211 Holland America Amsterdam Cruise Reviews

This was our third cruise to Alaska. This time we chose to share Alaska with our two daughters and their families. There were 10 total. Alaska gave us it best showing with beautiful sunny weather, whales, snow covered mountains and ... Read More
This was our third cruise to Alaska. This time we chose to share Alaska with our two daughters and their families. There were 10 total. Alaska gave us it best showing with beautiful sunny weather, whales, snow covered mountains and glaciers. We had 8 ports stops and two glacier national parks. Holland American surprised us with a wonderful children's program "Club Hal." Club Hal opened it's doors the first night and it was winner for the rest of the cruise for the 3, 7 and 9 year old. Club Hal began planned activities in the morning and then would close at 4PM and then reopened at 7PM. to 10. The three year played so hard that she would fall asleep at the dinner table. Her parents would have to order room service for her dinner. The 7 & 9 year old would chose to skip dessert and go to Club Hal. Each night was a special theme such as animals, space, and the last night, a pajama party including pillow fights. When we returned from our shores excursions, Club Hal was available for the children while the parents return to shore for shopping. Our 17 year old granddaughter was not interested in the Club Hal for her age group so I can not review for the teens. She preferred the family activities. We chose the early seating, we had a table of 10. There was a special menu for the children. The 7 year old selected the adult menu. Seafood was his favorite often times ordering double orders of crab legs. The waiter quickly learned what the children liked and often times brought their food before the adult food was ready. We also attended several of the Digital Workshops Sessions, we learned several new techniques. Homer is mainly a fishing port. The Amsterdam docked at what is known as the Spit. School buses provided a free shuttle to the shops of the Spit. If you wanted to visit the town of Homer, a hop-a school bus for $15 would take you around the town. We chose to wonder around the Spit. Old Salty Dawg Saloon gave a view of sailors amusement when on shore. Our daughters went on a day's adventure of kayaking which they declared totally awesome and highlight of the trip. We took the grandchildren to the beach to look for sea life. The next day we spent a to short half day (8AM to 12PM) in Kodiak. Shore excursions sold-out quickly so we were on our own. It was a mile and half walk to town. We visited one museum. A small group of dancers presented an example of Indian dances in the shopping square. We wished that we could have stayed longer. We sailed to Hubbard Glacier. Another beautiful sunny day to view this magnificent glacier. It was more amazing than Glacier National Park. The ship was able to sail within a half mile of the glacier. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
We joined Amsterdam on a dull day in Seattle. Embarkation was tedious and took over an hour as being UK residents there was only 1 agent dealing with Non-US passengers! Once on the ship things ran smoothly, we had a pleasant cabin with ... Read More
We joined Amsterdam on a dull day in Seattle. Embarkation was tedious and took over an hour as being UK residents there was only 1 agent dealing with Non-US passengers! Once on the ship things ran smoothly, we had a pleasant cabin with plenty of storage space and our cabin stewards were excellent, always there whenever we needed anything. The ice bucket always had ice anytime of day or night, and our cabin was kept spotless. We had a problem in the bathroom with smells from the sewage system and the maintenance team did their best to address this with limited success. My husband also had many problems with pre-booked tuxedo hire (this has never been a problem before as he is of average size) but the resulting array of trousers and jackets produced some hilarious photographs!! The food in the Vista Dining Room was very good,and our waiting staff were again very cheerful, attentive and helpful. The ports of call and scenery were just amazing, we did several tours arranged privately prior to our cruise, the most spectacular being Misty Fiords Flight with Island Wings in Ketchikan the Yukon Bus and Rail tour with Chilcoot Charters in Skagway, and Harv & Marvs Whale watching in Juneau. The first 13 days of our cruise we had wonderful weather with clear visibility and cruising Glacier Bay and the Hubbard Glacier (which calved spectacularly) was the most amazing experience. The Park Rangers which embarked for these cruises were very informative and interesting. The last port of call was Victoria, Vancouver Island, the weather was appalling and we stayed in the ship having been there in good weather previously. We found ourselves to be one couple of abour 40 who were Alaska "virgins" some passenger being on their umpteenth visit, and most of them said they had never experienced such wonderful weather before. We hardly dare go again as it would be difficult to surpass our experiences on this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
My husband and I booked this cruise in September 2009 for the unique itinerary and the appeal of sailing round trip from Seattle. We are both in our early 60's and this was our 14th Holland America cruise, our second to Alaska. We ... Read More
My husband and I booked this cruise in September 2009 for the unique itinerary and the appeal of sailing round trip from Seattle. We are both in our early 60's and this was our 14th Holland America cruise, our second to Alaska. We flew a day before on Alaska, using FF miles. Our nonstop from Ontario, CA arrived at 9:30 A.M. We booked a precruise night and transfer with HAL at the airport Hilton. We were met by HAL representatives in baggage claim and directed to the Hilton shuttle. We were able to check into our room immediately. Since we have been to Seattle before, we chose to spend the day relaxing. The light rail terminal is within walking distance of the hotel and an easy way to get in to downtown Seattle. The Hilton was very comfortable, but the restaurant was expensive, and there don't seem to be any other choices nearby. The quality of the food was outstanding. At 11:30 embarkation day we were transferred to the ship. Embarkation was very efficient, and we were onboard before 1 P.M. We considered going to the Mariner Luncheon in the dining room, as the Lido was quite crowded, but were told it was just for 4 Star Mariners, contrary to information printed on HAL's website. Our rooms were available by 1:30. We booked #3399, an HH on the Lower Promenade. We have booked this same stateroom in the past for its proximity to promenade deck and dining. Even though it is listed as fully obstructed, you can see out the window. The room was very comfortable, especially the leather sofa. The full bath was well stocked with Elemis bath products, and storage was plentiful. Our steward, Slam, was very personable and hard working. He kept things in tip- top shape. The ms Amsterdam was elegant, with flowers everywhere. She is the Flagship, gracious and well cared for from bow to stern. The entire crew was friendly and helpful, from the front desk to the workers in overalls tending to the ship. Entertainment was top notch, the Amsterdam show cast was full of energy, and the costumes looked brand new. Show time was 7 and 9 P.M., and about an hour in duration. The daily program was packed full with the usual on board activities, evening movies, plus daily Catholic Mass and weekend interfaith services. There was a brochure in the stateroom that listed a huge selection of DVD's that would be delivered to your room. We cruised to relax and enjoy the spectacular Alaska scenery! The long period of daylight made for excellent wildlife viewing after the evening show. We saw lots of whales and marine creatures from the ship. Open Seating was our dining choice. We ate at 5:15 to make the 7 P.M. show and then watch for whales. We were delighted to learn that the waiter from our Black Sea cruise, Eko, was onboard, and he made sure we had a table for 2 in his section for the duration of the cruise. It was wonderful to see Eko again! Food and presentation was superb in the main dining room, and the chilled soups were especially delicious. The quirky Master Chef Dinner was the last full sea day. In all there were 4 Formal Nights, which we skipped. Attire varied from tuxes and gowns to "Sunday Best." Although the daily program requested formal attire throughout the ship, you saw everything. We enjoyed the casual Canaletto on formal nights. Our servers Pepe and Gelato were very attentive. Lido food was just average. The first 2 days they operated under a "Code Red," and there was no self- service. It was explained that they did this to see if anyone had brought the Noro Virus on board. The third day things were back to normal, and you could serve yourself. The ship went to great lengths to keep the passengers healthy, with sanitizers and towels everywhere. We used room service for breakfast almost every day. It was hit or miss at times. We took this cruise for the ports and were not disappointed! We enjoyed fantastic weather. High point had to be the Hubbard Glacier, putting on quite a show with nonstop calving. We used the ship's excursions. There were a lot of choices...something for everyone. KETCHIKAN the ship had a prime berth right in town. Wilderness Exploration & Crab Feast...very relaxing, informative and delicious. We were a small group, and the servers were very generous. SITKA, the only tender port, Silver Bay Nature Cruise& Salmon Hatchery. SKAGWAY (first time here) and our favorite stop...breathtaking scenery. Four ships in port, but it didn't seem crowded. Yukon Expedition & White Pass Railway. Loved petting the sled dogs and puppies in Carcross. Sit on the right side going up on the bus, and down on the train. We saw a bear foraging on the side of the road! Views as the ship sailed out in the evening were amazing. Glacier Bay.... very beautiful, but couldn't rival the Hubbard Glacier. ANCHORAGE: we were the first cruise ship to call there in many years. The city went all out with dancers, TV coverage, full size tour busses as shuttles and front-page news in the paper. The free shuttle went to Eagan Center from 9 A.M. to 9 P.M., about a 20-minute ride. You can't walk out of the port, as it is in an industrial area. From Eagan Center you can walk just about everywhere. There are great restaurants nearby and touristy to high-end shops and galleries. We were in port until 11 P.M. and it was still daylight. Anchorage was a really nice mid-sized city. We chose the Glacier Discovery Grandview Train. Seating was assigned, but the best side is the right side, along the Turnagain Arm. You had to purchase food and the dining car had packed to go meals for $12. There were a variety of sandwiches. The dome car was available for spectacular views, and there were plenty of seats. Be sure to wear insect repellant! The train windows were covered with mosquitoes, and the train goes through a swampy area. We saw moose and eagles along the way. At Porter we were bussed back to the ship. Due to heavy late snow, our tour was cut short, and we were given a partial refund. We then took the shuttle in to Anchorage to have dinner with friends who live there. HOMER, a working non- tourist port had school bus shuttles in to town, about 4 miles away, for $15. The ship docked at the Homer Spit. There were shops about a mile walk. I have heard that HAL may have shuttles to these shops, including the iconic "Salty Dog." We took the Seldovia Cruise With Gull Island. Lunch is on your own in Seldovia, a peaceful fishing village. This was a great tour. KODIAK, a working town. The ship docked a mile from town, so be prepared to walk. We took the City Overview Tour...very good, ending with the fantastic "Kodiak Drummers." JUNEAU weather was almost 80. We stayed in town and enjoyed lunch in a local restaurant by the floatplane dock. VICTORIA, Victoria Highlights & Craigdarrock Castle. This was an amazing place, worth a visit! SEATTLE, Best of Seattle and airport transfer. Took us to the top of the Space Needle, Pike's Market, then to the airport, arriving around 12:30 P.M. If you have a very late flight you might consider HAL's baggage transfer for $19 per person+ baggage fees, as you can't check bags until 4 hours prior to departure. Silent Disembarkation was easy. The Alaskan Adventurer was a first rate cruise,a few inconveniences as the first of the new itinerary,but overall very successful. We met wonderful passengers, saw all kinds of wildlife and loved every minute! Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
1. I grossly overestimated the amount of baggage we needed. We must have looked like immigrants coming over from the old country with all of our possessions. This did make embarkation and disembarkation as well as airport boarding far more ... Read More
1. I grossly overestimated the amount of baggage we needed. We must have looked like immigrants coming over from the old country with all of our possessions. This did make embarkation and disembarkation as well as airport boarding far more difficult than for most. 2. I underestimated how large the ship was. My wife needs to use a walker/wheelchair and this was a good workout for me to push her around. There are numerous little bumps on each deck (fire doors) which required me to lift the walker/wheelchair over the "bumps" otherwise the walker/wheelchair would have tipped over. 3. The staff were great in helping us on and off the ship at each port. Unfortunately the excursion personnel stood around and watched. They would help if asked. The ramps are quite steep so be careful. 4. First port: Ketchikan. We took the Misty Fjords excursion. Many waterfalls, bald eagles, river otters, spectacular scenery. Unfortunately on the way back from the ship the excursion personnel pushed my wife's walker a little too fast and it tipped over (Big bump on the back of my wife's head - not Emu or Ostrich size but definitely a Goose Egg). Could have been far worse. Holland America staff were very responsive. 5. Second port: Sitka. We took the Raptor center and otter/wildlife excursion. Very enjoyable. 2 highlights of the trip: a. At the raptor center seeing bald eagles up close; b. Seeing a large brown bear and being able to get many photos from the excursion boat. Quite lucky to see the bear. 6. Third port: Skagway. Excursion to Haines Bald Eagle Preserve. This was the toughest excursion away from the ship in terms of ramps. Fortunately there was a Holland America employee on the excursion who was unbelievably helpful. Not part of her job. Over and above not just once but for several hours. Thanks CJ. Disappointing in terms of seeing bald eagles but lots of trumpeter swans, Canada Geese and the highlight was seeing mama moose and her 2 calves up close. Talk about lucky. 7. Anchorage. Took a float plane trip. Saw a few moose from the air but overall not bad but not an overwhelming experience except it was our first time in a float plane. 8. Homer. Saw lots of otters,birds and a mountain goat. Again pretty lucky. 9. Kodiak. One of the reasons for taking this trip was to go to Kodiak and see bears. Unfortunately there were no excursions for seeing bears. On the other hand we saw lots of birds, otters, some whales, porpoises, and stellar sea lions which are 2-3 times larger than the sea lions we see in California. 10. We did not go into Victoria. Been there several times before and did not think there was enough time to walk around. Also the whale (Orca) watching trip was cancelled due to rough seas. On board experience. The food was good not great. Far more variety than I remember from previous cruises, and smaller portions but we never left hungry. Entertainment. Good not great. The male dancers were definitely out of sync but the singing, choreography, and costumes were very good. Cabin. We had trouble fitting our luggage in the cabin. The bed was set up as a queen and we could not get our luggage under the bed. Otherwise it met our expectations. So why do I rate the cruise higher than the sum of its parts? 1. The scenery and wildlife (I forgot to mention lots of humpback whales). But far more importantly: The staff. Cabin attendants, dining stewards, excursion personnel, front desk, infirmary, and officers were accessible, friendly, helpful and greatly exceeded our expectations. We are already signed up for another Holland America cruise. Perspective: we could take this trip many more times and it would always be different and never boring. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
