211 Holland America Amsterdam Cruise Reviews

EXPLORER & ANTARCTICA EXPERIENCE CRUISE - DECEMBER 15, 2008 - JANUARY 4, 2009 (VALPARAISO TO RIO) DH and I are both 50 and this was our fifth HAL cruise. We have also sailed on Princess and Norwegian. We chose HAL as 10 years prior ... Read More
EXPLORER & ANTARCTICA EXPERIENCE CRUISE - DECEMBER 15, 2008 - JANUARY 4, 2009 (VALPARAISO TO RIO) DH and I are both 50 and this was our fifth HAL cruise. We have also sailed on Princess and Norwegian. We chose HAL as 10 years prior we sailed on the old Noordam from Rio to Valparaiso on our honeymoon. We were excited to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary (New Year's Eve) by doing this itinerary again. The added bonus of Antarctica, which had always been a dream for us, made this a cruise we'll never forget. AIR - HAL arranged the air from Vancouver to Valparaiso, and Rio back to Vancouver. We were booked on Air Canada flights from Vancouver to Toronto and then Toronto to Santiago. It snowed the night before we left Vancouver which caused several flight delays. We were extremely lucky our flights were not delayed at all. We landed in sunny warm Santiago on time at 12:30 PM, a 5 hour time difference from home. We went through two separate lineups - one to pay the $132 US each reciprocity (airport) fee and then through customs. A HAL rep greeted us in the luggage claim, checked off our names and then guided us to another HAL rep to a waiting bus. Our checked luggage was put on a truck that went to the ship and was delivered directly to our stateroom. It took about an hour from landing in Santiago until we were on the bus. The drive to Valparaiso was 1.5 hours. After check-in at the terminal we bought 2 bottles of wine which were free to take on board on embarkation day. We then went through security and onto another bus which drove to the ship. We arrived too late for our embarkation picture to be taken however we were able to get one made up with a picture taken later in the cruise. We just had enough time to drop our bags in our stateroom, freshen up and grab our life jackets for the lifeboat drill. It was 1 hour before sailing - which to us was cutting it way too close! SHIP The ship was decorated throughout with colourful Christmas trees. The front office was decorated with fresh flowers and poinsettias which looked quite festive. The tree lighting ceremony took place at 7:30 PM the first night and Christmas carols were sung. There was a nativity scene on the lower promenade level atrium and a few Christmas trees with white lights which were quite pretty. The lower atrium had a mirrored wall reflecting millions of colours. The main dining room was decorated with stars hanging from the ceiling and white poinsettia garlands around the upper inside. STATEROOM Our stateroom was 3345 - just steps away from the lower promenade atrium (and right beside the self-service laundry). This was the quietest stateroom we'd ever been in and we never heard any noise from the adjoining staterooms, above, below or the laundry room at all. The stateroom was quite spacious with 2 large twins put together, a love-seat and chair. We each had our own closet space as well as a closet for coats, shoes etc. There was storage space under the bed for our luggage. We were surprised to see that we didn't have a mini refrigerator. The washroom was average size with adequate storage space for our personal toiletries. The wall-mounted hair dryer got too hot after 20 seconds. Luckily there was a portable hair dryer (in HAL bag) in one of the dresser drawers to use instead. We were somewhat disappointed that we only received one canvas HAL bag this cruise. On the Explorer cruise we took 10 years ago, we each received one HAL canvas bag, rain poncho, small Spanish dictionary, small South America guidebook, mini binoculars, journal and wooden pen. SERVICE Outstanding. Our stateroom was attended to by Agus and Ikhwan who were quite efficient and not intrusive. HAL seems to have cut their staff as they seemed to be responsible for a great many staterooms. The same also seemed to apply in the dining room. DINING - We chose second seating dining at 8 PM at a table for two. We opted for formal dining as it was a holiday cruise. DH grumbled at first at the thought of bringing a suit, shoes etc. but next time will consider renting a tux, not to mention the extra luggage space that will be saved. Our waiter was Paul and his assistant was Theodor. Our wine steward was Dino and his assistant was Joseph. All men were quite pleasant the entire cruise and never stopped smiling. The maitre'd always stopped by our table each night, called us by name and would inquire how our day and meal was (how he remembered everyone's names we don't know.) The meals were excellent and nicely prepared. We enjoyed the chilled soups whenever they were on the menus. A latte, cappuccino or hot chocolate could be ordered after dinner at no extra charge. It was disappointing to note that some men and women wore jeans on formal and smart casual evenings (obviously they hadn't read their Welcome Aboard literature which clearly stated no jeans). Anyone paying this amount of money on a cruise can at least afford a pair of dark pants don't you think. The maitre d' should have gently reminded these people to either change or suggest eating in the Lido Cafe instead, but it seemed he didn't want to rock the boat. We once skipped dinner in the dining room and went to the Lido Cafe - where anything on the menu was the same as the dining room anyway. Then you could see what you wanted to eat in advance. We ate breakfast in the dining room just once. Several times we ordered in-room dining where the meals were always delivered on the dot. At the Lido Cafe there were a number of make-to-order stations for eggs benedict, waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage. You name it they had it. Some days it was hard to decide what to have. For lunch in the Lido Cafe there was a great variety of pasta and sauces, wraps, grilled sandwiches and salads to choose from. We tried to avoid eating where people served themselves - not everyone used the hand sanitizer or used the tongs. The pool area had a few kinds of greasy pizza slices; also at the Terrace Grill you could order a hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken burger or hot dog. PHOTOS Each 8x10 picture cost $14.95 - pretty steep and the price adds up. Many photos were not bought - perhaps many more would have been bought if the price and size was reduced. Almost every night the ship's photographers were set up to do portrait or green screen photos. They were also visible on deck during scenic cruising and at the various ports. SHOPS Just a few "dam" souvenirs and the usual expensive jewelry. There were few people in the shops the entire cruise. The souvenir South America T-shirts were a bright cayenne pepper colour which we never saw anyone buying. Also for sale were light jackets with an Antarctica patch sewn on and these didn't even have a hood. CASINO This was one of the smallest casinos we'd ever seen on a cruise ship, and hardly anyone ever in it. There were penny slot machines with no one ever sitting at them. We usually enjoy the slot machine tournaments but there didn't seem to be much interest so we didn't bother. BINGO We never bothered to check this out. GYM We never bothered to check this out. SPA Did not use however DH had his hair cut for $25 and they did a nice job. ART AUCTION We never bothered to check this out (not even for the free glass of champagne LOL). LIBRARY We rented a few DVDs ($3 each) to watch in our stateroom on sea days - "Message in a Bottle" and "Pirates of the Caribbean - World's End" which was aired on TV just after we watched it of course. SHOWS The one and only show we went to in the Queen's Lounge was a comedian named Tom Sutton from Britain. He was one of the worst comedians we'd ever heard. His material was either political or quite dated - references to Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie. Some people walked out of the theatre and I wished we had done the same - we should have chosen to do our laundry instead. DRINKS We purchased a card for $56 which entitled us to 10 cocktails. The frozen (strawberry or lime) margaritas were the best and ended up being $1 cheaper than you would pay individually. MOVIES Among the movies we saw in the Wajang Theater were the "Dark Knight", "Swing Vote" and "Christmas Vacation". These movies were broadcast on TV the following day. LAUNDRY $2.00 (8 quarters) for the wash cycle and the dryers were free. We found the best time to do laundry was after dinner otherwise everyone tried to go there at the same time, usually on sea days. CRAFTS Creative Christmas Crafts class hosted by the party planner who explained that HAL had not hired a crafts person this cruise. She brought a large plastic container filled with construction paper and glue she'd gotten from the children's area! Her suggestions were to either make a wreath out of hand prints (no thanks) or a Santa to hang on our stateroom door. Some ladies walked out at this point (I wished I had) but I stayed, made a lame looking Santa that I would have been embarrassed to hang on our stateroom door. I didn't attend any future crafts sessions. PORTS We had visited each port on our previous South America cruise. The only shore excursions we took were in Punta Arenas, Falkland Islands and Rio de Janeiro. Puerto Montt The tender took about 15 minutes and docked near the Angelmo artisan market (about 30 artisan stalls). We walked about a mile to the Paseo Mall. The mall had 3 levels with a food court including KFC and Pizza Hut, and on one level there was a tiny McDonalds kiosk selling ice cream. Ladies take notice - when going to the bano (bathroom) - take your paper first from a giant roll before going into a stall as there was no paper provided inside. The mall also had a large supermarket called Full Fresh where we bought pisco in a dark Easter Island decanter and Artesano pisco sour which was already mixed. We walked back to the Angelmo artisan market selling hand-made woolen caps, scarves, jackets etc. We had bought a lot of this stuff 10 years ago so we only bought a few postcards. Punta Arenas Patagonia Experience - Otway Bay tour (we did this 10 years ago). The bus ride was about an hour and we stopped a few times to see rheas by the road side. The weather was overcast but did get a bit sunny. There was a large parking area (a few people had come in taxis), washrooms, a small cafe and a few souvenir kiosks. It was about a mile walk along roped boardwalks out to the Magellanic penguins. We saw many penguins, which marched in comical lines down to the water. A viewing platform was available to see the penguins in the ocean. A trailer back on the pier sold woolen hats, sweaters, gloves and souvenirs. I bought a woolen alpaca hat (flannel lined) with ear flaps for $5, a souvenir penguin mug and a book on Antarctica. That alpaca hat was the best $5 purchase I ever made when we cruised in Antarctica!!! We split the cost of a taxi ride into town for $10 with another couple. In the middle of town was a square with a statue of an Indian with a golden toe - if you touched it legend states you'll return again some day (and here we were!). Around the square were a number of handicraft tables. DH bought a hooded alpaca sweater and a hat. Ushuaia, Argentina Very picturesque with the snow capped mountains all around. We docked at 1 PM and the wind blew fiercely as we walked off the ship. We went through a security building then out to the town. We walked along San Martin, the main street, with several souvenir shops. We stopped at Laguna Negra, a chocolate shop which had a little cafe in the back where we enjoyed bottles of Cape Horn pale ale. Cape Horn We were out on deck at 7 AM where it was windy and overcast to witness passing the tip of South America. We thought there was supposed to be a monument with an albatross but we didn't see one. Antarctica cruising (December 23) It was quite foggy and snowing lightly (how often can you say you've been on a cruise and it snowed?). We could just make out the mountains and the ice made it quite an awesome thing to see. We saw our first penguins far off on land in the distance. People wore an odd assortment of footwear - from flip flops with socks to high heel sandals. A group of people came on board from Palmer Station to give a slide presentation of the research they do which was quite interesting. In a corner of the Crow's Nest was a "Base Camp" which was a tent recreating the Shackleton Antarctica adventure. Maps were on display of where we would be cruising in Antarctica. A TV played a DVD of the movie "Shackleton" over and over. DH and I watched the 2 hour movie one afternoon with a tango class in the background so it was hard to hear some parts of the movie. This base camp should have been set up in a small room elsewhere on the ship. Antarctica cruising (December 24) A beautiful morning with spectacular views of icebergs as we retraced the route we went the day before, which was completely different without all the fog. Many people remarked this was a surreal experience seeing this and it was so awesome to describe. We passed by the Argentina and Chile research stations. In the afternoon we went up on Lido deck aft for the "Penguin Dip" in the pool. It was cold though the pool water was warm. Waiters were ready with cups of hot chocolate as we came out of the pool. Certificates of this event were delivered to our stateroom a few days later. Antarctica cruising (December 25) We started the day by seeing Adelie penguins on an iceberg! The sky was clear and blue but cold. We stayed out on deck until 10 AM - rushed in to have our pictures taken with Santa in the Queen's Lounge - then went back out on deck. We saw the Esperanza research station belonging to Argentina. About 42 people live there with 2 school teachers, and the children are considered part of the Argentinian school system. All the dining room staff wore Santa hats and most people dressed formally for dinner. We passed by Elephant Island just before dinner - DH went outside and took pictures but we were not close enough to see any elephant seals. Sundown was 11 PM and sunrise 4 AM. Stanley, Falkland Islands We had originally planned to do OBT Sparrow Cove and were wait-listed on the Volunteer Point Penguin tour. The night before we got confirmation for Volunteer Point. We got onto the tender at 6:45 AM, and the water was so choppy we almost didn't make it to the dock. If it had been any worse they probably would have discontinued the tender process. There were 48 people on our tour and we went in groups of 4 in Land Rovers (these are shipped to the FI, but the tires are specially ordered from the UK). Our guide and driver was Neil, born in the UK and now a resident of FI. Apparently he had been waiting since 6:15 AM for us to arrive (we were an hour late), and apologized for not shaving LOL. Neil told us about the FI war of 1982 of which there were still land mines in the ground but were roped off. He said when a cruise ship is in, everyone pitches in do driving - lawyer, doctor, dentist etc. All education is free in the FI and tuition and expenses is paid if you further your education in the UK afterward. Medical and dental expenses are also free. The countryside was pretty bland, bleak and very windy. Part of the way was off-road and quite bumpy in some spots. At Volunteer Point there was a small portable with toilets and info. Bag lunches were provided consisting of a ham or cheese sandwich, bottle of water, roast chicken chips and an apple. We had 2 hours to see the penguins. Ground rules were don't run, let anything flap, talk loudly and stay outside the ring of stones which served as a perimeter for the penguins. Inside the ring of stones there were a number of baby penguins still with some of their fluff. Wardens wearing bright green fluorescent vests ensured that everyone obeyed the rules. The king penguins we saw were awesome! They just stood there and posed while we took close-up shots. Down at the beach, the water was a tropical turquoise blue and the sand a very fine white powder like talc. There were king and gentoo penguins here. This was the most incredible experience to see these animals up close. The only other place in the world to see king penguins is on South Georgia Islands. Our tour guide let us off close to the whale bone arch where we walked back to the tender. We only had 30 minutes so we went into Capstan Gift Shop, a really nice gift shop selling penguin souvenirs, cards, DVDs, glassware and all kinds of things. Buenos Aires, Argentina We were awakened at about 12:30 AM by the captain announcing over the PA of "bright star, bright star, cabin XXXX" which sounded like an emergency code of some kind. We asked our dining room waiter about this and he said a female passenger had had a heart attack