids preferred that pool and it was hardly used. Disembarkation - We were in the third group off and were off of the ship by 8:20. The only issue we had was finding a porter - they were mostly on the RCCL side and were not allowed to come to our side of the terminal due to union rules. That was not HAL's part, but the Port of Seattle. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
My husband and I are in our mid 70s. The last time we cruised we got a wheelchair for use on the ship. So this time I rented a scooter to be delivered to the dock because I have difficulty walking the distances required on a cruise ship. ... Read More
My husband and I are in our mid 70s. The last time we cruised we got a wheelchair for use on the ship. So this time I rented a scooter to be delivered to the dock because I have difficulty walking the distances required on a cruise ship. Neither of us has ever been to Alaska before Pre-Cruise: one night at the Mayflower Park Hotel. I had been to Seattle in 1994 and wanted my husband to see Pike Street Market and eat dinner at the Space Needle. The concierge at the Mayflower said I could borrow a wheelchair to go to Pike Street Market (which we did). She also made arrangements for us to be picked up at the airport in a Town Car ($45) and gave us the Cruise Special which included breakfast the next morning and a shuttle to the port. Internet in the room was free. Embarkation: fast and easy. We were delivered to the dock about 12:10, the porters took our bags and showed us where the scooter kiosk was on the dock. I got on the scooter and we went through, right onto the ship with no waiting. Food: Since this cruise was booked only one day before the final payment, we had non-fixed dining. We went up to eat every day at 5:15 and never had to wait for a table. We had room service for breakfast whenever we had an early tour and it was delivered at the time we asked and had the items on it that we wanted. On the first few days in the Lido, you could not serve yourself because they said they were trying to avoid people who came on board spreading sickness. But this made the lines very long. There was no way I could do the Lido on either a scooter or with a cane even if I was allowed to serve myself. If I was lucky enough to get food, I would have no place to put it on the scooter. I had to find a table and my husband had to guess what I would want and bring food. On previous HAL ships, the staff has been helpful when people are handicapped and having trouble, but that was not the case here. No one offered to help, and we only were offered tea or water at the table once. So we never ate in the Lido if there was any other option. Dining Room service was excruciatingly slow and sometimes we did not get what we ordered. I ordered two soups once and only got one of them. A lady and I ordered two different omelets and she got mine but didn't realize it until she got to the goat cheese in the middle. I understand this was because of mostly new crew. The food was usually good. I love the cold soups. The breakfast menu in the dining room was changed from when we were on HAL before and I liked it. We were able to get cranberry juice and tea if we wanted. We never ate at the specialty restaurants. Activities: We did Trivia once. We usually do all the Trivias but we didn't have any fun at the first one so we didn't go again. I went swimming once. The pool was nice and warm, and the bathrobe in the room was good because the air wasn't that warm. We did not use the spa. Bob went to a couple of the shows, but he does not like the flat floor in the HAL theaters first floor. We had good internet access in the room, but the computer lady (who was excellent) couldn't get my computer to stay logged on so she lent me one of the ship computers. That worked for me. There are several places we visited where you don't have a port listed. After we left Seattle we went up the Inside Passage and this was beautiful. Between Ketchikan and Juneau we did Tracy Arm. It was nice weather - not too cold and there was a very interesting naturalist on board giving a narrative. We didn't get to see the glacier, but it was peaceful and beautiful. Bob forgot to get some split pea soup on deck as it is his favorite. I was sorry that we didn't get to go to Glacier Bay which is the prime location for glaciers although I did like Tracy Arm. We also did Hubbard Glacier. They had a talk in the theater before hand. The naturalist at Tracy Arm was better, although the Glacier itself was amazing and we got to see it having a lot of calves. Disembarkation - Black Mark for Amsterdam here. They failed to tell us was the breakfast hours or what would be open so we got room service. I had intended just to get a taxi to the airport and that would have worked excellently. We would go off the ship (me on the scooter) and Bob would get the luggage and then we would turn the scooter in and get a taxi. But when Bob turned in the form they persuaded him that he should buy the $19 each bus tickets to the airport. Not only did we have to wait while all the luggage was stowed but the bus dropped us off a LONG way from where we had to go to check our luggage and for me to get a wheelchair. The only airlines who were checking luggage at that location were AAA and Delta. We had to go across the loading area, and up the escalators with four suitcases (2 each) to Southwest and it was very difficult. (There were too many people with strollers and luggage carts to use the elevator.) Very much more hassle than it needed to be Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
Summary: Glad I went. Had a good time. Like HAL This was a two week cruise out of Seattle, which I booked one day before the final payment. When they finally gave me my cabin it was an ocean view on the Lower Promenade Deck in a ... Read More
Summary: Glad I went. Had a good time. Like HAL This was a two week cruise out of Seattle, which I booked one day before the final payment. When they finally gave me my cabin it was an ocean view on the Lower Promenade Deck in a good location - except it was under the kitchen. Having been in that location before, I was aware of that and the people who were originally next door (from Cruise Critics) confirmed that they were awakened each morning at 4 am with metal wheeled carts rolling around overhead. Therefore when I was given an opportunity to upgrade to a Veranda by paying extra, I decided that if I was ever going to do a Veranda, Alaska was the place to do it. We were on the port side just a few cabins behind the wing bridge. I would rather have been on the starboard side, but this cabin was very good. I have no complaints about the cabin. I rented a scooter for this trip. I rented it before I made the cruise booking. It was quite reasonable to rent, and it really helped because we were pretty far forward and the dining areas are all aft. Also I rarely had a problem getting an elevator with the scooter which I think is somewhat astonishing. The only problem I had was that there was some kind of sculpture cum chair thing opposite the elevators on our deck and I could not back the scooter out of the aft elevators without running into it. I tried backing into the elevator, but I can't turn my head to look behind me without a lot of pain, so backing in was not a good option. Even my husband agreed after I tried it once. Once was enough. Bob would tell me when I could back out and which way to turn. We flew into Seattle on Thursday - got a non-stop Southwest flight from BWI to SEATAC. Arranged for a limo transfer for us and our luggage to the Mayflower Park hotel. Walked over to the monorail and went to the Space Needle for dinner. Then the next morning borrowed a wheelchair from the hotel and Bob pushed me down to Pike Street Market and back. The hotel gave us an embarkation package which included breakfast and a shuttle to the port. At noon took a shuttle from the hotel to the terminal. Embarkation was a breeze. Gave our luggage to the luggage people and picked up the scooter at the dock kiosk so I could use it for the embarkation process and we were waved right through and even missed the photographers (a good thing). Our rooms were ready immediately when we boarded - that's the first time that ever happened. So we went to the room first. See the room comments for how we did it with a scooter - it was not a handicapped room. We had to eat in the Lido on embarkation, and it is not possible to eat in the Lido when you are using a scooter. There are no longer trays and the scooter basket is not equipped for food. This was exacerbated by the fact that they were having people serve you everything instead of allowing you to take it. They told us the reason for that was for two days in case people got on with colds or other illness to keep them from passing it around. That seemed to be a good idea, but it did make things slow with long lines to be served as people did not understand that they could go to the next station. Bob went and got us something - he came back with spaghetti which was the only place that had no line. I never found a good way to eat in the Lido with either my cane or the scooter. There were no helpful people to carry your food. The service was really slow which made it was painful for me stand and wait for other people to be served. We only ate in the Lido if forced. We never ate in the Italian restaurant - I wasn't sure if it was extra price or not and you had to make a reservation. The food was reasonably good in the main dining room, but due to the fact that almost all the crew were new, the service was VERY VERY slow at first and we did not always get what we ordered. Bob ordered sugar free ice cream for dessert and got a sundae (which is what he really wanted anyway). Once he did not get a second soup (he will have three soups and no entree sometimes), and once a lady and I got each other's omelets and didn't realize it until she got to the goat cheese in the middle of mine. After the first couple of days, many people defaulted to the Lido and ironically the service also improved. We talked to some people who were on the previous cruise which was from Ft. Lauderdale through the canal and around the Pacific (a long cruise) and they told us that the ship's people were hand picked for that cruise and most of them got off in Vancouver where the cruise ended. Then 70 absolutely new staff, and some that were returning from leave and others that were transferred from other ships got on along with 1000 people who took the one day cruise from Victoria to Seattle. So the servers were finding their way around for those first days. Some people complained that they did not like the coffee, but we don't drink coffee so don't care about the coffee. The same person said her hot soups were not hot enough, but I found them perfectly fine. They no longer have breakfast specials, but the menu is expanded (they now have Eggs Florentine and not just Eggs Benedict), and I could always get cranberry juice. The choices were particularly good on the four formal nights. When they gave you lobster there was a container of melted butter to go with it instead of the steward drizzling some over it. They also no longer take your lobster tail out of the shell for you. I had trouble deciding on formal nights, but even on regular nights, I always had something I liked to eat. Bob lost some weight - he said when he got back that he was down to his target weight. I didn't lose, but I didn't gain either. The ship was noisy and had some vibration and creaking all the time even though I did not consider that there was particularly bad or rough weather. Sometimes some loud starling banging. Most of the time if there was rain it was at night. We did have rain one day in Kodiak for part of the day, but all the other days were at worst overcast. Spectacularly good weather for Alaska with blue skies. The people were nice - some of them had been on as many as 14 Alaska cruises and had a lot of information and anecdotes. We had a Cruise Critics meeting on the second morning. The tides are pretty steep in that area of the world so the ramps were also steep and some of them had steps, so I could not take the scooter off the ship. Some of the tours were on regular buses where wheelchairs could be stowed, but some were in school buses with no luggage capability. The tour tickets were not always informatory about this. The port maps were EXCELLENT and had a lot of information about the ports - more than just shopping things. I do not see why cruisers need to have tanzanite and Diamonds International in all the ports anyway. It is stupid. And my opinion of people who shop in those places in Alaska is not complimentary. Bob went to some of the shows and enjoyed them, but of course the theatre is the usual HAL theatre where you can't see on the ground floor unless you are in the front row. The theatre was right under us so he usually went down one flight of stairs and sat in the balcony where he could see. I was too busy editing photos to go. We went to trivia once but for some reason it was just not fun the way they did it. I don't know why - we've always really enjoyed trivia. I went to a HAL ports trivia on the last day, not realizing that they meant just Alaskan ports, and sat with a man who knew all the answers and we won some coasters. I was completely unable to use my own computer to do emails because it would not allow me to use a shifting IP address or something like that. The computer lady and I tried everything and nothing worked. I got emails sent once, but other than that I had no success. So she lent me a laptop. That worked fine and I could use the internet while sitting in my own cabin. Bob walked out to the business center in Ketchikan and bought a thumb drive for me (and he also got some fudge for himself at the candy store) and I just transferred my Favorites and photos to the other laptop and did the internet that way. One thing I could not do on either computer though was Facebook. The page would load and then I would get a message that the page couldn't be loaded and it would vanish. I only managed it at the end for a little bit. Dis-embarkation was semi-bad. I had thought we would take a taxi to the airport, but when Bob turned the form in he paid for bus tickets. DO NOT take the bus unless you are flying Delta or American. Those are the only airlines where you can check the bags at the location where the bus delivers you. Also you stand in a long line to get on the bus after you get through immigration. They did not give us any information at all about what places were open for breakfast or the hours, so we got room service. They gave us Black 1 as our disembarkation color and said it would be 8-8:15, but there was no information about what the sequence would be. When we got to the airport, I could not get a wheelchair as Southwest had no presence at the bus dock, so we had to drag ourselves and our luggage all the way through the airport and up an escalator (there was a LONG line for the elevator) to get to the Southwest counter. Once we got there we got our luggage checked and a wheelchair and the only problem was flight delays because of weather. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
My husband and I are infrequent cruisers. The Canal was on his bucket list, and we needed to make our own holiday plans this year. The dates of this cruise really filled the bill, and the price was most attractive. We own a second ... Read More
My husband and I are infrequent cruisers. The Canal was on his bucket list, and we needed to make our own holiday plans this year. The dates of this cruise really filled the bill, and the price was most attractive. We own a second home in Los Angeles, so cannot speak to air travel or hotel accommodations getting to the Long Beach Port. The embarkation was the worst in my limited experience. The Amsterdam had been in drydock for a short week in San Francisco. Somehow, it was late in arriving in Long Beach; all the attendant staff trainings, etc. scheduled for the early AM of the departure day were set back, playing havoc with the schedule. Those of us checking in were forced to a LONG wait in a cold room with inadequate seating - port staff finally brought in folding chairs. I am aware that stuff happens; however, no announcement was ever made, either in the port or on the ship, explaining the significant delay. I heard many stories and scuttlebutt, from a small hole (leak) in the ship to awaiting connecting flights to dealing with union loading issues at the port. We were all left in the dark. There was no "sailaway" as scheduled; the emergency drill was held in the port. We finally disembarked without fanfare around 9 or 10 PM. It was announced the next day that the shore excursions for the first port (Cabo San Lucas on day 3) were cancelled. This was to accommodate our late arrival in Cabo (afternoon rather than the scheduled 7 AM) and to allow the ship to make up the lost time and get back on the schedule. It all seemed a little furtive - clear and frequent communication would have been nice. We actually boarded the ship on a covered catwalk during a blinding sideways rainstorm. The staff member on the port side would not allow us to wait a few minutes until the rain let up. We were SOAKED from the knees down and had to visit the laundry room to use the clothes dryers immediately. Not the most auspicious beginning to our cruise. SHIP: The Amsterdam is a lovely older ship with beautiful dark woods and an impressive art collection. It had obviously been recarpeted in public areas during the drydock (carpet was still "pilling") and was in tiptop shape (except for rooms cited below). There always seemed to be ample spaciousness, even in the buffets and during the canal passage. I am not a fan of the new,huge ships and thought it was lovely and classy. There did seem to be some issues with public restrooms and the percentage of stalls being out of order - this may have to do with the age of the ship. The OofO signs would be up for days. Ditto the washing machines. I think 20% were defunct before we sailed and that it is just not a priority to HAL. But on a 2-week cruise, this can become an issue. Other than that, no complaints about the physical ship. STATEROOM: We booked with an out of town agent and had (unbeknownst to me) a guaranteed cabin that landed us on deck 1. Initially, I was unhappy. However, we experienced a good deal of roughness during our sea days, and the lower level was actually a blessing. There was more than adequate storage, and a generous window open to views all the time (wouldn't have been the case on Deck 3). The bed was quite comfortable. I was glad I had brought my own magnifying mirror for the bathroom. While there is one in the cabin, it is on the desk and the lighting there is inadequate. Lighting in bath is great. We had no issues with shower water temperature (many others did) or with room temperature. We were always comfortable. Our toilet did back up twice due to mis-use by some neighbors - an inconvenience that was handled well once and clumsily once. We appreciated the in-room robes and the bath products. DINING: Let me just preface this by saying that my husband and I are avid cooks and foodies. I did realize that I should not compare the food on this cruise to the one I took on Azamara - a little like comparing apples and oranges. However, in addition to the embarkation, this would be my one complaint about this cruise. Specifically, the Dining Room (La Fontaine), its service and food. We heard so many complaints about this that it got to be a litany. Apparently, there were a lot of staff changes prior to this cruise. I do not fault the staff - they were incredibly ill-trained. Example: our first breakfast was in the dining room. It was about one-quarter full - there were many, many waitstaff all around (in santa hats, I might add.) I ordered eggs, toast, coffee and a fruit plate. My husband had bacon, eggs, hash browns, OJ and coffee. We never got the fruit plate. My scrambled eggs were from a carton and had a very funky texture (this was the case in the Lido Buffet as well. I saw them