We just returned from HAL's 1st cruise into Glacier Bay this year aboard the Amsterdam. Having read reviews and comments from others prior to the cruise I had a definite set of expectations but the reality far exceeded them. The 1st ... Read More
We just returned from HAL's 1st cruise into Glacier Bay this year aboard the Amsterdam. Having read reviews and comments from others prior to the cruise I had a definite set of expectations but the reality far exceeded them. The 1st night out we encountered rough seas with waves about 12ft. I spent most of the night trying to locate and stops the noises in our stateroom. From that point on it was smooth sailing. The weather throughout the cruise was outstanding, which is very unusual for this time of year. even Ketichkan had good weather. Food aboard the Amsterdam ranged from 5-star quality to mediocre at best. The Pinnacle Grill is very well worth the $20 per person charge and I would highly recommend it to everyone. Food in the MDR ranged from average banquet fare to very good with our final dinner being the best. Canaletto was a real disappointment. The food was, frankly, lousy. My wife had the lasagna which looked like leftovers from the MDR the night before and tasted worse. The service in every venue was superb and I was impressed by the staff, all of whom remembered my name from the 1st day! Glacier Bay was an experience of a lifetime. What a beautiful and peaceful place! I would also highly recommend the Best of Juneau by Land and Sea shore excursion. Although it was not intended to be a whale watching tour we were immersed in orcas as we sailed among 2 pods of these magnificent creatures, including a newborn with its face still bright red. Bottom line, we've already booked another Alaska cruise for next year on HAL. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
We weren't planning another Alaska cruise, but when Holland America offered this 14 night cruise with an expanded itinerary we were sold. We drove to Seattle and availed ourselves of the Cruise & Park package at the Quality Inn at ... Read More
We weren't planning another Alaska cruise, but when Holland America offered this 14 night cruise with an expanded itinerary we were sold. We drove to Seattle and availed ourselves of the Cruise & Park package at the Quality Inn at Seattle Center. A great deal at an excellent price. We sailed out of Pier 91 - Smith Cove Terminal. Embarkation was a breeze. The Amsterdam is a beautiful well run ship by a highly professional crew. Captain Eversen and his staff know and perform their duties in a first rate manner. We recommend the Amsterdam to one and all. We were in a inside cabin that was clean and had plenty of room for the excess of clothing we always seem to pack. Our room stewards, Jaswan and Ketut, were friendly and very good at their job. We chose the second seating option in the main dining room. Every dinner was most enjoyable. The food was well prepared, tasty and there was a wide variety to choose from. Our waiter Annus always had a smile and was willing to accommodate any reasonable request. We ate most of our breakfasts and lunches in the Lido restaurant. An extensive variety was to be found at both. We ate dinner one night in the Pinnacle specialty restaurant. A special experience. Superb food and service by a lovely waitress named Tina. We found the entertainment to be of a high quality throughout. The young people who work aboard the ship and perform the production numbers are very talented. The ships staff musicians in the lounges and the Queen's Lounge band were excellent.The comedians, magicians and musicians brought aboard also were very entertaining. We were very fortunate weather wise. We only encountered rain in two ports and then it was mainly a light drizzle. Only one rough night at sea but even that wasn't bad. Just were rocked to sleep. Every port in Alaska is unique in it's own way. Most we have visited before so we especially enjoyed visiting Anchorage, Homer and Kodiak. In Skagway we booked the Lynn Fjord cruise and raft trip down the Chiakoot river through the wildlife preserve. We give this excursion a big thumbs up. Our only disappointment excursion wise was in Victoria, BC when they had to cancel our Orca and whale watching trip due to high winds. But as good as Captain Eversen is he can't control the wind. Most of the passengers on this cruise were seniors or nearly so. About 3/4 were folks who had sailed with Holland America before. One of our dinner companions has over 600 days sailing with Holland America. They have a very loyal clientele and it is easy to see why. This was our third cruise on a HA ship and they have all been memorable in a good way. Sadly day 14 arrived and our journey ended. Disembarkation went as smoothly as the rest of the cruise. If anyone who might read this review is contemplating an Alaska cruise, my wife and I encourage you to check int the Alaska Adventure cruise aboard the beautiful Amsterdam. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Our first cruise to Alaska was 27 years ago on the SS Universe (the ship used for the Semester at Sea program). We were in port with a HAL ship. Not meaning to offend anyone; but the HAL passengers we saw were primarily "little old ... Read More
Our first cruise to Alaska was 27 years ago on the SS Universe (the ship used for the Semester at Sea program). We were in port with a HAL ship. Not meaning to offend anyone; but the HAL passengers we saw were primarily "little old ladies with blue hair". So we deduced that HAL was for old people. Fast forward 27 years and we have the opportunity to give HAL a try with a one night cruise from Vancouver to Seattle on the Amsterdam. I have read and heard good things about HAL so we booked an inside cabin. Embarkation--Was a breeze. Canada Place is a great location. It was raining in Vancouver, but the taxi drove to an underground entrance. We stayed dry. We literally walked up to the counter. We were given an upgrade to an outside cabin. Cabin--We have cruised many times on numerous lines; but this was the largest cabin we have been in. The bathroom had a bathtub! Lots of closet space, a leather love seat. It was wonderful. Ship--The ship was lovely. It holds 1300+ but there were only 700+ passengers on board. So it was not just spacious; it was empty. They had a large pool with 2 hot tubs that were covered with a retractable roof--excellent choice for Alaskan cruises. Food--We headed up to the buffet for lunch. Buffet was served to us. There was a nice variety offered and the food was delicious. The drinks were cheaper than some other cruise lines. For dinner we made a reservation and sat by the window with a family from Vancouver. It was difficult to make a choice, everything sounded good. I had ribs that were so tender they fell off the bone. Everyone enjoyed their dinner. Breakfast was at the buffet. once again an excellent variety of choices. I especially enjoyed the fresh squeezed orange juice. We heard that the Pinnacle speciality restaurant was amazing. It was a sell-out. Activities--There were activities: tour the ship, Sail-away party, karaoke, and a late night party. However, there was not a show. A show would have been nice for the first time cruisers to experience. But we did not mind since we were able to eat later and not rush through the meal. Disembarkation--We were able to change our time and literally walk off the ship. We loved our cruise on HAL Amsterdam. Now, we are 27 years older, but I do NOT have blue hair. And the ages of passengers we saw were from babies in strollers to senior citizens with every age represented. We will cruise HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Now that we have settled back into reality after our two week cruise, I will try to post an objective review. We absolutely loved the 14 day itinerary and of course it helped that we were blessed with beautiful weather and calm seas. We ... Read More
Now that we have settled back into reality after our two week cruise, I will try to post an objective review. We absolutely loved the 14 day itinerary and of course it helped that we were blessed with beautiful weather and calm seas. We were really happy with the Amsterdam ship and crew. This was our 4th HAL cruise in Alaska, so we didn't need to see everything at the usual ports. I should mention that we like to walk 4 or 5 miles a day which helped balance out all those wonderful dinners. We took advantage of opportunities to walk or hike in all of the ports and walked laps around the Lower Promenade deck on sea days and early mornings. The scenery from the ship was spectacular especially around the Kenai Peninsula enroute to Anchorage, Homer, and Kodiak. The tall mountains were completely covered with snow, and the waters were alive with humpback whales, Dall porpoises, sea otters, and puffins. Of course, I don't need to discuss the beauty and grandeur of Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glaciers. PORTS Ketchikan. We walked around town, took the little tram up from Creek Street to the Fox Lodge and walked back down on "Married Man's Trail". Good way to get away from the crowd and nice overview of town. Sitka is our favorite port. It is the only port on this itinerary that we needed a tender to go ashore. We walked to the Raptor Rehab Center which is located in a nice little rain forest. We hiked around in the National Forest trails back to the waterfront and through the lovely town. Skagway. We took the free Klondike National Park ranger walking tour and then strolled through town. In the afternoon, we took a five mile hike up to and around Lower Dewey Lake. A beautiful mountain lake, but you need good shoes and the first 45 minutes is a steep uphill climb. Anchorage. The free shuttle bus from the commercial container port to the Egan Center in downtown Anchorage worked great. We walked 3 blocks to pick up our Avis rental car and drove two hours up to Talkeetna for a spectacular panoramic view of Mt. Mckinley from the Talkeetna Alaska Lodge near town. We went into the funky little town and enjoyed a good caribou burger for lunch. The ship is docked in Anchorage from 7 AM to 11 PM, so it works out well to rent a car and see some of the interior of Alaska. Avis has a drop box to leave the keys if you drop the car off after they close. Homer. We struggled a little bit with this port as there was much confusion on the dock with school buses to take people to town ($15 all day). We ended up walking nearly 5 miles to town and there wasn't much to see. Homer is in a spectacular setting on the Kachemak Bay, but I think we would stay on the bay rather than go to town. Kodiak. We really enjoyed a great independent tour on this island. It was a very informative and scenic excursion in a comfortable small van with a maximum 6 passengers. We learned a lot about life and business in rural Alaska from our tour guide, Dake of Memory Makers Tours & Guide Service (memorymakersinak.com). Juneau. We took the 8:30 AM Whale Watch & Wildlife Quest tour through HAL. It was a beautiful day on the bay around all the islands. We saw a few whales and one huge one up close right next to the boat. I guess he wanted to check us out. They took us to see a very large colony of Stellar sea lions that was pretty interesting. We've gone on this tour before and seen a lot more action from the whales with bubble net feeding and breaches. We still recommend this tour as the crew works hard and it is a naturalist oriented rather than commercial oriented outing. Juneau seems to be the most crowded port with at least 4 or 5 large ships in port and thousands of shoppers on the main street by the dock. A good place to relax and use free internet is the public library on top of the parking garage. Victoria. The ship doesn't come to port until 4 PM on the final evening of the cruise, so there is not much time to do any excursions. We took the $7 RT bus into town (about 2 miles) and walked around the lovely harbor, the Empress Hotel, the Parliament Building, and strolled through the very large Beacon Hill Park. We had just enough time to get back on board for a late dinner and to put our luggage in the hallway for the morning disembarkation. ONBOARD EXPERIENCE We loved the layout of the Amsterdam, everything seemed to flow smoothly. The only place it ever seemed crowded was in the Lido seating area on the initial embarkation before the staterooms were ready and a couple of the sea day meals. The ship was in immaculate condition and the crew was very efficient, and friendly. Our room was located midship on the Lower Promenade deck. It was very convenient to the midship elevators and stairway, and just steps away from the wonderful teak deck to walk around or to relax in the lounge chairs. The service from the room stewards was perfect as expected. We opted for open dining, but were able to reserve the same table and have the same excellent waiters most nights. We really enjoyed the interaction with our wine steward, Ron, as we brought a couple of bottles from home and chose some from the wine list. The food in the dining room was very good, with an excellent variety. There was only an occasional disappointment such as lukewarm cappuccino, and one or two dishes that were surprises. We had a couple of excellent dinners in the Pinnacle Grill, the best filet mignon and rib eye steaks that you can find anywhere. The dining highlight for us, was the Sommolier's 7 course dinner with wine pairings. That was our splurge with a surcharge of $75/person, but a wonderful dining experience with exquisite service. We had all of our breakfast and lunch meals in the Lido buffet or the grill by the pool. We usually tried to make light and healthy selections to help offset the big dinners. We also took a "hands on" cooking class in the Culinary Arts Center as we fixed braised veal chops and mushroom risotto. We were able to enjoy the results of our labor in the Pinnacle Grill with a glass of wine. It was well worth the $29, but you definitely must enjoy the excitement of joining in the kitchen action with the Pinnacle head chef. The entertainment in the main showroom was very good with a variety of shows by the cast of singers and dancers and several guest artists of the usual comedy, magic, etc. There were several good musicians and combos around the ship in the various lounges and the Crow's Nest. Most areas were quite mellow, we did not see very many party animals. There was one couple, celebrating their 63rd wedding anniversary, that never missed a dance step for 2 weeks. We really appreciated the fact that the Amsterdam staff did not make continual announcements advertising all their activities and try to sell premium spa packages, photos, or hawking drinks like we've seen on other cruise lines. I also utilized the treadmills in the spa for a couple of workouts and worked on some projects in the Digital Workshop. The digital "techspert" was very helpful and the workshop was always a busy place. The ship has very nice library, but we did not make the time to sit down and read. We did enjoy the collection of 700 DVDs available for no charge to view some movies in our stateroom. Overall the whole experience of doing business with Holland America was smooth and efficient. We booked directly with HAL while onboard another cruise last year. They ran the transaction through our online travel agency, who gave us additional discounts throughout the year as they became available. Both embarkation and debarkation and transportation to the airport went extremely smooth. We highly recommend this new 14 day Alaska Explorer cruise on the ms Amsterdam. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
The ms Amsterdam was in excellent condition. The events were plentiful and live show by the Amsterdam Singers/Dancers were excellent and lots of energy. Room stewards, Diby and Erik were always friendly and cheerful & went out of their ... Read More