and passed away that morning. It was sunny and warm. It was mandatory to take a shuttle bus from the ship to the cruise terminal as the ship was docked in an industrial area. We walked up to the Florida pedestrian mall which stretched for 6 blocks and branched off another 6 blocks. We took a taxi to the Recoleta and had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe and then walked back to the ship. The Filipino crew show was awesome to watch - we don't know when they ever found the time to practice! Montevideo, Uruguay The cruise director announced over the PA that docking would be delayed by one hour so all tours would depart an hour later. Some people complained of this as we had only traveled about 87 miles from Buenos Aires the previous evening. The cruise director explained that the appropriate arrangements had to be made so that the husband of the deceased passenger could disembark with her body. It was overcast and a bit cool. We walked up the street where shops were just opening. Many buildings looked old and rundown, and the streets and sidewalks were uneven. DH collects stamps so at the main post office he bought a first day cover of Ano Polar Internacional canceled with a penguin stamp. The fellow who helped us apologized for dressing so casually - as it was New Year's Eve the custom around mid-day was that people threw their old calendars, day-timers and water from buildings at people below in the street!!! We later watched as a bunch of people getting on and off a bus got drenched with water. We were careful crossing the street but a few seconds later we both got wet - I just looked up, smiled and waved to the people laughing. I looked like something the cat dragged in LOL as we walked back to the ship. At a small wine store across from where the ship was docked we bought a bottle of Maria Zarranz MEtodo Champenoise Extra Brut wine from Uruguay ($25 US) which we used to bring in the New Year that night. We received a congratulatory card from the captain for our 10th anniversary. In the dining room we found New Year hats at our table. The New Year's Eve Gala Dinner included caviar and seafood cocktail and lobster. For dessert there was a chocolate tower filled with mascarpone mousse and crème de cacao and had Happy New Year 2009 in gold lettering. The maitre'd brought a small cake with a candle on it (white icing with chocolate cookie crumbs on the outside and devil's food on the inside) and he and our waiters sang a lively Filipino tune, wishing us a happy anniversary. We had the cake delivered to our stateroom. All of the public lounges were decorated with paper streamers and sparkly confetti. We went to the Queen's Lounge around 11:30 pm which was already half full at this time. We picked up blowers and noisemakers as we went in. We got a good seat off to the side, and each table had 2 balloons, black top hat and star confetti and paper ribbons. It was quite noisy with everyone blowing their horns and turning their noisemakers. Waiters made the rounds with free champagne 20 minutes before midnight. The stage had been converted to a dance floor with rails at the edge so people wouldn't fall off. Big screen monitors on each side of the lounge counted down the time to midnight. At midnight the whole lounge erupted with noise and a net of balloons was released from the ceiling. What a mess was left on the floors throughout but of course was all gone the next morning. New Year's Day We had New Year's Day brunch at the Pinnacle Grill ($30 each). We'd never eaten at a restaurant on a ship with a cover charge. There were about 25 people who came and we were offered a glass of champagne at the door. The buffet area was set up in the back and consisted of various seafood (jumbo shrimp, crab legs, herring, salmon and caviar), cold cuts and cheese, roast beef and salads. Breakfast items such as omelets were made to order. A dessert tray consisted of assorted squares, pastries and freshly dipped chocolate strawberries. White and red wines were served. DH had 5 servings of caviar. We were so stuffed we went back to our stateroom and rested for the afternoon. Went to the Dessert Extravaganza at 11:30 PM that was set up on tables around the pool. There were ice sculptures, a chocolate fountain, a few crepes stations and quite an assortment of pastries. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil We were out on deck at 5 AM as we sailed into Rio, past the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf. We chose the 8 hour Rio Extravaganza tour for both days in Rio for these reasons: (1) in case the weather didn't cooperate one day, (2) we were guaranteed seeing the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf and (3) safety - we'd read it wasn't very safe to be roaming around in Rio (even by taxi). The first day it was about 33 degrees and humid. We drove to Sugar Loaf first. We were glad we were on a tour as we bypassed everyone standing in line for tickets. The tram stopped at one level where you got off, took pictures and then went to the next level. Our tour description stated lunch at a seafood restaurant but was at a barbecue restaurant instead. A number of tour buses were already there and we sat at a table for 10. We helped ourselves to the salad bar. Platters of food were brought to the table like rice, puffy cheese puffs, fried bananas and french fries. Huge skewers of meat (lamb, beef, pork, sausage and chicken) were brought around and were sliced onto your plate with a huge knife (careful not to move LOL!!!) Dishes of vanilla soft serve ice cream with fruit cocktail were served for dessert. Corcovado. The tram ride was 20 minutes through the Tijuca Forest with lush greenery on both sides. There were chachaka trees with large yellowish hanging fruits. It was quite an amazing incline when we arrived at the station. Again we were glad we were on a tour and bypassed the crowds. We boarded a narrow elevator (only 5 people at a time) then up a few escalators (the highest in the world?). There were a few souvenir shops all selling the same little statues and souvenirs. Back at the bottom of the tram station there was a Hard Rock Cafe kiosk. DH wanted to buy a ball cap but they would not accept US dollars (he bought one later at a HRC kiosk in the terminal where the ship docked). We bought a poster of the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf signed by the photographer for $82 US. Our bus drove past the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches which were packed. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (disembarkation) We waited in our stateroom for our ticket (luggage) number and colour to be called for our tour. At the end of our tour, we would be dropped off at the airport. It was overcast and cooler which was a bit of a relief. Our tour bus was full and we went to the Corcovado first. It was quite windy and raining slightly when we got there. Once we got up to the top we were told the elevators weren't working as the winds were too high (felt like a hurricane). We walked up the few steps to the Corcovado. It was completely misty in some spots. Our lunch stop was at a different barbecue restaurant where the food was essentially the same as the day before but just as good. Our tour guide phoned ahead to Sugar Loaf in case the trams weren't operating. They were - it was windy with intermittent rain. We drove past the beaches again, completely deserted this time. We were dropped off at the airport around 5 PM. Everyone's luggage from the ship had been put onto trolleys but not in a totally secure area. Our flight to Miami was not until 10:15 PM but we got in the ONE lineup for international flights anyway. It took 90 minutes to get to the first security desk. An AA rep had our e-ticket printouts. Then we waited another 30 minutes to check in our luggage. We were given boarding passes for all 3 flights (Rio-Miami, Miami-Dallas Ft. Worth and DFW-Vancouver) however for the first flight to Miami we did not have seat assignments and were told to deal with the AA rep at the gate before boarding the plane. We went through security into a confusing mess of people. Half a dozen other people at our gate were also without seat assignments. We never thought to check our flight status on the Internet on the ship and we could have averted this confusion altogether. We managed to get home safely with all our luggage intact. Overall, we had an awesome vacation and would do this itinerary (especially Antarctica) again in a heartbeat. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Background DW & I are in our late 30s/early 40s. This was my 3rd cruise and DWs 5th. This was also the second cruise with HAL for both of us. We decided to book this cruise because our TA told us that HAL and Princess do Alaska the ... Read More
Background DW & I are in our late 30s/early 40s. This was my 3rd cruise and DWs 5th. This was also the second cruise with HAL for both of us. We decided to book this cruise because our TA told us that HAL and Princess do Alaska the best and we chose HAL because we had such a great experience with them for our honeymoon. Pre-Cruise We flew into Seattle the day before on Continental. Apart from being crammed into the plane like sardines they were decent enough. We were connecting through Houston from Indianapolis and were fortunate to miss Hurricane Ike by one day. We stayed at the Fairfield Inn at Sea-Tac. Great room and decent breakfast. We were traveling with a college buddy of mine and his dad and we all shared the cost of a SUV using United Town Car Service. They were very prompt and were able to transport the four of us and our 8 pieces of luggage comfortably. Ship The Amsterdam was in tip-top shape. I loved the artwork throughout the ship. In particular the Astrolabe in the ship's atrium was of keen interest to me. Dining & Service I was never disappointed with anything I ordered. The food was great! The salmon, roast beef, chicken etc. were all cooked perfectly. The variety & quality of desserts were also fantastic. In fact, that was the hardest part of dinner....deciding what to have for dessert. We returned late from our excursion & shopping in Juneau so we had dinner that night in the Lido. Just as in the main dining room, the service and food there was really good. Our waiter, Hendrick was very professional & wine steward Ezebb (?) entertained us with his origami tricks. Also our cabin steward Manto always had our cabin in good order and we often saw him in the corridor, greeting us with a smile and a 'how was your day?' or 'how was dinner?'. Outstanding service all around. Entertainment The shows were pretty good. We enjoyed them very much. Some of the songs selected in a couple shows were not necessarily to my taste, but hey you can't be all things to all people, right? Shore Excursions We booked all our excursions thru HAL. In Juneau, we did the Whale Watching & Wildlife quest. That was great. This was the only time during this week we saw any Orca. We were also treated to sight of a playful juvenile hump-back whale. In Sitka, we did the Sea Otter & Wildlife quest. We did see lots of Sea Otters an Eagles. When we headed out to deeper water we probably saw more whales than when we took that whale watching excursion in Juneau. Very exciting stuff! Anyway, in Ketchikan we booked the Saxman Village & Lumberjack Show. Saxman village was very informative on the local natives as well as some of the totem symbology. When we returned to Ketchikan we were dropped off a short distance from the Lumberjack Show. We were told the show would be at 10:45. When we got there they told us the next show was at 11:15. Well...this bit of confusion would have been fine if we were not leaving at 1pm. Since we did not want to be rushed back to the ship, and we wanted to have some decent time for shopping here we decided to skip the Lumberjack Show. I wish we could have stayed longer in Ketchikan. This was a great cruise. The days all seemed to run together and we were plenty busy with ship's activities. We went to two presentations at the Culinary Arts Center (fruit carving & coffee cocktails), saw the movie "21" in the Wajang Theater, walked the promenade in the mornings and participated in "On Deck for the Cure". Next time I think I'll bring some tools so I can make an entry to their ship building contest. I conjured up ideas of a simple raft named "Kon-Tiki-Dam" to the more complex "Hamsterdam" using a hamsterball to drive a working propeller. I could make something like that work with straws, wooden disks and rubber bands. Disembarkation was a breeze. If it could have been any easier I sure don't know how. They have 'silent' disembarkation and you're given a time to disembark and you can relax in any of the lounges or outdoor decks you want until its your turn to leave. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
This was our second cruise on HA. The first was last year for our 50th Wedding Anniversary on the Veendam to the western caribbean. We were not happy cruisers on the Veendam. Part of our problem was of our own making in that we cruised ... Read More
This was our second cruise on HA. The first was last year for our 50th Wedding Anniversary on the Veendam to the western caribbean. We were not happy cruisers on the Veendam. Part of our problem was of our own making in that we cruised with a party of seventeen which was not a good idea, too much coordination was necessary. We were not happy with much of anything on the Veendam Cruise, the service was fair, the food bland and mediocre at best, the entertainment O.K. and the ports of call not exciting. This cruise to Alaska on the Amsterdam, on the other hand, was excellent in every way. Even though the weather was bad, overcast and rainy, the cruise couldn't have been any smoother. Embarkation and disembarkation were pain free and quick, less than 15 minutes each way. We were a group of eight and the open seating worked well for us. We requested a table for eight and we were able to get the same table every night. Our head waiter and wine steward could not have been better. We all purchased the wine card for 20 glasses and although it was only the house wine we found it very good buy. The food was very good and the service was excellent. Our cabin was on the lower dolphin deck and except for the vibration it was fine. The beds and the pillows were wonderful and the closet space was excellent. Four nights we had a review company performance and the dancers and singers (except for the lead male singer)were terrific. The Ports of Call were Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka and Victoria. Juneau was disappointing, Sitka is breath takingly beautiful and the National Park was an easy walk from the ship and not to be missed. The Glacier National Park was awesome. We were able to get up close and many saw the calving, although my wife and I seemed to miss it everytime. We all remarked how fascinating it was to see, but so awful to know what is happening. Ketchikan was very interesting and a great place to buy your souvenirs. Victoria's Butchart Gardens was our favorite stop. If you haven't been there, it is a definite don't miss. The Gardens are one of the wonders of the world, not really, but are special enough to be one. It was a once in a life time experience and one of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen. Seattle is a fascinating city, but very expensive. Pikes Market was interesting but would not go back. We were there on a Friday and the crowd of people was huge and although the flowers were beautiful and inexpensive, everything else was no bargain. The difference between the two cruises, both HA was unbelievable, however, this was such a great cruise I can't wait to try a different HA ship. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
Embarkation port Seattle. Came in the day before sailing, so I had some time to explore. Stayed at The Westin Hotel down Seattle was very pleased. Took the Gray line from Sea-Tec to hotel. Embarkation went Very quick. No delay at all ... Read More
Embarkation port Seattle. Came in the day before sailing, so I had some time to explore. Stayed at The Westin Hotel down Seattle was very pleased. Took the Gray line from Sea-Tec to hotel. Embarkation went Very quick. No delay at all about 15 mins The ship holds 1320 so it didn't seem congested, also what made it great was it was the week after the kids went back to school. Also there were older people on board, including myself. Cabin-----I had an inside cabin that was very spacious. No problem there plenty of room for storage. Public venues were beautiful with rich colors and woods there were ample seating everywhere. Food-- The lido was not setup like a school cafeteria, but for fine dining with nice wood tables and chairs. You would never see tables left with half eaten food, the waiters would be clearing and cleaning constantly. The lido food in my opinion was very tasty and had a variety for breakfast lunch , I ate in the dining room for dinner. I have to experience that setting for dinner, to be served. The only items I felt could have been better were the deserts in the dining room for dinner. Excursion------ I can only comment on Juneau, The float plan was unbelievable, the scenery was beautiful over the glaciers The weather was perfect , NO RAIN! In my opinion the excursions were a little expensive. What I really felt was different on this cruise were the classes in cooking and Tech support. Great! All in all the ship is beautiful, great service, beds sleep comfortable, everything well organized. I will travel Holland America again Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