being defrosted and cooked. I never ordered scrambled eggs again). The food took forever to come. The coffee had been in the metal serving pots a long time and was not hot. We could NOT get the attention of any of the servers. They were always "looking away." We finally got up, went over and asked whether they could start over with some hot coffee. They did, but we had to stand on our heads to get it. On Christmas Eve, a tablemate's prime rib arrived looking like shoe leather - he had ordered rare, and coudn't get anyone's attention, either. He finally SHOUTED and got their (and everyone else') attention. These were not isolated incidents, indicative of the food and service issues throughout. There seemed to be kitchen issues, as well. One night, the appetizer was a smoked salmon on fingerling potatoes with a couple other components. Four of our tablemates ordered it - it arrived with a piece of smoked salmon and a sprig of parsely. Period. They brought it to the server's attention and they expressed surprise and returned to have them re-plated. We were very late (8:30) diners on New Year's Eve; the entree was steak and lobster newburg. They must have run out of lobster at that point. I had the beef, a lobster shell full of newburg sauce with mushrooms but no lobster. They served baked alaska on the last evening and just let it sit in the dining room between services. I suppose it was frozen and firm for the 5 PM diners. SO, major quality control and training and supervision issues. I will say that it seemed to improve some over the course of the two-week cruise. HAL maintains an early seating, a late seating and anytime-dining. They don't seem to have it organized to combine these, yet. It just seems to be more than they can handle. We did the anytime-dining. It was possible to make a reservation, but they always kept some tables open, too. The sommelier service was very good. We brought our own wine (corkage is $18) and it was always well-handled. Table servers don't know how to do anything but a "bar pour", but we kept an eye on them and requested smaller "pours". The food in the Lido Buffet was excellent, as good and varied as any I have had. There seemed to be adequate seating, even at breakfast. We had dinner in there one evening. They had servers (rather than self service) the first two days of the cruise for sanitation reasons. I really appreciated this, even though it slows things down. We went once to afternoon tea (delightful) and had lunch one time out on the deck (burgers, pizza, taco bar, etc.). There are two specialty restaurants on the Amsterdam. One is Canaletto, Italian style dining for which there is no exta charge. It is adjacent to the Lido Buffet. It was good, but not great. There didn't seem to be much garlic or seasoning in the dishes. The meals were hot (an improvement over the dining room) and the service was prompt. We brought a bottle of our own wine. They neither charged us corkage nor poured it. Whatever. I would have been unhappy with the food had I paid a surcharge for it. As it was, it was a change of pace. The second specialty place is the Pinnacle Grill. I believe the surcharge was $20 each. It was very good, many steak and meat choices and a tremendous variety of salad, side, and desserts. I had a perfectly done veal chop and creamed spinach. Nice wine list, with a Northwest emphasis. The excellent service staff could teach the Dining Room folks a lesson. We attempted to return a second night but they were full up. IMHO, worth the surcharge for a special occasion night. ACTIVITIES: This cruise was heavy on sea days, so we participated in some of the activities (as well as doing nothing at all on a deck chair). There are the standard trivia and other contests, in addition to interesting "classes" (I participated in an art tour and cooking demos,) workout activities, tech classes, bridge, etc. I listened to the Port info lectures on TV in the stateroom. All of the above is pretty standard cruise fare, with the cooking demos being a nice addition; I only attended the freebies, however. HAL did a marvelous job with special holiday activities. From a carol sing-a-long to special treats to holiday entertainments in the Queen's Lounge to decorations to interdenominational services to a visit from Santa Himself, it was all superb. The New Year's Eve party and celebrations were spectacular and we enjoyed them immensely. KIDS: There were about 60 kids onboard, mostly with extended families having a holiday together. I cannot speak to the activities provided for them, though I was aware that there were some of those. I didn't appreciate having middle-school-age kids in the Crow's Nest Bar at 10:30 PM caterwauling in a karaoke contest. We went up there for a nightcap more than once and left due to this. Seems like it should be adults only after some time or other or maybe restrict them to a couple of Family Nights. That is, if they want the rest of us to buy alcohol. SERVICE: Besides the aforementioned dining room service, we found the rest of the service to be quite good to excellent. Our cabin steward was thorough but unobtrusive. The buffet staff was excellent, also the bar staff. They did not get in your face for drink orders as we experienced on Royal Caribbean. The drinks guy in the nightclub seemed a little overwhelmed and could have used an assistant. In general, we were happy with the service. ENTERTAINMENT: Pretty standard fare, but most enjoyable. There was the requisite in-house singer-dancer group who performed 4 or 5 times. The staging and costumes were magnificent. The singers were OK, and seemed to be lip-synching. We attended the early shows before late dinner. The room (Queen's Lounge) is a beautiful space. I thought the sightlines and audio and seating availability were very fine. I cannot speak to the late show. We heard only 3 of the guest performers. The sailaway/Crow's Nest band was OK, pretty much par for the course. The band in the Ocean Bar nightly, the Station Band, were superb. They had an endless repertoire and were quite skilled in figuring out what was appealing to the crowd at any given moment. We also enjoyed the piano bar player, (Debby Bacon) and the string quartet, who played during dining from the balcony and after dinner - rumor had it that they were USC music students. Fight on. They were a really nice touch. PORTS AND EXCURSIONS: Our ports were Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco, Puerto Quetzal (Guatemala), Puerto Caldera (Costa Rica) and Cartagena (Colombia, and of course the Panama Canal passage. Adequate info was dispensed via lecture (and TV) about the ports. We only scheduled one ship's excursion, and that was "Antigua on Your Own" - a bus trip of an hour from the port into the old city and back. It was reasonably priced. I would not have set this up alone, for security reasons. Cabo was pretty boring as it was cut short (see above). All excursions were cancelled, it was Christmas Eve, it was too early in the year for whale watching, and we only had a 2-3 hours there. We just walked around. IMHO, there is not much there anyway except Americans, golf and tacky tourist shops. Scuba Diving would be great but was not an option due to cancellations. In Acapulco, we set up our own tour with Rudy's (found online) with another couple He did an excellent job for a very fair price. We enjoyed Costa Rica and Guatelmala very much. However, the ship docks at a very isolated port in each case. In order to go anywhere or do anything, one needs to have a private or ship's excursion set up. Old town Antigua is interesting but its street merchants and general populace regard tourists as walking dollar signs and are very "in your face" at a level I had only experienced in Tunisia previously. Be prepared. Costa Rica is beautiful and has much to offer. We did a private tour with 9 other people with Okey Dokey Tours that did not provide all that was promised for the price. We did some fun things, but "Charlie" was quite the fast talking con man. Be advised. Cartagena was a surprise, and my favorite of the lot. Cabbies congregate at the port and negotiate to guide you for the day. This is a great deal and a safe deal as well. The city has much to see and guides save you much time, wandering, and backtracking. Really an amazing place. The passage through the Panama canal was handled beautifully by HAL. We did not get off the ship here. The port provides an all-day "Narrator-Guide" who provides a steady commentary from the bridge that is most welcome and helpful. The Ship provided on-deck coffee and rolls in the early AM, and iced tea during the humidity of the day. It was beyond interesting and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. DISEMBARKATION: Unlike our embarkation, this was a breeze, and handled efficiently and in record time. Plenty of instruction was given, everything went as planned, we were off the ship with no shoving or waiting, found our bags, and went through customs just like that! We had scheduled a tour of the Everglades with our Travel Agent's group, who got us to the For Lauderdale airport afterwards without a hitch. SUMMARY: This was a wonderful way to spend the holidays. There were enough sea days to relax and rest up between ports, the ship was beautiful and of a nice size, we met such nice, interesting people, and the weather was fine. The food was not as good as Azamara's, but I realized the difference in price and that this was a good value for the price. If they can get their dining room staff trained and their quality control issues in the dining room kitchen addressed, they will have a quality product. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
The route for this cruise is excellent, the support staff (cabin attendants, restaurant staff, etc) first class, but several events were seriously disappointing and HAL should do something about it: The embarcation at Los Angeles was a ... Read More
The route for this cruise is excellent, the support staff (cabin attendants, restaurant staff, etc) first class, but several events were seriously disappointing and HAL should do something about it: The embarcation at Los Angeles was a total mess - people having to line outside for hours in the pouring rain, no chairs inside - had to stand for over an hour in a cold barn before being "processed" Sommelier's dinner at the Pinnacle - extra charge of $69 per person - rushed pace, uninteresting wines, ignorant sommelier, so so food Too many extra charges with no logical explanation: attend a cookery demonstration and pay $29 for the privilege Captain Everson has no social skills - even boorish and while he invited selected travelers to his reception he and his crew stuck together and did not socialise - even refused to shake hands. The excursions are reviewed below. Pauline, the advisor on shore excursions gave the impression of being clueless To find a sun chair on one of the decks requires people to get up at dawn and grab a place - it was almost like on a package holiday in a cheap spanish resort. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Pacific Northwest ms Amsterdam September 20-24, 2010 Background Information: Last year I won $3,000 on a state lottery scratch off ticket, and immediately began searching for a cruise to spend it on. Normally I cruise by myself in an ... Read More
Pacific Northwest ms Amsterdam September 20-24, 2010 Background Information: Last year I won $3,000 on a state lottery scratch off ticket, and immediately began searching for a cruise to spend it on. Normally I cruise by myself in an interior cabin, but this time I thought I'd treat my sister to a much deserved vacation and splurge a bit on the accommodations. Imagine my surprise when I realized that for just a few hundred dollars more than I'm used to paying for a solo inside or outside cabin, I was able to book an SB Deluxe Suite for the two of us on a 4-day Pacific Northwest itinerary on the Amsterdam out of Seattle. Seattle Pre- and Post-Cruise: Neither of us had ever been to Seattle, so we got to play tourist. I was able to gather a lot of useful information from the West Coast Departures board here at Cruise Critic. Using Hilton Honors points, I booked a room for one night before and one night after the cruise at the Hilton Hotel at 6th and University. The Hilton was within walking distance of most of the downtown attractions and transit stations. The morning of the cruise, we strolled through Pike Place Market and bought postcards for family and friends back home. On the way back to the hotel, we spotted the IGA Kress grocery store and each of us purchased a bottle of wine to take onboard with us. The IGA is less expensive than the specialty wine stores you find in the downtown area. The day we returned from the cruise, we checked back into the Hilton and got rid of our suitcases, then walked down to Westlake Center to catch the Monorail to the Space Needle. After coming back to Westlake, we walked to the Transit Tunnel on Pine and caught a bus to Pioneer Square. Taxi rides to and from Pier 91 ran us about $15 each way. If you're flying into Sea-Tac and staying at one of the downtown hotels, I recommend using the Grey Line Downtown Airporter. The shuttle costs about $25 round trip compared to $32 each way for a taxi. Embarkation: Embarkation at Pier 91 was easy and organized. This is where we experienced our first Deluxe Suite perk - priority embarkation. Deluxe Suite passengers had their own check-in window, and we were able to bypass the lines waiting to board the ship. Ship: This was my first time on the Amsterdam, but having previously sailed on some of HAL's R and S class ships, I was familiar with the overall layout and deck plan. Everything appeared to be spotless and in good working order. Cabin: The first words out of my sister's mouth when we opened the door of the suite were "I can't believe how big it is"! Our SB suite was probably twice the size of our hotel room in Seattle. The bathroom was huge by cruise ship standards, with a spacious shower. We made full use of the veranda, as well as the desk, sofa, coffee table, and bar area. There was more than enough drawer and closet space for even a 7 or 10 day cruise. Having the separate dressing room was helpful when we were getting ready to go out in the morning or before dinner. One of us could be in the bathroom while the other one was getting dressed or putting on make-up. Our cabin stewards were Dudi and Harris, and both of them were friendly, helpful, and efficient. Deluxe Suite Amenities: The concierges in the Neptune Lounge (Daphnae and Sienna) helped us with a shorex change, as well as ordering pre-dinner appetizers one night. It was nice walking down there for an early morning coffee and croissant or a quick mid-afternoon snack. Because of the short length of our cruise, we didn't take advantage of the free laundry service. The binoculars in the room were handy when we spotted a pod of whales one day within viewing distance of the ship. Deluxe Suite passengers are supposed to get breakfast served to them in the Pinnacle Grille. I knew from a another regular poster on the Cruise Critic HAL board that on the Amsterdam, breakfast for suite passengers is in the King's Room. I called the concierge to confirm this, and she said we had our own section in the main dining room. I was confused. So, the first morning, we went to the main dining room (Deck 5) where we could see passengers being seated. The waiter told us to go down to the lower level (Deck 4). The waiter on the lower level asked us our cabin #. He said since we were in a deluxe suite, we needed to go to the upper level! So back up the stairs we went. I think the original waiter was a bit chagrined at having banished us to the lower level. Anyway, it was very odd that our private dining area turned out to be the upper level of the main dining room. I really don't know why they even bothered. The Pinnacle Grille (or even the King's Room) would have been a bit special, but on our sailing that particular suite perk turned out to be very ordinary. Ports and Shore Excursions: Our itinerary consisted of a day at sea, Astoria, OR, Victoria, BC, and then back to Seattle. In both Astoria and Victoria, we took HAL shore excursions. The Historic Astoria & Fort Clatsop tour included stops at the Astoria Column, the Columbia River Maritime Museum, and Lewis & Clark's winter camp. I was very surprised at how interesting the Maritime Museum was. I had no idea how dangerous the area is where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean. In Victoria we took the Short City Drive and Butchart Gardens tour. The Gardens were spectacular. Originally I had booked the Victoria Walking Tour because HAL wasn't offering any excursions to Butchart Gardens, and neither was Grey Line. When we boarded the ship, I happened to glance at the shorex order form in our cabin and noticed that tours had been added, so I had the concierge exchange the tickets for me. I highly recommend both tours. They were interesting and informative, and it was a lot easier having someone else drive us around rather than trying to figure out on our own how to get to the various points of interest. Activities and Entertainment: It was a good thing I brought my sister with me and we had the veranda, because there was a real lack of onboard activities and entertainment on this cruise. We spent 3 afternoons sitting on the veranda drinking wine and watching the go by. The sea day was the only day there was a good mix of onboard activities to choose from. In Astoria and Victoria, it would have been nice to have something to do on the ship when we got back from our shore excursions. There was a lot of time to kill before getting ready for dinner at 8 pm. The first night's entertainment in the Queen's Lounge featured a ventriloquist. We didn't attend because it started before we were done with dinner. The second night was a Broadway production show with the HAL singers and dancers wearing Bob Mackie designed costumes. The costumes were gorgeous and definitely a cut above what you normally see in this type of show. Third night was another production show with the same group of singers and dancers that showcased songs from different rock eras. The last night's entertainment was a movie, which I thought was rather poor on HAL's part. With Seattle and Vancouver so close, I would have thought they could have brought in a comedian, or a piano player, or a singer to fill the bill. Rather than watch the movie, we went up to the Crow's Nest where a young woman playing a guitar was attempting to sing, but was not being very successful at it. Service: This ship had some service issues, which I attribute to the staff not being fully engaged in what they were doing. The cruise after ours was a 69-day Asia and Australia cruise, followed by the World Voyage. It seemed as though their mental energy was directed towards preparing for what was ahead of them rather than focusing on the task at hand, which was us. As an example, on the next to the last night, our wine steward announced that someone else would be filling in for him on the last night. The reason he gave was that he had to start working on the alcoholic beverage order for the World Cruise. His replacement on the last night told my sister he could no longer honor her wine card. I almost couldn't believe what I was hearing. My sister insisted that since she had purchased the wine card for this specific cruise and the cruise didn't end until the next day, he needed to bring her a glass a wine. In fairness to the wine steward, he said he would check with his supervisor and ended back up at our table with a glass of merlot in hand. An incident like the one I just related has never happened to me on any my previous HAL cruises. It can be very off putting to someone new to HAL and can leave a bad first impression. There were other instances where service just wasn't up to the usual HAL standards. Taken individually they may seem insignificant, but they add up and detract from the overall cruise experience. Food and Dining: We had late fixed seating in the upper level of the dining room and were seated at a 6-top with two married couples. They were a lot of fun and made dinnertime enjoyable and something to look forward to. I found the food to be average to good. The biggest drawback was a lack of appealing entrees on the dinner menu. With the exception of one night, when there were four entrees I was interested in, there just wasn't anything that jumped out at me. Our waiter was Aziz, who was unobtrusive with a dry sense of humor. We ate one lunch in the Lido, which I find to be madness and mayhem since HAL did away with the trays and organized everything into individual stations. I don't like having to forage for my food. Disembarkation: Since we weren't flying home the same day we disembarked, there was no rush to get off the ship. We hung around our cabin until a little after 9:00 am, and then walked off and picked up our luggage. My sister commented on how nice it was not to have to sit in one of the public areas for hours waiting for our luggage tag color to be called. Just like embarkation, the process was smooth and organized. Things we didn't have/didn't get on this cruise - Master Chef's Dinner (thank God for small favors!), formal night, commemorative tiles, postcards of ship, Baked Alaska, and lobster (not even a prawn in lieu of a lobster tail). I didn't realize until I returned home that I didn't get a postcard. I keep a cruise book where I put a picture postcard of each ship along with my room key. I'm sure one of the cabin stewards or the concierge could have found one for me if I had asked. Summary: Overall a nice, short, relaxing cruise with an interesting itinerary. You can't beat a Deluxe Suite, which, along with the ports, was the highlight of this cruise for me. Food, activities and entertainment, and the staff's full engagement were somewhat lacking. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Our first Holland America cruise has us yearning for more wonderful experiences like this one. By way of background, previously we have cruised on Costa (twice) and Norwegian (once). While we very much liked our earlier NCL Jade cruise ... Read More