The ms Amsterdam was in excellent condition. The events were plentiful and live show by the Amsterdam Singers/Dancers were excellent and lots of energy. Room stewards, Diby and Erik were always friendly and cheerful & went out of their way to keep my stateroom in perfect shape and always made up quickly. Daily fresh fruits hit the spot. First night we had dinner in the Main Dining Room. Food was great but the service was sluggish, taking over 2 hours to consume. The Lido staff were great. Its manager, Harry is what every ship would love to have on their staff. He was always cheerful, helpful and greets everyone personally. He gets my vote for being "Outstanding Manager of the Year". Mid-week in the Lido, while standing in the sandwich line, Captain Fred Eversen stood next to me. Realizing who he was, I asked him if he remember January 18, 2009? After a few seconds, he smiled, knowing we were on the same cruise to South America/Antarctic. On that day transiting the North and South Coast of Elephant Island we started to circumnavigate Paulet Island, Amsterdam encounter "Katabatic Winds" gusting to 80 knots. Passengers on the bow were thrown onto the deck. Yes, he did remember. To me, that was the best cruise of 17 I've taken. Being this was the "Inaugural 14 Days Alaska Adventure Cruise", I give it a 5 Stars. The three new ports of call were very unique in its self. Some Cruise Critic members were up at 4 am in the Crow's Nest viewing the transiting up Cook Inlet. We were on the Sports Deck as the Amsterdam was pulling into their $375 Million Dollars, 1200 ft.long Multi Purpose Dock and its 100ft. gage Container Cranes. Anchorage was ready for the Big Times. Their Chamber of Commerce and City Fathers went out of their way to make this day successful. Local newspaper headlines quotes "Cruise Ship Makes First of 9 Visits" and "Amsterdam Makes Its Inaugural Port of Call, First Ship in 25 Years". Easy transportation into downtown and only took 15 minutes. Great City Maps for all those wanting just to walk and explore. Live music all afternoon in their park. I counted six food carts and I had their Reindeer Sausage. Outstanding and the onions were grilled with Coca Cola which made it very tasty. The Anchorage Museum is a must. I also liked the Trooper's Museum. The city is very clean, easy to walk and I like the sounds of those military aircraft's in the distant. It reminded me of the days in the Bay Area when there was a military presence of Alameda near by. I call it the "Sounds of Freedom". People were very friendly and I spoke to three Police Officers and they said we brought the great weather and you can see Mt. McKinney in a distant which was unusual. There is a City Trolley for $15 that takes you for a 40 minutes tour of the city. Homer was a mid-morning port of call, tying up at their Deep Harbor Cargo Dock on the east side of the Spit. A shuttle service for $15 with 5 stops in town and return to the Spit. Homer is a quaint, small town. I got off at the Lakeside Mall and started walking south-east on Pioneer Avenue. Shops and points of interest were spread out, but weather was perfect for walking. I checked out City Hall, Police Dept, Tech Connect, Homer Bookstore, The Mercantile and the Pratt Museum, a perfect place for a rest stop and had great displays. Then I headed down to Homer Old Towne, point #5 for the shuttle back to the ship. I did talk to many locals and I got the feeling having Amsterdam's visit was not a big deal for them. It seems that the Spit had more of a concentration on people, especially at the Salty Dawg. Kodiak's 7 am arrival at their City Dock Pier #2 was uneventful. I got off at 8 am and it was a short 15 minutes walk on Slelikor Street, passing fishing processing plants to downtown. HAL did offered a shuttle for those that were challenged. On my way, I passed a parking lot. On top of a pickup truck's Cab sat a bald eagle, keeping its eye on its baby brown eagle. Passed the Harbor-master's building. Not many shops opened, so I went over to the Visitor's Center and was told that Kodiak open at 10 am. The only shop open was a Liquor Store. Many that went to town early were disappointed. I dropped by the Alaska's Legislative Offices, walk up 5 blocks to City Hall and Kodiak's Island Borough Offices. Spoke to these clerks to get the skinny on Kodiak. Return to Baranov Museum, Wildlife Refuge Center and Russian Orthodox Church. Was a very interesting town. As I said earlier, that this cruise rates a 5 Star. *Great Ship, *Great Itinerary, *Great Crew, *Great Food & *Great Weather. A very good value for your money and I would book this again. Thanks to 'Mescat4" (EV & Sybil) for taking charge of our Cruise Critic's Meet & Greet gatherings. Also thanks to the ship's Ass't Event Manager, Manuel for setting these up. On boarding day, Ev found out that the Crow's Nest was not available for our M&G tomorrow. He had the ship call all those who signed up and notified of the change to the Rembrandt's Lounge. Thirty two attended and name badges were given out and we did the gift exchanged. It was nice to meet all those posting. The second M&G was held in the Crow's Nest. Only twenty two attended because the Mariner's Club also held their lunch at the same time. Again, thanks to Manuel and the Amsterdam for hosting these two events. "FAIR WINDS AND FOLLOWING SEAS"........Gimer Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
After three months of excitement and planning for our Alaskan cruise, my wife and I flew into Seattle the day before and stayed overnight with relatives at their home in Gig Harbor. We have cruised before with Royal Caribbean and Carnival ... Read More
After three months of excitement and planning for our Alaskan cruise, my wife and I flew into Seattle the day before and stayed overnight with relatives at their home in Gig Harbor. We have cruised before with Royal Caribbean and Carnival as well as enjoying quite a few sailing voyages on sailing yachts - all in the Caribbean. This was to be our first Alaskan cruise and first time on Holland America. My wife said my excitement level was through the roof! My wife's cousin and his lovely wife joined us on this cruise from Seattle for a 7 day round trip voyage to Alaska on the beautiful Amsterdam. This was just the second 7 day Alaskan voyage for the Amsterdam, May 10 - 17, 2010, before she begins her 14 day voyages to Alaska. We were graciously dropped off at Pier 91 on Monday in Seattle by my brother's wife and arrived at 10:35 am. The Holland America staff was very courteous and congenial as we breezed through security, had our photo taken, documentation checked and received our ship's card. If only airport security was so pleasant! After boarding at 11:35 am for early embarkation we had a delicious lunch at the Lido restaurant. After lunch we had fun exploring the ship and found it very easy to navigate. By 1:45 pm our cabin was ready, and we dropped off our carry on items, and our suitcases arrived shortly thereafter. After unpacking and a smooth life boat drill at 3:20 pm, we uncorked our champagne that was chilling in our cabin and had a celebratory toast with the couple that joined us! We then went out on the Promenade deck and with excitement watched as the Amsterdam pulled away from the dock promptly at 4 pm. All in all our embarkation day had gone extremely smooth. We found the ship to be very well maintained and in excellent condition. Our K category Large Inside cabin was conveniently located on the Lower Promenade deck near the stern and with less than a 40 ft. walk we could be outside enjoying the view. Our cabin's layout, furnishings and dEcor were outstanding. Our cabin measured 182 SF and with the very comfortable Mariner heavenly bed, two night stands with drawers, dresser with 3 drawers and couch, oval table and chair maximized the space. The bathroom was well laid out and had plenty of counter space, with nice amenities. We were very impressed with comfort of our cabin and the 5 spacious hanging closets, which easily accommodated all of clothes we brought for this Alaskan cruise. Our cabin was immaculate and kept very clean twice daily by our cabin stewards. That night we dined at first sitting at 5:45 pm in the Upper La Fountain Dining Room. We met our dining steward, his assistant steward and our wine steward. These three gentlemen provided superb service that was congenial, and professional along with perfect timing for the five courses. For our entire week's cruise I don't think that our evening dinner service could have been any better! After that first dinner we were warmly greeted by name each evening and got better acquainted with our fine dining staff. The maitre de came around personally to our table every night to see how we were enjoying our cuisine and service. After a drink in the Crow's nest we turned in early at 9:15 pm. The weather in Seattle was cloudy when we boarded but improved some early in the evening with some sun as we cruised out through the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Late that night and early the next day the wind increased to about 25 - 30 knots (Force 7 - 8) and the seas built up to 7 to 12 ft. There was some motion as Amsterdam steamed north at over 21.5 knots. I think the combination of going north into strong winds and moderate to rough seas and our high speed produced some vibration and noise in our aft cabin that first night. This was the only night that this was somewhat bothersome, although my wife slept through it just fine. Later the next day, Tuesday, the seas moderated some and we enjoyed a full day at sea spotting whales and enjoying a swim and Jacuzzi under the covered pool, which is perfect for Alaska. We had our breakfast in the Main Dining room which was very good, but the service was a little leisurely and we found ourselves looking for a waiter for extra coffee. I attended an art auction in the afternoon and we met other Cruise Critic passengers at a meet and greet up in the Crow's nest at 3:30 pm. Our first of two formal nights aboard was delicious. My wife and I both ordered the steak and shrimp. My wife's cousin's wife had a little mal de mer that first day but was feeling much better after taking meclizine from the ship's dispensary. We were very happy to see her enjoying a full dinner with desert that night. Fortunately my wife and I never get sea sick. The five course cuisine at the MDR was generally very good to excellent. Presentation was superb, with the service truly exceptional every night. The next day, Wednesday, we were looking forward to spending a full day cruising Glacier Bay and seeing 5 glaciers, of which Margerie glacier was our favorite. The ship got within a quarter mile of this large blue mile wide glacier and we spent a full hour by this glacier. We saw and heard several bergs calve into the sea and also spotted some humpback whales and numerous bald eagles in Glacier Bay. We enjoyed the fascinating National Park ranger talk at 11 am in the Queen's lounge before arriving at the glaciers. We were glad that we brought plenty of layers and a warm jacket and fleece as it was about 46 degrees, cloudy with some rain in Glacier Bay. Fortunately the cloud ceiling was higher and the visibility excellent so we had a good view of the Glaciers. What a thrilling and educational day and easily a highlight of our cruise! That night we enjoyed the first of three evening shows that we attended in the Queen's lounge, which highlighted songs from Broadway. The talented young singers and dancers performed with high energy and passion! During the cruise we enjoyed a movie in the ship's theater with delicious free popcorn! The ship had an exceptional library in the Explorations lounge with ocean views. We had drinks in the Ocean Bar, that had a relaxing band playing each night for dancing; the Rembrandt piano bar with a fun piano player with a sense of humor; the Crows Nest for happy hour drinks, fantastic views of the scenery, karaoke and disco dancing one night. The Crow's Nest DJ usually didn't start playing music for dancing until nearly 11 pm. I thought that starting earlier at 9:30 or 10 pm would have been better for those of us who are not night owls, but like to dance and also considering the estimated average age of passengers on our cruise in their early 60s. I met and talked to our cruise director, Jimmy for about 20 minutes one night at the Crow's nest. He was an excellent cruise director, very upbeat with an infectious fun voice and demeanor. He also presided over some interesting Team trivia challenges with some eclectic questions that kept us thinking and laughing. The next day, Thursday, we enjoyed a full day in Juneau, the beautiful capital of Alaska. I was surprised how beautiful this city of 30,000 was, with the high snow capped mountains rising dramatically from the sea, and waterfalls everywhere. We rode up the 1,800 vertical ft. Mt. Roberts tramway and hiked a half mile around the nature trail, although there was still snow on parts of the trail. We visited the Alaskan state museum, did some shopping and then went into the famous Red Dog saloon for a beer. One of the couple's from our ship had gotten married that day up on the Mendenhall Glacier and stopped by the Red Dog in their wedding gown and tux! They got a very warm ovation and hearty congratulations from their fellow cruisers. Friday we went ashore at scenic Sitka, after dropping anchor among all of the little islands with homes on them and nearbye shore. We tendered ashore and took a hike around the Sitka National Historic park with its 24 totem poles and beautiful woods. We visited the Raptor center then walked back to town for shopping and a visit to St. Michaels' cathedral. Sitka was very picturesque and the weather was sunny, beautiful and mild. Our next port was Ketchikan and we put on our rain gear as it was raining and cloudy, which I expected since Ketchikan averages over 150 inches of rain a year! We walked through the quaint shops at Creek street and did a fair amount of shopping in Ketchikan. We found some bargains on fleece jackets, T-shirts and hats. We departed at 1 pm and had generally smooth cruising out of Ketchikan and south the next day to Victoria. We enjoyed brisk daily walks around the Promenade deck. I love the fact that Holland America ships feature a promenade deck that you can circumnavigate without having to go up and down a level or two like many other ships. We didn't visit the gym or spa preferring instead to get our exercise walking at the ports. Our wildlife watch went quite well as we spotted a total of 6 humpback and Killer whales, numerous bald eagles, seals and puffin birds. Some other fellow cruisers spotted some brown bears along the shore, although we didn't. We arrived at 6 pm the next day for our last port stop at lovely Victoria. The weather was perfect - sunny and in the mid 60s. We enjoyed a half hour walk to the Empress hotel and toured the Museum of Miniatures on its north side, which was quite fascinating and in the Guiness Book of World records. We walked by the beautiful Legislative buildings and loved the pristine beauty and flowers of Victoria. We ate all of our evening dinners in the Main dining room and the cuisine was generally very good to excellent. We had two breakfasts in the MDR with the rest at the Lido, which was very good. We enjoyed some lunches at the Terrace Grill poolside and the cheeseburgers and ice cream sundaes were delicious! We docked the next morning in Seattle at 7 am, and after breakfast at the Lido we had a smooth disembarkation at about 9 am. We flew home from Seattle to Utah at 2 pm. After cruising on Holland America and the Amsterdam I would have to give them top marks on cabin dEcor, and layout; easy embarkation and disembarking; superb evening dining room service; very good cuisine; beautiful public rooms, an exceptionally easy and nice size ship to get around; very friendly staff who always remembered our names and always seemed genuinely interested in us having a great time on board. The maitre de and the cruise director were fabulous. All in all we loved this Alaskan voyage and adventure on Holland America's Flagship, the MS Amsterdam. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Another truly wonderful Captain. Again he set the tone for the ship. The best staff on the high sea are on HAL. Super friendly and attentive and professional to a fault. Lovely ship's decor and Xmas decor. Beautiful fresh flowers ... Read More