This was my 15th cruise for my wife and me and the 12th cruise for my two boys ages 12 & 18. In addition, this was the second cruise with Holland America. We cruised 4 years ago on the Ryndam. We flew from Ontario California to Sea-Tac ... Read More
This was my 15th cruise for my wife and me and the 12th cruise for my two boys ages 12 & 18. In addition, this was the second cruise with Holland America. We cruised 4 years ago on the Ryndam. We flew from Ontario California to Sea-Tac and arrived at 1:30pm. This is much later then we wanted to, however we booked this cruise at the last minute and really did not have too many other choices. We arrived at the pier just before 3:00pm and had to spend some time filling out luggage tags and paperwork, since we did not have any due to the last minute booking. Other than the last minute paperwork check in was fast, however the embarkation clerk just went through the motions. She did not smile once nor offered us any information. By eavesdropping on people, getting check-in next to us is how we gleaned some basic first day embarkation information. Sure, we have cruised many times; however, there seems to always be a little something different going on the first day of the cruise. We were in Cabin 1820 on the Dolphin deck. We were happy with the ocean view however the cabin was a little more forward then we prefer. The next day the sea was rough and we really felt it in that forward cabin, the DW had to order some green apples and crackers to get through the evening. There were four of us the cabin and it was surprising that we had enough room to hang up all of clothes, also the closest have adjustable shelves that you can kind of customize. The only time we really felt crowded was getting ready from dinner. We were very surprised at the cleanliness of the ship. It was well maintained and it is worthy to note that if a ship of this age was so well kept up. Since I have been on other cruise lines and ships, half their ages have shown wear and tear. There were always crews members cleaning and polishing. As always, the focus of a cruise is the food. When we sailed HAL last we were a little disappointed since their food was a little bland. However, all of our expectations were exceeded on this sailing. We ordered room service breakfast most of the days and it was delivered hot and on time. In addition, if there is something that you want for breakfast just write it in on the card and it came. I was pleasantly surprised at this since I assumed you would only get this type of service in a suite. We had breakfast at the lido once and enjoyed the variety of dishes and omelets they served. On disembarkation day since we were up early anyway, we decided to eat in the restaurant. Of course the menu was much more limited that the plethora of choices on the Lido deck. However, that was brought to us was made fresh and the service was excellent even on the last hour that we were on the ship. There was no AYWD on this cruise and we were relieved while I like to be progressive with how the cruise lines modernized and change with the time. I feel that dining is one thing that should be left alone, since I think that this is the only link that is still alive today when compared to cruising of old. Our dining team were one of the most professional servers that we have ever had. Our needs were always meet and by the second night, they knew our preferences. We did not have a bad dish the whole week. There was been plenty of criticism of the desserts that HAL serve, however we did not find this to be the case. We just put it into the hands of our waiter and asked which dessert we should get and he never failed us once. We had dinner at the Pinnacle Grill one evening to celebrate my son's 18th birthday. The service and food were fantastic and the beef dishes were on par with Morton's and Ruth Chris. We felt the 20.00 per person was well worth it and we will definitely go again when we return to HAL. The only issue we had is when we booked the reservation they asked if it was for a special occasion, I told them about my son's birthday, and he seemed to be making a note of that on the computer. However, nothing special was done for my son's birthday. During dessert, we thought they would bring out a special cake. Nevertheless, nothing ever materialized and after a two and half hour dinner, I really did not want to make an issue out of it. The next night in the regular dining room, we all celebrated with a cake. We attended three shows. There was an Elton John tribute guy and a young magician both of these gentleman put on a real entertain show. I though that the boys would get bored at the Elton John Tribute, but they loved it. In addition, if you happened to be on this cruise I am the crazy person who actually kissed him on the cheek when we dared me to. We also stayed up late to watch the Indonesian Crew Show. This was kind of a variety show, where they would sing, dance and play instruments native to their country. It was awesome to be entertained and to learn a little culture at the same time. We did not purchase any ship-sponsored excursions. In Juneau, we rented a car from Rent-a-Wreck. The picked us up from the pier and in the evening we parked the car in the garage that was located a short walk to the ship. In Sitka, we purchased a tour from the pier. In Ketchikan, we were going to purchase a tour, but several of the tour people in the office at the pier and outside, were very obnoxious and were acting as if they were doing us a favor by offering a tour. Therefore, we said no to everyone and did our own walking tour, which there are signs that direct you. We took the funicular up then walked down to the Hatchery and totem park, then back down around Creek street. We did not bother to get off in Victoria. We have been there before and felt were not missing much since is such a short stop, plus it was raining and we did not want to deal with since we had enough the previous day. When we returned to Seattle we had a late flight so we rented a car from Thrifty right their on the pier. We went to a Winery, Brewery, Pikes Market, and the Seattle Center. With all the tours that we have done though, I felt the best time we had on this cruise was our day in Glacier Bay National Park. This day is what made this cruise. The glaciers were spectacular and we lost track how many times we saw a glacier calve. Disembarkation was painless we had an 8:00 pm flight so we left the ship around 9:30am. I also like the fact that there were minimal announcements made during this time. In addition, it was nice to be able to stay in your cabin and just walk off the ship when your time came to leave. This cruise exceeded all of expectations and we feel that Holland America Line has made extreme changes to their food and menu which makes there offerings much more palatable. Another point I would like to make is that we got a smile and hello from every crewmember that we came across. This is in stark contrast to other cruise lines that would not even acknowledge you if they were not serving you. In addition, announcements were kept to a minimum during our vacation. In addition, we never felt hounded to purchase something or to buy drinks. Actually, I noticed that I bought more drinks on this cruise, and I feel it is because I was not asked every five minutes if I wanted a drink. I feel the Crew and Staff of the Amsterdam went above beyond and we will definitely be returning to Holland America. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
First let me tell you a bit about ourselves Tom and I are in our mid 50's hard working middle class Las Vegan's that over the last few years have become very addicted to cruising. We did our first ever cruise that I won on ... Read More
First let me tell you a bit about ourselves Tom and I are in our mid 50's hard working middle class Las Vegan's that over the last few years have become very addicted to cruising. We did our first ever cruise that I won on Monarch of the Seas in March 2002 while she was still in Florida, the next year we tried Holland America which was the same year we got hooked on the Cruise Critic Chat Boards. We now cruise 4 times a year 7 day cruises strictly HAL. Besides work we talk live and breath CC, HAL and cruising. With the exception of just a few, all our very close friends are from the CC board. This review will be about the ship and crew and not the ports or really any excursions since we did not do much this cruise. OK enough about us.... I had debated on booking yet another Alaskan cruise because we did travel to Alaska twice last year and did not want to spoil a good thing but we really did want to cruise on Holland America's MS Amsterdam which is considered to be one of their Flag Ships. We booked June 13th which was the middle of the month which works best for me to leave work but this was not just any 13th of the month it was Friday and we also planned to fly in that morning. Despite the fact I have a small superstitious bone in my body I felt confident this was the right choice. Our early morning flight on Alaska Air went perfect and arrived right on time. A very dear friend that I met from the HAL CC board and was able to sail with last June on the Noordam picked us up from the airport with champagne glass in hand saying "Hola" We arrived at pier 30 at about 10:20 and of course chatted for about 20 minutes and we proceeded to check in. Because we had done this twice last year we already knew where we needed to drop of our luggage and then we went directly to the Suite Check in. Of course they always try to sway you to go to the "other line" which by the way there was no line at all. We showed them our Boarding Pass that we were in an SA Suite and they apologized and sent us to the correct window. We were escorted to the table to sit down while they checked us in. This went quickly and they told us to stay very close and they would personally escort us onto the ship. Hmmmm this was something new. We were in a SA suite last September and they did not do this. We waited just 5 minutes and at about 11:05 they took us behind the big wall, we stopped to get our pictures taken and then over to meet up with some other Suite Passengers. There were about 10 of us and they then with a Seattle Pier HAL Rep escorted us on the ship at about 11:15. We were the first passengers to board, as soon as we crossed the gangway and they scanned our cards we had the White Glove Service. Stewards came to us taking our carry on bags and escorting the 10 of us and the Rep up to deck 7 to the Neptune Lounge. Once in there the Rep introduced us to Gelly our Concierge and she greeted us all by name. Also standing there was one of the servers from the Pinnacle Grill to my surprise and shock I knew immediately who it was. It was Shy, we had met Shy on the Maasdam in 2005 and again on the Veendam in 2006. He is such a wonderful crew member and we had lost track of where he now was. I crossed the room despite the fact the Rep was still explaining everything about the Neptune. I gave Shy a huge hug, he remembered us of course. After our little reunion with Shy we decided to head to the Lido. Because we were the first on board we were also some of the very first to get to the Lido which was nice, we still did our usual of me grabbing a table and Tom heading up for food first. This went quickly we were able to get our food as passengers were just starting to board. As I am sitting their and yet another crew member came up to me to say Hello and said he remembered us from the Oosterdam, this was Made and he had been our server on the Oosterdam a couple of years ago. And to think I was so afraid that I would not know a single crew member on this ship. The one good thing about continuing to sail with HAL is you will always see a familiar smile. Since we had left our carry on's in the Neptune Lounge we decided to go explore the ship. Our last 5 cruises had been on a Vista Class ship and it had been since November 2006 since we were on the Zaandam that is also a R Class ship like the Amsterdam. While the lay out is basically the same as the Zaandam this ship looks and feels totally different. For one she is extremely classy in looks with fresh bouquets of flowers every where. Now because we do cruise often I have learned over the past 6 years that ships have a certain feeling, vibe or aura what ever you want to call it. To me it is almost a hum, I felt this positive hum the minute we walked over the gangway. Now there have been cruises I have felt nothing and they were still good cruises and there was one in particular that I felt a very negative hum while the cruise was just OK nothing bad happened but I could feel the crew were not happy. Then there have been cruises like many on the Oosterdam and the Noordam that just felt so good, this was definitely one of them. We found the ship to be in great shape and everything was like it was practically brand new. There has definitely been a lot of tender loving care to this ship. After our quick exploring of the ship the cabins were now available so we headed to our cabin. We were excited and surprised by some gifts from a friend and then we reacquainted ourselves to the S Suite. The lay out of the dressing area and bathroom are slightly different from the Vista Class that we know so well. The other thing different from when we were on the Zaandam is there is an actual desk which would have been great had I brought my lap top. The first thing I noticed was how clean and brand new looking the bathroom looked. The bathtub, toilet and faucets to the sinks and tub looked brand new. The grout to the walls and floor were sparkling white also appearing almost new. This has not been the case on the Oosterdam suites where the ship was clean but was starting to show some gentle wear. Tom's suit case arrived just minutes of when we arrived to our cabin and mine was not found till after life boat drill. Life boat drill was the usual and since so many Alaskan cruisers are first time cruisers it does seem to take longer getting everyone in the right place and life jackets properly tied. After lifeboat drill we decided to just stay in our cabin, cracked open a bottle of bubbly and enjoy a nice quiet Sail Away. The day had been cloudy but as we sailed away the clouds started to part showing the sun which would continue to follow us the entire week. After Sail Away I decided I better head up to the Spa to book the Thermal Suite for the week and then possibly book a massage. There was a bit of a line with other like minded people doing the same. It seems the spa tour had just ended and a few of those that won the raffle gifts were making appointments. The lady ahead of me wanted to use her $30 off a massage and facial for something else which could not be done, she said she would not need it. I spoke up and said I would take it, she laughed and said here you can have it. The Spa Manager Mindy McCombs was the one waiting on her and said that was fine so she then booked my Thermal Pass and a Massage and Facial, in doing this she said that I looked familiar but this was her first contract with HAL and had previously been on RCL. Well, to shorten this long story that took 2 days to figure out, we are both from Iowa and it ended up that I knew her Mother's best friend. We became fast friends thru the week and I learned to respect the hard job she has. She has come a long way for a 26 yr old from small town in Iowa. This cruise we decided to be different and we chose to have Main seating at 8 PM. To be truthful we found frequently that we were just sitting around waiting for the time to get to dinner and we did go to the Ocean bar a few times to have a drink but for the most part it drove us a bit crazy not being able to eat earlier. The Early Seating of 5:45 is a bit too early so this is probably where the Dine As You wish would work better but we prefer to keep the same table all week as long as we have excellent Dining Room Servers which we did. We had table 79 upper level which was a table for two. We were extremely impressed by the Assistant Dining Room Manager for our section. He would come to our table to greet us as we sat down each evening then at least once more to make sure everything was