Our first Holland America cruise has us yearning for more wonderful experiences like this one. By way of background, previously we have cruised on Costa (twice) and Norwegian (once). While we very much liked our earlier NCL Jade cruise (12-day Norway) and our first Costa Atlantica (Norway), out second Costa Atlantica cruise was a nightmare due to the rudeness of the passengers and the hopelessness of the staff. But I have digressed... AMBIANCE The Amsterdam impressed as a very relaxing venue for a vacation. As opposed to the frenetic pace seen on larger liners with a younger crowd, this ship's smaller size and the advanced age bracket of the passengers combined to make this a very mellow experience. No fighting crowds, no conga lines, and no loud bands around every corner. Just some real peace and quiet. While we were one of the younger couples aboard (late 50s), we really enjoyed it. However, if you like a lot of wild action, this ship may not be for you. FOOD and BEVERAGE We don't have very high expectations for cruise line food, however, we were very pleased with the Amsterdam's menu, variety, and taste. For those who are salt-sensitive, you can rest assured that salt is NOT the main ingredient in the Amsterdam's kitchen. The wait staff were very pleasant and the dining room captain arranged for us to have a special Indonesian menu on one night (most of the wait staff are either Indonesian or Filipino, so we just asked for the special meal). Holland America allows you to bring aboard your own wine (and champagne) and water, which saved us a ton of money. A wonderful policy. The Pinnacle Restaurant charges $25pp for dinner. We did this one night, and it was well worth it. ROOM We had a veranda suite, which was comfortable and well-maintained. It was about the same size as our mini-suite on the NCL Jade, although the balcony was larger. The decor was not flashy, again a plus. Having a DVD player in the room was a nice touch, and the Amsterdam has a large library for DVD checkouts. The Amsterdam has coin-operated laundry rooms throughout the ship. This was another great feature. FITNESS The fitness facility was not as large as on other ships we have been on, but it was large enough given the use by the (older) passengers. Again, it was very relaxing, without the blaring music typically had in some fitness venues. We worked out daily. SMOKING Holland America really has to move beyond catering to the 10% of the population that smokes. Ban it! We never stepped foot in the casino or the shopping plaza nearby the casino because of all the smoke. Holland America would earn more money from the 90% of the population that does not smoke if they banned it. That being said, we did not smell smoke in our cabin. We could smell it in the stairwell. PORTS of CALL & EXCURSIONS Our itinerary was fantastic, with the highlights being Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier. On both of these "cruise-only" destinations, we had naturalists aboard that helped us understand the vistas we were seeing. We very much enjoyed the Mendenhall Glacier excursion as well. Alaska fjords are quite different that the Norway variety, and we enjoyed seeing the tidewater glaciers that are not present in Norway. EMBARK/DISEMBARK Very orderly. Very quick. High Marks! TRANSPORT We took our own cab from disembarkation to Seattle Airport. Tons of cabs lining up. Price was about the same as the bus that HAL would have supplied, but we got dropped off right at the airline door. SECRET TIPS 1. When in Anchorage, go to the top of the Hilton Hotel for a great view! 2. The on-board Microsoft training was free and a great experience. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Three of us on this cruise; my husband, my mother and myself. All of us have cruised before, my husband and I were on another cruise line last year to Alaska and loved it so much, we jumped at the chance to return for 2 weeks. First time ... Read More
Three of us on this cruise; my husband, my mother and myself. All of us have cruised before, my husband and I were on another cruise line last year to Alaska and loved it so much, we jumped at the chance to return for 2 weeks. First time cruising on Holland America. Embarkation was easy. Disembarkation was delayed, which was not good for those waiting to catch flights. Stateroom was adequate, lots of storage. We ate our breakfasts and lunches in the Lido restaurant and dinner in the main dining room. Food generally good. Restaurant stewards Aziz, Miduk and Benyamin were exceptional; Benyamin always had a smile on his face. We enjoyed the ports of call, especially the ones we hadn't visited before. The Hubbard Glacier was awesome. Diane in the piano bar was absolutely a joy, and the Neptunes were great. Bruce the cruise director was professional and obviously knew his job. Loved the Explorations cafe and the library. Now for the downside: the ship needs an overhaul. The grout was falling off the tiles in our shower stall the entire trip. We got locked out of our room and had to wait several hours for a locksmith. The railings fell off the walls in 2 of the elevators, and one elevator malfunctioned repeatedly. Carpet is worn in some public areas. 2 public bathroom stalls and 2 washing machines were out of service when the cruise began, and a worker told me the toilets had been out since the last cruise; "the plumber couldn't get a part". In Seattle?! There was also a lingering sewage smell on our deck. We had 2 nights of extremely slow service in the dining room; one caused a medical problem, as one of us takes medication that requires food, and waiting for over an hour for the entree to arrive wasn't acceptable. The singer, Ashley, for the Halcats, was not good. She can't sing, which is bad enough, but she didn't know most of the music or how to interact with the guests. The band leader had to constantly cue her, and he left the ship at the end of the cruise. I don't blame him. The presence of cigarette smoke was pervasive; it came from the staterooms, the casino,(which isn't enclosed) and the bars. Not only is it a health hazard, it's a fire hazard, and so irritating that it would be enough to keep us from this line again. The children on the ship need to be better supervised; one of them broke a glass in the Lido pool, necessitating its draining and preventing its use for almost 2 days. An adults-only pool would be nice, as the kids tended to take over the pool, and their parents were AWOL. One other thing, which has nothing to do with Holland America's service; the clientele is mostly elderly, so be prepared for lots of walkers, scooters, and delays. We had an older person with us, and she could have given lessons to some of the seniors on how to act; they were sometimes rude and very inclined to think of the ship as "theirs". Overall a good experience, we would consider sailing on Holland America again. But there do need to be some improvements, most notably in the area of smoking policies. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
We are a couple, age 59 and 73 on sailing date. We are not late night people, but are often still going at 11:00. We sailed the Amsterdam 14-night Alaska cruise from June 14 to 28 (with an extra day at each end arranged through HAL at the ... Read More
We are a couple, age 59 and 73 on sailing date. We are not late night people, but are often still going at 11:00. We sailed the Amsterdam 14-night Alaska cruise from June 14 to 28 (with an extra day at each end arranged through HAL at the Sheraton Seattle). This was our first cruise on HAL and had very high expectations based on all of the comments on Cruise Critics. To put things in perspective, we have included a list of our cruises. 14 day HAL Amsterdam Alaska, 14 June 2010 Celebrity Equinox, 10 day Eastern Caribbean, 4 December 2009 Independence OTS, 14 day Western/Eastern Caribbean b2b, 12/08 Jewel OTS, 14 day Western/Eastern Caribbean b2b, 12/07 Brilliance OTS, 11 day Panama Canal. 12/06 Crystal Harmony, 12 day Alaska, r/t San Francisco, 6/05 Island Princess, 10 day Panama Canal, 3/04 Brilliance OTS, 10 day Southern Caribbean, 12/02 Celebrity Summit, 10 day Eastern Caribbean, 12/01 Voyager OTS, 7 day Western Caribbean, 12/00 Majesty OTS, 4 day Bahamas, 8/00 We chose this cruise for the itinerary, not the ship and have no regrets. Although we had a very good cruise, our high expectations were not met. The service we received in the dining room and the cabin was not nearly as good as on Celebrity (or even Royal Caribbean). The food in the dining room was comparable, but the Lido was a step below. The Pinnacle was excellent (both food and service). I won't comment further on the food, since our dining restrictions don't apply to most people. From our arrival in Seattle to our departure, the weather was outstanding. We had no rain (at least at any time that we were out and about). The seas were calm throughout. We got to see much more of the magnificence of Alaska than on our previous cruise. We arrived in Seattle on Sunday evening, were met by a HAL representative, and transported by taxi to the Sheraton. In the morning, we gave our bags to the bellman and they were delivered to our cabin onboard, saving a lot of hassle. We were bussed to the ship around noon and our cabin was ready. We quickly discovered W T Greer in the piano bar. He played non-stop every night from 9 to well after 11 (we never stayed up late enough to know when he stopped). Over two weeks, less than 10% of his songs were repeats. Unfortunately for the rest of you, he was just a fill in on this cruise and left the ship when we did. The young lady who served drinks at the piano bar was unobtrusive, but attentive, even though we rarely ordered anything. We sailed the inside passage from Seattle. We awoke on Tuesday to trees that we could almost touch. About 40 attended our Meet and Greet in the Crow's Nest that afternoon. A much smaller group made it for a farewell on the last sea day. We just walked around in Ketchikan. We took the Sea Otter excursion through HAL in Sitka and saw a lot of wild life. In Skagway, we road to Emerald Lake with Dyea Dave. That was a great day-long tour. We had lunch at the Cinnamon Cache, which unfortunately closed when the owner retired at the end of June. Dave was ready to spend an extra hour or more showing us other sites around town, but we had a commitment on the ship at 5:00. After sailing Glacier Bay on Saturday and across the Gulf of Alaska on Sunday, we cruised into Anchorage early Monday morning. We saw more than a dozen whales Sunday evening sailing up Cook Inlet. We had gambled a lot of money ($750) on the weather, having booked a 3-hour flightseeing tour with Rust's to Denali and Mt. McKinley. This was fantastic. Although there were a lot of clouds near Anchorage, the sky was clear by the time we got to Denali. In Homer, I took the free shuttle over to the Spit. We had a short tour of Kodiak with Bonnie. The Captain got us very close to Hubbard Glacier, which calved often for us. We did Whale watching in Juneau with Captain Larry of Orca Enterprises. There were only 19 of us in a boat that seated about 50. We got very close to many whales and sea lions. I have some photos of tails and dorsal fins, as well as many humps. Since we didn't get to Victoria until 4:00 PM and both of us had colds, we decided to skip the excursions there. (Note that next year, this cruise is in Victoria all day.) We had dinner in an almost deserted main dining room at the early seating. They did not adjust dining schedules on late nights in port other than to say if you wanted to come to late dinner (8:00), they would try to accommodate you. Formal nights were Tuesday, the first sea day; Saturday, Glacier Bay; Wednesday, Kodiak; and Friday, Juneau. The Master Chef's Dinner was Saturday, the last sea day. Lastly, here are a few positive and negatives comparing this cruise to our last one on the Celebrity Equinox. None of these were big enough to detract from a very good cruise. The Amsterdam had much better storage in the cabin, but not nearly as good a bathroom. The water temperature in the shower constantly alternated between warm and hot. There were too many hours when the Lido was closed and no place to get food other than room service. The English language skills of many of the staff, particularly in the Lido, were inadequate. The windows had not been washed on the outside in a while, and remained dirty throughout, detracting from the magnificent views (unlike the Equinox where they were constantly washing windows). The Amsterdam's fresh squeezed orange juice and free cappuccino were a definite plus. The elevators were much faster and more conveniently placed on HAL. In summary, we had a very enjoyable cruise and would likely choose this ship and itinerary if we do Alaska again. But, unless we find another great itinerary on HAL, we are more likely to sail with Celebrity or Royal Caribbean next time. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Having always wanted to go to Alaska we selected this 14 day cruise for its itinerary and we were not disappointed. The scenery, the ports of call, the glaciers, the excursions, all surpassed our expectations. We had not cruised with HAL ... Read More
Having always wanted to go to Alaska we selected this 14 day cruise for its itinerary and we were not disappointed. The scenery, the ports of call, the glaciers, the excursions, all surpassed our expectations. We had not cruised with HAL before but based on the reviews on CC we had high expectations. Unfortunately these were not met as the little things, as well as one major disappointment, mounted to spoil an otherwise fantastic two weeks. Our major disappointment was food related. We consider the MDR times for Breakfast and Lunch to be really restrictive and were often forced to use the Lido buffet for lunch. This was disorganised, poorly staffed and contained unimaginative selections. And was invariably cold, assuming of course that they hadn't run out of the item you wanted. Our minor gripes were that the MDR staff seemed incapable of putting the right plate in front of the right person or on occasion of serving the courses in their right order. We never and I mean never got exactly what we ordered for breakfast in our cabin. On another occasion, despite two requests, our ice bucket was not filled. Had to drink warm champagne! The hotel manager did not give us the courtesy of a reply to a letter we wrote to him and therein lies the crux; poor management. Having said all that, and I am sorry to have taken so much space, the good things outweighed the poor. Check in and disembarkation were quick and easy. We found the Amsterdam to be clean and attractive and very easy to navigate around. Our stateroom was fine, the bed being very comfortable We enjoyed the food in the MDR. The bar staff were excellent and generally speaking the room stewards and dining staff were friendly, cheerful and competent. The entertainment was excellent and we enjoyed the dancers and singers, Diane the piano lady, the string quartet and the Halcats band. The itinerary was fabulous. We enjoyed all the ports with the exception of Kodiak which we skipped due to heavy rain. Of the ports not reviewed Homer was great. Although we stayed on the Spit there is enough of interest there and the local brew in the Salty Dawg was excellent indeed, as was the bar. Try the Scottish Ale. We enjoyed a drive to Whittier from Anchorage although it rained and rained. The visits to Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier were highlights of an already memorable cruise. Although we didn't get the best of the weather it didn't put a dampener on our enjoyment of the scenery or the wildlife. I suspect we will not sail HAL again, mainly because our idea of eating times is hugely at variance to theirs and because the micro management is poor. Personally I do not think that uniformed officers should smoke in public areas as it is not a good image. We have lots of the world still to see but I hope that one day we will return to Alaska. If it had not been for the persistent irritations I would have rated this cruise a 5 but a 4 it is! Sorry. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
The original intention of this cruise was to get us to or near Japan where we would visit with old friends. This was actually a segment of a segment of the world cruise that was meant to begin in Mumbai. When we saw a shore excursion ... Read More