Another truly wonderful Captain. Again he set the tone for the ship. The best staff on the high sea are on HAL. Super friendly and attentive and professional to a fault. Lovely ship's decor and Xmas decor. Beautiful fresh flowers everywhere. Wonderful entertainment throughout the ship from the lounges to the main theater. The best food in the main dining room so much so that the extra pay Pinnacle didn't seem any better. A nice place for a more intimate dinner but not better food. The lido was excellent as well. The food was more freshly prepared less buffet like. Always excellent, hot and fresh. Very well maintained area and well staffed. Love the covered pool. They use the cover to control wind, temp, rain. Very well done. There are not faults to be found with this line. We were on Code Red for the first 4-5 days and it was so well handled. The embarkation was a bit slow due to the cleaning of the ship. But from the moment on board, you, the guest were treated to top notch service everywhere. A true 10+ cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Let me begin by saying that we had a great time and would do it again in a heartbeat. Since we are California residents, we drove to the pier in Long Beach. But, since we were flying back from Fort Lauderdale, we wanted to actually fly ... Read More
Let me begin by saying that we had a great time and would do it again in a heartbeat. Since we are California residents, we drove to the pier in Long Beach. But, since we were flying back from Fort Lauderdale, we wanted to actually fly back to our town in central California instead of Long Beach. So, we rented a car one way from Avis. The hitch was that the only option was a premium car and there were four of us and a lot of luggage. We managed to cram all of it in the car, but it was a cramped five hour drive to the pier. Once we got there we could see the dock but could not find the entrance which is wedged between two larger roads and unmarked. Husband dropped us off at the pier and he returned the car to Avis in Long Beach (about a mile and a half away). He easliy caught a taxi and met up with us at the termina. The worst part of the trip was actually at the Long Beach Pier. What a dud! Not even a place to get a cup of coffee. The porters were nice, but the rest of the staff was bossy and not at all worthy of HAL. Once we got into the port building we were told to wait in a room and that embarkation was going to be delayed an hour. Since we were early, that meant two hours in this holding cell on uncomfortable chairs with a temperature around 50 degrees. It was so cold that I started to get the chills near the end. It would have been nice to have some hot water and tea bags and maybe a little sympathy from the staff. The reason for our detention was a CODE RED on the boat. This was due to intestinal flue. We were given the option of rebooking for another time, but after all we had gone through to get here (months of preparation and no Christmas decorations at home), we decided to risk it. Fortunately, no one in our party got sick. We did use a lot of hand sanitizer though! The worst part of code red on the boat was the temperature the boat was kept at. My daughter and I froze for most of the trip in most of the public areas. Pretty sad since we were going to warmer climates to get away from winter chill at home. We have cruised before and don't ever remember it being uncomfortable inside the ship. The boat was code red for the first week, which meant the buffet lines were manned by staff and even coffee was poured for you. This we liked. I have always disliked buffet lines where everyone touches the utensils or even the food. The Lido and pool area definitely were less tidy after the code red was lifted. Some folks complained because the spas were shut down during the first week, but we don't sit in chlorinated water so this was not an issue for us. If we had to pick out one compliment to give the cruise, it would have to go to the staff. Even though they were working overtime to keep things going, they always smiled and never missed a beat. Our room stewards were fantastic. Our dining staff was great also. About the dining, we were in open seating which was fine except that we never got to sit on the top floor of The Fontaine where the Rosario strings played. We ended up finding a table by a window that was a bit warmer than some and booked it for the entire trip at 8 pm. We liked this option and got to know the sommelier and wait staff because we were always there at the same time. The boat was decked out for Christmas and the food was fantastic, but New Years was the best. Christmas morning saw the arrival of Santa Claus and lots of special treats. New Year's dinner came complete with party hats and the party afterward was fun for those who like to dance and drink champagne. There were four formal nights and we made it to three of them. Most folks were dressed well and seemed to really enjoy being able to dine in class. We saw only one small child on the ship. There was a gaggle of teenagers that caused a bit of annoyance, but for the most part we just avoided the part of the pool area where they liked to run about. Our room was on the Dolphin Deck. We had adjoining ocean view rooms. There were no rooms across from us. We like the bottom level because there is usually less noise from the passengers. We had no real problems with the rooms and fortunately they each had their own thermostats! We do recommend the middle of the ship for getting away from the engine noise. The Amsterdam is in need of repair on the inside, but it is due to go into dry dock at the end of the world cruise it is on now. So any future cruiser would not see it the way we did. Even so, it was not too bad. The beds were great, but the showers cut in and out with the hot water and the windows were really badly scratched. We find there are always little annoyances when we travel and we just consider it part of the "charm" of being somewhere else. We ended our trip in Fort Lauderdale. Since our flight left at 4 pm, we chose to leave the boat late and there was no crowd or delay in finding our bags. We did not choose to have the ship transfer our luggage or arrange to take us to the airport. A porter helped us get our bags into a taxi and it took about 15 minutes to get to the airport. It was no muss no fuss. We were not crazy about the Fort Lauderdale airport, but that is not HAL's fault! Huatalco is not listed in the drop down box, but it was our second stop. Our experience here was an excellent example of how out of touch the shore excursion desk was throughout our trip. I mean do these people ever get off the boat and go to these places they are selling to us poor unsuspecting vacationers? Husband and Son had wanted to Scuba here but they waited too long to book the one private PADI certified diver shop that was near the boat. So they decided to go snorkeling at La Entrega. This was on the advice of the shore excursion folks. They also told us it would be fine to catch a local cab to get there (which it was). We made arrangements with our driver, Javier, to come back and pick us up in two hours. He was great and it cost us 30.00 total (we gave him a big tip). Daughter and I tagged along to sit on the beach. This was one overly crowded dirty beach. The snorkeling was OK, but the guys would not recommend you go out of your way to be there. We did have some mighty cold beer dripping with salt and lime that almost made the trip worthwhile. Since we like to see each stop, we are glad we went, but would not do it again if were returned to this port. It would be better just to relax on the boat. Just as an aside, we had thought about booking the sailing excursion since Daughter loves to sail, but the wind was not good and it would not have worked out this particular trip. Puerto Chiapas was our third stop. It is a brand new port that came complete with dancers and local shopping right at the pier. There wasn't a lot to see there so we hopped a bus for the local town of Tapachula. This is the worst place we have ever been. It was filthy with trash and sewage every where. It was wall to wall people and loud boom boxes around every corner. We could not wait to get back on the shuttle and get out of there. Wait we did though for almost an hour for our bus to return and it was very hot and humid. Stay in port or on the boat. Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala was next and what a great day this was. We toured the Filadelfia Coffee Estate. It was a long drive, but the bus was comfortable and guide very nice and easy to understand. The Volcanos are amazing. The coffee plantation is at 5000 feet. It was very interesting to see how they grow and process the coffee. It was great fun to sit under the trees and have home grown coffee and home made biscotti. After we purchased our coffee beans, we headed into Antigua for a little shopping and to a really nice Mexican hotel/restaurant for lunch (all part of the tour). We had the only real Mexican or Central American food on the entire trip. It was tasty and comfortable. The Jade Museum was fun also. This and cruising through the canal were the highlights of the trip. Fuerte Amador, Panama was next. Unfortunately, we were only here at night and made the mistake of taking the Colonial Panama by Night tour. This was a waste of 300.00. The bus had tinted windows, we could not understand the guide and, when we did get out, everything was closed. Oh and it was DARK. We should have put this together, but didn't. Maybe the guys at the shore excursion desk could have been a little more helpful?? The one interesting thing on the tour was in the financial district where they had miles of Christmas decorations. Lots of people were out walking among the decorations as Christmas music blared from speakers all along the way. It is always interesting to see how different people celebrate the holidays. The next morning was the cruise through the Panaman Canal. I was up before dawn and out on the deck to watch the ship cruise under (just barely) the Bridge of the Americas and stayed there until we finished going through the first lock. It is an amazing journey and one I am glad we took. That afternoon we sat on the promenade deck and watched in amazement as the ship went through the canal. The crew served us sandwiches and lemonade as we lounged. It was a wonderful day and the reason we took this cruise to start with. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
We just got back from our Alaska cruise. Although the weather did not cooperate with us, we still had a good time. The only sunny day was at the Hubbard Glacier. I was glad because the sun reflecting off the glacier was awesome. It ... Read More
We just got back from our Alaska cruise. Although the weather did not cooperate with us, we still had a good time. The only sunny day was at the Hubbard Glacier. I was glad because the sun reflecting off the glacier was awesome. It rained in Sitka and it poured in Ketchican. Our tour in Ketchican was cancelled. So, the only option there was to walk. I had never tried Dungeness Crab and this is my new fave. The Ship is very nice. We had a Verandah Suite and I have no complaints about the staff. The food was very good and varied. I am not a buffet person so we had our meals at the Restaurant. We ate at the Pinnacle Grill and it was worth it. We ran into some very rough seas on the way out of Ketchican and we arrived in Victoria about 7:30 p.m.. So, by the time we got on to the tour, it was late and we could hardly see anything because it was dark out. Victoria is quite a beautiful city and I wish we would have been able to spend more time there. We had the Tea at the Empress hotel and it is not worth it. Maybe if you are not going as a "tourist" package, it would have been nicer. It seems the sandwiches were done since very early in the day and were soggy. Every night we sat with a different group of people for dinner. I like this because you get to meet different people. This was really a great part of the tour. I won $937.00 at the Casino and my husband won a Poker Tournament. That came in handy because it paid for our onboard expenses and tours. I would go back in a heartbeat but I don't think I am ever going to be able to get the hubby back on a ship. That night out of Kethican was really rough. We were rolling back and forth on the beds. I don't get dizzy at all but I guess men are different...jejeje. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Hi: just got back from the best cruise in a long time. I am 59, wife 55, two teen age girls 15 and 13. all have cruised many times. we had two rooms across from each other 1840 and 1842. Please don't judge this review buy the catagory ... Read More
Hi: just got back from the best cruise in a long time. I am 59, wife 55, two teen age girls 15 and 13. all have cruised many times. we had two rooms across from each other 1840 and 1842. Please don't judge this review buy the catagory of the rooms. We travel down here because the girls and I get see sick. Alaska Aug. 22-29. wife had been checking weather so expected rain for the whole trip, WEATHER was GREAT,some light rain that was all,and while at the Hubbard Glacier, bright sun shine. Lets talk about the ship and the cruise experance. Lets start with the flight there. Sorry we would cruise a deal more if not for the ***** you have to go through at the airports. I just want to shout I'm an americam *** and we should not have to be treated this way. I can only hope and pray that someday in the not to distant future our kids could see what it use to be like to be american. OK my cruise experience started off good right from the bus trip forward driver was nice and informative. staff at port and getting on the ship went well. Rooms better then expected. After reeding reviews much seems to be made of not meeting their room stuards to much latter durring. Got to room asked where I could get Ice was not told but given the time to be shown where and how to get it. Hardly ever saw the him after., yet rooms were kept great and remimber we were with two teens girls non the less. I've been given the worning I am going too long so let me finish with what I think everyone should ask value and experience for the money. well it's up there very high, you would have to have tried very hard to have had a bad time. sorry about the spelling two college degrees and still can't or will not do it. Have tons more to say, contact me if you would like to here it or have specific questions. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Experienced senior cruisers (7 or 8 on HAL, Princess, Carnival, Regent) traveling with 40-something son and wife. Embarkation no problem, as we arrived later than the crowds (1:30) for a 4 PM sailing. Bags already in room, as we had ... Read More
Experienced senior cruisers (7 or 8 on HAL, Princess, Carnival, Regent) traveling with 40-something son and wife. Embarkation no problem, as we arrived later than the crowds (1:30) for a 4 PM sailing. Bags already in room, as we had dropped them at the airport, even though we had not booked HAL transportation. On a couple of our last few cruises on HAL (all Caribbean)we felt like the line had slipped. Too much sales pitch, food not too good, ships a little worn. Not the case here. The sales stuff was still there (sales in the shops, art auction, port talks) but easy to ignore, as they did not hammer on it at all, and the "announcements" were kept to an absolute minimum after the initial barrage they give you before the embarkation. Amsterdam was the cleanest ship we have ever been on, furniture, carpet, etc. in good condition, the service was absolutely top notch, and food very good and well presented. We ate in the main dining room most of the time, but had a few lunches and a couple of breakfasts in the Lido. Much enjoyed the little coffee bar near the library lounge great Irish coffee at a good price, free small sandwiches and cookies. Did not try the Pinnacle, as it is an enclosed space with no windows and did not look as nice as the main dining room. The line has attempted to create a second alternative dining spot (free) at one end of the Lido at night. It is Italian, and reservations are required. We didn't try it, but it might be something different for southern Italian food fans. It looks like it is only partially successful as alternative dining spot, since it is really just a cordoned off area of the Lido, and the Lido itself has tablecloths at night for a little nicer feel than the breakfast and lunch buffets. Most folks dressed up for formal nights, though the men wore mostly suits not to many tuxedos. People did seem to adhere to the "smart casual" on other nights, and we didn't see sloppy jeans and t-shirts in the dining room at any time. We booked one of the spa specials on a sea day (you only learn about these the night before) worth the money at the price; the regular prices are quite high. Exercise equipment busy but the weather was bad so people were probably using it more than usual. We booked a cooking class with the Pinnacle chef for $29 a person. There were 12 people in the class, held in the Food and Wine show kitchen area. It was chaotic as hell and we didn't learn very much, but we had a great time with the other cooks, and all the wine we could drink while cooking. Great souvenir apron one of the better bargains of the week. For those traveling with kids and teenagers, we saw almost no small children and it seemed like only a couple dozen teenagers, but they seemed well occupied. The main pool stayed covered the whole week as it was rainy and cool, so it was monopolized by the younger set most of the time. The rear uncovered pool was adults only, but it was never used due to the weather until the last day, when a few brave souls could be seen trying it out. Disembarking was the usual chaos; we had booked a third party shuttle (half the price of HAL) and had to wait about 20 minutes to get going after our luggage was collected. Don't know how that would compare to the HAL shuttles, as the whole area seemed pretty confused. We all had a great time and would definitely book the Amsterdam again. (One curious note we did not bring travel alarms, and there are no clocks in the staterooms. We were using our cellphones as clocks, and they were off part of the time by one time zone (2 different phone carriers). Use the TV if you need correct time.) Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