perfect. This was extremely impressive since this was one of my complaints the past two cruises on the Oosterdam. Not once in a 7 day cruise did anyone check on us. I would have thought when we were at a table for two in December someone would have but no one ever stopped by and again this happened with our large CC gathered group called the Yum Man Worshippers this past February. The attention to detail in the Dining Room was amazing from both our servers to our Wine Steward. That evening we decided we would walk around a bit after dinner and check out the shops and then we headed back to our cabin it had been a very long day since we had been up since 3:45 AM. In the shops we did meet Marcel the Shops Manager, because we are friends with Julie who is a Shops Training Manager we already knew Marcel's name so introduced ourselves. What a wonderful Shops Manager who was always very visible and helpful to all the passengers, we really enjoyed our numerous chats with him. As for the shops selections of HAL souvenirs and logo wear we found them to be extremely lacking. Barely anything that said "Amsterdam" on it, usually I purchase a Women's Gear brand t-shirt of the ship and there was not any. We were excited that they did have the frosted white coffee mug we collect so I could add to our collection of ships we have sailed on. Of course we had a wonderful night's sleep that felt as good as home but then we already sleep on a HAL mattress at home but the amazing part was absolutely no motion to the ocean. Now for those that have sailed out of Seattle you know that like sailing out of San Diego you often hit some rough seas or at least feel you are at sea. This was not the case as a matter of fact this continued the full 7 days. I do not think out of 18 cruises we have ever been on a ship that the TV showing the sea conditions showed zero for waves the whole week. Let's see fluke of nature with calm seas and sunshine in every port in Alaska or was it that Tom and Lisa were sailing on the ship Saturday our first sea day we were invited to the Suite Brunch that was held in the Crow's Nest, it was very nicely attended and felt a bit strange because most Suite Lunches/Brunches are held on the last sea day. They served all the normal items that are found for this occasion and was very nice. Saturday was also our first Formal night and of course we dressed for the occasion. Even though I dislike the Captain's Toast I still continue to go to them, then complain afterwards that I really wish they would go back to the old way of doing it. This Captain's Toast was again just like the rest, it also was not very well attended with very few people seated in the showroom. We did stay for the show afterward which was the Amsterdam Cast. Now I have to say that I again was very impressed. The last two cruises on the Oosterdam the singers and dancers were not really that good and the costumes and wigs they wore had seen better days. I was beginning to think HAL's entertainment was like low class neighborhood theatre production but the Amsterdam restored my confidence. The costumes were beautiful and the talent of the singers and dancers were amazing. There was even live music to this production show not all recorded. Of course this show was and Captain's Toast was at 6:45 PM so we needed to attend before dinner. The show times were at 7 PM and 9:30 we found after the first formal night that we could easily make the 9:30 show. As for shows we only attended two additional shows and that was Joel Mason who Impersonates Elton John and then on Thursday afternoon is Joel Mason and friends which is combining some the other entertainers for the week with Joel. First off if you have never seen Joel he is a must see. I felt like a groupie, he is so funny and extremely talented. We somewhat expected his show to be exactly the same as last September on the Noordam but there were changes but luckily our favorite jokes that Tom and I repeat frequently to each other were still there. After his show he sells a DVD that is very entertaining a definitely worth purchasing. We were somewhat sad about his first show and the turn out. We went to the 9:30 show immediately after dinner and to our surprise only about half the showroom was filled. I only hope his first show had a better turn out because the passengers had no idea what a fantastic show they were missing. I will say his Thursday afternoon show was packed, we got down to the showroom about 20 minutes before the show with the usual large number of people "saving" seats. I have to admit this is a big pet peeve of mine and if your whole group cannot come down together and get a seat then tough luck. Many would be saving 5 to 7 seats, this is just wrong. One show that we did miss and after seeing him perform on Thursday afternoon I know wish we would not have missed was Elliot Maxx which was a late night show at 10:30. If he is on another ship we sail on I will not miss next time. I skipped over Sunday which was our long day in Juneau, because we have been here many times we chose to not do basically anything except I got off to use the Internet Cafe and buy some excellent Smoked Salmon at Taku. Now this stuff is great and they sell it in glass jars not cans or pouches so the flavor is not effected but they are pricey. I spent close to $100 and then asked the young man who rang up my order if he had any free samples. He said no we are not busy enough to open anything, I said "What" I spend this much money and you are not busy enough. If I had not wanted this Salmon I would of said Fine then cancel this sale. Needless to say I am thinking of writing the company and telling them of how well their customer service is. Last year when we were there they were giving us plenty of samples. I will say that in all the ports the economy is effecting Alaska. We saw several empty store fronts where in the past would be store with shoppers. Sunday was also Father's Day and we had Pinnacle Grill reservations. Our friend Shy was of course our main server but there really was a team of 3 waiting on us constantly. With Anne the Pinnacle Manager there as well. This truly was the most organized best service Pinnacle I have ever been on in a HAL ship. The food was also amazing, everything was so perfect. Of course because it was so great we returned the next day for lunch after our morning in Tracy Arm. On Sunday because it was Father's Day they were offering a complimentary glass of champagne to everyone but we had the gift of a bottle of Vueve Clicquot with dinner so they asked if we wanted another glass of champagne or a glass or port with dessert. I chose the port and Tom had another glass of champagne. Our rib eyes were excellent as well as the Creme Brulee' All was prepared perfectly. Monday was the day we spent cruising and viewing Tracy Arm and attempting to get close to Sawyer Glacier. Having done Glacier Bay 3 times and Hubbard Glacier once this was going to be a bit different for us. Prior to going to Tracy Arm I had been in the Thermal Suite and talking with some of the other passengers about Tracy Arm many were excited because they wanted to see the Calving and hear White Thunder. I knew from reading here on CC that it would not be like that and I kept thinking that I felt sorry for the first time cruisers that were thinking they were getting up closer and personal like ships do with Marjorie Glacier or Hubbard Glacier. I had thought we were the ones that were better off because we had already seen these but I was wrong. While the viewing was really spectacular and we had the most beautiful sunny day it did feel rather anti-climatic. I ran into the lady that was so looking forward and I was afraid she would be disappointed and she was thrilled. I spoke to several more that this was their very first time to Alaska and each and everyone just thought it was the best day of the cruise. So I guess when I recommend Alaska I should recommend Tracy Arm to go to first then work your way to the others. Tuesday we were in Sitka and this was by far the most beautiful day I have ever seen here. We got off the ship via tender and spent the morning walking around town and capturing some great photos, then we returned to the ship where I spent another great afternoon in the Thermal Suite. Tuesday evening was the VIP Party that was held in the Crow's Nest. This was a much smaller crowd than the amount of people that were there for the Suite Brunch but then it was from 7:15 till 8:00 and I think it is sometimes hard to make it at that time. In speaking with the Hotel Manager Hans Dernison I learned we had 1505 passengers on board this week and about 289 were Mariners with only 13 being Medallion Holders. Speaking of the Hotel Manager Hans just came over from the Rotterdam with his wife Tricia who is an Onboard Cruise Consultant. I found them both to be extremely nice and liked them a lot. Wednesday found us in Ketchikan for our short day there because again we had been here many times and I did not want to be tempted by the two jewelry stores I have bought items from before and they know us by name we stayed on the ship. We walked the Promenade Deck but had to make several detours because the crew were conducting their life boat drills. Thursday of course was a sea day during the day but we would spend the evening in Victoria. To our surprise we woke up to rain, it was pouring and it was extremely windy yet the seas were calm and barely any motion to the ocean. This is the day they hold the Mariner Brunch and was the first time we were attending as Medallion Holders since we had already received our 100 Day Medallions on our February cruise. Only 12 of 13 medallion holders came to the Pre Brunch Cocktail Party in the Explorer's Lounge and one couple were receiving their Copper Medallions. We were all Copper Medallion Holders. The Medallion Holders were ushered in to the dining room prior to them letting in the Mariners. We were seated at the table with Hans the Hotel Manager and his wife Tricia and I was seated next to Hans. We really did enjoy talking to him and hearing some of his stories and even talking about another Captain Frans Consen that Tom and I had sailed with a few times. The story he told about he and Frans was quite funny and was typical Frans. We we so enjoyed this wee still wish they would bring back the old way they did the recognition of Mariners this way just seems rather cold and not very informative to al the Mariners. The final afternoon of course is always very sad because it is time to pack especially since we did have our one and only excursion of this cruise in Victoria which was an Orca Whale Watch. We packed and while packing we always enjoy watching the TV with the Debarkation Briefing and Crew Farewell. Well we packed listened and were ready to our normal cry while listening to "Love in Every Language" and the video ended and it started over to the beginning. We were shocked and could not believe they did not include this. Had I not already fill out our surveys and turned them in I would have made that a final comment. After packing we headed down to the show room to see Joel Mason, this show was great as usual. Because we knew we had this excursion the last evening we did our additional tipping to everyone in the dining room on Wednesday evening and decided we would order the dinner of the menu to be delivered to our cabin for us to eat before leaving on the excursion. While it was nice we could do this I doubt we would do this again, it just loses something in the presentation but the food was good. Maybe it was because we did not have any wine with dinner. We were to arrive in Victoria at 6 PM and leave for the excursion at 6:10 but due to the high winds earlier we lost time and they announced we would not arrive till 7PM. We actually arrived closer to 6:45 but had just finished eating and headed down to the showroom to check in for our tour. While we were unlucky seeing any Orcas it was a very nice evening and the sea was like glass but very cold out. We return to the ship about 10:30 and we headed up to the Lido for a late night snack and then went up to the Crows Nest for one last glass of wine and Tom to have one last Strawberry Mojito as we sailed away from Victoria and headed to Seattle. Friday morning Debarkation Day is always so sad, we went down to the Dining Room where each day for Breakfast and Lunch they have a special section on the Starboard side for Suite passengers to be seated and be waited on by the Pinnacle Staff. Most of the morning we started out our day here being waited on by Shy and partaking in many of the wonderful daily breakfast specials they offered. After breakfast I ran up to the Spa to say good bye to Mindy and went to the cabin to grab our carry on's and leave the ship the final time. Grabbing a taxi was easy and since we flew home on Virgin America there was no large check in lines and the TSA Line went amazingly fast. In a blink of an eye our wonderful week on the MS Amsterdam was over and now just a memory with many beautiful pictures. http://travel.webshots.com/album/563869352IfVRAVPlease enter your review. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
We are in our middle fifties, from Georgia, and this is our 5th Alaskan cruise. (2nd HAL, 2 princess, & 1 RCCL) Friends from Nebraska joined us on their first Alaska cruise. Travel from Atlanta to Seattle was via Delta and next time we ... Read More
We are in our middle fifties, from Georgia, and this is our 5th Alaskan cruise. (2nd HAL, 2 princess, & 1 RCCL) Friends from Nebraska joined us on their first Alaska cruise. Travel from Atlanta to Seattle was via Delta and next time we will bring our lunch since the airlines have cut back. Delta offers small sandwiches and other snacks. Ate dinner in the space needle and although pricey was well worth it. Stayed in the Day's Inn and it was reasonable and clean. Arranged a tour with "Show me Seattle Tours" and Charlie took us to all of the major places. They even dropped us off at the pier to board the ship. Embarkation was very fast and HAL used a PC Cam to take our picture. Be sure to pickup the coupon book prior to boarding and possibly an extra for some on board that did not get one. We were able to go directly to our stateroom and it was the nicest inside room we have ever had. Lots of closet space and very comfortable bed. Ship was clean and tidy at all times and well laid out. Our friends commented that they did not expect how easy it was to get around and all of the free space. We were able to transfer to fixed dining to improve our chances of a table by the window and had the best set in the dining room. Starboard side aft with spectacular viewing while eating. Service and selection in the Lido included Asian, Italian, the regular menu and a made to order sandwich station. Hot dogs and hamburgers were also available. The Staff & Service were world class as expected and they were not pushy on merchandise of games. Day 1 Seattle Boarded ship just in time to go to room, dinner excellent with a window seat. Former Navy submariner and wanted to see one of the boats from Bangor - yes! Passed it on the port side, the captain heard my request. Day 2 Cruise Critic MOB - Cruise director and a couple of others there - very good time. Tracy Arm had ice burgs and was closed to most of the other cruise ship - we were went to glacier bay for our cruise. Day 3 Juneau - Harv & Marv whale watching - highly recommended and they through in the town tour also. Whales jumped as if on command - is Disney in Alaska? Day 4 Glacier Bay enough said! Glaciers calving and views. Day 5 Sitka and the raptor center - perhaps the best port since only 1 ship was there. Day 6 Ketchikan 5 cruise ships there and crowded. Day 7 3 hours in Victoria - not enough time. The silent debarkation although disliked in some of the bulletin boards was very easy and we left the ship at the time we were scheduled to. No hordes of people hanging around - excellent job HAL. In a Nutshell It exceeded my expectations! Weather Excellent and smooth. Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
This was my first cruise to Alaska, and first time of Holland America. Four of us travelled together - my husband and I, and another couple. All of us are in our early sixties, so HAL's reputation for catering to an "older" ... Read More