The original intention of this cruise was to get us to or near Japan where we would visit with old friends. This was actually a segment of a segment of the world cruise that was meant to begin in Mumbai. When we saw a shore excursion opportunity to Angkor Wat we priced it and decided to begin the segment in Singapore instead, and spend what we would have spent on shore excursions for a three day holiday in Bangkok, three days in Siem Reap (for Angkor Wat) and three days in Singapore where we would meet the ship. The cost of those nine days in 5 star hotels and air from Bangkok to Siem Reap and Siem Reap to Singapore equalled what we would have paid for a two and a half day shore excursion offered by HAL for each of us! Such are the costs of shore excursions. The Ship The vessel is what you would expect from one of HALs flagships. It seemed to be in terrific condition. From cabins to public rooms, the ship is beautiful. I didn't see evidence of aging. Our cabin had a leak in the bathroom and there was an occasional odor of diesel fuel just outside our door, but neither interfered with our enjoyment of the ship. People are always interested in food. HAL seems to be putting the money out in the food and beverage department. The usual comfort food was available poolside, as was an assortment of pastries for a good part of the day in the Lido. Breakfasts were unremarkable which is not a bad thing. They were breakfasts and hard to fault in the Lido or DR. Lunch was a different matter. The stir fries were awful, and truly an embarrassment. The vegetable chicken stir fry had a single piece of chicken and when I asked where the vegetables were, the server found one with his tongs and added it to my dish. I would not mention it except that I saw a video of the executive chef talking about his wonderful "fresh fresh fresh" stirfries so I thought it was worth a notation. I think dinner was what you would expect for a vessel catering to North American taste. The steaks in the dining room were of generous portion. I don't think they did vegetables well and on the whole I thought dinners sort of missed. Or - it may just be that we don't eat those sorts of dinners anymore. I heard no one speak of the food in either positive or negative terms. Oddly enough, complimentary champagne flowed on two nights. As to the atmosphere of the ship, well, that was a big surprise. We were used to going on vacation cruises with other people going on vacation cruises - with all the positive energy that that implies. Cruisers are usually excited, and that rubs off on the crew. Well the majority of people on this ship had been aboard for a very long time, with a long time to go. They were "residing" on the ship as opposed to cruising on it. It seemed to be less a vehicle for a cruise than a giant apartment building with a rolling view. The atmosphere was flat. You saw it in the passengers and you saw it in the staff. I have never seen staff so ambivalent. Not nasty or lazy - they just didn't take the pains to give a darn. This was an observation confirmed to us by other cruisers who came on for a while in Singapore. "Boring" was the word that kept coming up to describe their experience. The ports themselves were interesting. Cambodia and Viet Nam were both worth the visit. though the port was quite a distance from Ho Chi Minh city. I would say I do not agree with HALs new policy of requiring no signature for beverages purchased under $20. I myself have disagreed with charges on my cruise bill on previous cruises and by producing the original signed bill, the issue was resolved. Business should be done in a business-like manner, and charges should be signed for. Bills, however small, must be signed for in the shops. When I enquired as to why, they said their experience was such that bill signing was deemed to be imperative. I agree. Also, HAL has a policy of not allowing your internet time to lapse if you are still connected with your computer. The rationale is that it is a courtesy to allow you to finish your business. But if you forget to log-out and leave your computer or ipod or device connected for an hour or so, you will be billed. I asked the administrator how that could be as it would be clear that a machine was not used over that time. He said Windows machines send message packets out periodically and that constitutes use. So Moral Hazard hit HAL. Wall Street sails the high seas. Guest Relations was surprised to hear of the new policies which are fleet wide. They sent a message to HAL about both issues. HAL sent a subsequent communication stipulating the $20 rule must be followed. I heard nothing about the internet rule. We disembarked in Singapore in what was a smooth process, and we were on our way. Would we sail HAL again - probably, but not based on their performance on this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
Review of our Holland America Cruise on the Amsterdam from Dec. 2 to Dec. 23, 2009: I will use a 1 to 6 star rating system to match the ratings generally used in the industry. Typically, 5 stars are assigned to premium cruise lines and 6 ... Read More
Review of our Holland America Cruise on the Amsterdam from Dec. 2 to Dec. 23, 2009: I will use a 1 to 6 star rating system to match the ratings generally used in the industry. Typically, 5 stars are assigned to premium cruise lines and 6 stars are reserved for the luxury cruise lines. Food in the Main Dining Room (5 stars for the food, not the service); Executive Chef (Andreas Bruennet). Ingredients were excellent. Cooking: generally excellent. Fish dishes were superb; meats were generally tender. Sauces were varied and flavorful. Chef Bruennet was clearly very much on top of quality control in his kitchen. Service in the Main Dining Room (3 stars). Quality of service was highly varied. Some waiters were quite friendly and attentive, whereas others were extremely slow and almost appeared to be serving us grudgingly. The primarily elderly passengers of HAL prefer to dine very early, starting at 5 PM. So, the lower floor of the main dining room, reserved for "As You Wish" diners, tended to be only 1/3 full by 8:30 PM. For diners such as ourselves who attended the 7 PM show and began dining at 8 PM, the dining atmosphere in the main dining room left much to be desired. Waiters were busy clearing tables and preparing to close up -- not a very hospitable atmosphere for the diners who were left behind. This "efficient," though ungracious behavior of waiters was also evident during lunch hours and gave the appearance that they simply could not wait to get out of there. At lunch, waiters would commence cleaning and clearing up the dining room around 1:15 PM and appeared not to care about diners who wanted to converse and enjoy a leisurely lunch. I think these attitudes of the wait staff are emblematic of HAL service culture that I would describe as first and foremost efficient and economical and only secondarily guest oriented. Food, Buffet (2 stars): This was substantially inferior to the food in the main dining room. I would rate it as bordering on the inedible. I am not a fan of buffet fare, anyway, and skipped the main dishes and focused on salads. Salad ingredients were good; dressings were passable. Holland America needs to spend more money on ingredients and preparation of their buffet dishes, because they use port days as an excuse to close down the main dining room and the Pinnacle Grill for lunch, thus, leaving passengers very little choice of places for lunch. Once again, I would attribute the latter dining room/Pinnacle Grill closing policies of HAL on port days to their service culture that emphasizes efficiency and economy (including minimizing expenses), while sacrificing gracious and generous guest service. Specialty Restaurant -- the Pinnacle Grill (4 stars): Pinnacle Chef Shawn McKerness prided himself on his excessive uses of butter, cream, and oils. He made this clear at one of his cooking demonstrations. Additionally, he claims he can taste differences among salts and consistently and grotesquely over-salted his foods. I was amazed to find a chef in this day and age to be so woefully obtuse regarding health considerations in cooking. For example, my carrot/ginger soup was 2/3 cream; my mushroom soup was 3/4 cream. My steaks were so over-salted I could not eat them. In essence Chef McKerness has taken the very fine, standardized recipes of the Pinnacle Grill (that we have enjoyed repeatedly on various HAL ships) and wrecked them. HAL needs to really get on top of this situation. Times are changing and the well-informed segments of the public require high quality cuisine without undue reliance on oils, butter, cream or salts. Fellow Passengers (3 stars): I'd rate the socioeconomic standing of passengers as middle-class to upper-middle-class and somewhat lower than those we have encountered on Oceania, Azamara, or even Celebrity. Passengers on HAL tend to be elderly and probably have a mean (and median) age in excess of 70. From a practical standpoint, this means progress through the hallways or various travel lanes or waiting lines can be excruciatingly slow. However, we did meet quite a range and diversity of fellow passengers and tended to enjoy our interactions with them. The less healthy composition of elderly passengers may have contributed to an epidemic of GI virus on board the ship. During the last week of the cruise we were witness to, and unwilling recepients of, draconian measures by crew and staff who were trying to control this virus epidemic on board. Entertainment (5 stars): The resident orchestra and the Rotterdam Singers and Dancers were outstanding. Lounge performers were of average quality (3.5 stars). Dance music supplied at the Oceans Bar was almost depressing in tempo and selections. Excursions (3 stars): Pricy. One can easily do much better independently. Plus, in line with the HAL business- and money-oriented ethic, given a choice of ports, HAL will select the less attractive one within a radius of 20 miles to save on port charges and, quite possibly, to induce passengers to use their excursions to get out of these remote and inhospitable ports. My Complaints: The closing of the main dining room and Pinnacle Grill for lunch on all port days is a very serious limitation. This is getting to be a trend with cruise lines (I suppose as part of their cost-saving efforts) and is a real negative for us. If you don't go ashore on a port day or choose to go off in the afternoon, there is little to do anyway on the ship and the buffet leaves much to be desired. When you write your comment cards, please be sure to request that at least a small portion of the main dining room be kept open for lunch on port days. Cruise lines do respond when passengers consistently state their preferences. If passengers begin demanding (via their comment cards), more options for food at lunch time, or more varied activities throughout the cruise, some of those demands will eventually be met. Overall (4 stars), I think HAL is a good, but not a very good, cruise line. We now have cruised four times with HAL on four different ships. To use an alternative rating system, I'd give our first cruise with HAL on the Ryndam to Mexico a C+, our second cruise on the Zaandam to Hawaii a C, our third cruise on the Volendam an A (the high rating being largely due to an unusually warm and communicative captain and the itinerary on the Seattle to Auckland trip), and our fourth cruise on the Amsterdam a C+. Value (4.5 stars): Value is the overall rating in the preceding paragraph divided by cost. I think HAL provides above average value. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Background info: There were four of us traveling together in an inside cabin. Due to economic conditions and two of us being either unemployed or retired, we questioned whether we should even consider vacationing this year. However, the ... Read More
Background info: There were four of us traveling together in an inside cabin. Due to economic conditions and two of us being either unemployed or retired, we questioned whether we should even consider vacationing this year. However, the cost associated with four in a cabin enticed us to take the jump and go. As siblings it was kind of nice for us to all be together as we don't get together all that often. We are in our late 40s to early 60s and consider ourselves pretty active. Our idea of a vacation is doing fun stuff, not sitting around a pool reading a book. Arrival and Embarkation: We were all traveling from the east coast into Seattle so we booked flights to arrive the night before just so we would all be safe to arrive on time and with luggage. We booked the Marqueen Hotel in Seattle because it was located close to the port and close to things to see downtown. We figured that we would take a taxi to the hotel and from there we could take the hotel's published shuttle service around the city and to the port, as the hotel's website indicated that they provided a shuttle service anywhere within a five mile radius of the hotel. We found that not to be the case. When we advised the front desk that we would need the shuttle to take us to the port, we were told that the shuttle did not go there even though the port was 1.5 miles from the hotel. Apparently the hotel does not know what a 5 mile radius is. When we checked out of the hotel and told them they needed to update their website to accurately reflect that the shuttle service did not provide service as they represented, they discounted it and in fact charged us an additional $30 for having more than two individuals in the room. After reading the fine print, I guess they had us but nothing about this hotel felt good. They did not represent their services appropriately on their website and had fine print in their rules. I would not recommend this hotel for individuals going out of ports. Stay at a nice clean new chain hotel close to the airport, take a cab once rather than twice and don't be nickled and dimed. That being said, we caught a cab to the port and boarded without incident. The boarding was organized and staffed well. We got on the Amsterdam at approximately noon and caught a bite to eat up at the Lido deck. Our room was ready by 1:00 pm and our cabin steward was right there introducing himself and his assistant. Cabin: This was our first time in an interior cabin and our first time with four in a cabin. We mentally prepared ourselves to be cramped. We were not though. With the exception of when all of us were getting ready for dinner, we had plenty of room. Closet space was very good. Suitcases nicely fit under the beds. Things were clean and well organized. Our cabin, 2687, was very quiet. Public Rooms: All were very nice, clean and orderly. The ship is lovely. Dining: When we had breakfast we generally ate on the Lido deck. They had fresh omelets, eggs Benedict, and pretty much everything you could want. For lunch two of us preferred the main dining room while two of us preferred the Lido deck. Each of us did what we wanted and enjoyed it all. For dinner, five nights were spent in the main dining room, one night in the Pinnacle and one night at the Italian place next to the Lido deck. All dinners were fabulous. We particularly liked the main dining room and we really liked our server. We opted for the 8:00 seating as we like the traditional feel of the main dining room. As for the Pinnacle, we did it, enjoyed the large steak but probably would not do it again. For the extra expense, we just did not see it. As for the dessert extravaganza, we went and took pictures but did not eat as we were still full from dinner. The Italian restaurant was very good and if you're not in the mood to dress up, it is a very good alternative. Entertainment: I would have to say that entertainment was ok at best. Being that we have been on larger ships, I guess the quaintness of the small ship also results in less funds available for the entertainment. The shows were ok I guess but almost seemed like high school musical level talent and coordination. Excursions: Whale watching was a blast. Zip lining was awesome. Kayaking in Sitka was relaxing and fun. We had a flight plane scheduled for Ketchikan but due to high winds, that was cancelled. I would recommend all the excursions we went on. Separate from the excursions, we caught a bus ($56 cost) to go to the glacier in Juneau but I would not recommend it. If you are scheduled to see other glaciers like Hubbard, the time spent at Mendenhall seemed limited and the cost associated with getting out to the glacier unnecessary. Disembarking went without incident. All went quickly and was very organized. Overall we had a blast and I'd do the exact same cruise again. The ship was lovely. The crew members were great (except the excursions director who seemed bothered by any questions). Food was very good. The scenery was wonderful. If I had to do it all over again the only things I would change would be to stay in a different hotel and not go to the glacier in Juneau. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
This was our first Holland America cruise and though it wasn't a poor experience, we'll definitely stick with other cruise lines in the near future. We were with a group of about 20 people ranging from teenagers to seniors. The ... Read More
This was our first Holland America cruise and though it wasn't a poor experience, we'll definitely stick with other cruise lines in the near future. We were with a group of about 20 people ranging from teenagers to seniors. The cruise line is definitely focused on an older crowd therefore not too much going on that interested us - in terms of ship activities. The details that Holland America focuses on - fresh flowers, etc - definitely set a different atmosphere. Enjoyable. Just not things that make us go wow! But I'm sure many people appreciate this. Embarkation was hit and miss. We arranged for the transfer through HAL from the airport to the ship. We waited at the airport for about 40 minutes before our bus arrived. This was a tad bit frustrating. We could have taken a taxi and avoided the wait and with two people the cost would have been equal. Fast forward to debarkation. Outstanding! I love that HAL assigns a time and you're off the ship quickly. Plus there weren't hundreds of people crowding the door to get off. There were a few people lingering but not like our past experiences on other cruise lines. Embarkation, the actual check-in process was great! With the debarkation, we used the express baggage service. Loved putting our luggage out for pick up and then not seeing it until we arrived at our home airport. I was a tiny bit nervous that it wasn't actually on the plane but that's just a sign of my failure to not be in control. Ha ha ha. Let's see. What next. The food was quite good. Equal if not better than other cruise lines we have been on. The lido deck attendants were constantly offering extra attention - delivering plates to your table or getting drinks. The dining room was great as well. There were a few nights where I wasn't thrilled with the selection and I am far from picky. Maybe I wasn't hungry enough? The Pinnacle grill was outstanding!!! I had the lamb chops, my husband had the ribeye - both amazing. Do make the time and funds available to eat here. Make your reservations early! They are not joking that the restaurant gets booked up. Though somehow they booked us for two different days and three different times. Maybe this is why they were so booked? As a group, we ate in the Italian restaurant on the Lido deck one night. How nice! Probably my second favorite night of eating. You must try the tiramiso trio. I was tempted to sneak up there nightly for dessert. One of my favorite desserts. The lido deck also serves a bread pudding with vanilla sauce. Yummm. Entertainment. We went to a few shows. I wasn't impressed. Actually I fell asleep. Not the fairest of reviews as we went to 2 shows, I believe. Now what we throughly enjoyed was the piano bar. The pianist was Diane. Definitely our choice of a nightly hang out. She was great about requests. Plus the bartender that works with her, Ogie, was terrific!!! He even sings along. GREAT time!!! A couple in our group decided to renew their vows while sailing. This was done very nicely. Everyone was served champagne and appetizers (there is a cost for the couple as well as all guests). Oh and cake! My favorite cake on the ship. The Captain handled the ceremony and it was very nicely done. Especially his toast! I need to take lessons on better toasts. I'll review the ports in the port review section. Overall we enjoyed our ports. The weather wasn't perfect but it wasn't terrible either. The Hubbard Glacier was amazing. We found a table on the Lido deck and sat there the majority of the time. Then we went outside towards the end of the trip. Perfect as most guests had gone inside. It was chilly! Be sure to check my review on Victoria! There were two ROUGH days at sea. I've decided this was a combination of two factors. The first being that the ship is quite small. Never have we experienced anything like it. The ship did a great job of trying to help those that were sick. Thankfully neither of us had a problem. You could never that by far the majority of the guests were not doing so well as the ship was like a ghost town. The other thought is that the rough seas were due to the change in seasons. Not sure. But had it have been my very first cruise, I probably would never cruise again! The last night of the cruise was a little disappointing. I'm sure the cruise line has done their research but the ship was dead on the last night! The piano lounge didn't have a bar open - you had to head over to the Ocean bar. It was apparent that people get to their room a little early on the last night but this isn't quite our style. We were ready to celebrate the last night of our vacation - not get to bed early. We were pretty much forced to call it a night. Overall we had a good time! Much lazier than our normal vacations. From this aspect, we were very relaxed when we got home! Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Let me just say that the Amsterdam is a very nice ship. The all Filipino crew is amazing. I was on the ship for 7 days and it's a good thing the elevator's rug changed every day to say what day it was, because I got confused ... Read More