This was a great way to celebrate our 20th anniversary. Everything was perfect and we would highly recommend this trip on Holland America. We were blessed with good weather overall (some rain in Juneau and 1 rough night). We could have ... Read More
This was a great way to celebrate our 20th anniversary. Everything was perfect and we would highly recommend this trip on Holland America. We were blessed with good weather overall (some rain in Juneau and 1 rough night). We could have used more port time to explore. The Amsterdam was fantastic. What a beautiful ship. The crew was so friendly and hardworking. I was constantly seeing someone cleaning. I swear I'd leave my room for a few minutes and when I came back that toilet paper triangle was back in place. Ha! We also enjoyed the cruise director and the shows. Justin Flom, the illusionist, was fantastic. We also enjoyed their movie theater with the buttered popcorn. There was more to do than we had time for on the ship. Also loved the Adagio Strings and their classical music. We overpacked, but there was plenty of room in our cabin. My husband didn't want to pack a suit, so we rented a tux through the cruise. It was not waiting in the room upon arrival as promised, but was there by that first evening and fit perfectly. The suspenders were missing, but brought to our room later. We were surprised that there were not more men wearing tuxes. "Formal" was not as formal as we expected, but that was fine. Dining - We did the "as you wish" option and it worked out great. We never had to wait to be seated and several times we did make reservations. We enjoyed meeting new people all the time. The food was wonderful. At first I chose the spa cuisine options because I was trying to be good and not gain weight, but then I just decided to have fun. YUM! I only gained 2 lbs - woo hoo! We went to the Pinnacle on one of the formal nights. My husband didn't see why we needed to go there (costs extra), but afterwards he wanted to go again. The steak he had was one of the best we've tasted. The Pinnacle was more intimate and the experience more special. We usually did lunch at the Lido nice buffet. Food seemed a bit salty to me, but good. Enjoyed my lattes in the Explorer Lounge. High teas were nice. Hubby didn't want to go until the tea with the cupcakes! Gym - Nice area. Never had to wait to use bicycles or treadmill. Wished I would have tried the Pilates class. We also did the 5K On Deck for the Cure. It got a bit windy, but we actually did closer to 10K. Hubbard Glacier - what an awesome sight! The captain did a great job of getting us close and turning the ship around to let both sides have some time to enjoy it from the verandahs. The sun was shining. It was a wonderful day. I actually was sad on our last day of sailing knowing that all that pampering was coming to an end. We look forward to sailing again with Holland. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Our trip was planned about 8 months before our departure. So there was alot of planning for this vacation. We left Nebraska for Denver Colorado two days ahead of time for travel reasons. Flew on a Friday to Seattle and stayed at the Sleep ... Read More
Our trip was planned about 8 months before our departure. So there was alot of planning for this vacation. We left Nebraska for Denver Colorado two days ahead of time for travel reasons. Flew on a Friday to Seattle and stayed at the Sleep Inn Sea Tac Airport. Good place to stay and price was fair. Took the shuttle back to the airport on Saturday and dropped our luggage off and boarded the bus to the cruise terminal. Embarkation was simple enough and we only had to wait for about 40 minutes or so. We boarded our beautiful "Amsterdam" at about 12:30. They sent you up to the "LIDO" for food. We sat out by the pool. They had the sky dome open over the pool and it was a beautiful day. We had a good lunch and about 2:00 or so we could go to our stateroom. Not knowing what to expect, we were surprise about our room. Just perfect! Smaller than I had imagined, but bigger than my husband had thought. An oceanview on the lower promenade deck, front of the ship and just around the corner was the door to go outside! Wonderful! Could go outside in just a few seconds. That was great! We had a tub/shower combo which was nice too. We had the early seating, which for us was good since we live in the central time zone. The food was good and the servers were real nice and remembered our names and drinks that we wanted. It was fun to eat all of the different courses! We ate our breakfasts at the Lido as well as the lunches. Tried the pizza and the Mexican food. All was fine. Enjoyed the variety. No complaints. The servers came around quite often, because the glasses are so small. They have a high pitched voice that says "Coffee!!" Fun. It was fun to dress up for formal night. Was a little seasick by Sunday, but took some pills and that helped. Also the ginger gum works good. After that day had no problem. Not use to the ship rocking back and forth. The entertainment was good and you could do as little or alot, depending on your style. It doesn't take much to entertain us. We live in a town of 60 people! So just watching the scenery go by was what we wanted to do. All in all, took over 1000 photos! We did a whale watching tour with Steve of Harv and Marv's in Juneau. Saw lots of whale and bubblenetting! Another excursion in Sitka with Esther G Sea Taxi or Puffins and Whales with Davey Lubin. Wonderful! Saw Puffins, whales and even a bear! And I got my "whale tail" photo! In Ketchikan, we just did the walking tour. Enjoy Creek street. Went to the history center and the local library museum. Walked the docks and looked at all the old boats, talked to a few people. Was fun. The icing on the cake was our final tour of Butchart Gardens!! It was spectacular!! It is just plain beautiful. Even got a tour of downtown Victoria. We signed up for the signature luggage, and Holland delivered our big suitcases to the airport for us and when we arrived in Denver, they were there, no problem. Would highly recommend this, because when we got to Sea Tac there was such a line to check your baggage. Don't know for sure how long it would have taken. But any less stress at the airport is worth it to me. I took the advise of someone here on the boards and I will tell it to you. A cruise is what you make it! Everything not perfect. And no real complaints. Would highly recommend this cruise to anyone. We just had a great time. Thank you Holland America and Alaska, We will be Back! Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
This was our first cruise in over 20 years. Way back when we enjoyed three different caribbean cruises. Now that the house in empty, it was time to try a cruise again. Overall we had a wonderful time. The ship was great, the service ... Read More
This was our first cruise in over 20 years. Way back when we enjoyed three different caribbean cruises. Now that the house in empty, it was time to try a cruise again. Overall we had a wonderful time. The ship was great, the service generally super, and the food basically excellent. No one can "Bat 1.000" and we understand that. The highlight of the cruise was visiting Hubbard Glacier. The pilot and captain were able to get us within ½ mile of the face and it was incredible. Sitka was also a very enjoyable port call and very beautiful. We took no official excursions there but I had arranged in advance a tour of the Coast Guard air station as we are a Coast Guard family and we greatly enjoyed the national historic park. We had booked a category "H" guarantee and were excited with the upgrade to a "D." In fact, we had one of two cabins on board with "Forward" facing windows, and thought it was so cool! Other positives were that they held a few on-board "Sales" of merchandise where certain Holland America branded items were reasonably priced. This was unexpected and appreciated. The entertainment was very good and getting to see "The Beatles" was a real treat. I took advantage of the Digital Workshop sessions and they taught me more about digital photos than I had learned in the last 5 years on my own. My wife took advantage of a daily "Spa special" and was in heaven. As a customer service professional, there were two issues where I think the ball was dropped. 1. We were very disappointed in the Juneau visit, due to the shore excursions we booked. a. We booked a "Mendenhall river float trip" for two reasons. One was so we could see the Mendenhall glacier, and two was to have a little adventure. We even got on the "Paddle raft" to make it a little more exciting. Why were we disappointed? Well, due to fires in northern BC and the Yukon, visibility was way down. Okay, they can't control that. But, the place they put us into the lake was far from the Mendenhall glacier, with a large hill between us and the glacier. So even if the air was clear, you would only see the top edge of the glacier's face and from quite a distance. I rated the trip a 2 on a scale of 1-10, and even if the air was clear it would not have made a 4. The was WAY overpriced for what is was. b. The shore excursion desk made a strong sell to "Buy tram tickets on board" to avoid lines as 5 ships were visiting Juneau. We were not going to do so but after their sales pitch avoiding lines sounded like a good idea. However, with the smoky air, there was no point in even taking the tram. The sales pitch was the day before the shore call and based on a great weather forecast, we bought them. Another wasted $54. There were no lines to buy tram tickets, but there were lines to board the tram, and having advanced tickets did not help. The shore desk should have been aware (it was only the day before the port call) of the smoke situation and warned guests. Literally there was "No view" at all from the top of the mountain and we were again very disappointed. They real key here is that if they had not talked us into buying tickets in advance there is no way we would have bought tickets at all and taken the tram. c. We reported these concerns to the shore excursion desk. They were a bit defensive. Two days later we received a "Thanks for letting us know note" but nothing more. 2. 8 hours or so after leaving the Hubbard Glacier one of the ship's propellers "Hit something" (later rumored to be a chunk of ice) which required the ship to reduce speed. Long story short, our port call at Ketchikan was canceled. This was a huge disappointment as we had really looked forward to some great adventures there, as well as picking up most of our "Alaska souvenirs" as I had read that Ketchikan is "The place" to buy that type of thing. Where I think Holland America dropped the ball is in the "Compensation" they gave us for the missed port. We followed up with HAL's customer relations after the cruise and they did give us a small future cruise credit. Overall we had great fun and it was very relaxing (especially with an "Extra" sea day). So, we have already now booked another HAL cruise in November on the Ryndam. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
We just returned from an Alaska cruise on the Amsterdam and after a bumpy start it was overall a great cruise!We found Pier 91 with no problem after driving down from BC. Parking was very efficient. (DH dropped us off with the bags, parked ... Read More
We just returned from an Alaska cruise on the Amsterdam and after a bumpy start it was overall a great cruise!We found Pier 91 with no problem after driving down from BC. Parking was very efficient. (DH dropped us off with the bags, parked and took the shuttle back). Embarkation was smooth. I was disappointed that the dining room wasn't open for lunch (not that I could tell anyway) as it had been on the Westerdam last year. We headed up to the feeding trough (oops I mean the Lido) and had a light lunch. Our outside cabin (thanks upgrade fairy!) was available by 2 pm and we met our fantastic room steward Budi. Budi and his assistant took great care of us and were always around when we needed them, even calling "this way!" when they saw me turning the wrong direction (again!) after coming down the stairs.We had taken a similar cruise last year on the Westerdam, and seen all the ports, so this was really about relaxing and enjoying the ship, so that's what I will focus on.The Ship: The MS Amsterdam is a beautiful ship! The attention to detail and beautiful artwork are everywhere. Her size, I think is just perfect. Our favourite area was the Explorations Cafe and this area gets very busy. It says a lot for how they've designed it that it becomes such a hub. At times it was actually too noisy to read so I would go across to the Explorers Lounge where there was always a nice quiet chair waiting for me.The outside promenade deck was also a favourite. The movie theatre is also a great feature and nicer than the Culinary Arts Centre/Movie Theatre on the Westerdam. Entertainment: Movies showing were: Confessions of a Shopaholic (OK, I did watch it), Paul Blartt, Mall Cop (Couldn't pay me to watch it), The International (Very good), Escape to Witch Mountain(I'm old enough to have seen the original - so No), Pink Panther 2 (DH and DS dragged me and I actually enjoyed it) and Hotel for Dogs (No).We didn't go to any of the shows as I haven't been impressed in the past with HAL's shows. I wanted to see the Illusionist but the time wasn't convenient. We didn't use the Casino, so can't comment on that. We enjoyed the Trivia and won once.Food: The food was very good. We were never disappointed in a meal. We had open seating which worked well for us last year. This year we felt the service to be really lacking. Our waiter would disappear for 15 minutes at a time after giving me a cold cappuccino, they repeatedly brought milk for our coffee when we asked for cream (maybe they sould have 2 different style containers?) True, this is a small complaint but over a period of days when the waiter is not around to correct the mistakes it becomes frustrating. I don't fault the waiters for the service issues as they seem to have too many tables to take care of. Canaletto restaurant was fantastic. I hesitated to try it as it is really just a modified corner of the Lido, but tried it on "Master Chefs Night". I figured we'd avoid that as service could only be worse if our waiter was expected to sing and dance AND serve our dinner. We liked Canaletto so much that we went 2 nights in a row. The service was great and it felt nice to be taken care of so well.I only went to the Lido for Bread pudding and Tea as I don't really like buffets. Of interest to some though, there were NO trays.  My son actually had got a hamburger from the pool grill and came and sat down with me and had it on a tray one day though! I laughed when I saw him because I thought of these boards. I guess I mentioned it too loudly though, because it was quickly whisked away by the Lido manager. I don't know if they were in the pool area for passenger use or if he just happened to see one and used it. Funny though.Room service was very quick and efficient. We only used it to order tea and snacks in the evening and it always arrived in about 20 minutes.Passengers: The ages on this sailing ranged from babies to 80's with many chiildren and extended family groups. Almost all (except us) seemed to be American from all parts of the country.Rocking and Rolling: The first night it started about 2 am and continued for the next 24 hours. The seas were very, very rough. That morning there were very few people about and many were only up to get seasickness pills from the pursers desk. They also were giving out green apples everywhere as they are supposed to help. A crewmember said he had not experienced it so so rough since they went around the Cape in South America. My DS said someone was sick in the buffet and I saw crew shampooing rugs in a few areas. Thankfully most people who felt unwell stayed in their cabins. I took 1 seasickness pill as a preventive measure and was fine. My DH missed formal night as did many others. The ship did a very good job of reminding people to wash hands, etc. I am always grossed out when I see people licking their fingers while eating and saw this many times on this trip.Weather was nice for Hubbard Glacier which was magnificent! Most of the cruise was overcast and cool though until day 6. We were fine with this though as it is Alaska afterall! The last sea day and Victoria the weather was very nice and sunny.Cabin: We had an outside cabin midship on deck 2. Our cabin steward was fantastic. It was a good size even though we were 3 people. I do think that now that my son is 16 though, we really need the extra space a verandah provides and will stick with that in future.Spa: I didn't really use the spa, but I did use the salon for pedicure on the last evening. A really sweet girl from South Africa named Marle did a wonderful job. Very nice experience. Overall we had a good time. We will definitely select fixed dining next time though and hope for better service. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