This was my first cruise to Alaska, and first time of Holland America. Four of us travelled together - my husband and I, and another couple. All of us are in our early sixties, so HAL's reputation for catering to an "older" crowd was perfect for us. Most of the other passengers on the ship seemed to be between mid-fifties to late-seventies. We flew into Seattle the day before the cruise, and stayed overnight at Best Western. We arrived at the dock at noon, and embarkation went quickly and smoothly; we were on the Amsterdam in less that an hour. They immediately sent us to the Lido Buffet on Deck to have lunch while we waited for our staterooms to be ready. Unfortunately, with so many people there are once, they ran out of food. However, rooms were ready in about an hour, and bags brought up 10 minutes after that. The Amsterdam's public areas are very beautiful, luxurious and comfortable. However our stateroom on the Main Deck was a little shabby; the curtain was torn, and part of the metal window frame was rusty. Also there was duct tape holding the DVD player to the TV. Otherwise pleasant, and very clean with tons of closet space. Our cabin steward Hotlas was very efficient, friendly and helpful. The entire staff of the Amsterdam is courteous, pleasant, efficient and genuinely eager to make your time on board easy and enjoyable. The band in the Ocean Bar was great; We saw two shows in the Queens Lounge, a musical review and a comic juggler. Both shows were very enjoyable. There are activities all day long on the days at sea: movies, cooking classes, computer classes, scavenger hunts, trivia contests. In the LaFontaine dining room (where we had open seating), they were a little stingy with the food portions, but it was excellently presented and very tasty. The people our party of four was seated with were great fun. We ate all breakfasts & most dinners in the Lido Buffet. Selection, diversity, quality and taste of food is excellent. Dining room and buffet staff all top-knotch, very solicitous and attentive. In Juneau we went on the whale watching excursion. On the bus ride to the bay, the driver made an unscheduled trip through other parts of Juneau including Mendenhall Glacier. Whale watching boat trip was loads of fun - we did see about 5 whales, as well as eagles, sea lions, and of course wondrous scenery. We took the tramway to Mount Roberts when we returned from whale watching and spent the rest of the day there. Couldn't walk the trails however, because they were still snowed in. At Sitka we needed a tender to get to the dock as the Amsterdam had to anchor offshore. Even that 5 minute boat ride was a fun trip. We walked to the park and museum, where we observed a totem maker in his shop, saw an interesting film on the history of Sitka. The stay at Ketchikan was only about 4 hours, so we didn't see as much of if as I would have liked, but the horse-drawn trolley ride was enjoyable, even in the cold & rain. There are no words to describe Glacier Bay. Absolutely breath taking. The hours we spent there were almost worth the price of the cruise. It was cloudy every day, and rained twice, but that didn't dampen anyones spirits or stop us from enjoying the beauty of Alaska. Disembarkation went quickly and smoothly, and it took only about 5 minutes to get a cab.We were off the ship, had our luggage and were at the airport in about an hour. All in all, a wonderful cruise. I will definitely cruise with Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
Seattle made a great port to start our Alaska cruise. We have been on ten cruises (Oceania and Regent for the previous two) but keep coming back to HAL for a good value. We are age sixty, the "kids" are 28 and 24. Pre-cruise ... Read More
Seattle made a great port to start our Alaska cruise. We have been on ten cruises (Oceania and Regent for the previous two) but keep coming back to HAL for a good value. We are age sixty, the "kids" are 28 and 24. Pre-cruise hotel was Marriott Waterfront. Good location. Good piano player. Post-cruise was Marriott Sea-Tac. Seattle restaurants have great seafood, even the hotel restaurants! Embarkation onto the Amsterdam was smooth enough, although everyone heads to the Lido for the "free food" so lines there were long and slow in the early afternoon of the first day. A better idea here is self-serve some pizza by the Lido pool and take a table there. Avoid the lines. Rooms were ready by 1:20pm and luggage arrived shortly thereafter. This is an elegant ship. Lots of expensive art. Fine gym. We had a workout most days. Photographers were not pushy. I was told by a twenty-something young lady that the spa pushed expensive products on her, saying that she had poor skin. First time she had ever been told that, she said. She looked good to me. We had cabin 6103, a 290sf balcony cabin with shower only. The "kids" had 3375, a C category of about 200sf, upgraded from an FF guarantee. On the second day, the front office called. Would we trade with a couple who had trouble climbing into their jacuzzi tub? We did, so we had the same sized cabin but with a jacuzzi (6218). HAL handled the move, and sent us a nice note and a bottle of wine. Comparing the forward and aft cabins we had, the aft had a little bit of engine vibration at speed. Seas were smooth for our trip. The cabins were spotless, with good beds, plasma tv, dvd, fresh flowers, ice and fruit well supplied. BEST DEAL: stuff their laundry bag and it's all cleaned, folded and returned in a wicker basket or on hangers, for $12! Food service in the rather elegant main dining room was perfect. We did "dine as you will" so the waiters were different each night, but the service was flawless. No mistakes in orders, well timed, apparently happy staff. The staff did not seem rushed, as they had on some previous cruises. Note: The waiter doesn't take your wine/spirits order. The wine steward does. This can be hit or miss. At one dinner, no one asked if we wanted wine, but we didn't ask anyone to bring the steward. No big deal. If one had fixed dining (which is available) then the staff would learn your preferences. BEST DEAL: Wine card for 20 pours of decent wine, for $67 plus tip. Card is available from the steward and good in any bar or dining room. Decent sized pours, too. I was told that the Cab and Merlot were Stonebridge. 15% tips are added on, but we gave a couple of bucks to room service breakfast waiters and occasionally in the lounges, especially if half the folks ordered ice water! Dark suits were the norm for "formal nights." Ladies looked elegant. Fellow travelers tend be older, but I guess after cruising for thirty years, we are fitting in better here. :-) Kids danced a bit. Fiancee can salsa! But nobody sampled the late nightlife much. Food quality gets a very good "B." It is very difficult for any ship to get an "A" (Regent was a B+) because all of the seafood comes onto the ship frozen. Any ship, (although my neighbor told me Windstar brought food on at ports). Variety is good, small portions, well presented. Great thick steaks in the Pinnacle Grill, if you want to pay extra. We didn't get to many shows. We spend time in the casino (good low stakes blackjack) and poor video poker, but...wife hit a spade royal flush for $1019. I won "$500 worth of lithographs" at a bingo drawing, and also a goodie bag for "best caribbean stud hand." One show we saw was Joel Mason. He does an Elton John tribute show which is very good. A younger version of EJ. Internet service is fast and stations were always available in the Explorer lounge. Initial sign up is $3.95 + 40-55 cents per minute. ATT cell phones worked in all ports. Not at sea. We arranged our own shore excursions, float plane in Ketchikan, whale watching and Mendenhall in Juneau, and just walking around in Sitka and Victoria. On disembarkation, we did the HAL bus transfer from Port 30 to airport. Mistake! A cab is cheaper, quicker and drops you off at the terminal. The bus drops you at "north terminal charter bus parking lot." For one last long walk with your luggage. Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
For our honeymoon, my husband and I were on Celebrity (Galaxy). We had a great time, and because we instantly became Captain's Club members (based on my previous sailings), we planned to sail only Celebrity in the future. However, ... Read More
For our honeymoon, my husband and I were on Celebrity (Galaxy). We had a great time, and because we instantly became Captain's Club members (based on my previous sailings), we planned to sail only Celebrity in the future. However, when it came time for our 5-year anniversary and we wanted to do a Panama Canal sailing very late in the season, there were no Celebrity ships available. Therefore, we decided to choose Holland America, as we had heard the line was very comparable to Celebrity. We chose a 14-day sailing leaving from Ft. Lauderdale on April 27, 2008 and arriving in Los Angeles on May 11, 2008. The highlight of this trip was the full Panama Canal transit on May 1st, and our ports included Cartagena, Columbia; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Puerta Chiapas, Mexico, Huatulco, Mexico; Acapulco, Mexico; and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. EMBARKATION We arrived at the port by car (had flown in the day before and stayed with relatives) right around 11 a.m. The ship was not yet boarding at that time. Of note is the fact that Amsterdam had recently finished a 100+ day world cruise in New York just prior to coming to Ft. Lauderdale, so some of the passengers getting off the ship were leftover from the world tour. We just had a seat on a bench and waited; after about 20-30 minutes, someone told us where we could leave our luggage, and we were allowed to enter the terminal building. There we went through the mental detectors and then entered a waiting room; we waited only 5-10 minutes before being checked in and receiving our ID cards. We then waited another 20-30 minutes or so to board; I would say that we were on the ship by around 12:30 p.m. We had lunch in the Lido (we checked the dining room first, but it wasn't open), and when we checked our room at 1:30, it was ready. THE SHIP Amsterdam is an absolutely beautiful ship! The artwork is amazing; even after being on the ship for two weeks, I don't think we saw all of it (a self-guided iPod tour is available though). There are plenty of special touches, such as fresh flowers everywhere; personally, I loved that the mats in the elevators changed daily to show what day it was. My husband and I also loved the classic look of this ship, from the teak decks to the solid blue exterior color scheme (we're not big fans of the more colorful Carnival or RCL lines). PASSENGERS I turned 40 the day before sailing, and DH and I clearly stood out as the youngest couple on the ship! I would rate the AVERAGE age of the passengers as about 72-74, keeping in mind that this was a longer cruise (14 nights) and that the ship was recent coming off the world cruise with some continuing passengers. There were a total of TWO children on board, both boys aged around 8-10 years old, and there was one young woman who looked to be about college age (traveling with her mother), but other than that, DH and I enjoyed our young status. :) CABIN Our outside cabin on the Dolphin deck was at a very good location midway between the forward and midship elevators; it was both quiet and convenient. We found that the cabin had tons of closet and storage space for two people, and we were very pleased. The only thing it lacked was a clock! PUBLIC ROOMS I had read before I said her that Amsterdam has lots of "nooks and crannies," and I definitely found this to be the case. In addition to the larger rooms such as the elegant Queen's Lounge and the comfy Crow's Nest, Amsterdam has small seating areas around virtually every corner. My husband and I especially loved the Explorers Lounge and Cafe, where you could read the newspaper (sometimes several days behind) or a magazine, borrow a book or DVD (for a small fee), have a specialty coffee (again for a fee), play games, listen to music, go online...so many options! We even claimed a small couch in the Amstel Cafe (piano bar) as our own. DINING We were very satisfied with the food overall. We ate virtually all of our breakfasts and lunches in the Lido, which offered a wonderful variety of options. For breakfast, they had a wonderful Swiss Muesli that I ate many times, whereas my husband enjoyed smoked salmon daily. Each day there was a featured type of pancake and french toast (eg, apple pancakes, zucchini french toast); plain were always available as well, but the specialty ones were delicious! There were specialty or make your own omelettes as well. They also had great muffins and other breakfast bread, and I enjoyed trying to decipher the foreign language yogurt choices! ;) Lunch in the Lido was just as varied. Each day brought several different yummy appetizers, things like seafood pate and chicken salad in avocado slices. There were several Asian food options that were always delicious, several Italian choices, and then many different hot foods. The foregoing parts of the lunch buffet were generally only available until 2 p.m., but there were also sandwich and salad bars that were open to 5 p.m. The sandwich bars offered 3 featured sandwiches daily, including a wrap, but make-your-own was always an option. The salad bar had Cesar fixings daily, a different nut choice daily, and a wonderful selection of cold salads--eg, different types of seafood salads, cole slaws, and Italian salads. A wide selection of desserts was available at lunch, although the selection diminished if you got there later. Bread pudding (both chocolate and vanilla, with vanilla sauce) was available all day, as was an ice cream bar with fixing. On a few days, we grabbed burgers by the pool, which also offered a taco bar (HAL makes wonderful guacamole, too!), but we never had lunch (or breakfast) in the dining room. We had dinner in the dining room every night. I wouldn't say that the food was top notch, but overall we were generally pleased. I had several fish selections that were delicious (our waiter warned me off the fish one night when the early seating didn't like it), and my husband said his lobster tail was perfectly cooked. I thought the salads, breads, and potatoes were all things that were particular well-done. DH and I also I liked how HAL offered certain staples at dinner every single night (eg, French Onion soup, Cesear salad, NY Strip Steak, salmon), so you always had alternative options if you didn't like what was on the regular menu. One entree was often a "spa" selection--generally a salad--and one entree was often vegetarian. Most desserts were very good; the custard-like desserts in particular were excellent. I noticed that HAL didn't offer many chocolate desserts, and when they did, I thought those were just average (their chocolate mousse tended to taste more like chocolate pudding). One quaint note: dinner was announced by a bell-ringer who walked through the deck striking the bells. After dinner, this same smiling staff member (he seemed to be always happy!) was at the exit of the dining room offering mints or fruits. We did not order room service, and we did not attend any of the late night buffets. We also did not eat in the Pinnacle Grill (specialty dining room). CREW We were blown away by HAL's Indonesian/Filipino crew; we received excellent service by everyone. On other ships I've been on, the crew is sometimes overly solicitous to the point that you feel uncomfortable, but I didn't find this to be the case on Amsterdam at all. Everyone was friendly and helpful, but it seemed warm and genuine, not overdone. ENTERTAINMENT This is the one area that I found only average. My husband and I did enjoy the 4-part Panama Canal lecture series. Overall, however, the daytime activities seemed to lack variety, and the activities that were offered seemed to be at inconvenient times. Given that HAL ships feature a Culinary Arts Center, I can't understand why more events aren't offered there: it seemed like there were only about 4 cooking shows during our 2-week cruise! I also would've liked to have seen more activities around the pool such as ice carvings, drink demonstrations, etc. (these were few and far between). There were daily exercises classes available for a fee; I had some interest in these, but again, the times never seemed to be convenient. With respect to evening activities, we didn't attend any of the production shows. We went to both comedians; one was decent, the other was average at best. We also went to the part of the comedian/magician, who was pretty good. The trivia and music events were better: we enjoyed the TV trivia and both "Dancing through the Decades" and "80s Retro Night" in the Crows Nest. PORTS/EXCURSIONS With the exception of Puerto Chiapas, we did a HAL-sponsored excursion in every port. They were probably a bit over-priced, but we were very happy with all of them. Cartagena, Columbia This is a old Spanish city with beautiful architecture. We took a tour of the old city and enjoyed our visit, but we would've preferred a Caribbean island port to this one. Panama Canal This wasn't an actual port but an all-day Canal transit that included an onboard historian (who wasn't very good, IMHO). The Canal crossing is an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone; the locks are fascinating, and cruising through Gatun Lake is surprisingly tranquil and peaceful. Puntarenas, Costa Rica The day before our landing in Costa Rica, we cruised Costa Rica's Golfo Dulce, which was beautifully scenic. In Puntarenas, we went to Turu Ba Ri, a nature park that includes an aerial tram and many other different options. We had a wonderful time; my only disappointment was that we didn't see any of the beautiful native bird specials (although we did catch some howler monkeys in trees on the return bus ride). Puerto Chiapas, Mexico We could've done without this stop. The natives have obviously worked hard to make the small port area very clean, welcoming and attractive, but other than a few small shops, there's just nothing there. There are plenty of taxis available to go to nearby towns and beaches, so maybe we would've enjoyed this port more if we would've taken advantage of these, but the excursions offered by HAL didn't sound very interesting. Huatulco, Mexico This is another small port, but compared to Puerto Chiapas, there was a lot more going on right at the port, which featured a very pretty marina area lined with many shops and a few restaurants. Hualulco is known for its nine bays, and we went on a catamaran tour, to five of them; very beautiful and a nice way to spend our visit. Acapulco, Mexico Here we choose a beach day to the Fairmont Pierre Marquis Hotel; this turned out to be our favorite! The hotel was absolutely gorgeous, and we practically had it to ourselves. It was right on the ocean (actually a little bay); beautiful to swim in and pleasantly warm in early May. The hotel also had two pools--one with a waterfall and one huge one designated as the "quiet" pool--and we swam in both of these as well. We were served a buffet lunch and just had a great time. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico We had the option of another catamaran tour but instead took a scenic tour that included a stop for a drink overlooking the harbor (beautiful!), a stop at nearby San Jose del Cabo for shopping, a stop at Cacti Mundo cactus garden (amazing!), and a stop at a glass-blowing factory. The only disappointment was that our ship was sailing earlier (3 p.m.), so we had no additional time for shopping in port. DISEMBARKATION This was the only snag on an otherwise wonderful cruise. We were told that our immigration check would be at 6:30 a.m., maybe earlier, so we awoke at 6 a.m., quickly got dressed, and awaited further instructions. For the next THREE hours, we simply sat in our cabin and waited. During that time, there were only TWO announcements with updates. The first said only that we had arrived in LA a little late, and the second mentioned only that passengers who were going on excursions in LA (LA was not the final destination for all passengers) could leave the ship. We decided on our own to get in line for immigration, and while we were in line, our deck was finally called. As in turns out, we were off the ship about an hour after that, and we made it to our gate at LAX by 11:45 a.m., plenty of time for our 1:45 p.m. flight. However, I'm sure those with earlier flights were extremely anxious, and I find no excuse for HAL's lack of updates or apologies. We later heard that there were 2 medical emergencies that morning (someone else suggested that the slow-down was related to all of the Canadian passengers on board), but some type of explanation would've been greatly appreciated. The only good thing is that it seemed this was clearly out of the ordinary. SPECIAL TOUCHES After now having sailed on both HAL and Celebrity, I would agree that the two lines are quite comparable. However, I think I would give HAL a slight edge just for the overall elegance and quality of the experience the line offers. To reiterate, here are a few things we thought made HAL really shine: *The Amazing Crew *The general cleanliness and condition of the ship *The artwork and fresh flowers throughout *On Deck for the Cure (5k walk on deck) *The Explorers Lounge and Cafe *The quality and variety of food in the Lido SUMMARY Overall, we had a wonderful trip and definitely would not hesitate to sail Amsterdam again! Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
My wife, daughter and parents just returned from the Dec 11-Dec 21 S.Carib. cruise. Previous cruises include Carnival and Royal Carib. The ship is beautiful, however, for our age (55) not much to do on board. Embarkation and debarking was ... Read More
My wife, daughter and parents just returned from the Dec 11-Dec 21 S.Carib. cruise. Previous cruises include Carnival and Royal Carib. The ship is beautiful, however, for our age (55) not much to do on board. Embarkation and debarking was a breeze. Rooms were spacious with an extremely comfortable bed! (best we've had yet) The service from all the staff, waiters and crew members was the best I've ever seen on any ship! Always smiling and friendly! As a chef, I found the food only acceptable at best. I expected better than the other 2 lines, but was disappointed overall. Veal medallions tough and dry, potatoes overcooked, repetitious veg and so on. Not an overly great selection or rotation for a ten night cruise! As a pastry chef, the chocolate buffet was very disappointing to me, selection of items not bad, however the quality and skill was much better on R.C. and Carnival. Ports of call were very good except for Guadeloupe, which needs to clean up their act for the tourists! Half Moon Cay was beautiful, great beach, nice barbecue lunch! Clientele of HAL seems to be very elderly and so the crew doesn't seem to get much involvement from the passengers. No Deck parties (even though the pool is covered), not many attend the dances in the crows nest. Generally not much to do at night for younger people other than gamble in the Casino! The Pinnacle Grill (tried it one night) was very elegant, great service, but not worth the $30 extra per person. That type of service and food quality should be offered in the main dining room every evening! Entertainment was about par with other ships we've been on. The crew shows (singing and dancing) nicely done, comedians were good, singer (Gerry Sager) great voice, and the violinist (Martin Lass) was incredible!) ( by the way...that's not my kind of music, but I enjoyed him thoroughly!) Pool areas nice (although supposedly heated they were not any more than 78 F.) Drinks were not pushed on you like on some ships!The one thing I found the most disturbing on this ship, was the amount of constant complaining from many of the passengers. Unfortunately as people age, the tendency is to become miserable and grumpy! (no fault of HAL!) In a 20 minute conversation with one crew member, I was informed most of HAL'S ship were like this!(much older Clientele) I will likely choose HAL again but, NOT TILL I'M MUCH OLDER! Overall, great cruise and ports, exceptional service. (room attendant, dining room and buffet) The 6 of us had a great time! Read Less
Sail Date December 2007
Travel Journal Excerpts from our 12/07 cruise: Arrived Hollywood Beach at 2pm. Gassed up at $3.13. Checked into the LaQuinta and had a sandwich in our room. Booked it almost a year ago for only $80.10 The price on their website now is ... Read More
Travel Journal Excerpts from our 12/07 cruise: Arrived Hollywood Beach at 2pm. Gassed up at $3.13. Checked into the LaQuinta and had a sandwich in our room. Booked it almost a year ago for only $80.10 The price on their website now is $150! Arranged to hop on the 11 am shuttle tomorrow to Port Everglades. I went down to the lobby and played on the internet for about an hour. They offer free wi fi, but unfortunately, you have to sit in their lobby. Our room key offered us 10% off of our food at The Ale House. We loved that place last year, so we walked over at 6 pm. It was as great as we remembered. Boy, did we feast! I had 2 dozen steamed clams. Dom had an order of zingers (boneless wings) and an order of Buffalo Shrimp. EXCELLENT. We had two pitchers of beer for only $5 each. Got home around 8 and watched the Saints/Falcons game. We turned off the tv in the 3rd quarter. Saints won 34 - 14. *Tuesday, December 11- CRUISE DAY! Up at 7am and drank some coffee. Went down for a nice breakfast. Checked out at a little after 10 am. Waited for our 11 am shuttle. What a change from last year! Leaving on a Tuesday, there were only 4 of us in the van. Check in was a breeze. We were sitting in the Lido by noon! I had a nice salad, then we shot the breeze with Kathy for awhile. She was hanging out with 2 Roll Call members from Canada- Ken and Lonnie. Dom and I went up to the Crow's Nest for a beer. Five bucks each with tip. Kathy joined us for awhile. They allowed us into our staterooms at 1:30. We immediately met our room steward, "Mr. T.". Pleasant, sweet guy. I slipped him a $5 bill. I called our concierge, who coordinated the dining room manager and the room service manager to allow us to eat in our stateroom every evening. They just dropped off our dinner menu. Happily ran into Cindy and Fred during the Muster Drill. Here, I have a bit of a criticism. Although the muster, itself, went by quickly, it was very warm. We had no problems, but there were many "elderly" folks near us that seemed to be having a rough way to go. Just when we thought they were going to cut us loose, the Captain announced that he likes to take this particular opportunity to welcome passengers, blah, blah, blah. As a healthy broad pushing 50 years old, things were getting uncomfortable. For the old folks nearby, it must have seemed endless. There were vocal moans and groans. I even felt compelled to ask an old gal next to me if I could "speak up" for her, and perhaps ask to let her sit down. (She was grateful, but a real trooper!) Dom and I then dropped off our Bahamas form (immigration, perhaps???) and ventured to our Crow's Nest. LOVE THAT JOINT!!! Met up with Kathy, Cindy, Fred, Xena, The Georgia Travelers, along with Ed and his wife (Florida, maybe? They hadn't "joined" our roll call, but as it turns out, we'd cruised with them on the Volendam last year.) Dom and I had a couple of beers, chit-chatted, then headed up to our stateroom. We ordered dinner, asking it to arrive sometime between 8 and 8:30. We'd made it very clear that we were flexible on times, and wanted our assigned waiter, Dicky, to come when he had a chance. Dickie delivered a fine dinner: Dom- Pepper Pot Soup, Tomato Basil Pasta, Prime Rib and a Coconut flan for dessert. Nan- French Onion Soup, a Crab/Avocado Tower, Prime Rib and the Coconut flan. Man, it's GREAT to be back with Holland America!!!! Had a pretty rough night. Seas were listed as "moderate- 3 ½ to 7 ½ feet. They were definitely on the high end of the spectrum. We were awoken quite a few times, but that's the fun of an AFT cabin. When not getting jolted around, it's a rather sensuous feeling. I found myself on the balcony at 4 am. It's really a nice time for self reflection. Once again, I realized that I have no regrets in life. Life is good. *Wednesday, December 12- HALF MOON CAYE! We were up at 7:15, and out the door to the Lido for a light breakfast. Hopped on the 2nd tender at 8:15. It was a glorious day. Sun was shining, water was a heavenly blue. We set up our clamshell outside of the "Wish We Could Stay Here Forever" bar. The beach seemed to have really eroded. Tide was rolling in. We couldn't care any less. This beach is heavenly. It's Dom's favorite. Myself, I'll call it a close second to the secluded beaches of Curacao that we've visited. A quick note- Our visit was the 10 year anniversary of Carnival Corp. leasing this island from the Bahamian government. I expected streamers, banners, or something. It was just "another day". Had I been in their marketing department, I would have had a bit of "hoopla" on the island in recognition of 10 years, but nevermind..... At 9:30 am, I realized that I'd left my smokes on the ship. Off to the tender I went. Everything went quickly, and I was back to our clamshell at 10:20 By that time, Cindy and Fred had set up camp next to us. The question at that point was, "WHERE IS KATHY???". (We'd agreed to meet at that location, but she never showed up. Unfortunately, I don't have her stateroom number to check on her, as I type this on Thursday.) Dom and I grabbed our snorkel gear, swam out to the buoys, then swam to the left, up against the cove. Had plenty of bread for the fishes. Snorkeling was nice, but not fantastic. Saw maybe 10 different types of fishes. They were hungry, and we fed them. Everyone was happy. Saw some BIG grouper (??) and what I think was a small barracuda. Kinda cool. This sounds goofy, but the highlight of the day was a TINY little yellow fish that became my pal. He followed me for what was a LONG distance. Dunno if it was the colors of my bathing suit, but that little guy was constantly at my side, swimming around my back, zipping up to my face...it was remarkable. With all of the fish that we saw, I hadn't seen any other that looked like him. He might have been two inches in length. Just adorable, if you can imagine an "adorable" fish. He stuck with me the entire hour-or-so. We swam to shore, past the children's area. From there, we slowly swam parallel to the beach towards our clam shell. That's where more fun ensued. Ran across a few large, transparent, Angel-Fish looking critters. Translucent and Black, with beautiful "tails". The feeding frenzy began.... within moments, there were probably 100 of them. Eating out of my hand, trying to eat my fingers (no teeth) and splashing around the water. It drew a lot of attention, and there were a lot of beach-goers with their cameras out to capture the "excitement". Eventually ran out of bread and took a break. Cindy was manning our "fort", and Fred was taking a LONG run on the beach. (No wonder he stays so slim and trim!) Ventured up to the BBQ. Had a nice lunch. Indulged in burgers, spare ribs, potato salad and cole slaw. If you're into "Mustard Potato Salad", this is the place. Dom loved it. (Too mustardy for me....coleslaw was great, though). OK- now for a bit of criticism..... We felt as though we were being "pushed" off of the beach. The last tender to the Amsterdam was 2:30. By 1:30, the staff was frantically folding up lounges (including 2 of ours that had our towels and magazines on), and stacking them. This was mildly irritating, but was no big deal....our clamshell was only 10 feet away. The four of us watched this petulant frenzy in mild amusement, and were in no hurry to scram. As the Amsterdam was the only ship that day, it seemed unnecessary to me. Had I been a passenger who was enjoying a chaise lounge, I would have felt as though I was getting the "bum's rush". Caught a tender back to the Amsterdam. Really had a pleasant day! Dom and I did our nightly "Happy Hour" in the Crow's Nest. We're starting to love a couple of the guys there. RYAN is a living doll. How he could so quickly identify us as "Nanette and Dominic" amazes me! One introduction was all it took. I was a few minutes behind Dom. Our Ryan was fast to ask: "Dominic! where's Nanette this evening?". The kid is a doll, and an asset to HAL. We're also growing quite fond of "Bill" and "Ness" behind the bar. They're as sweet as can be. Drink of the day was a grapefruit based Cosmo. Yummy. I had 2 of 'em. Dom had his 2 beers. This was to be our nightly routine.... 2 drinks in the Crow's Nest. Back to our stateroom for dinner. Called room serviced, asking that Dickie bring our food between the hours of 8 and 9 pm. At this point, let me "OOOOOH and AHHHHH" about the Amsterdam's "Room Service Supervisor", "RODI"..... The guy knocks me out! As I type this, it's Thursday. We've only had a few interchanges, but the guy is another sterling example of the folks here on the Amsterdam. HAL, if you're reading this.... RODI is a DOLL!. He's one of the most accommodating and professional fellows that I've had the pleasure of dealing with. Anyhoo.... we had another great dinner. Dom- Tomato/Fresh Mozzarella plate drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Italian Wedding Soup Black Pepper Encrusted Sirloin Steak Nan- Tomato/Mozzarella thing. Spicy Corn Chowder. Black Pepper Steak. Dessert was AB FAB..... Doulbe Fudge Chocolate Avalanche Cake. (I'm normally not big on cakes, as many are dry. This baby was as moist as could be. Yummy!) *Thursday, December 13th- Day at Sea. Had "high seas" last night. (7 ½ to 12 feet) Woke up a few times, but went right back to sleep. Learned the following upon awakening: We're averaging 19 knots per hour. The sea depth was 6,000 feet on our way to St. Thomas. (That's mind boggling to me....more than a mile!) As we'd had plenty of sun in Half Moon, neither of us had the desire to get anymore. Called for coffee and tomato juice, then enjoyed the balcony. Got a kick out of watching what appeared to be "flying fish" all over the place. I'm wondering how big they were, seeing them so clearly from the Verandah deck! Eventually, it was time to move.... We did some busy-work- Bought some Amarula, smokes ($84.95 for five cartons of Marlboro Light...no 100's, though), dropped off our disembarkation request (early, as we're hitting the road), confirmed our travel agent's onboard credit, and priced some fragrances that I've had my eyes on. Packed our bags for St. Thomas tomorrow. Had a short visit with Cindy and Fred, then tried to catch up with this diary. Tonite is Formal Night. Went to the Crow's Nest around 5pm. Our Ryan looked stunning in his tux. Bill and Ness were behind the bar. Took plenty of pictures which will be available using my "Snapfish" link. Seas were still "High", and attendance in the Crow's Nest was minimal. One couple in full formal, danced up a storm for the second straight night. It was great fun watching them Tango. 