Let me just say that the Amsterdam is a very nice ship. The all Filipino crew is amazing. I was on the ship for 7 days and it's a good thing the elevator's rug changed every day to say what day it was, because I got confused about how long I had been on the ship. Time just seems to slide on by. The casino was great. Simple slot machines, that actually gave out money instead of paper tickets! Only bad thing was there was smoking in the casino. Very nasty air there. The Queens Lounge is wonderful. Played bingo there three or four times, and had a blast. The jewelry shop had a champagne tasting raffle thing that was fun. The historical shows in the Queen's Lounge were very informative and entertaining. There was Catholic mass every day, which my dad really enjoyed. At the same theatre the mass was held, there were late-release movies every day, complete with popcorn. There were so many bars/lounges that I couldn't count them all. I did enjoy having a glass of wine and listening to classical music. Watching the sea slipping by while sipping chardonnay is pretty awesome. The exercise room is state-of-the-art, and you're looking at the bow of the ship plowing through the water as you exercise. Pretty fantastic. Couldn't believe all the massage rooms they had. I would've spent more time on that deck if I had known how cool it was. Not much for kids. They have an area with lots of video games, but that's about it. This is a ship for older people. All in all, this was a wonderful experience. EXCEPT FOR THE FOOD!!!!!! Okay, it looks nice. Very nice. But it tastes like crap. I really mean it! I guess I know good food, and this wasn't good food. Do you like gazpacho? I do. Except when it's made with WATERMELON, instead of tomatoes. Do you like musli? You know, that great combination of whole grains, cream, and berries? They put MELON in instead of the berries! An abomination! Fruit cup? You know, with, like fresh fruit? It came with one blueberry, maybe a raspberry if you're lucky, and the rest? You guessed it: melon! The Lido cafe slings hash like nobody's business. Unfortunately, it all tastes bland. I found myself craving a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The La Fontaine dining room looks wonderful. Two levels, great service by really nice waiters, etc. Tough lobster tail, tasteless King crab, yuck. The only consistently good entree was the sirloin steak. Two kinds of salmon every day. Wasn't good. But the salmon barbeque on the Lido deck was awesome! We sat with an Indian couple. She was a vegetarian, and had ordered all her food online before the trip. They brought out all kinds of food for her, much more than she could eat. So she shared it with us. It was the most wonderful food I've ever tasted! Word to the wise: ORDER ALL YOUR FOOD ONLINE BEFORE YOU GO!!! You'll be glad you did! Make up a special diet; whatever. It is worth it! The afternoon teas are a lavish display of pastries. Tasted like crap. Sorry to disappoint you. You'll understand what I mean if you take the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
On this trip was my husband and I, we have been on about 26 cruises and 4 river boats. We love to travel that way. We chose this particular cruise because of the itinerary. We left from Toronto on a snowy night. We arrive a day before as ... Read More
On this trip was my husband and I, we have been on about 26 cruises and 4 river boats. We love to travel that way. We chose this particular cruise because of the itinerary. We left from Toronto on a snowy night. We arrive a day before as we always day to get acclimatize to time change and temperature. We stayed at the Sheraton and it was nice, right down town. Buenos Aires was much nicer city than expected. Very much like a European city, but cheaper. Our 2 days there were sunny and hot. Temps in the high 80's. Would recommend a good city tour. We plan on going back someday. We boarded the ship in Buenos Aires for 2 reason for us it was easier to get to and no hassle for Brazilian visas. We were a bit surprised when we reached the port for boarding, there was one girl and she asked if our name was on our suitcases (they were) and so she took them and said we would see them next on the ship. Kind of scary but it worked. Then we hopped on the shuttle bus and went to the ship. Not much fuss about this embarkation, very relaxed. Our cabin was an inside one and standard for ships cabin if a bit small. Our cabin attendant was very good, we didn't see him for a couple of days, which is how we like it, efficient and not bothersome. Not like on other cruises where they are in your face all the time. We had late sitting at a table for 8, we lucked out with very nice people. The food was a bit of a conundrum. It was good but not great and the menu was misleading. It was a guess at what one would be getting they would use terms that we know like galette (French term for flat pastry) and what came was a piece of pie!!! Also it was not consistent sometime it was good and sometime not. Our table mates also complained of the small portions and after a while ordered 2 portions. I personally think that it was OK, nowadays we eat too much and the proportion were fine for me, less waste.The service was good and our server Ricco and his assistant did a good job. It seems that the cruise lines are reducing their dining room staff and therefore the service is slow. we noticed that on other line and it was the same here so I don't put the blame on Ricco but the company. It's a very nice ship not too much ware and tare, it going to get refurbish in March. My biggest complaint would be that the lounges were cold and when you are in Antarctica that is not good. Our favorite room was the Explorer where the Internet was and the coffee bar it was nice and cozy. It is also the library which in well stocked with current books. The entertainment was good and interesting. We had a piano player, a violin player and an opera singer and they were all fabulous. Shore excursions were extremely expensive and a lot of people would wait to get to the port and book taxis. If you decide to go with the ship's one book early as they sell out real fast.Being that our cruise was real soon after Christmas we procrastinated and didn't book anything and regretted it, especially in the Falkland where there is tenders and by the time you get to shore all the taxis are taken. One note about the Falkland, they tell you that you can walk to Gipsy's cove but not really. It's windy and far but what they don't tell you is that there is a shuttle bus and for $20 US it will take you there and back. A very good deal. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
My husband, mother, sister and I just completed an Alaskan voyage on the Amsterdam Aug. 17-Aug. 24. I had cruised Holland America many years before and had most recently been on two RCL cruises. We arrived at the Seattle port for ... Read More
My husband, mother, sister and I just completed an Alaskan voyage on the Amsterdam Aug. 17-Aug. 24. I had cruised Holland America many years before and had most recently been on two RCL cruises. We arrived at the Seattle port for embarkation about 1:30 p.m. - not the easiest place to get around so watch for signage. It was a very quick embarkation process, helped in part I am sure because we had done on-line registration and were able to turn in our signed form. My husband and I had a lovely verandah cabin (very similar in size, look and layout to the verandah cabin we had on the RCL Rhapsody of the Seas) and my sister and mom shared a handicapped cabin also on the verandah deck - it had no verandah and the window was partially blocked by a lifeboat but the room was quite large. We proceeded to eat in the Lido for our first meal on board, which became our official breakfast and lunch spot on a daily basis, and settled in for departure. Overall ship This ship is smaller than many others, with room for 1,380 passengers - the crew numbered about half that and the service levels showed it, as it was excellent. The smaller nature of this ship was what was attractive to us. Public rooms were very nicely appointed, except for the Queen's Room Lounge, which felt a bit claustrophobic and overdone. Nice artwork spread throughout ship. Crow's Nest was excellent for whale watching and sightseeing as we cruised along. Our verandah was as always wonderful, with a full size lounge chair and regular chair. I still spent quite a bit of time out there despite the cooler temps, as flannel blankets were available on deck three. Lots of families on board - overall age of passenger was older than on RCL. Staff were very accommodating at all levels. Ship Activities and Entertainment This ship did not have as many activities as other ships I have been on, and this is due in part to it only having so many public rooms and thus only so much space - this was fine with us as we find many shipboard activities to be of no interest. The gym was great - yoga and Pilates were an extra cost. They had four behind the scenes events that we enjoyed - a tour of the kitchen, a tour of the backstage area in the Queen's Lounge, a Q & A with the cruise director (Eric Holland, who was excellent) and a Q & A with the headliners for that cruise. The stage variety shows with singers and dancers were okay - first one better than the second, which was pretty lame - hardworking young folks though. Not their fault the material in the second show was a bit off. We also attended a movie. We also attended the naturalist's presentations, which were all good. That's all we attended but there were also kitchen demo/cooking presentations (for a cost), art sales, the typical fitness activities like shuffleboard, and other things. Starfire, a two piece group, which played in the Ocean Bar was excellent and was very pleasing to an age range of 40-80. Food Dinners were spent on the lower level, second early seating. Food quality was overall very good. Some soups were a bit salty. My sister had special dietary requirements and the staff were very accommodating of that. If something was not right, it was fixed right away. The Lido had excellent variety, ice cream bar open almost all day and I highly recommend the soft serve - just wish they had had it more than two days of the whole cruise as the ice cream in the Lido was quite whipped and too airy for our tastes but the ice cream in the dining room was much creamier and richer - all depends on what you like, I guess. They ran out of mint tea about two days before the cruise ended. Desserts were really wonderful. Ports We were at sea on Saturday, Sunday took us to Juneau, Monday was Tracy Arm, Tuesday was Sitka, Wednesday was Ketchikan and Thursday was Victoria for only about six hours. We did no shore excursions as felt like all were overpriced, and all the port cities were very walkable. Juneau looked a bit worse for the wear. Tracy Arm was breathtaking. The ship was too big to get up right by the glacier but you still had a great view and the day we were there, we were lucky to have sunny skies and no wind. We tendered into Sitka, which was our favorite port and I highly recommend a walk down to the national park from the dock and the Alaskan Raptor Center. Ketchikan was very kitchy and crammed with shops - neat to see salmon spawning just piled on top of each other and huge in the river a short walk from the port. We were really sorry to have been in Victoria for such a short time. It's a good half hour walk to get from port to downtown but is worth it. Just wish we had spent more time there. This will be our first and last cruise to Alaska as we have more desire to see inner Alaska and not more ports, as they began to all look the same. Disembarkation was smooth as silk - we were staying on in Seattle for a couple days with family who did not cruise so we were among last passengers to disembark so this helped greatly as mountains of luggage had been reduced considerably. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
This post is for anyone who is interested in cruising on Holland America's Amsterdam to Alaska. I'm writing to review our cruise in June 2007 on the Alaska Explorer cruise, 7 days RT from Seattle. Due to time constraints, ... Read More
This post is for anyone who is interested in cruising on Holland America's Amsterdam to Alaska. I'm writing to review our cruise in June 2007 on the Alaska Explorer cruise, 7 days RT from Seattle. Due to time constraints, I'm not going to do the usual chronology report, but rather to give you the highlights that we hope you will find most useful: + : Fabulous artwork all over the ship. Clearly, HAL took care to make sure this looked like a flagship. There are sculptures, paintings, and even a working planetary clock from the 1800's (Astrolabe, seen from several decks including purser's square, with chimes and mechanical displays on the hour). + : Fresh flowers, including beautiful orchids, on every table in the buffet, and striking arrangements in public rooms throughout the ship +: The ship was very nearly spotless and could have been brand new, with minor exceptions + : Buffet was well above average in selection. Quality varied from average to above average. + : Many staterooms had tub baths, rarely found on lower level staterooms. + : Personal attention: there were at least two "hosts" that worked in the buffet area that showed remarkable ability to remember your names and travel companions, and were exceptionally courteous. They would frequently greet you by name and assist you with locating seating and/or your travel companions! We wondered if they have photographic memory. + : Embarked naturalist couple gave great narrations of fjord transits and wildlife sightings, as well as history of the ports + : Captain got this ship all the way up to the (twin) Sawyer glaciers on the June 8 cruise. On the previous cruise two weeks before (the ship alternates with an Inside Passage itinerary), we were told the ship only made it halfway up the fjord and never saw the Sawyer glaciers. + : Stateroom service was the best I've seen. Room was kept clean and made up, and special requests were received well. + : High Tea - is presented on days at sea in the dining room. It is a little rushed, but is very well done. The food service for this is an exception to the notes below: everything seems to be beautifully done and tastes wonderful. We wondered why the desserts elsewhere on the ship did not have the same quality. + : Promenade deck: there aren't many ships today that have a true promenade deck, complete with the classic lounge chairs and blankets, where you can walk all the way around the ship. The Amsterdam has this and it is done beautifully. + : Shore excursions: managed well, and seemed to give good value overall. + : Fitness facility: absolutely beautiful and well equipped, all the way forward on the ship and high up with windows and a great view. Although the ship's motion is a little more pronounced here, Amsterdam's size and stabilizers made this a rare concern. The spa and "thermal room" areas are adjacent. + : Thermal area/spa: for a fee, you can visit the thermal spa (they put an identifier on your key) either on a daily basis or all cruise long. The thermal spa has four lounge chairs made of small tiles, ergonomically designed, that are heated! There is also a mineral spa, showers, and saunas. This "members only" area turned out to be a good investment for us, not only for the relaxation, but also because the viewing deck was a great place to be during the Tracy Arm fjord transit, and we got great pictures then and also of the bald eagles at Sitka. There were some freeloaders that figured out how to access the deck from the ladders below, but the crew figured it out and got them back below. We loved the privacy as well as the amenities in the thermal spa. + : Shops - were average in both selection and value. Most items were priced as you would expect (high) but some of the sales were worthwhile. We didn't buy very much on board. We were disappointed they did not have a replica of one of their beautiful dolphin sculptures, done in crystal, which was a gift from the shipbuilder and was displayed right outside one of the shops on the upper deck above the purser's lobby. + : Photographers - above average for both value and selection. Portraits were taken on formal nights, and the usual shots embarking and at dinner. We purchased a nice 8 x 10 portrait with an 8 x 10 of the ship in a facing frame in a presentation folder, and have it displayed in our home as a great memory of the cruise. + : ID cards/cruise cards - were handled better than I've ever seen. On Royal Caribbean, you had to stick your card in a slot and it gobbled it up and spit it out farther down the queue, much like a subway. With HAL you just held up your card and they scanned it with a hand scanner. This made for quicker and more efficient embarkation and disembarkation. o : Room service - above average quality, average selection and delivery time. There were times it took longer than forecast, which made it difficult to entertain in our balcony room. (I imagine if we'd had a suite it might have been a little better.) Asking for things like extra wine glasses for our guests seemed to throw them for a loop, and I imagine we're not the first guests to ever make that request. The language barrier was also an issue with room service. o : Entertainment on board was average: aimed for the middle-age to older crowd; generally well done overall. The main lounge is somewhat lacking due to obstructed views and limited capacity, and they seem to overuse the rotating stage. Some of the live dance bands were very good, especially the Asian band that played in one of the lounges amidships above the purser's area. - : Toilets did not flush on two occasions early in cruise. However, repairs requests were met promptly and corrective action taken. - : Dining room food was uniformly bland. Preparation did not meet the standards set by presentation. The menus made every dish sound wonderful, and the presentation was excellent, but taste was simply neutral. Although HAL put on a great culinary arts demonstration, and the ice sculptures were fabulous, it seems like they've made a decision to outlaw all spices from the kitchen, and go cheap on some of the ingredients. - : Soda -- like most ships, soda costs extra. However, tea and water with lemon were readily available. Cappuccino and pastries in the NY Times lounge were also pricey (standard Starbucks prices). - : Pools -- tended to be limited in capacity; seem smallish for this size of ship. - : Theatre -- amazingly, it is situated such that all seats are oriented in line with the ship looking to port, so the theatre is wide and shallow. Fortunately, there are large flat panel displays on each side if you can't sit right in the middle, but the architecture seems strange here. - : Seafood offerings were modest. We had pictured lots of Alaska King Crab, Dungeness Crab, etc. With the exception of the salmon bake on deck, there was little to brag about with regard to the seafood offerings, which seems odd given the itinerary. - : The Pinnacle Dining Room (I think it was $30 or $35 per person surcharge) sold out quickly, and had mixed reviews. - : Dining room service was average to below. We had to ask for things which should have been offered (e.g. water refills). - : If you travel with or are a diabetic, there are very limited sugar-free or "no sugar added" offerings, and sometimes you have to request them or no options will be presented in the dining room. - : In port embarkation/disembarkation: the gangways were frequently very steep, making this difficult for older passengers. In one port, the gangway was shifted to a lower deck; we wondered why that wasn't done much earlier and more often. - : When we embarked, there were piano tuners tuning up the several grand pianos that are located in the various lounges, which we thought was superb. However, HAL is changing over to all synthetic electronic pianos, which is practical but very sad. Staterooms: the six of us that traveled together varied in age from young 30's to upper 70's; four of us had Cat E outside staterooms very low on the ship and the other two had a Cat B verandah (balcony) stateroom. The travelers with the lower staterooms would have been happier with staterooms on higher decks and the same amenities; they didn't like being so low on the ship and seeing the water up around their windows. The balcony stateroom was excellent. Ports: we were amazed at how small Juneau was, but had a great time at Mendenhall Glacier. We also rented a car in Juneau and drove out to the Shrine of St. Therese, which was absolutely beautiful. Sitka was distinct for its bald eagles and whales, along with the historic Russian fishing village character. Ketchikan was more of a touristy but fun stop, and the evening stop in Victoria was great for Butchart Gardens and a chance to tour the Empress hotel. We enjoyed all of the ports. Overall: we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and would cruise HAL again. While the Amsterdam is clearly not a 5-star ship, we would put it as a solid 4-star, and probably exceeds the other ships that would be in that category. We were concerned that the Tracy Arm itinerary would be inferior to the Inside Passage itinerary, but as it turns out, most who had done both thought this to be the superior choice. We hope you find this review helpful. We couldn't find very much on Amsterdam before we cruised. Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