ust returned from a fabulous vacation aboard the Amsterdam!  What a great time we all had.  This was my third cruise, second to AK out of Seattle.  I traveled with my DH, DD(11) and DS(5) Also, our good friends, a family of 5 + my ... Read More
ust returned from a fabulous vacation aboard the Amsterdam!  What a great time we all had.  This was my third cruise, second to AK out of Seattle.  I traveled with my DH, DD(11) and DS(5) Also, our good friends, a family of 5 + my friends mother We embarked rather late (2ish), as 4 of us ran the race that day, 2 full marathoners and 2 half marathoners.  Baggage handling was good, not great, but we all managed.  The good thing about last on:  First on the baggage pull! Our Room:  Was an inside on deck 2, aft.  I wanted a window, but was told they were sold out when we booked in March.  I could have pursued it more aggressively, but didn't.  We previously have had either a balcony or a window, so we missed the window, but quite made due!  The room was quite large (by my cruise ship experiences!!) and we really enjoyed the DVD player.  I enjoyed the robe. The Ship:  OK< keep in mind I am a Las Vegas native:  I thought it was gawdy!  LOL - Don't get me wrong, it is beautiful.  The artwork is stunning.  The Main dining room is the most luxurious I've seen on a cruiseship,  but I just wonder who picked out the tiled-mirror wall along the Atrium stairs?  I thought some of the decor choices were interesting since the ship was built in 2000, which seems really recent.  Don't get me wrong, this isn't a complaint, just an observation. Club HAL:  My DD LOVED IT!!!  She had the best time.  She loved being able to sign herself in and out.  The counselors were great.  They really seemed to interact with the kids.  My son did not have as great a time, but that certainly wasn't HAL's fault.  The ships children's program was the best of the 3 ships we have cruised on. Lido Deck:  We loved the Lido Deck.  Spent lots of time by the pool with the kids.  The weather certainly cooperated!  Hubbard Glacier day and the last day of the cruise we spent a lot of time in and around the pool.  My children also enjoyed the ping pong and the chess board. Lido Restaurant:  Pretty much a straight forward buffet, other than the fact the servers dish the food for you.  All the food was really great.  Ate breakfast and lunch there every day. Poolside Buffets:  They did this the first night, a Salmon Bake on Glacier Bay day, and one other day, and we really enjoyed these.   Terrace Grill:  They had really good pizza, and my DH liked the veggie burger.  The offered a "kids corner" every night here.  We used this on formal nights to feed our children, and sent them to Club HAL - Didn't see a lot of other people doing this, though. Pinnacle:  Went the first formal night - Didn't have trouble getting in due to all the sea sick folk (sorry)   It was wonderful!  I had great filet and prawns.  Loved the souflet and baked alaska. Cannelleto:  They do a real nice job in this corner of the Lido, making it nice.  We went there for my friend's DD birthday.  The staff sang happy birthday to her in Filipino.  It was cool!  I did not enjoy what I had, but that was probably my fault for not ordering well.  My DH had the linguini with assorted seafood and loved it. Main Dining room:  We had open.  The food was amazing.  Good quality, looked good, tasted good.  The service: Dining rooms and Lido was spotty.  Not terrible, just not "excellence", Some of it seemed to be due to language.  The staff was well trained, but not very good at handling curve balls, IE, can we get some ranch?  In Lido, I sometimes felt a bit patronized, service was sometimes not genuine. Again, these are just observations, not deal breakers.  I'd do the cruise again in a heartbeat! Our cabin stewards were fabulous!  I feel very fortunate that my family has always had great ones.  With the kids, this is super important to us! Entertainment:  Really enjoyed the Adagio Strings, as well as the Piano man.  Also saw the comedian.  Really enjoyed him.  He reminded me of Bill Engvall.  And saw one of the production shows.  I think it was a Las Vegas theme.  It was very entertaining. Master Chef Night:  Much has been said on the boards about this.  My family kind of enjoyed it.  The kids liked wearing the silly hats.  The entertainment parts were not bad, but the service was.  The open seating DR did not seem equipped to handle the crowd.  It took a really long time for the wine steward to get to us for drinks, and our entrEes didn't come out until many of the other diners were waiting for desert.  The food was very good.  It wasn't one of my favorite nights, or something I would "look forward to", if I was traveling with HAL again. Bar Service:  Bought a wine card, as well as a soda card.  Thought this was a great value.  Did not enjoy the drinks of the day on this cruise, but made up for it with wine consumption!!!  Gym:  Hubby did the Thermal Suite.  He enjoyed it, and I enjoyed the price:  $20 I loved the gym. I love being able to see out like that.  I took pilates.  It was great!  Pilates and a view of a glacier:  where else will you get that. Sea Sick Day:  Special note about this:  I LOVED the way the crew handled this.  It was bumpy, they acknowledged it, and tried to be as helpful as possible with green apples, advice, tea, and meds if needed.  I truly appreciated this.  On my first cruise experience, on Princess, it was also very bumpy that first at sea day.  I was made to feel like there was something wrong with me, and the crew didn't even acknowledge it, even though many people were getting sick in public areas.  So, kudo's to HAL for handling that so well. PA Announcements:  I loved that they kept the daily "messages" over the PA to a minimum.  On past cruises on Princess and NCL, (Though especially Princess) I felt like they were making announcements all the time.  Very annoying.  On Deck for the Cure:  Loved this.  Great to participate in a 5K walk at sea.  Really enjoyed it.  The great weather that day, was nice too.   Excursions:   Juneau - took Might Great Tours shuttle to the Mendenhall Glacier.  Great, inexpensive way to see the glacier.   Sitka - Sea Otter and Wildlife excursion.  Our guide was a native from Sitka.  She was amazing.  Really made it interesting.  We saw otter, seals, eagles and a whale   Kecthikan - It didn't rain, which was great.  Our excursion was amazing:  Jeep and Canoe adventure - Well worth the money.  I would recommend it to anyone who likes active excursions.   Victoria - My DH did a pub crawl, which he enjoyed.  The kids and I took the shuttle to downtown.  We enjoyed the market by the harbor, as well as the street musicians. 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Sail Date June 2009
Hi everyone.  We were on the Amsterdam from June 27 until July 4 for our 50th birthdays, mine in May and DW in August as well as for my 30th anniversary with my company.   Our boarding process was very easy on Saturday and the security ... Read More
Hi everyone.  We were on the Amsterdam from June 27 until July 4 for our 50th birthdays, mine in May and DW in August as well as for my 30th anniversary with my company.   Our boarding process was very easy on Saturday and the security process was nonexistent compared to the airline process, my industry.  I believe that you could carry on a cannon, not that any one would want to.  We arrived early and were ushered up to the Lido while the cabins were being readied.  We ate a bite and walked the pool decks until the staterooms were ready.   We decided in late May to try a cruise and I have read the boards here nightly prior to our embarkation.  When we first booked a verandah room, we were given a "guarantee" and checked back often for a room assignment.  About a week prior, we were given our room number.  When I checked it out on the deck plan I found that it was a HC room.  Since neither of us required this type of room I questioned the assignment and was told that it was fine.  We were willing to trade for any other verandah room if someone needed ours.   Upon entering the room, extreme aft of the ship, we were pleasantly surprised.  I'm not sure if the actual room is any larger than other rooms, but the verandah was more than twice as large as the others.  Ours actually went to rear of the ship and provided a rear view in conjunction with the standard side view.  However, the down side is that we did not have the standard tub but rather a very large shower for understandable reasons.  Our cabin attendants, Happy and Alwyn (sp?) were absolutely great.   We spent Saturday afternoon and evening exploring the ship and even managed to take in one of the Microsoft Live classes that we would ultimately end up affectionately calling "Nerd Camp".  Even though I would consider us both technically sufficient, we both enjoyed learning things that we "thought" we knew how to do.  The "Techspert", Robert, was a good leader and could work with people of levels of training.  We ultimately ended up going to all eight classes and numerous open work times as we both created web pages and DW was one of the winners in the panoramic photo contest.   Sometime after we retired Saturday night we were awoken by the drawer of the nightstand flying open.  We were really rocking as we moved out into the open water.  We were unsure of how we would handle the rough seas since we were first time cruisers.  However, we were fortunate and neither of us had any displeasure with the experience.  It was likened to a 24 hour roller coaster ride and we were able to sleep through it just fine for the remainder of the night.   Sunday morning revealed that others were not as fortunate though.  Upon our visit to the Lido for breakfast, we saw some carpets and tables being cleaned for reasons that you can figure out.  We felt sorry for those suffering and realized that it was young and old, and passenger and crew alike.  Some crew members told us that it had never been that bad before.  We spent Sunday exploring and attending "camp" some more and then decided to dress for dinner for the first formal night.  We had "open dining", which I will always ask for going forward, and arrived at the dining room around 7:30.  While I am male and have never had the opportunity to experience high heels, at least that I'll ever admit to, it was humorous to all watching and participating to see people dressed so nicely trying to walk in high heals while the ship is rolling and pitching.  Fortunately no one was injured.  We arrived at the Queen's Lounge to watch the dancers only to find out that their show was canceled for safety reasons with the high seas and that the illusionist, Justin, would be performing.  He provided an evening of great entertainment.   Late Sunday night we found ourselves in calmer waters as we neared Juneau.  Upon our arrival Monday morning, the seas were calm and the weather had changed to a light drizzle.  Disembarkation was easy and we took in the whale watching tour, Mendenhall glacier and the Mt. Roberts tramway.  Our whale watching tour was absolutely great and even the catamaran's crew was thrilled when we were able to spend several minutes watching the humpbacks, approximately seven to ten, take part in "bubble net feeding".  The drizzle had stopped and the weather had partially cleared during the excursion.  The trip to the Mendenhall glacier was also magnificent with the exception of one of the ladies falling on the trail and breaking her ankle.   Tuesday was our adventure up to Hubbard glacier.  The Amsterdam's crew repeatedly commented on how exceptional the weather was that day.  The glacier and mountain tops were visible from a great distance and the temperature was very nice.  This day we were extremely grateful for our extended verandah as we enjoyed the views from the privacy of our space and had the full view of the glacier as we sailed away from the back of the ship.   We awoke Wednesday morning anchored in Sitka bay.  We tendered to shore and spent the morning on a self guided tour.  A map in our hand and off we walked.  We enjoyed the historical aspect of this lovely town and once again, we were blessed with great weather.   Thursday morning we arrived in Ketchikan and were off to Totem Bight Park.  A great tour with lots of eagles present.  We returned to the port and spent several hours walking the streets and shopping.   Friday was another day at sea until we arrived at Victoria around 6:00.  I learned that the ships are required under the "Jones Act" to plan at least one International port, hence Victoria for this cruise.  We took the "Highlights" tour and thoroughly enjoyed the sights and the guide.  We stopped at Mount Tolmie and the Marina.  The marina had several seals that were once in a show and were now living free around the docks.  They still perform for frozen fish which you can buy at the gift shop for $2.   Upon our return to the ship, we packed and placed two of our carry on suitcases in the hallway which were picked up very quickly.  We kept the third with us.  Our disembarkation was the one thing that went totally opposite of everything we have read on this board.  Our assigned disembarkation time was 8:30.  We got up and ate breakfast, our last meal aboard the beautiful Amsterdam, and returned to our cabin.  We left the room at 8:20 and disembarked between 8:25 and 8:30.  We claimed our two suitcases within minutes and Customs a few seconds later.  We walked out of the terminal at 8:40 and were in a cab in less than two minutes.  We debated amongst ourselves on whether to pay the $24 each for the airport transfer and ride the bus or to take a taxi.  We decided on the taxi.  Our driver did not take I-5 but rather drove us behind the stadiums and along the waterway.  We arrived at the airport and exited the cab at 9:00 for a fare of $45 plus tip for a total of $50 but we had the whole back seat and made great time.  We checked in and cleared airport security at 9:15!!!!   The bad: While we were unaffected, I did feel sorry for the others during the high seas on Sunday. The glasses in the Lido are so small, one must make several trips during a meal for refills or wait several minutes for the refills to come around.   The okay: Formal nights, while we partook in the first formal night and respect the tradition, we decided against the second night and ate at the Lido. The Pinnacle Grill menu was not what we had expected and therefore passed that experience.   The good: The ship itself.  Very clean and well organized. The food in the Dining Room, Lido and Pool area was absolutely great and met or exceeded all of our expectations. The Dessert Extravaganza - No explanation necessary. The crew of the Amsterdam, all were professional and very friendly and made sure that we felt welcome and special the entire trip. Our stateroom. Here's one that some will argue but my opinion is that the excursions were well planned and provided an excellent benefit for the funds spent.   Finally, I would like to tell anyone reading this that if you are even thinking about taking this cruise, please do.  You will not regret it.  And to all of you that have been posting here for a while, Thank You, for your information and opinions.   God Bless   Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