6 of us were at the bar dressed in shorts/t-shirts. I had my 2 Cosmos, Dom had his 2 beers. As we were leaving at 7 pm, our guys remarked that the heavy motion on board kept cruisers away from their lounge. (You could have shot a cannon through the joint.....hard to understand, as the venue is so very lovely). Upon our arrival, we placed our dinner order, asking that it arrive between 8 and 9 pm.. Tonite will be- Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail Alaskan King Crab Legs Beef Wellington Strawberry Cheesecake and a Chocolate SoufflE. Dinner was great. Good stuff! *Friday, December 14- St. Thomas- Awake at 6:45. Ran up to the Lido for a couple of "Mega Mugs" of coffee. Joined the madhouse for immigration. (At this point, I'm beginning to question why cruise ships don't just make St. Thomas their FIRST stop, in order to avoid this pain in the neck!) An immigration officer told us that it had been raining for four days straight. (TS "Olga"???). He said that there was no sign of it letting up. It was raining like hell. Rain coming down in sheets. Nanette began whining. Dom and I decided to blow off our excursion with Cindy and Fred. We had planned on joining them for a quickie island tour, then a day at Megan's Bay. We decided to hang around the port area. *Minor criticism: Perhaps Holland America could advise cruisers of weather forecasts? Just a thought. Cindy and Fred took off and ended up having a lovely, sunny day at Emerald Beach. We were docked at Crowne Point which was kind of a drag.... Brand new buildings, but not much merchandise. The perfume place that I ended up at had only been open for 4 days. Made my fragrance purchases (Givinchy Amarige 1.7 oz. Toilette Spray $48 and Calvin Klein Euphoria 3.4 oz. Parfum Spray $60) Dom and I walked about a mile towards Charlotte Amalie. Turned around and headed back. Stopped at a real fun little "hole in the wall" joint- "Pee Dee's West Indian". We were the only white folks in the place and had a delightful time. Had a couple of Presidente Light beers for $3 each, bid our new friends goodbye, then ventured closer to the Amsterdam. Next to our pier was a Marina/Yacht Club. There was a GREAT place called "Tickles". It was EXTREMELY American. Open air. Lots of beer, food, laughter and great prices. Indulged in some "BLACKBEARD ALE" from St. Croix.. Very heavy...much like Guinness Stout. $3.25 a beer. Nice time, nice staff, nice clientèle. Haven't checked out their website yet, but the addy is www.ticklesdocksidepub.com "Pirate Cam". Schlepped back up to the Amsterdam to relax for awhile. Hit the Crow's Nest at 5pm for our nightly Happy Hour. Our guys, Bill, Ness and Ryan were there with smiles for us. Let me note at this time, that they've served us hot appetizers each night. This wasn't the case on the Volendam last year. Dom had his 2 beers, and the guys convinced me to do a Grapefruit-based Cosmo. YUMMY! Had dinner delivered between 8 and 9, as usual. It was a bit disappointing- Dom enjoyed his: Meat Tortellini w/spinach Chicken Breast with Prosciutto I had a nice Cream of Asparagus soup. Sole (nice mild fish, but "fishy" stuffing". We both "oooohed and ahhhhed over our crème Brule' dessert. Good dinner, but not wonderful, as it has been. *Saturday, December 15- GUADELOUPE- Woke up to a lot of wind and rain. Nanette began to whine again. Ran up to the Lido Deck for Mega Mugs of coffee. Sat sullenly on our balcony, looking at Point a Pitre. Reminded us of Rampart Street in New Orleans..... graffiti and all. Dominic showered and found that he had quite a rash...all over. Nanette continued to whine about the weather. (Thankfully, both the weather and Dom's rash cleared up by mid-afternoon) The two of us ran up to the Lido for a quick breakfast, then met Cindy and Fred at 9:30. We were absolutely DELIGHTED with the folks in Guadeloupe! All it took was a smile.... those that spoke English were happy to help us. You must understand that we'd heard "HORROR STORIES" about French Guadeloupe and the language barrier! That wasn't the case with us. Costa had a ship in port. A real beauty... the "Atlantica or Atlantis, perhaps???). A cop at our pier (which had very LITTLE to offer), directed us over to the Costa area. We hired Dan of "Dan's Taxi Service" to drive us to Gosier Beach. (He gladly accepted American dollars) $35 bucks each way. Gave him $40 and asked him to pick us back up around 3pm. Dropped us off at the small public beach. It turned our to be lovely! There were 2 restaurant/lounges on the beach. The first one that we went to would not accept American dollars. (Nanette thought about whining at this point, but bit her tongue). Cindy and I ventured over to the other joint. (CIEL ET MER "Sky and Sea") They weren't even open yet, but let us in, gave us 4 Corsair Bieres for $3 American each. Tipped the guy 2 bucks a round all day. The folks were absolutely delightful! The water at Gosier was pretty. There was a lot of wave-action, so one didn't see the clarity as in a lot of Caribbean beaches. Some stray seaweed on the bottom, but nothing uncomfortable. I wouldn't hesitate to return upon our next trip to Guadeloupe. (I wouldn't hesitate to visit Guadeloupe again!!!). We took a short walk around "town", ended up in a questionable neighborhood, then returned to our beach. Our driver, Dan, showed up at 2:20, and we were happy to see him. Bought him a tonic water, and hit the road. We had him drop us back at the action in front of the Costa ship. This was the ONLY time that I found a local not friendly. When she had found out that I had no Euros, she gave me a wave of dismissal. Her loss.....I didn't need that cheesy magnet, anyway! (smiling) I'll tell you, gang... the Costa location was GREAT. A lot of activity and shops. Very nice compared to our location. Strolled to our lovely Amsterdam, smiling and chatting about the great day we had. Took a quick shower and did our 5-7 pm happy hour. Our Ness, Bill and Ryan had "our seats" ready for us. I referred to Ryan as "A Little Doll". Ness said, "Yeah...a little doll...just like Chucky!". (Horror movie fans will find that amusing). Enjoyed our Sail-Away, and was tickled to view Gosier as we were leaving. As I type this in our cabin, it's approximately 8 pm. Looking forward to our dinner. Tonite is Dutch Night. (I think). Dom is waiting for: Mac/Cheese/Ham Roast Turkey Apple Pie with Rocky Road Ice Cream Your whiner is looking forward to: Pea Soup Nasi Goreng (which absolutely delighted the guy who took my order!) Chocolate Tear Drop (Choc. Mousse piped into a chocolate shell) Dinner was out of this world! I could probably continue to eat Nasi Goreng each night for the remainder of the cruise! It was a bed of "fried" rice topped with strips of scrambled eggs, along with a zippy seasoned chicken drumstick, pork and beef. I would LOVE to recreate this at home for a party! *Sunday, December 16- GRENADA Spent the day with Bentley Skeete from Insight Travel. This was one of our best excursions EVER. It was truly the perfect day. We awoke to a bit of rain, which produced a gorgeous rainbow. This was a sign of things to come on this lovely island! We had breakfast delivered to our room, packed up the beach stuff, and met up with Cindy and Fred. The four of us ventured into the relatively new (4 years old) terminal and waited for "our driver". We were immediately surrounded by guys trying to sell us tours. When I mentioned that we were waiting for Bentley Skeete, they smiled, nodded their heads and backed off. As we learned throughout the day, this guy knows everyone on the island. He's the "Go To Guy" for anything. During the course of our day, his Blackberry was ringing constantly. Hotel reservations, airport pick ups and drop offs, tour planning, diving excursions, group arrangements etc. Bentley showed up a few minutes later. From our many email exchanges, I knew the man to be both friendly and articulate. He's all that and more. It turns out that he was born in Barbados, then served many years in the British Royal Air Force. Now he runs this destination planning agency. He put us in a cab along with a cooler full of beer and ice and promised to catch up with us very soon. Our cab driver gave us a wild ½ hour ride to LaSagesse Beach. Upon our arrival, the four of us gasped. We knew that our research had paid off. We picked a winner of a beach! We basically had the whole place to ourselves. Palm trees, almond trees, mountains, and waves. The place looked like something out of a post card. Bentley showed up about an hour later and the guys swapped stories of serving in the military. (Army, Marines and Royal Airforce). We learned the history of the island, the circumstances of the '83 invasion, executions, coups, everything there was to know of the island. We had brought along a king-size beach sheet, so the 5 of us just stretched out and had a relaxing day. We repeatedly heard the phrase, "God Bless America. God Bless Your Wonderful President Reagen". What a warm feeling to be loved by another people! Originally our driver had taken us pretty much in an Eastern direction to LaSagesse. When we were ready to leave, Bentley drove us South and around to St. Georges. Passing the rum distillery, we drove through the island's premier "gated community", overlooking Westerfall Bay. Million dollar homes with landscaping to die for! Incredible views. Quite the neighborhood! We then ventured along the Southern Coast through the Marian area and up to a hilltop overlooking Morne Rouge Beach. Snapped a few photos, then spent about an hour at eh Grenada Grand Beach Resort (soon to be a Crowne Plaza property). This is where Bentley's office is located. Nice, nice 4-star (soon to be 5, I think) resort sitting directly on Grand Anse Beach. He took us to the waterfalled (is that a word??) pool where he bought us his favorite drink- Mount Gay Rum (from his area of Barbados) and Coke. I'll tell you what, gang- Dom and I are considering having Bentley set up a week at this place. 300 foot swimming pool, waterfalls, swim up bar, all sitting next to Grand Anse. Wow! Sadly, it was time to say goodbye to our new, yet dear, friend. He dropped us off at our ship with hugs and kisses. I wouldn't HESITATE to contact this guy for anything. insightplanning@spiceisle.com If we don't plan a land-based vacation, we'll definitely visit him on another cruise stop. Did our Happy Hour at the Crow's Nest. This time, Fred and Cindy joined us. I think that they were sick of hearing about how great Ryan (Chuckie Doll), Ness and Bill were! Our guys didn't disappoint! Had a nice dinner in our stateroom: I ordered: Escargot (fair) Duck (AB FAB!) Chocolate Mousse Torte (yummy) Dom had: Rigatoni with roasted garlic Honey Hoison Pork Ribs Coconut Cream Pie. He thoroughly enjoyed everything. *Monday, December 17- BARBADOS Sipping on our Mega Mugs of coffee, we docked next to the Crown Princess. "Camouflage Clothing" is not permitted on this island. (Which I think is a good idea in these times) Leaving the terminal to get a cab was MASS CHAOS. I would have thought that they'd have it figured out! We were directed to an area for "beaches". A cab driver asked us where we were going. No problem. We started approaching his cab, when a man in uniform started yelling at me to "GET BACK!!". I quickly followed his orders! The cab driver had a few words with him, then called the 4 of us over. Once again, the uniformed guy started yelling, telling us to step back. We felt like a bunch of popcorns. We held our hands up and stepped back. Much to my shock/delight, our cab driver snuck around the uniformed guy and snuck us into his cab. We were spotted by the cab nazi. If looks could kill! (I thought, "Oh great...this guy is going to drag us outta here and make examples of us!). When we hit the road, our driver, Nigel, said that they were just playing "favorites" with their favorite drivers. Our fare to Brandon's Beach was $4 per person. Gave the guy $20 and hit the beach. Just beautiful! Nice snorkeling.... We were set up outside of Weiser's Beach Bar. There's a lifeguard tower there. Swimming directly out from the tower, one found great coral formations and deep drop offs. Weiser's was great. The local beer, "BANK's" was only 2 bucks a bottle. Fun t-shirts for 20 bucks. I had "Fried Flying Fish" for about $7. Highly seasoned, crunchy batter. Pretty good. Dom enjoyed a big basket of chicken tenders for $5. You can't beat the prices at this joint! Caught a cab back to port, keeping a low profile. I had the feeling that the uniformed guy was looking for me. (grinning) We drank a Mount Gay Rum and Coke outside of the terminal in a little bar they'd set up. $3 each. The bartender ventured inside to find me a t-shirt with the "Bank's Beer" logo on it. Bought a couple for $22 each. The four of us met at the Crow's Nest for our 5pm "happy hour". Unbelievably, Ness remembered there names from the previous night. Called in our dinner (pasta appetizer, Tenderloin, Duck Breast, Grand Marnier Souffles and a Master Chef Premier dessert. (We don't eat sweets at home, and I've turned onto a dessert-monster before Dom's eyes!) Did my nightly bubble bath, had a great dinner around 9 pm, then watched a little bit of Monday Night Football. *Tuesday, December 18- St. LUCIA Our breakfast arrived in our cabin at 6:15 am. Perfect "wake up call". We were 5 miles away from this glorious, mountainous island. I had arranged for a local ex-cop, Spencer Ambrose, to drive us around for the day. spencerambrose1990@hotmail.com This guy is a good friend of Levi Baron (my tour guide/dear friend in Dominica). We had a WONDERFUL time with Spencer!!!! (We spoke with Levi on the phone, and are already planning a reunion in Dominica with both of the guys next year!) Spencer had a case of the local beer, "Piton", waiting for us, along with "Piton logo" t-shirts. We took a beautiful drive to Jalouise Beach, directly between the 2 Pitons. We learned quite a bit of history of the island. Spencer's Great, Great (?), Grandfather was a slave. The British introduced snakes on the island to stop the local slaves from running away. The snakes took over, so they brought in the Mongoose. Local chickens suffered because of this. Talk about a vicious circle! Saw a lot of guys on the side of the road with burlap bags and snakes wrapped around their necks. Also saw a mongoose run across the road. The conversation between the 5 of us was warm and entertaining. Fred is a police officer, so he and Spencer swapped "cop" stories. Stopped at a cliff in the old French capitol of Chastanette for pictures. The British moved the capitol over to Castries. Our guy showed us how the sulfur springs had wiped out the vegetation on one side of a Piton. Finally arrived at the Jalouise (think of the English word "jealousy") Plantation Resort. WOW! A shuttle picked us up in the parking lot and took us down to the beach. This place was magnificent. I don't know if I've ever seen anything as picturesque.... it felt as though we were in the South Pacific. Sadly, we only had 3 hours there. This was one port that I could have spent the entire day. The snorkeling was superb. They had a roped off area, which was designated as a protected marine park, with no boats permitted. We had zip lock bags full of bread for the fish. Took a short swim out into some great coral, and within a matter of a few minutes, was surrounded by probably 15 different kinds of fish. The water was crystal clear. This place was a snorkeling paradise. I even saw what would be best described as a "Sea Centipede" probably 8 inches long. (cringing) Also a creature that was either an eel or a sea snake.... gorgeous, and thankfully it was very shy. With great regret, we caught a shuttle up to the parking lot where our Spencer was waiting for us. It tickled him to see the looks of awe in our faces. On the way back to the port, he stopped to buy us some brown-sugar coated coconut, and Cinnamon Casaba Bread. It was pretty neat to watch the locals make the stuff. This was an unexpected stop that was appreciated. I've got my eye on Anse LaRay (?) which isn't a great neighborhood, but the beach looks great. (Something to think about when we return.... we'd feel very comfortable anywhere with Spencer). Got back to the Amsterdam for our 2:30 boarding. I really