In the summer of 2006 my wife and I attended a reception for Holland America Line (HAL) hosted by our local travel agent. We were so impressed with the HAL presentation that we decided we would give them a try. One point that attracted me ... Read More
In the summer of 2006 my wife and I attended a reception for Holland America Line (HAL) hosted by our local travel agent. We were so impressed with the HAL presentation that we decided we would give them a try. One point that attracted me particularly was the smaller capacity of most of their ships. In the late fall of 2006 we and another couple booked on MS Amsterdam for their seven-day Alaska Inside Passage cruise round trip from Seattle for May 2007. We chose the seven-day as opposed to a longer cruise because of time constraints on some of our party. The trip was planned as a birthday cruise for one of our number. We (my wife and I) booked through our regular agent. The other couple, who live outside the US, booked online. We two chose an ocean view cabin. I wanted a veranda cabin but all were already booked and I did not want a penthouse suite. The fare was only slightly higher than what we have paid on previous cruises, possibly due to increased fuel costs. Our agent was able to get restricted air tickets Atlanta-Seattle RT for several hundreds of dollars less per passenger than HAL wanted for their air package. Guess which we took. We chose our shore excursions before leaving home and booked them on line, having them billed immediately to our credit card by HAL, a procedure we had not encountered before. We flew from ATL early the morning of the cruise. With the time zone change, it was still morning when we got to Seattle. Baggage pickup and handling was smooth on arrival, with assistance from HAL/Princess reps. The prepaid bus ride to the pier was non-eventful. Embarkation was more chaotic and inefficient than I expected. Despite our having prepared at home the online HAL "express" boarding passes, boarding was anything but express. There was a long line of passengers filling out forms that mostly asked for information that we had already submitted, including credit card billing details. In fact, another line of passengers who did not have the express passes, was shorter and moved much more quickly. However, all the HAL personnel were friendly, cheerful and good-humored. Next, armed with our cruise cards, we boarded the ship. We knew our deck and cabin number, but upon entry through the gangway, we were informed that our cabin was not ready and that we should go to lunch first in the buffet restaurant. We did that, leaving our hand carried bags in a holding area. After an hour, our cabin was ready. We were pleased to find a large, comfortable room with a sitting area, a full tub in the bath, and plenty of storage space. We found our friends, who had traveled separately, within an hour, and spent some time exploring the ship. Everything on Amsterdam is up-to-date and in good working order. Amsterdam had just come off the 105-day world cruise but nothing seemed the worse for wear. There was one morning when the vacuum toilets stopped working. The front desk staff acted surprised when I reported it but I know it happened all over the ship and has happened before. It cleared itself up (as far as I know) in a couple of hours. The front desk did call back later to ask if the toilet was working again. The ship sailed on time and the lifeboat drill was held shortly afterward. On HAL, the drill is held on the boat deck with the passengers assembled around their boat station. The exercise was a muddle, with crew members calling the names of passengers who should be present until someone (anyone?) answered. By the time we got back to our cabin, our baggage had been delivered and we met our cabin attendant, Bardu. We saw very little of him during the cruise but never lacked for anything we wanted or needed. Then to dinner. Any-time dining is not available on Amsterdam. We chose second seating and were assigned to a table for six in the upper main dining room. We went to the dining room only for dinner each day and ate our other meals in the buffet or on deck. The meal group was made up of we four and a congenial retired couple from Houston. We all struck it off immediately, never lacking for conversation or mild jokes at each other's expense. All present were appropriately dressed for each meal, including two formal nights. All participated willingly in dining room fun such as Dutch hat night and chef's special night. The wait staff, Karna and his assistant Nyoman ("Newman") were attentive and responsive, the wine waiter only slightly less so. The headwaiter or captain, Sugiyono, came to our table several times each meal to check on us or simply for conversation. After the first night, he brought us every night the next night's dinner menu and vegetarian menu so that some of us could choose in advance the dishes they wanted. Meals began on time, were served promptly and were finished expeditiously, but with no rushing. The food was generally good. I'm easily satisfied, as is our male companion, but the two ladies occasionally refused a plate or sent something back and reordered. In the buffet lunch line, they ladies were dissatisfied with quite a few items offered, and the day of our on-deck grilled salmon lunch at Ketchikan, they were absolutely horrified by the quality of the salmon that was served. Other than the dining rooms, we enjoyed the pizza, taco and burger bar on the pool deck, my wife loved the atmosphere in the coffee bar, We had one exquisite seafood lunch in the Pinnacle Grill, courtesy of our travel agent, with superb table service by Mattej, a young Slovenian who is gaining experience to start his own food service establishment. In all dining areas, we noted a general laxness on the part of passengers and crew in regard to the use of hand sanitizers. We attended all of the production shows in the main lounge. There was plenty of seating space and never a problem with being on time for a show because of late meals. All the shows were good; the lead male singer and the second banana female were outstanding. The shows were a pleasant change, having seen the same four shows on four different cruises, over and over again, on a different cruise line. We did not bother with any of the comedians, jugglers, impressionists, or whatever else they had to offer. For other entertainment, we shopped, went to the casino one night, and spent some time almost every night in one or another lounge in conversation or dancing. The musical ensembles, mostly Filipino, were uniformly good. One young man, Paul, a violinist, was marvelous. My male traveling companion and I went once to a wine tasting conducted with flair by Rod, the head wine steward. For exercise, I walked two miles almost every day on the prom deck; my wife accompanied me a few times but I was never alone because there were plenty of other walkers. We had our photos taken a few times; I commend the photography staff for not being aggressive. Our cruise took us to Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan in Alaska, and Victoria in British Columbia. We also spent a day cruising in Glacier Bay National Park. As was to be expected in mid-May in Alaska, the weather was cool but we had sunshine every day. Even in the national park, the morning chill and overcast burned off by noon and we enjoyed a beautiful afternoon. Hot pea soup served on deck that morning certainly helped ward off the chill. We participated in guided tours or excursions at every port. There's a certain sameness to the Alaska towns and not a lot to choose from among a variety of nature walks, wildlife sightings and salmon bakes at each. During the whole cruise I saw one whale, one seal and lots of otters and eagles. Debarkation at Juneau was messy. Throngs of passengers stood for 30 minutes in the passageways waiting for deboarding to begin. Tendering ashore at Sitka went smoothly, as did exiting and returning at the other two stops. On the whole, shore excursions were organized much more casually than has been my previous experience, with a lot left up to the passengers to figure out where they were going and how to get there. However, we thoroughly enjoyed the float plane ride over the Juneau ice field and took pictures as good as anything in National Geographic. The Mt. Roberts tram ride was nice but overpriced. They say you can ride up and down as many times as you want during the day for the price of one ticket, but really, how many times do you want to ride up and down? The salmon hatchery was a bore but the Mendenhall Glacier was worth the price. Sitka was fun, with the Russian dancers and browsing on Lincoln St. Our guide was OK, but made some misstatements about the town and its history. Our guide in Ketchikan, Charlie A., a retired school principal, was the best. He is steeped in local color and tradition and gave us interesting commentary on salmon canning, totem carving and wildlife characteristics. Our stop in Victoria was only a few hours in the evening. The bus driver/guide there was knowledgeable but rather distant. From him I first heard the phrase "First Peoples" for Native Americans. Service was good everywhere with a couple of rare exceptions in the sales staff in the shops. Perhaps the most difficult person to get to know during the cruise was Captain Dirk van den Berg. I encountered him four separate times, even stood next to him once in the sandwich line in the buffet restaurant. In seven days I managed to get only one word out of him: "Enjoy." Other officers of the navigation staff were much more forthcoming about their duties and experience. Disembarkation back in Seattle was about as well organized as going ashore in Juneau. Although we had colored-coded baggage tags and a prescribed order for getting off the ship based on flight times or destinations, groups were being called at random. A ship's officer at the gangway told me that the shore party on the dock was dictating debarkation based on the delivery ashore of baggage. Once ashore, customs and immigration was a breeze. We quickly retrieved our bags and the transfer bus was waiting. A 20-minute ride had us at the airport and the bus dropped us and our baggage in the middle of the Memorial Day travelers. After a lengthy wait to check in, we went to the gate with a couple of hours to spare. The flight home was without incident. My overall impression of HAL is good but not significantly better than the line I usually cruise with. I do like HAL's smaller ships. My three traveling companions have a better overall impression of HAL and MS Rotterdam than I do but by no means do I regret having made this cruise. Perhaps my lukewarm response is a matter of too high an expectation. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
Since this was such a long sailing, I will not attempt to give a day-by-day account of everything I did. Rather, I will hit on the high and low points of the cruise and try to provide the information most requested on the CC boards. I will ... Read More
Since this was such a long sailing, I will not attempt to give a day-by-day account of everything I did. Rather, I will hit on the high and low points of the cruise and try to provide the information most requested on the CC boards. I will also note the various ports we visited and how I spent my time there. This particular cruise is only done by Holland America once per year, usually in the month of January. While many of their cruises visit the Islands of Hawaii, this one takes the voyage a step further and goes onto the South Pacific Islands as well, including a stop at Christmas Island in Kirbiti and also a visit to Nuku Hiva in Tahiti. Our itinerary was as follows: January 6  Embarkation, San Diego January 7-10  At sea January 11  Kona, Hawaii January 12  Hilo, Hawaii January 13-14  Honolulu, Oahu January 15  Nawiliwili, Kauai January 16  Lahaina, Maui January 17-21  At sea (crossing the equator on the 20th) January 22  Raiatea, Tahiti January 23-24  Bora Bora, Tahiti January 25  Papeete, Society Islands January 26  Moorea, Society Islands January 27-28  At Sea January 29  Nuku Hiva, Tahiti January 30-February 4  At Sea February 5  Return to San Diego, California We had five formal nights, seven informal nights, one Hawaiian night, and 17 casual nights on this cruise. Embarkation: This was an absolute snap. But maybe thats because unlike most people, I prefer to board after the crowds have cleared out. I waited at my hotel across the street until about 1:00 before even making my way to the Pier of San Diego and the beautiful m.s. Amsterdam that awaited me. It took me less than 15 minutes to dump my bags with the porters, enter the building, make my way to each check-in station, through the security screeners and onto the ship. Even the normal backlog caused by the ships photographers was not evident and I waited but a minute for the obligatory boarding photo. I was directed to the Lido deck since the cabins were not quite ready. There I found a lavish buffet and plenty of tables at which to enjoy it. Bypassing the food, though, I made my way to a seat in the Lido Bar area where I could make some last minute telephone calls while I still had cell service. I didnt even get through the first call when the announcement came that we could proceed to our cabins. I stayed on the Lido deck for an additional half hour or so, completed my business, and then made my way to the Main Deck and cabin 2531. Stewards were in plentiful supply in the hallway to assist anyone needing help in finding their way. I quickly located my cabin, a standard inside, and found not only everything in readiness, but also that my two pieces of luggage had already arrived and were sitting on the bed. Shortly after, my cabin steward, Mohammad, appeared to see if everything was satisfactory. I asked for a couple of ashtrays, which he promptly delivered, and set about unpacking. That unpleasant chore was out of the way well before lifeboat drill & always a great way to get a cruise started. The Usual List of Suspects: The major players of the ships staff and officers included  Commander  Captain Edward G. van Zaane Chief Officer  Robert-Jan Kan Hotel Manager  Willem Cruijsberg Food and Beverage Manager  Bert Van Mackelbergh Maitre d Hotel  Kiki Basuki Cruise Director  John F. Challenger, III Executive Chef  Pedro Lontoc The Amsterdam: What can one say about a beautiful ship such as this? Ive been on other HAL ships, including the Rotterdam which is designated as the Atlantic Flagship of the Fleet, but at least for me nothing beats the Amsterdam. She is the co-flagship, designated for the Pacific, and is filled with beautiful works of art, including a stunning astrolobe tower clock that spans the three decks of the atrium. One could busy themselves for days just trying to view all the treasures that this ship holds. In fact, Apollonia, the social hostess, actually gave a couple of tours in order to familiarize passengers with a sampling of these pieces and a bit about their history. The ship seems to be in great shape, and I really didnt notice any major signs of wear anywhere. The Signature of Excellence enhancements probably updated any areas of this ship that may have been suffering from wear, and the new Explorations Cafe very quickly became my absolute favorite area on the ship. With a very extensive inventory of books, not to mention a wide variety of magazines and other periodicals, one could stay busy in this room throughout the day. If reading materials are not enough, there are 13 internet terminals, as well as several music listening stations. When I first saw these funny looking mini computer terminals, I had no idea what they were. Another CCer had to educate me to the fact that these were actually sort of like iPods & you could program a playlist of your favorite music and then put the headphones on and listen away. Browsing the playlists, I found music to suit almost any conceivable taste. Usually I would never expect to find my preferred praise and worship music in a venue such as this, but there was actually a pretty good selection of it & certainly enough to keep me happily engaged for several hours. In addition, the Explorations Cafe has a bar that is open for most of the day and into the evening. Items for sale included specialty coffees, lattes, hot chocolate, etc. A selection of cold drinks is also offered, such as Smoothies. The staff there got to know me and whenever they would see me coming, with a smile on my face, they knew I wanted my white hot chocolate with loads of whipped cream. Dont ask me why I can consume white chocolate with no problems, while regular chocolate brings on terrible migraine headaches. It is clear that the Amsterdams crew takes great pride in her. Every day as I would walk through the various areas of the ship, I would always see crew members polishing, shining, cleaning, repairing, and doing whatever else necessary to keep her in impeccable condition. Activities: This voyage, billed as a South Pacific Explorer Cruise, covered a total of 9,367 nautical miles. Over half of this 30-day voyage was spent at sea. In fact, we had a total of 17 sea days. As a result, having enough to do during all that time could become a problem. Luckily, the potential for boredom was kept to a minimum by the efforts of a proactive cruise director and his staff who kept our plates as full as possible with a host of activities. We had a full Explorations Speakers Series program, with lectures ranging from star gazing with Donna Giesler to topics such as navigation with David Levesque. Jim Butler enlightened us about the life under the sea, while his wife, Elaine Butler, spoke on subjects covering the arts. On just about every sea day there was at least one lecture, usually two, presented for those who wanted to expand their horizons while on this voyage. Donna Giesler also hosted daily Meet the Star Lady sessions in the Explorers Lounge, as well as actual star gazing in the late evening hours up on the sports deck. Also on sea days, Social Hostess Apollonia (Captain Edward G. van Zanes wife) hosted a coffee