We booked this as a family cruise and got really lucky when our travel agent let us know about an upgrade to a Deluxe Verandah Suite. We took advantage and we are glad we did.Embarkation: It would have went went as smooth as silk, except ... Read More
We booked this as a family cruise and got really lucky when our travel agent let us know about an upgrade to a Deluxe Verandah Suite. We took advantage and we are glad we did.Embarkation: It would have went went as smooth as silk, except there was an outbreak of the Norovirus on the previous cruise and they had to disinfect the ship. We checked in, but could not get onto the ship until after PM. Holland provided us with a shuttle to downtown Seattle and we took advantage of that. We got a little to eat, went to view the Space Needle and than went back to the ship. By the time we got back they were boarding and we got right on the ship.Accommodations: The Deluxe Verandah Suite is just that, deluxe. It had more than enough room for all four of us, with plenty of room to roam. It was about the size of a hotel room and made living with a 13 year old and a nine year old bearable. There was a lot of storage and we did not have to stack things everywhere. The services that are provided at this level were great and it will be hard to step down to a lower level on future cruises.Dining: The code red issue popped up during meals. There was no bread, butter, salt or pepper on the tables. Nothing communal in the dining rooms. I could not get my own cup of coffee until after code red was lifted. The La Fontaine dining room had some of the best food we have had on our 15+ cruises. It had food that even a picky 13 year old would eat. The service was first rate and except for one night, very quick. The Lido Buffet was good, even better when we could serve ourselves most of our own food.Entertainment: Our 13 year old had a great time with the "Loft." He would go out with them until curfew. Our nine year old, on the other hand, did not like the group he was put in, so he spent most of his time with us, or in the suite watching cartoons. My wife wanted to spend most of our ship time in the tiny casino, so that is what we did. We did not see a show at all.Shore excusions: Wow, were they expensive. We spent almost as much on those than we did for the cruise. The should give a family group rate! The were a lot of fun, but not really that much of a good value. Alaska has a lot to see and there are lots of choices. We enjoyed all the ports of call.Disembarkation: We were priority and we had arranged private transportation, so it was nice to leave when we wanted. We had breakfast, picked up our carry ons and left the ship when we wanted.Overall: We all had a great time and will definitely be family cruising again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
This was our ninth cruise, but the first with Holland America.  We had originally booked with Royal Caribbean, but later changed to Holland when we discovered that we could also visit Rio and the Falklands.  Holland gave us the cruise of ... Read More
This was our ninth cruise, but the first with Holland America.  We had originally booked with Royal Caribbean, but later changed to Holland when we discovered that we could also visit Rio and the Falklands.  Holland gave us the cruise of a lifetime.   We were unable to get decent tickets to Rio a couple of days early, so arrived in Rio at 6 am the day of departure.  Because of that, we'd made arrangements with therealrio.com after researching on Cruise Critic, and were met at the airport by Clode.  He spent the next eight hours giving us a grand tour of Rio and everything we wanted to see.  We were dropped off at the port by 3 pm and were onboard by 3:30.   Our travel agent had arranged a Lower Promenade outside cabin, as we love to walk each morning, and our stateroom was well laid-out and easily accessible to the promenade deck on either side of the ship.  Throughout the cruise, Holland America staff seemed to be happier and more helpful than some other cruise lines.  There was more complaining from fellow cruisers than we've ever heard before, but we found the Amsterdam staff more than helpful with the room problem we had.  The Amsterdam had more lounges and private areas to hang out than any other ship we've been on, and throughout our 16 night cruise, we tried them all.  They offered a Happy Hour in two of the lounges prior to dinnertime, which we've never seen on a ship before.  With the Happy Hour, the wine card for dinners, and the wine we brought onboard for our cabin, we were quite content.   We spent most of our days in the Crow's Nest on the top deck enjoying the view and were rewarded one morning by passing through the largest school of dolphins we've ever seen.  The hundreds of them literally turned and started racing the ship as we passed through.   The naturalist onboard gave twice daily talks and he was most informative.  If we were unable to get into the theater, which became the case as the cruise progressed, then we could watch his talk on television while getting ready the next morning.  The evening shows were standard fair with nothing outstanding besides the harpist who performed one evening.  The string performers in one of the lounges and the band in the Ocean Bar were much more entertaining, and we found ourselves in either of these most every night.  The food as good as any cruise, and if there was any problem with our meal, it was quickly corrected by our table staff.  We never ate in the buffet other than an afternoon ice cream, but utilized the dining room for each meal.  Twice we had hamburgers from the grill near the pool and enjoyed them, but not the wait in line to get them.   We did not arrange any excursions through the ship, and only had two planned prior to leaving, one of which was arranged by another member on the Roll Call for our ship.  Here are our impressions of the ports of call:   Buenos Aires - This is a HUGE city.  We had previously arranged a Gaucho Tour in the Pampas with Defrantur.com.  It was our responsibility to meet the tour at a particular hotel, and we chose to walk rather than take a taxi.  The port area, and the city as a whole, does not have very adequate sidewalks, so the walking was rough with the unevenness and holes.  The Gaucho Tour was enjoyable and well worth the price.  The food and drink were plentiful and empanadas delicious.  When we were dropped off back in BA afterwards, we walked through the pedestrian walkway and purchased several souvenirs along with some wine for the ship.   We walked back prior to dark for dinner but were so tired, we never made it out again as planned for a tango show.  The next morning, we took advantage of the free shuttle offered by a jewelry store into town.  Then we walked all around, saw the capital building, library, several parks, and the Recoleta Cemetery where we located Eva Paron's crypt.  From there, we took a cab for $12 to the LaBoca area and enjoyed an afternoon watching tango dancing in the streets and wandering the shops before taking another cab ($10) back to the ship.   Montevideo - This is the port where another CC member had prearranged a wine tour for $30 each.  We met onshore and located the van driver, and were transported an hour out of town to an absolutely beautiful winery, Vina Varela Zarranz.  The nine of us had a private tour of the 100 year old buildings and winery and walked the vineyards before sitting down to a tasting of wines accompanied by delicious cheeses and meats.  Since we all purchased wines for the cruise, we dropped our bottles off in our stateroom immediately upon return to the port before walking around Montevideo and the nearby courtyard.  Montevideo is definitely a place where you would want to get out of the city to enjoy the surrounding beautiful beaches or countryside.   Stanley, Falkland Islands - Pulled in to the island as we were walking and watched them prepare the tenders for this port.  We've read where quite a high percentage of ships don't make it into Stanley due to the weather, but we had perfect weather, although windy.  It was not recommended to walk to the cove with the penguins due to the wind and lack of sidewalks there, so we caught a local shuttle for $20 each on shore.  It took us past an old warship from the 1982 Argentina war and dropped us off at Gypsy Cove.  Here we walked the shoreline among some unique topography and watched several groups of the remaining magellentic penguins.  As it was late in the season, there weren't hundreds of them, but enough for our enjoyment.  We caught the shuttle back into Stanley and then walked the length of the town until we ran out of road where we discovered the Stanley Arms Pub and enjoyed conversation with a couple of the locals.  After we walked back into town, we tried each of the other pubs in town, but the Stanley ended up our favorite because it was not touristy; in fact, the bartender said tourists never make it out that far.   Cape Horn - As we neared the Horn, the weather became more and more spotty changing between sun and torrential rain within minutes of one another.  The captain announced we would not be "rounding the horn" due to the wind conditions, but would remain on the leeward side of the Horn for viewing prior to heading away.  The Horn was actually larger than expected, and with the occasional bits of sunshine, we were able to take pictures of the lighthouse and buildings there before the seas became rough and we had to leave.  The seas remained extremely rough the entire evening.   Ushuaia - We both agree that this was probably our favorite port of the cruise.  We got up early and left the ship as the sun was rising above the surrounding mountains.  It was fun watching the city change as the sun lit up the area.  We walked to the prison to tour and then discovered a sign to the ski lift, near the glacier.  So we started walking the opposite direction from the prison along the backside of the city.  The signs were far between, but we discovered a lovely statue of Mother Mary on top a small hill before exiting the city and starting the upward climb.  We chanced upon a sign along the road outside of town marking a trail through the woods and decided to try it.  This was by far the best part of our trip.  We walked on mossy turf back and forth alongside a stream of glacier water.  There were a lot of spots to overlook the city or the stream and the trail was well marked and quite enjoyable.  We popped out of the trail back onto the road with a sign saying the chairlift was 500 feet ahead.  We arrived at the chairlift area, but chose to walk up the steep ski trails to the bottom of Martial Glacier.  The scenery and view were outstanding.  The walk down was much easier and we found a local store on the main street to purchase some beer and sausage before heading back to the ship.     Beagle Channel - We pulled out of Ushuaia prior to dinner and as we were in our stateroom getting ready, the captain made such a drastic turn our just-poured wine glasses went sliding off the desk into the wall and onto the floor.  At dinner, we learned that all the prepared shrimp cocktails had done the same thing, so this was not a move normally made.  As we neared the first of the five glaciers, we positioned ourselves outside with a glass of wine and camera ready.  Traveling in this direction, all the glaciers were on the starboard side and we thoroughly enjoyed some of the most beautiful glaciers we've ever seen.  And the sunset in the channel was spectacular.   Punta Arenas:  This is a port that probably could be eliminated.  Holland chooses to not utilize the port in town and docks outside of Punta Arenas.  We were discouraged by several people on dock that town was too far to walk, but we ignored them and walked anyway.  It was a nice walk into town and we were accompanied by several stray dogs who decided to follow us.  This town was filled with stray dogs, more than the usual amount in a South American city.  We found the local cemetery where strange trees lining the walkway were the highlight of the port.  We found the town square with the usual vendors hawking their wares around the statue, and walked to the overlook where all the tour buses were parked with their customers for a photo opt.  Asked around and located a nice restaurant where we had empanadas and beer before shopping in their local grocery for wine.  A nice walk along the shore line back to the ship.   Strait of Magellan - This was a nice day reminiscent of the Alaskan inside passage.  The captain pulled as close as able to the glacier where we spent over an hour taking photos as he turned the ship 360 degrees for all sides of the ship to see.  We spent hours watching the water to spot whales, floating penguins, dolphins, flying fish, and albatross.   Puerto Montt - We tendered into port here and located a local guide where we joined other people for a tour of the lake area; a seven hour tour cost $35 each.  We saw Volcano Osorno, Petrihue Rapids, Emerald Lake, Lago Todos Los Santas, llamas and alpacas and ate lunch at one of the nearby German towns located on Lake Llanquihue.  After arriving back in Puerto Montt, we shopped the vendors located near the port before walking into town and enjoying the views of the volcanoes and ship from the harbor park.   Valparaiso/Santiago - Here we thought we'd made a big mistake by not prearranging transport to the airport prior to leaving the U.S.  We honestly thought we'd meet up with other couples in our same situation and have negotiation power to arrange something in the port of Valparaiso.  We found ourselves standing by the tour counter, which had preset prices but required a minimum of four people.  Everyone coming up had already prearranged transport, so we spoke with the car rental people who wanted $160 to rent for the day.  Even the taxis outside would not negotiate anything less than $200 just to drive us to Santiago airport.  Talking with the Information desk, they recommended we walk to the nearby bus terminal (four blocks away) and take the local bus to Santiago for $6 each.  So after everyone else on the cruise had left the terminal, we gathered up our luggage and headed across the cobblestone lot to the port gate around the corner.  Imagine our surprise when we were mobbed outside the gate by taxi drivers and tour guides alike that are not allowed into the port.  Since the time indicated we were probably the last out, we said what we wanted to see and our price.  Immediately a nice young lady took our offer.  We were led to an air-conditioned minibus where we were the only passengers with our own private guide and driver.  She took us throughout Valparaiso, Vina del Mar, and Santiago.  They even recommended a nice place alongside the coast in Vina del Mar for lunch.  We were shown everything there was to see in all three cities before being dropped off at the Santiago airport.  We would highly recommend Valerie with transmercury.cl tours, which can and SHOULD be prearranged. 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Sail Date March 2009
My sweetie came home one day and suggested a cruise to Antarctica. I had never cruised before. But Antarctica as a destination: Shackleton and "March of the Penguins" suddenly came to mind. How could I object? The weather was ... Read More
My sweetie came home one day and suggested a cruise to Antarctica. I had never cruised before. But Antarctica as a destination: Shackleton and "March of the Penguins" suddenly came to mind. How could I object? The weather was particularly bad at the time in most of the Northern United States. Flights were delayed and luggage was lost. Taking into account pre boarding and waiting between flights, our commute to Rio took 25 hours. Upon arrival on the Amsterdam, all I could think was that I needed a bed. Desperately. If you've never cruised before, the size of the room will take you by surprise. This is where I'd spend the next three weeks! in retrospect, the room was not that bad and I became quite comfortable in it. Rio in the rain and yours truly somewhat jet lagged. Skipped Rio on the first day, got acquainted with the ship. Good thing to remember, divide your clothes between suitcases. A gentleman we met packed his and hers suitcases; his didn't quite make it to Rio, so the poor chap was wearing t-shirts until his luggage met him in Buenos Aires, on the next port. Two sea days to Buenos Aires. Breakfast in the LaFontaine, followed by 2 hours with my book. There was a lecture at 10 am. I was getting comfortable in my home away from home. Not knowing what to expect, I opted for open seating dinning. I now prefer fixed, but all that is a matter of preference. A cruise will allow one to do as much or as little as one desires. Some people love everything, others find fault with everything. It is not unusual to read contradictory reviews from the same cruise. I was unprepared for Buenos Aires, but was impressed with their Fine Arts Museum. I felt quite at home in Montevideo and was sad to leave the city. Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands was a tender destination. This is a different world. Imagine a rock in the middle of nowhere, where 18 years ago a war was waged between the UK and Argentina. The place looks British. Cars drive on the wrong side of the road, British currency is used, there are red telephone booths. Best way to describe it: Victoria, BC meets Newfoundland. Several options to see penguins. Two days later, we lost satellite transmission and woke up by Shackleton's famous Elephant Island. No TV. From here onward, everything in sight was picture worthy. Only 100 people at the time can disembark on the continent. Due to the size of our ship, no landings were made. Only much smaller and much more expensive Exploration ships have that privilege. They are usually not as smug when they have to cross the Drake Passage. Antarctica has some strict conservation rules. Everything entering must exit, nothing is to remain. No cigarette butts thrown overboard, no littering of any kind. The Amsterdam ensured shift rotation on Palmer Station. New and old members were exchanged on the ship, and we were privileged to a lecture on the Queen's Lounge. Best way to describe Antarctica: powerful, bold, beautiful and desolate. Even with 1300 other passengers on board the experience is not lessened. Crossing the Drake to reach Ushuaia, we rounded Cape Horn on a rainy day. It was windy and grey, but the passage was mild. It isn't always the case. After Ushuaia, we explored the beautiful Chilean Fjords, some Glaciers. All impressive in their own right, but everything pales after Antarctica and this beautiful country is no exception. I skipped Punta Arenas. This destination is mostly used as a launching pad to other destinations, i.e. excursions. By Puerto Montt, Antarctica was but a sweet memory captured in 2 rolls of Fuji NPS 160. Valparaiso was the end of the line. We took an excursion to Concha y Toro winery which included an incredible lunch and the biggest barbecue any of us have ever seen. A visit to the top of Santiago, the artists district and a 19th century church, followed by a drive to the airport. Highly recommended. The Amsterdam is 780 feet long. Not a big ship by modern standards, but bigger than anything else we encountered. I had filet mignon in the Pinnacle Grill with a Pommard. Well worth the extra $20 per person. All my meals in the dinning room were outstanding. Several times not fancying the day's menu, I'd opt for a New York steak. There are three extra menu options in case the day's menu doesn't speak to you. There was a different movie every day. We enjoyed the comedians and the piano trio at dinner. The room was comfortable. I slept with the curtains open and spent most of my time in the room gazing out the window. It was the most relaxing vacation I've ever had. New to cruising? Pick your destination, do your research, put your feet up and enjoy the ride. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
My wife and I decided to take a 4-day Pre-Cruise to the Iguazu Falls before cruising to South America and Antarctica on January 4, 2009 through Holland America. It was an uneventful flight to Rio de Janeiro. HAL put us up at the Rio ... Read More
My wife and I decided to take a 4-day Pre-Cruise to the Iguazu Falls before cruising to South America and Antarctica on January 4, 2009 through Holland America. It was an uneventful flight to Rio de Janeiro. HAL put us up at the Rio Intercontinental Hotel for an overnight stay. The day of our arrival happened on December 31, 2008. The hotel was busy getting ready for the New Years Eve celebrations. On the bus ride from the airport we were offered tickets to purchase for the hotel's celebrations or for an evening tour of the Copacabana and Impanema beach areas. I do not recall anyone buying any. We were all too tired (some traveling over 20 hours to get here) and now we needed some rest. We were awakened at midnight by massive fireworks going off across the street from our hotel. After breakfast, 38 of us met with our two tour escorts for the excursion to the Iguazu Falls. Arriving at Foz de Iguazu, we boarded our bus and headed to the Brazilian side of the Falls and did a leisurely walking tour. We got a panoramic view of many of the 275 plus cascading falls. It was awesome and very refreshing. We were told that it would rain anytime now. The locals were predicting rain for the last few days. Our walk was perfect and the weather held out - sunny and dry - which meant the volume of water over the falls would be smaller. We boarded our bus at the end of the Brazilian trail and were taken to Hotel Cataratas, located in the National Park on the Brazilian side of the Fall, for the next two nights. The hotel was built in 1935 and is now being renovated. The rooms were very rustic but efficient. We stayed for the hotel's buffet dinner, which was excellent. Next morning, after eating a large breakfast, we headed to the Argentine side of the Falls. After a 35 minute ride to the park entrance, we boarded a Narrow Gauge train that took us to the Catwalks that led to the dramatic "Devil's Gorge". From here our senses were stretched. The roar of the falls made me realize this was nature at work and I was in awe. The heavy mist got us very wet and we knew we were very close to the Gorge. The Catwalks also took us to many smaller falls which in itself were spectacular. The excursion was truly awesome. That evening we signed up for an "Iguazu By Night Three Country Dinner Show" at the Rafael Restaurant. The specialty at this buffet was their barbecued meats. The food was great and the show was a variety of singing and dancing from Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay - a very nice ending to a spectacular two-day Iguazu Falls Excursion. That evening it did rain. In the morning, my wife and I got up very early before breakfast and went to hike the same trail we did on our first day. The water run-off was much heavier from the overnight rain and the roar of the water was louder. It also created alot more misting, covering many of the falls. Definitely not good for picture taking. Our afternoon flight back to Rio was delayed for two hours. Our escorts knew we were going to miss dinner so they made arrangements at our Hotel Intercontinental for a complimentary late buffet dinner. Early the next morning, we put out our large check-in luggages for pickup to be delivered to the Amsterdam. We headed off on a half-day tour of Rio before boarding our ship. The tour included the world famous beaches, downtown, Sugar Loaf Mountain, Flamingo Park, financial districts, St. Sebastian Cathedral, Lapa Arches, National Library, Fine Arts Museum, and the Sambadrome, site of Rio's famous Carnival parades. In a far distance, Christ the Redeemer Statue was shrouded in fog. By noon we arrived at Rio's Cruise Terminal. Check-in was a breeze taking no more than 15 minutes. Our stateroom was not ready so we headed up to the Lido Buffet. Lunch was good - great variety of pasta, salads, meats, vegetables, sandwiches, pizzas, hamburgers and hot dogs. The Lido was very clean and the staff was "Johnny-on-the-Spot" helpful and very polite. This made Lido dining very pleasant. After lunch we headed to our stateroom on the Main Deck, forward, port-side. Our stateroom showed no wear or tear. It was dust-free and immaculate. We got to meet Abdul, our stateroom attendant and his sidekick assistant, Din. They were very friendly and helpful and spoke English well. My preference was to have only a sheet on my side of the bed and my wife likes her sheet with blanket combination. They made the change right away and it was like that throughout the cruise. Abdul left my blanket in the closet thinking I may need it while cruising the Antarctic Seas. We always had a full bucket of ice and extra bath towels as well as the handmade towel animals every night. Can't get better service than that. We had early dining in the open-seating La Fontaine Dining Room. The quality and variety of food were good and so was the presentation. Dining staff was only okay. I felt our waiter and his assistant were sometimes distracted. I like to start my dinner with ice tea. Some days it was already on the table when I arrived and other days it came midway through my dinner. One evening I ordered soup; it never came. Our dinner usually took two hours. Some evening we would skip dessert in order to catch the early show. We would then get our dessert during the 11 o'clock late buffet in the Lido. The production stage shows were very good. Performers sang and danced with a lot of energy and passion. The ship's travel guide, Chris Fisher, is very informative and has all the answers you would need. At first I was bored by his monotone voice, but I got use to it because of all the pertinent information he was giving. He did a great job. The Exploration Speaker Series was also a perfect way of getting us ready for the three days of cruising the Antarctic Seas. First speaker was Robert Hofman, a Marine Mammal Scientist. Second speaker was John Splettstoesser, an Antarctica Geologist and finally Captain Patrick Toomey, who was an Ice Pilot for the Canadian Coast Guard. The three speakers spent many years in the Antarctic and gave a total of ll lectures covering their own specialty. John Splettstoesser has two mountain ranges named after him. One is located in the Ellsworth Mountains and the other at the Victoria Mountains. Each time the lectures were given, the Queen's Lounge was packed with attendees. Cruising the Antarctic: Day 1 - Cruising the South Coast of Elephant Island. Into the Antarctic Sound, high winds prevented the stopping at Esperanza Argentine Station. Passed m/v Corinthian II. At 1700 hours, while circumnavigating Paulet Island,the Amsterdam encountered "Katabatic Winds" gusting to 80 knots. We were told later by Capt. Toomey that the ship listed 12 degree. That was exciting! Passed Rosamel Island and reentered the Antarctic Sound from the Weddell Sea and headed west to Bransfield Straits to overnight to Dallmann Bay. Day 2 - Entered Dallmann Bay from the north and passed Cuverville Island. m/v Corinthian II was anchored there. We transited southbound to Errera Channel. Cruising Andvort Bay, we passed m/v Akademik Shokalskiy southbound. Southbound in Neumayer Channel. m/v Andre entered Port Lockroy as m/v National Geographic Endeavor came out. Eastbound in Bismarck Straits, then northbound in Gerlache Straits. m/v Akademik Shokalskiy headed westbound. In Paradise Harbor, m/v Marco Polo at Chilean Station Gonzalez Videla. We cruised to Almirante Brown Station Argentine. Dallmann Bay northbound while m/v National Geographic Endeavor also northbound. Amsterdam overnight cruising off west coast of Anvers Island. Day 3 - 0830 at U.S. Palmer Station to embark 14 scientists and staff. Headed southbound to Lemaire Channel. The Palmer crew gave a slide show briefing in the Queen's Lounge. To accommodate Amsterdam's large number of cruisers, they gave two briefings. Afterwards they lunched in the Lido and answered more questions from the passengers. Petermann Island was the farthest south we went (80.4 nm from the Antarctic Circle and 1,460 nm from the South Pole). We headed northbound to Cape Horn. This ended the three days cruising the Antarctica. I have been on 15 cruises. This Antarctic Itinerary was the BEST AND MOST INTERESTING, SPECTACULAR, AND SATISFYING one. The bonus was having the U.S. Palmer Station personnel coming onboard to brief us on their mission. Outstanding event. Kudos to HAL for serving hot soup on the outside decks during those three freezing days. Luckily, the weather was perfect. Another highlight was the port call to Port Stanley, Falkland Islands. We signed up with HAL to do the Bluff Cove Penguin Rookery. What a KICK! There were 8 passengers to a van and we were taken for a 45 minutes ride and transferred to a 4-wheel Drive Land Rover and rode another 25 minutes to get to the Gentoo Rookery. Dead center of this Gentoo Rookery were 6 Male King Penguins. I could distinctly see one of the Kings holding his egg on top of his feet with his tummy covering it. What a sight! Another HAL excursion was at Punta Arenas Patagonia Experience and Otway Bay. Here we saw the Magellanic penguins: five to six of them playing follow-the-leader, babies waiting to be fed and others jumping into the surf and swimming off. Awesome sight, not to be missed. Other ports-of-call on this cruise were Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego) and Puerto Montt. Each city had its own highlights, which were enjoyable. Final destination was Valparaiso, Chile. Our flight home was scheduled at 2200 hours. That left us with over 14 hours before our flight time. We booked with HAL for an 8 hour Santiago City Tour. Our luggage was put out the evening before and we were to claim them later at the airport. The bus ride from Valparaiso to Santiago took 1 and 1/2 hour. We stopped at a jewelry store, rode a funicular, had a delicious salmon lunch and went to a Dominican Craft Village for some final shopping. Around 1630 we headed to the Santiago Airport. Arriving outside of the airport check-in building, we saw hundreds of our luggage sorted on carts and lined up for us to claim. We wheeled them inside to the Delta Airline check-in line and waited two hours for the counters to open. Kudos again to HAL for having our luggage ready. This made it a very smooth transition for the end of a wonderful cruise holiday. Our flights home were uneventful. I need to mention that on the Pre-Cruise Iguazu Falls, there were 12 of us who already knew each other through CruiseCritic.com on the South America "Roll Call" Board for the Amsterdam. Shark410 (Sharon) made arrangements with the Seattle Office for a Cruise Critic's "Meet & Greet" get-together at the Crow's Nest on January 10, a sea day. The ship provided coffee, tea and two kinds of cookies. 30 people attended this Meet and Greet. Attending from the ship were Hotel Manager Hans Dernson, Cruse Director Michelle Worthley, Chief Housekeeper Ali Mushochib, Environment Officer Ronald Bloeme, and Crew Purser Julie Brnsey. Thanks to the above for attending and making this an outstanding Meet & Greet. This was so successful Sharon scheduled another Meet & Greet, this time in the Sports/Piano Bar. Of the 30 attendees, 15 were interested in joining CruiseCritic.com. Thanks to Beverage Manager Guido Kollmann for making this happen. One last event to mention. The original group of 38 that did the Pre-Cruise Iguazu Falls also wanted a get-together. Sheri V. from the group asked and set up a HAL ms Amsterdam Iguazu Falls Reunion". Guido and Michelle hosted this event at the Sports/Piano Bar on January 13, 1600 hours and served hot hors d'oeuvres. Definitely a "Class Act" from the Amsterdam, and thanks to its officers and crew. In a nut shell, the Holland America Line January 4, 2009 South American Explorer and Antarctic Experience 20 Days Cruise was a wonderful and a "Great Valued" package. This cruise had it all - itinerary, food, entertainment, speaker series, ports-of-call, service and professionalism. It is "5 STAR+". Gimer. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
Amsterdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.4
Dining 4.0 4.1
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 4.0 4.5
Fitness Recreation 4.0 4.0
Family 3.0 4.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 4.1
Enrichment 4.0 3.9
Service 4.0 4.5
Value For Money 4.0 4.2
Rates 4.0 4.2

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