chat in the Explorers Lounge with a variety of the ships staff and onboard entertainers. These venues gave passengers a chance to ask questions and get to know the many people who were making this voyage so special. Additionally, special events were hosted throughout the cruise for the many single and solo passengers aboard. These included special meals, afternoon tea socials, games, sports events, and the like & all designed to help single and solo passengers to get to know one another and make new friends while onboard. Of course, there were the staples of cruising, such as daily trivia, Bingo, deck games and jewelry seminars. The Greenhouse Spa also hosted daily lectures and events, many of them focusing on fitness and health topics, and most of them free. We also had four gentleman hosts on this cruise whose sole purpose was to keep the single ladies company and provide them with dance partners each evening. Before dinner each night, the Ocean Bar was packed and the dance hosts busy getting everyone out on the dance floor. In fact, even if you didnt want to dance, they tried to encourage you. It took about four days before the hosts got it through their heads that I didnt like to dance. I had to turn them down several times before they finally stopped asking me. John Challenger also hosted a special get-together for the Cruise Critics onboard, and this took place on the second day out at sea. It was nice getting the chance to put faces to the many names of people we had been communicating with on a weekly basis online over the eight or so months preceding this cruise. A nice touch that I really appreciate on Holland America is that we had a Catholic priest, a protestant minister and a Jewish rabbi onboard, and services were conducted just about daily. A variety of special events were also held. These included a gala Welcome Aboard party, deck barbecues, the famous Holland America Dessert Extravaganza, and of course, the obligatory ceremony that takes place whenever a voyage crosses the equator. This ceremony made one glad to be a passenger (rather than crew) and thus avoid having to kiss a stinking fish that had been roasting out in the sun for several hours, as well as being slimed by all manner of leftover kitchen garbage before being tossed into the pool to clean off. While many found all these days at sea relaxing, others found them tedious, especially towards the end of the cruise when the novelty of sailing had worn off for some. Unfortunately, with a voyage such as this, there is no way to avoid clusters of sea days and the best way to deal with them is to simply sit back and relax. Staying busy is not always necessary. Relaxing and enjoying the moment is sometimes fun too, and I cant even count the number of times I would sit and watch the sea go by, saying to myself it doesnt get much better than this. I found that I slipped into a very comfortable routine on sea days, and thus enjoyed them tremendously. I would generally get up at around 8:30, and attend services at 9:00. After services, I would run up to the Lido and grab a bite to eat before the breakfast buffet closed. Then I would often attend a lecture, and then just relax for a couple of hours, reading up on the Lido deck, or perhaps in the Explorations Cafe, since I rarely ate lunch. Usually there would be an afternoon activity I would want to do, maybe attend another lecture or whatever. On some days, I would go to afternoon tea, and then indulge in afternoon nap. Around 7:30 or so, it would be time to get up and get ready for dinner, followed by a show. The day would usually pass by so quickly in this manner that I was always at a loss to figure out where it went. Some of us participated in the Amsterdam Survivor competition, which was loads of fun. Of course, anyone who knows me can see that I am not very gifted in sporting-type activities, so needless to say, I did not survive Survivor. But we all got a nice certificate for our efforts, as well as Dam Dollars for each event we participated in. Several of us also participated in the Great Pretenders Show, a lip synching show that Holland America offers on most of its sailings. While Ive watched this show several times in the past, both on Holland America and other lines, it was the first time I let myself be talked into participating. While I was leery at first, I have to admit it was great fun. The Queens Lounge was packed the night of our performance, and afterwards we had a sock hop & bringing most audience members up on stage to dance and sing to the tunes from the '50s and '60s. The party then moved up to the Crows Nest for dancing late into the night. The cruise staff provided liberal drinks for us cast members before the show (I guess to get us loosened up for getting on stage), and then provided a small buffet afterwards. All in all, it was a great time & far more fun than I would have expected & and I dont think I finally crawled into bed until about 2:00 a.m. that morning. Needless to say, I missed services the next day. Other Cruise Critics enjoyed daily trivia challenges, as well as visits to the spa. The sun worshipers among us also had plenty of opportunity for their passion, especially as we got closer to the Islands, and then crossed the equator. Ports: Of course, no voyage is all sea days, and ours included some absolutely spectacular ports. Of course, there were the Islands of Hawaii, and we spent six days exploring them. A full menu of shore excursions was offered, and of course, passengers also had the option of designing their own custom tours. As a solo traveler, I opted for Holland Americas tours on most days, simply for the convenience and safety of being in a group. At our first port, Kona, I took a half-day Kona Highlights tour. This tour was by air conditioned vehicle, and took us to such places as the Painted Church and Konas Place of Refuge, the National Historic Park. A stop was also made at the Royal Kona Coffee Store where we could partake of samples. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy any of the varieties of Kona coffee, and thus was glad to have sampled it before parting with good money to buy some. In Hilo I tried a tour which is relatively new to Holland America. It is called Secrets of Puna, and it is a family-run tour which takes participants to the natural areas of the island, and thus the ones least likely to be crowded with tourists. We headed out in luxury SUVs with large springy tires to explore the lava fields. These fields are comprised of miles of jagged rock that most vehicles cant traverse. Thus, we had the whole region to ourselves. We saw the dormant volcano, and the many places in the rocks where native Hawaiians place offerings to the Goddess Pele, to appease her and keep their island home safe from her ire. We stopped at a park area and were given a natural lunch & fruit, sandwich wraps, and bottled water. Unfortunately, since a greasy cheeseburger is more to my liking, I did not find this lunch very appetizing, but the others on the tour sure did. Finally, we ended the half-day tour by visiting a volcanic lake where we could spend an hour or so snorkeling or swimming. This lake was as warm as bath water, and was in use by very, very few people. Obviously, it is a little known treasure, and since it also requires the traversing of some fields of jagged volcanic rock, it is inaccessible to most people in standard vehicles. In Honolulu, we had two full days and I made the most of them. Of course, the standard Holland America tour I chose was one that would let me see as much of Oahu as possible, and this was a full-day circle island tour. Encompassing 120 miles around the entire island, we traveled on all three of Oahus main interstates and visited such sites as the Nuuanu Pali Lookout, the Dole Pineapple Pavilion, the Polynesian Cultural Center (for a catered barbecue lunch), the Halona Blow Hole and the Byodo-In Temple, among others. We also rode past the various surfing beaches and drove the windward coastline to view the beaches nestled there. An eight-hour tour, it was kept interesting by our guide, a retired policeman who was now spending his days showing the jewels of his island home to visitors. While a tour of this length can often become boring, I have to admit that I hated to see it end. I could hardly believe we had been on the road for so many hours. While the Grand Circle Island tour was a joy, it was nothing compared to how I spent my first day in Oahu. On this day, I decided to do a self-arranged excursion & self-arranged because there is no way in hell Holland America would touch this one with a ten-foot pole. I opted to go skydiving over the North Shore. Skydive Hawaii, one of three skydiving outfits on Oahu, picked us up right at Pier 19 where the Amsterdam was docked. While I thought I would be the only idiot spending my day in such a manner, it turned out that I was gonna have plenty of company. Several members of the Amsterdam cast, the sound engineer, the chef at the Pinnacle Grill, and Reme, the Amsterdams DJ, all were apparently as nuts as I was. We filled Skydive Hawaiis van & some people even sitting on the floor, and made the journey of an hour or so to Dillingham Airfield on the North Shore. We were all going to do what are called tandem skydives. Securely attached to an experienced skydiving instructor, each of us would take a flying leap from Skydive Hawaiis Cessna Caravan 15,000 feet above the beautiful North Shore. Three tandem pairs were generally on each flight, and it took three flights to get us all up. Some of us also opted to get video and photo stills of our jumps. I was the only one in our group who had been a skydiver in a past life & having had to give up the sport after a landing accident in 1999. It was wonderful to get back into the air again, even if I had to have an instructor along for the ride. The view from freefall was breathtaking & clouds mixed with the beauty of the Pacific Ocean, which we exit the plane directly over. In freefall, many of us had a professional videoflyer & also called a vidiot, who wears a special helmet affixed with both still and video cameras. A special flying suit, equipped with large wings, enabled him to orbit around his subject, zooming in and out at will. This provided often humorous footage of the facial expressions that are a natural part of ones first experience with skydiving. After a freefall of approximately one minute, we waved goodbye to the videoflyer (we would meet up with him again on the ground) and opened a huge multi-colored parachute, gently floating under it back to the skydiving facilitys huge landing area. Once back on terra firma, our videoflyer would be there to greet us and conduct a short interview for the camera. The material made great viewing and a wonderful memento of a truly amazing experience. After our jumps, we spent an hour or so waiting for our DVDs to be edited, complete with special effects and a music track, and then we all crowded around the huge TV set in their lounge to watch the results and laugh at each others facial expressions. This was, without a doubt, the highlight of the entire cruise for me, and something I definitely plan to do again when I get back to Hawaii. In fact, many of the folks from the Amsterdams staff were already planning another excursion to Skydive Hawaii on the ships next call at that port, which would take place on the cruise after ours. I was only sorry that I wouldnt be with them on that return trip. Kauai was a short port of call, and it was the only one where I did not have a formal excursion planned. I had originally made plans to take an aerobatics airplane ride with a former jump buddys nephew who runs such a service out there, but due to work constraints he had to cancel out on me at the last minute. This gentleman, Jim Reed, is also Kauais fire captain and due to my short time window, he had warned me that just such a thing could happen. So, instead of trying to run around and set something else up, I spent the few hours we had on this island with Kakalina and her husband, visiting Hilo Hatties & a place I had not had a chance to visit on any of my prior visits to Hawaii. Of course, I dropped too much money, but the day was well spent as I acquired several new Aloha shirts to add to my already growing collection. We also visited the Wal-Mart since we all needed things that we didnt want to pay top dollar for on the ship. Also, Wal-Mart had a McDonalds inside, and we were all suffering BigMac attacks after all that good food that was being shoved down our throats on the Amsterdam. Maui was our last port of call in the Hawaiian islands, and this day was special for me. It was my 50th birthday and I wanted to spend it doing something fun, yet relaxing. I opted for the Wild Dolphin Snorkel excursion offered by the Pacific Whale Foundation. While the title of the tour sounds like you will be snorkeling with dolphins, that description is not entirely accurate. The snorkeling takes place in their general area of habitat, but not necessarily with the dolphins. Unfortunately, we actually saw very few dolphins on this excursion, but we did have several whale sightings, with one of them breaching not 40-feet from the boat! The experience was absolutely breathtaking as the beauty of these huge creatures is truly a sight to behold. The staff on the boat are all naturalists and they took great pleasure in educating us about the whales and how important it was for us to protect their environment. After the whale watch tour was over, we had an opportunity to spend an hour or so snorkeling and all equipment was provided for us by the staff of the boat. They also entered the water with us, helping us to spot green sea turtles and other sea life resident to the area. After our snorkeling, a barbecued lunch was served on the boat, complete with open bar. I made the mistake of mentioning to another passenger over lunch that it was my birthday. She must have told the Pacific Whale Foundation people, because before I knew it, the captain was making an announcement to that effect and everyone then sang Happy Birthday to me. An absolutely memorable touch to a perfect day. I cant imagine a better way to spend any birthday and this is certainly one I will never forget as long as I live. After we had docked back at the pier, most of us took a walk over to the Pacific Whale Foundations store, which was only about a block away. Everything they sell in the store goes to support their work and the various projects they run to protect the sea life in Hawaiis waters. Of course, most of us were all too willing to drop a few bucks in support of their efforts, and I picked up a beautiful tee-shirt with an embroidered logo of the Foundation on the breast pocket. After our six days spent in the Hawaiian Islands, most of us were exhausted and were actually thrilled with the prospect of the five sea days looming ahead. We were originally only supposed to have two & with a stop at Christmas Island before heading to the South Pacific, but due to shifting sandbars we were informed at embarkation that Christmas Island had been cancelled. Apparently this happens quite often, so no one was overly surprised at the news. Since theres not much to do there anyway, it wasnt any great loss. After our five days at sea had passed, we arrived in Tahiti. Most people were chomping at the bit by this point to get the hell off the ship, but I for one was almost sorry to find myself once again on dry land. Days at sea are so peaceful, so relaxing. In some respects, I think I would actually enjoy taking a cruise one day that contained nothing but days at sea. Our first port in the South Pacific was beautiful Raiatea. We could readily see when approaching this port that it was unlike any of the others we had thus far visited in the Hawaiian Island chain. This port was clearly not developed. They hadnt had much experience with the tourist trade. In fact, we later found out that they dont get too many cruise ships there, and thus when one did dock, it was a big event for the entire community. Stepping off the ship was like stepping into a different time. Dogs lazily sleeping in the sun, while their owners sold handmade wares under canopies shielding them from the worst of a blazing sun. The tour I took in this port was Raiatea: The Sacred Island. I figured this would give me a good overview of the islands religious underpinnings. Our primary destination was to the Marae Taputapuatea, which is the islands most famous landmark. But, to get there, we had to traverse miles of narrow roads, all bordering the Bay of Faaroa. Along the way, we saw all manner of tropical plants growing freely along the road, though we didnt get much chance to stop to admire it more closely. The ride would have been pleasant except for the fact that we were crammed into an open air bus, with hard wooden bench seats. The buses were actually the communities school buses, and since this was a Sunday they could be used for the purpose of this tour. We rode to the Marae in a caravan, with three of these such buses. For the trip to the Marae, the regular tour guide couldnt make it, so she sent her young son to escort the group on our bus. The boy spoke very little English and thus could not answer questions very well nor provide much narrative as to what we were seeing. The bus was hot, crowded and very uncomfortable, and the murmurings heard repeatedly ran along the lines of I paid $79 for this? Once at the Marae, though, things improved somewhat. Momma took over and gave us a very thorough tour of the site, along with explanations as to the customs and traditions surrounding the Marae. We were provided with bottled water and some sliced fruit at the Marae, and some of us couldnt help but remark that this was all we would be getting for $79 bucks? To make up for her young sons inexperience, momma accompanied our tour group on the journey back to the ship, and she freely shared information about her island, the Marae and the customs of her people. She also led us in some of the traditional songs and her presence clearly made the ride back far more pleasant than the one out. All in all, it was a good tour, though certainly not worth the price Holland America charged us for it. Back on the ship, we noticed quite a line at the Shore Excursions Desk & people complaining about the value they got for their money on this particular tour. As we pulled out of our dock space at Raiatea that evening, we noticed that many of the townspeople had made the journey specifically to see us off on our travels. Cars and pick-up trucks were pulling into the dirt parking lot of the pier and entire families were coming to wave to us. It seemed almost as if our presence was the high point of their week, and parents wanted their children to see what a big cruise ship full of rich tourists looked like. Of all the islands we visited in the South Pacific, Raiatea will hold a special place (along with Moorea) as my favorite. Our next stop was Bora Bora, and we had the pleasure of an overnight stay on this island, and with it the opportunity to do far more than just a one-day stop would allow. As I did in Oahu, I decided to set up an independent excursion on one day, and a more traditional Holland America tour on the second. Since I got certified for SCUBA the January prior to this, but had not yet made a dive with that new certification, I decided before leaving home to set up a day of diving. Based on recommendations on some SCUBA message boards, I contacted TopDive and explained my sorry state of experience to them. They assured me that they were used to inexperienced divers and could accommodate me, so I booked a two-tank dive with them. I was to meet them on the pier at 8:00 a.m., which was gonna be tight since we didnt anchor until 7:00, and tendering would take time. Since this was not a Holland America excursion, I would also not be guaranteed to be on one of the first tenders since HAL tours got priority. Thankfully, the shore excursion folks got me a priority tender ticket before the HAL tours had to leave, and John Challengers staff at the tender station made sure I was on the first tender off & one of only three people aboard! I was at the pier, introducing myself to the TopDive representative long before 8:00 a.m. The TopDive people took me back to their dive shop where all the necessary paperwork was completed, and then it was directly onto their boat. Unlike many operators, TopDives boat was not packed with divers. There were only about six of us, plus the two divemasters. One divemaster took me and another relatively inexperienced diver, and the other took the four more experienced folks who would not require as much supervision. We dived two spots, each selected for the variety of sea life we could view there. As we explored the underwater terrain, we saw sea turtles and all manner of brightly colored fish. On our first dive, we were even greeted by an array of black-tipped sharks which made for some great photos. The coral formations at the second location were breathtaking, and I only wish I had a better camera than my puny underwater disposable. Under 65 feet of water you really do need a flash in order to get decent pictures. I had such a great time on these two dives that I was almost tempted to cancel my Holland America tour for the next day, which was a shark and ray feeding excursion, and just do another dive with the TopDive People. Alas, though, my practical side won out. I had already paid for the HAL excursion, and it was too late to cancel it and still get my money back. On day two, we boarded a motorized outrigger canoe to transfer across the lagoon to an expansive coral reef teeming with a wide variety of marine life. We actually snorkeled two separate locations. After snorkeling at the reef, we then got back on the boat and made the short trip to what they called a coral garden, where we got to snorkel amongst some of the most beautiful coral formations I had ever seen. The people running the excursion, Shark Boy, got into the water with us and attracted the reef sharks and stingrays with bait. Since we were in reasonably shallow water, the photos obtained even with a cheap underwater camera were stunning. Schools of brightly colored rainbow fish & yellows, oranges, black & swarmed around us & until you could barely see the humans for the fish. At the coral gardens we were told to be careful about stepping on the coral, as it was protected and any careless moves could jeopardize it. Luckily the water here was generally a bit deeper and thus there was no danger of a wayward foot trampling the delicate balance of the sea life in this area. My only regret on this excursion was that I didnt buy an additional underwater camera. One was hardly enough for all these amazing photo opportunities. Papeete was our next step, and this was probably my least favorite of the South Pacific islands. Basically, its a big city. Nothing more than you would find anywhere else in the world. By large bus we traversed the isthmus of Taravao, the strip of land that connects Tahiti Nui (big) with Tahiti Iti (small). We made a stop at the Arahoho Blowhole and got to spend some time there, watching the sea compress itself into an old lava tube that extended under the rocks across the street. We would then hear the roaring coming from under these rock formations, as the sea was forced back out into the sea in an exploding noisy spray. We also visited the Paul Gauguin Museum and got to spend some time there viewing exhibits about his life. We also had lunch at the Gauguin Restaurant before continuing on our tour of the natural treasures of this island. Finally, we made a stop at the Museum of Tahiti and her Islands, where we were treated to a guided tour of the many archeological finds, including the large pots and utensils the cannibals inhibiting the island once used. This museum forbade visitors from taking photos or video recordings of the exhibits inside, though there was an area outside set up with many noteworthy treasures, such as the early outrigger canoes used by the natives, and many of their artifacts, that visitors could photograph freely. There was also a wide variety of flowering plants and trees that always make for wonderful photographs. Our final stop in the South Pacific was at Moorea, right across the bay from Papeete. On this island several of us Cruise Critics decided to take the Motu Beach Picnic and Ray Feeding excursion, and this proved to be a wise choice. A motu is basically a small island set off from the main one. It is underdeveloped; i.e., generally no electricity or water service, and it is a great place to spend a day imaging oneself marooned on a lush deserted island. We were ferried over to the motu by a group of motorized catamarans. Along the way, we were treated to songs by the crew, as we proceeded from Cooks Bay to Opunohu Bay, cruising along the colorful lagoons of water of the most amazing shades of blue and green imaginable. The crew told us about the history and the legends of their island and what life there was like. Once we arrived at the motu, we found a virtual island paradise, with ample trees provided natural shade. Dozens of tables and chairs provided ample seating for everyone. Trish (Kakalina) and her husband, Virgil, had gotten there before us and had already staked out a table for the four of us (JudyAl and myself). A barbecue was already in the making and the tasty aromas wafted throughout the atoll, making us hungry and impatient to partake. Since it would be awhile before the food was ready, though, most of us took to the water. Snorkeling gear was provided and exploring the reef was almost like a drift dive in SCUBA parlance. As you snorkel, you will drift in a certain direction. So, you just start out at the far end of the island, enter the water there, and then let the water take you back to the area where the tables and the food is located. As we snorkeled, we could see loads of stingrays as well as the most amazingly colored tropical fish. Again, I was only sorry that I was down to one disposable underwater camera. I could have easily used five. After snorkeling, we were treated to lunch consisting of delectable slices of fresh fruit, rice dishes, salads, barbecued sausage and fish. A cash bar was available and island jewelry at reasonable prices was available for purchase. Roosters were running around freely, and a small group was singing and playing for our entertainment. The environment was so peaceful and the water so inviting that it was obvious no one wanted to leave. So the staff came around asking if anyone had another excursion on their schedule for that afternoon. The few who did were transported back to the ship, while the rest of us were told that we would get to spend an extra hour or so enjoying the motu. Most people immediately took off for another dip in the water, while others sat back to relax and enjoy all this island paradise had to offer. This motu experience was a great way to cap off our South Pacific experience. Most of us probably wished we could never leave. After our visit on Moorea, we had two days at sea before arrived at Nuku Hiva. This island is basically an undeveloped retreat where there are really no formal activities to participate in. The Shore Excursions desk doesnt even run excursions in this port, and from what I understand, there are few people available there to give tours or take cruise ship passengers on excursions. A small vendors stand was set up at the tender port where people could buy wood carvings and other items, and a few people were on hand to give tours in their private vehicles. But, all in all, there wasnt much there, and most people were returning to the ship within an hour or so of tendering over. This was the one port where I did not get off the ship as I was not feeling too well this day. But that didnt stop me from sitting out on the back deck of the Lido, admiring the rugged mountain vistas presented by this slice of pacific paradise. Since this is the only island we visited that is not of volcanic origin, the mountains were full of lush vegetation and one could see where roads were carved into the sides to accommodate the limited vehicular traffic. Apparently, many people still used horses to traverse the island, and for this reason the roadways did not extend through all areas of it. The beach area was also not of the caliber we had become accustomed in our previous island travels, and folks said that it was mostly rocky, with little or none of the soft powdery sand we had enjoyed at our other island stops. Most people were back onboard before noontime and I couldnt understand why such a long stop was planned at a place with very little to see or do. Wouldnt it have made more sense to spend more time at Moorea or one of the other islands, and then have only a half-day stay at this one? There were a lot of sorry-eyed passengers onboard the Amsterdam as we lifted anchor and sailed away from Nuku Hiva, for we knew now that our voyage was almost over. We had a mere six days at sea before we would be arriving back in San Diego, and disembarking this beautiful ship. Food: Food is such a subjective item that I really even hate to write about it. I personally found all the food delicious. Whether I took a meal in the dining room or the Lido (I dont generally order room service), I always found something tasty to eat. The Pinnacle Grill & thats in a class by itself & and the folks at our dining table (JudyAl, myself, and Betsy (not a CC member) ate there four times. One of those times was as part of a special singles and solos dinner that the cruise directors staff arranged. Service in the dining room was always excellent, and it didnt take my waiters very long to learn my preferences. A glass of iced tea was always waiting for me when I sat down, and there was always plenty of butter for the couple of slices of bread I always enjoyed having. They also quickly became accustomed to my ordering two desserts on those nights when there was something else on the menu (besides sorbet) that appealed to me. Unfortunately, I cant eat chocolate and therefore most of the dessert items were off-limits to me. But there were some nights where there was a non-chocolate item on the menu that appealed to me. But I still had to have my sorbet. Our waiter would just put a helping of sorbet on the same plate with my dessert of choice on those occasions. The dining room staff put on several special events during the cruise. These were often just silly goings on, but they were truly fun. One evening, several of the head waiters and the maitre d set up a funny little event at the top of the staircase leading from the upper to the lower dining rooms. They put on a sound track of the Love Boat theme song and led all of us diners in a rousing sing along. It was great fun and most diners really got into it, including myself. Another night was the Master Chefs dinner, and we arrived in the dining room to be greeted with chefs hats at all of the place settings. Most passengers gladly donned the hats and wore them throughout dinner. Another event, of course, was the Parade of the Baked Alaska, which is always fun. King Neptune and his mermaids also paid us a visit at dinnertime on the day we crossed the equator, gladly offering to pose for pictures with diners. In addition, throughout the cruise, we received the dining room newsletter, which was replete with tales of the various goings on that made our evening mealtimes special. Of course, not necessarily everyone was happy with the food. Some folks said it had slipped quite a bit. But the one fact about which no one at our table disagreed was the excellent service our two waiters provided all month long. If someone at the table wasnt happy with their dining selection on any given night, an offer was always made to bring them something else. Our waiters couldnt do enough to please. They were also flexible on certain nights when we dined at another table, or brought others to dine at ours & as we did for dessert on the night of my birthday. JudyAl had so thoughtfully arranged for a cake, and for several other CC folks (Kakalina and Bert & Tigger) to join our table for dessert. Our waiters organized a group to sing to me and a special (non-chocolate) cake was provided so that I too could partake. We had a couple of deck barbecues during the cruise, but these were so packed with people and the serving lines moved so slow, that it was hardly worth the wait. I decided to pass. A barbecue, after all, is a barbecue. Nothing special. Nothing worth investing the better part of an hour to get through, especially when there are so many other good food choices to pick from. Food in the Lido was available almost 24/7. I took breakfast there most everyday, though I rarely bothered with lunch. I like how the serving stations were laid out & separate areas for waffles, an omelet station, pastry and rolls section, etc. This way, you didnt have to wait in one long line if all you maybe wanted was some cold cereal. You just went over to that section of the serving line and picked it up. No waiting. I like that. Every night they had a late night buffet with a different theme; Oriental, Italian, Mexican, etc. I cant much address those because I never attended these feasts since I would barely be done with dinner by 10:00. I couldnt imagine eating again at 11:30. The ice cream bar had liberal hours, and it was always nice to head up there in the afternoon for a dish of sherbet or a scoop in a sugar cone. Tea and coffee was always available, and just about every night I would stop up at the Lido for a cup of java and a cigarette before retiring to my cabin for the night. And of course what would any Holland America cruise be without the traditional Dessert Extravaganza? We had ours on one of the nights heading back to San Diego toward the end of the cruise. Perhaps because this was such a long cruise, or maybe it was just because this was the Amsterdam & the Pacific flagship of the Holland America fleet & but for whatever reason it was, the chefs went all out for this one, including building a towering cake out of Styrofoam that was incredible. The chocolate and dessert items were set up on multiple tables, with a couple of the tables designated strictly for picture-taking during the early hours of the event. While I generally am unable to partake of this fantastic HAL tradition due to my food allergy to chocolate, I had a blast shooting off several rolls of film filled with the stunning creations of the Amsterdams master chefs. Pet Peeves: No cruise is perfect, though this one came pretty close for me. However, there are a couple of minor nuisances that I feel compelled to mention. First of all, why on earth did we have a second lifeboat drill mid-way through the cruise? Several folks who had been on other longer sailings said this was a first for them. The only explanation provided was that the First Officer had ordered it and apparently the second drill was a Coast Guard requirement. The folks who had been on longer cruises said this was bunk. While I personally didnt care one way or the other, the second drill caused all of the stores and the casinos to have to be closed down on a sea day, and also resulted in the cancellation of certain activities that people were looking forward to & such as afternoon trivia. A more honest explanation as to the reason for this drill would have smoothed some unnecessarily ruffled feathers. Why doesnt the shore excursion desk have more information about the ports and what activities are available (outside of Holland America shore excursions)? The shore excursion staff seemed to be proactive in managing HALs shore excursion program. Someone generally went along on one of the shore excursions in each port to ensure a quality product was being offered. But when I asked for some information about Nuku Hiva, our last port of call, no one at the shore excursion desk seemed to have any information. Since Holland America was not offering any excursions in the port, I just wanted to know what there was available there to do. Surely there is something? The shore excursion girls just shrugged their heads in response to my question. I think a little bit of internet research, on their nickel, could have produced at least some general information about the stop. John Challenger had invited me to make a SCUBA dive there with a group he was organizing, so obviously that was one option. If John knew about the availability of a dive operator on the island, surely the shore excursion staff could have unearthed some options. I was only sorry I couldnt take John up on his offer, but I was having some problems at that point in the cruise with headaches and didnt want to take the chance of aggravated the situation. Conclusion: I heard quite a lot of folks saying they would never do this itinerary again because of all the sea days. While the sea days were not a problem for me, I could readily see the validity of their complaints. They claimed that there was just not enough to keep them busy for such a length of time, and would have preferred an itinerary with more ports to explore. The only suggestion I can give to HAL to resolve this complaint would be to not only offer the Explorations Speakers Series on sea days, but also to offer various classes on itineraries with such large clusters of time at sea. For example, I would have liked to learn how to play bridge or this cruise, but after talking with the bridge instructor I was informed that it would be impossible to teach someone the game of bridge in a mere 30 days. The lectures he was doing were directed to people who already knew the game, and just were looking for ways to improve. Well, after having sailed this itinerary, I have to say I disagree with him. There is no reason some introductory classes couldnt have been provided on sea days to teach total novices the game. There were plenty of days at sea to accommodate this & four heading out to Hawaii, five more between Hawaii and the South Pacific, two between Moorea and Nuku Hiva, and finally a whopping six days between Nuku Hiva and arrival back in San Diego. Thats a total of a whopping 17 days at sea! Clearly more than enough to give someone at least a very good introduction to the game of bridge. When people have so much time at sea, they often want to learn a new skill or explore a new area of interest. A series of classes could have been offered, even if some of them had a nominal fee associated, in areas such as computer software, photography workshops, and health related topics. HAL missed a great opportunity here that they should explore for future cruises. Would I sail this itinerary again? You betcha. But, it wont be for quite a while as there are loads of other places I want to see first. But the South Pacific is a place I will return to someday for sure, and the Hawaiian Islands I will definitely return to again and again & probably next in a couple of years. Was this cruise on the Amsterdam perfect? No. Is any cruise perfect? Sure there were little things that maybe didnt go right, or werent exactly to my liking. But the important thing was that when I had a problem, and politely brought it to the attention of the appropriate people, it was resolved. Thats all one can ask. In fact, my cabin steward put a flyer on my bed one night from the Hotel Manager. It basically asked is there anything that is not to your liking? If so, let us know now so that we can make it right. There was a card provided for the guest to indicate any problems and apparently the hotel manager would read those cards and take appropriate action. I will say this, though, doing this itinerary taught me that there is a difference between a cruise and a voyage. A voyage is when the ship becomes your home away from home for an extended length of time. I love voyages and only wish I could take more of them. This trip almost makes me anxious to grow older and closer to retirement age so that I too can get used to the seafaring life. For I learned that on HAL, and most specifically on the Amsterdam, that life could be truly grand. Read Less
Sail Date January 2006
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

Find an Amsterdam Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click