wish that we could have stayed longer. I have to wonder if the port fees/taxes are too expensive? Anyway, we managed to see a lot of beautiful mountains, countryside, local villages and rain forest in this short time. Hugs and kisses to our new friend, then back on board. This was yet ANOTHER perfect day, thanks to Spencer!! Spencer can be emailed at: spencerambrose1990@hotmail.com Did our 5pm happy hour, then ordered dinner- Cream of Chicken/Artichoke soup, Ministrone Soup, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Rum Souffle, and Chocolate Almond Cake with ice cream. Thoroughly enjoyable! *Wednesday, December 19th- DAY AT SEA: Up at sunrise, drinking coffee on the balcony. Went up to the Lido for breakfast at 9:30. Laid around for much of the day catching up on CNN News. Chemical Plant explosion in Jacksonville! Britney Spear's 16 year old sister pregnant! Welcome back to the "Real World", Nanette! (sighing). Headed up to the Topless Deck for some sun and to catch up on my reading. More topless gals than on the Volendam last year. Tonite was formal night. Our Ryan in the Crow's Nest was in long tails. He looked absolutely stunning. (Too bad that both Ryan and my 2 beautiful nieces are married with children! I would have been playing "matchmaker"!) Let me mention here that we enjoyed hot appetizers at the bar each evening. The band was great! On one of the first evenings, they did "Walk the Line". Honestly, if you closed your eyes, you could picture Johnny Cash singing. I ooohed and ahhed to them, enthusiastically. The guys made it a point to do the song for me a few other nights. They were great..... heck....everybody has been great on this cruise! The dress was extremely varied. We were in the Crow's Nest each night from 5 pm, until approximately 7 pm. We were always in either shorts, t-shirts, jeans, Hawaiian shirts, or Capris. Very casual. There was a group of guys, Friends of Dorothy, that were there each night, as well. Again, extremely casual. One guy often had a tank-top on, which I found a bit distasteful, but nevermind..... those dressed nicely probably found us to be distasteful, as well. We also saw some stunningly dressed folks. All was well. Nobody batted an eye... attire was not an issue. Swung down to the casino to say hello to Cashier, Greg, who had just joined the Amsterdam when we did. Returned back to our cabin to find our Mariner Tiles. Pretty neat. Better than a stupid pin on Carnival or Princess! Ordered our dinner, enjoyed my bubbles, and anticipated my lobster and escargot. Our food arrived shortly before 9 pm. My snails were GREAT. Nice and hot, served in the traditional butter/garlic manner. The lobster was SICKENING and INEDIBLE! I literally squeezed the tails into a pile of MUSH. Whatever they had done, there was absolutely no firmness to the meat. This was our only truly disappointing meal onboard. When Dickie came back to our cabin with ice cream and Banana Mango strudel, he was properly horrified and apologetic. He offered to bring us more, but we declined nicely. He promised to discuss this with his supervisor. On the other hand, the steak was nice and tender, Medium Rare. Dom said, "Delicious". *Friday, December 21st- Arrived Ft. Lauderdale Disembarkation was a BREEZE! We were in the "RED 5" group. Check out this timetable: 8:50 am- while laying in bed watching tv, they called our group. Quickly got off of the Amsterdam, grabbed a porter, grabbed our luggage, and were in our cab at 9:00 am. Arrived LaQuinta Hollywood property, loaded up our car, and hit the roat at 9:15 am. Only 25 minutes from Bed to our "road trip" home! UNBELIEVABLE! (Tipped the porter 10 bucks. Our cab fare was $23 plus a $6 tip) Read Less
Sail Date December 2007
* Background Information I am a cruise nut! This was my 21st cruise in just over 2.5 years. I'm retired & really enjoy cruising. * Travel To Port of Embarkation Took Spirit Air into & out of Ft. Lauderdale. Went couple of ... Read More
* Background Information I am a cruise nut! This was my 21st cruise in just over 2.5 years. I'm retired & really enjoy cruising. * Travel To Port of Embarkation Took Spirit Air into & out of Ft. Lauderdale. Went couple of days early. Although Spirit Air's rates were best & plane was modern, probably will not fly with them again unless I absolutely have to. They charge for everything. Bags, coke, coffee, etc. * Hotel Info (if any) Stayed at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Ft. Lauderdale 2 nights prior to cruise. Rate was great but a bit far out. Had a rental car. Reviews from TripAdvisor for this hotel were mixed. I found it to be excellent value for the money. * Ship Info This was my 4th cruise on HAL. Traveled on Volendam, Noordam (twice), & Amsterdam. The ship was very nice & with 1,200 passengers on board, very manageable. I prefer the other HAL ships but had a good time on this one. * Activities Seemed like there were less activities on this vessel than others but the quality of the activities were very good. They had a guest chef from England, Billy Reid, & he did a great job with two informative, entertaining demonstrations in the Culinary Center. The movies in the theater were also very good on this trip. * Service Service throughout was excellent. The dinning room staff, cabin stewards, Lido staff & officers were very attentive and seem happy to have us on board. They all did an excellent job. The Dining Room Manager switched our dinner time for us & was very accommodating and friendly throughout. * Shore Excursions I didn't take any shore excursions offered by the ship but heard good reports from fellow passengers. I did snorkeling at Coki Beach in St. Thomas, did Whale Watching & Snorkeling in Dominica, went to Blue Beach & snorkeled in Curacao, & took an excursion/snorkel trip on Mi Dushi in Aruba. Weather was great at each port. Ship was not docked at most convenient area in Dominica & St. Thomas but great for other ports. * Stateroom My stateroom was great & location couldn't be better. Easy access to all areas of the ship. We were located on the Main Deck. Wish they would have number keypad for safe instead of swiping credit card. I shared this cabin & it was a bit inconvenient but we worked it out. Bathroom shelving area could be better also but this also was manageable. * Dining I'm very familiar with the menus on HAL ships and found the food on this voyage to be really great overall. Quality & pace for serving dinner was excellent. Originally had 8:30pm seating & was able to switch to 8:00pm seating which I preferred. This worked out fine & table mates were very pleasant & we had good time. * Entertainment I found the entertainment to be very good on this voyage. The production shows were very good to great (last show). They had some very versatile & interesting acts every evening. The cruise director, Eric, assembled a fine group of entertainers. The orchestra was also excellent. * Disembarkation I purchased a transfer from the ship which is best way to go for trip to Ft. Lauderdale airport. This was the easiest, fastest disembarkation I've had on any cruise. Took all of 20 minutes including immigration & customs to get to the buses to airport. * Summary This was a great cruise overall. Weather & seas were very cooperative. Ship & staff were very good and I had a very good time on this trip. Food was one of highlights. Found that crowd was bit older than most trips and there were practically no children on this trip. I found this trip to be good value & will continue to recommend HAL. Read Less
Sail Date November 2007
This review will cover our trip from August 31 to Sept 6 on the Amsterdam to Alaska. We visited friends before the cruise and drove right to the terminal and found very good parking right across the street from the check in. I am going to ... Read More
This review will cover our trip from August 31 to Sept 6 on the Amsterdam to Alaska. We visited friends before the cruise and drove right to the terminal and found very good parking right across the street from the check in. I am going to write this review from the perspective of a handicapped person who became very ill just before the cruise and in truth did not have the best time in the world. We have cruised over 20 times before so we knew what to expect. Embarkation was a breeze except for a rather long wait for a wheel chair. I looked at that long ramp going up to the ship and knew I'd never make it on my own. I am on Oxygen 24/7 but at sea level I'm able to discard it during the day and only use it at night but I still have difficulty walking due to arthritic knees and ankles. HAL was very accommodating and managed to get one of their wheel chairs and an attendant who took me directly to my cabin which was wonderful. We had booked the cruise through a travel agency that specializes in providing for people with chronic lung disease and they did a marvelous job of seeing that HAL provided for our needs and HAL certainly did that. CABIN: was fine except my wife also does nightly peritoneal dialysis in addition to my oxygen needs. So the cabin had her dialysis machine, 7 boxes of dialysis solution, my liquid oxygen tank and an small oxygen concentrator for night use. It was crowded to say the least and in hindsight I will get a bigger cabin next time. However we did find that putting the beds on either side, rather than combined as a king was much better for our needs and gave us much more room. We had a wonderful room steward and he kept the room in wonderful shape Unfortunately I was feeling very poorly, so not only did I cancel all my shore excursions which I had booked online (HAL was superb in refunding my money when they saw my condition) I never went outside on deck. I pretty much stayed in my cabin, read, rested, got my e-mail in the library and went to meals. FOOD: I thought the food was excellent, well prepared and presented with no complaints. I particularly liked the cold soups, but I really had very little appetite. I found when I got home I had lost 4 pounds, so obviously I didn't over eat. Generally my wife and I shared an entree so as not to waste a good deal of food. I missed all the shows, but I have to gripe that often they were very late. Usually on other ships there are two shows, an early one for late diners and and 8:15 for early diners. On 4 of the 7 nights they had only one show and it started after 10 PM. Too late for me. HOSPITAL; One the 3rd day, feeling really lousy I went to the hospital for a check up. They were superbly professional and the Elspeth the doctor from Canada was extremely kind and thoughtful. Lab tests and x-rays revealed a possible pneumonia so she put me on antibiotics. I left the hospital before the lab work was back and the x-rays interpreted, but the doctor phoned me with the results, prescribed an antibiotic and then knowing how hard it was for me to get down the the hospital, she brought the antibiotic to my cabin on her way "home" from the hospital. How kind and thoughtful is that! SHORE EXCURSIONS: My wife thought the whale watching out of Juneau and the Sea Otter trip in Sitka (both run by the same company) were excellent and a real value for the money. The weather wasn't the best out of Sitka but they made the best of it and kept them pretty comfortable on board. DEBARKATION: HAL was very good about the debarkation and this time they had me go to a specific lounge for pick up and while I had to wait a while they took me down in a wheel chair and customs was no problem. Because of my illness, we had contacted our son in San Francisco who flew up and helped us drive home to Colorado. It worked out just fine. All in all HAL did a superb job enabling me to at least participate in the cruise if not really enjoying it that much. They did everything they should have done for someone in my condition and I have no complaints. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
An Alaskan Bear Cruise -- Our RSVP Cruise to Alaska with the Lazy Bears This is a review of our cruise on the ms Amsterdam Inside Passage cruise on September 7-14, 2008. The ship was chartered by RSVP which specializes in gay cruises. We ... Read More
An Alaskan Bear Cruise -- Our RSVP Cruise to Alaska with the Lazy Bears This is a review of our cruise on the ms Amsterdam Inside Passage cruise on September 7-14, 2008. The ship was chartered by RSVP which specializes in gay cruises. We are both in our 50's and have taken 17 previous cruises on all the major lines. This was our first RSVP cruise, but we had enjoyed a previous Caribbean cruise some years ago with Atlantis, another gay vacation provider. We traveled with a number of friends as part of a group called "Lazy Bears Out To Sea" which was composed of "bears" (AKA "big hairy gay guys") and those who love 'em. The TA booking our group, generously donated part of his commission to the Lazy Bear Fund non-profit charity for community services in the SF Bay area and surrounding counties. THE SHIP At 61,000 tons, the Amsterdam would be considered small these days, but has all the features found on larger ships. She has a well-equipped showroom, a full gym, a dedicated theater -- with a show kitchen for cooking demonstrations, and two pools (one protected by a moveable magrodome). Launched in 2000, she is still looking great due to Holland America's legendary care. We found her wonderfully comfortable. She handled the 1400 passengers with grace and style. Over the past decade, we've grown accustomed to larger and larger ships -- but most importantly, the ship designers have gotten very good at designing the ships to handle the increasingly large passenger load while retaining intimate spaces and a comfortable feel. As a result, I no longer rail against "too big" ships, while appreciating the advantages of each size. That said, the Amsterdam felt "just right." For this specific charter, a secondary large public room would have been handy -- but that would not be a factor in most cases. Passenger flow is good, There are 3 staircases and elevator banks -- so we never had to wait more than a moment for an elevator. There IS a dead-end, midship on Deck 4 where the galley is located, making it a bit awkward to access the main floor of the dining room -- but that's par for the course for this size ship. Confession -- I never seem to get oriented between fore and aft on most cruises ("now, which way is the pointy end?") On the third day, I noticed that the HAL logos on the cabin numbers are oriented to the ship, so if you're on a cabin deck, just follow the logo! The dEcor is pleasant with a lot of dark wood. (...yeah, I know most of it isn't wood because of SOLAS regulations, but it looks like it) The wraparound promenade and poolside decks are traditional teak. Many pieces of art, artifacts and antiques aboard enrich the experience -- and thankfully the auction pieces are mostly confined to their "gallery" so they don't interfere with the design. There is a podcast tour of the art aboard -- which is loaded onto iPods available for checkout from the library. The centerpiece of the atrium is a three-story astrolabe which looks like what Jules Verne might come up with if he was asked to design a planet model for a science project. Interesting and beautiful. There are many wonderful tributes to previous HAL ships incorporated into the dEcor. The Ocean Bar and showroom tables have colored art glass which clearly echo the previous Nieuw Amsterdam and the round Rembrandt Lounge may rekindle memories of the Ambassador Lounge on the beloved Rotterdam V. (The lighting fixtures in the Lido reminded me of similar pieces on the previous Westerdam, but I suspect that's simply a case of using the same supplier) Now about those silver ladies in the Queen's Lounge showroom.... One comic on the cruise imagined how the room came to be. He imagines that four different designers were hired for the job and they never bothered to look at each others' work. One said "I know we'll put giant, silver, half-naked ladies holding a lighted bowl protruding from all the walls, and make two of them extra large for each side of the stage." Another said "parasols!" "We must have giant upside-down parasols for the lighting fixtures in the ceiling." And a third said.... Basically, the room looks like Joe Farcus from Carnival just couldn't keep out of it. (I know Frans Dingemans is the HAL designer, but those silver ladies have all the clumsy execution I expect from Farcus) On the positive side, the sightlines are good. Seating is a mix of "showroom sofas" for two and moveable club chairs many with small tables. The stage is well-equipped with a turntable and number of lifts. Cabins were nicely laid out with one of the best bathrooms we've encountered. HAL has bathtubs in a high proportion of their standard cabins -- but these are tiny bathtubs. However this still gives much more room than the shower capsules we encountered on the Star Princess. There are a lower percentage of veranda cabins than on newer ships, but all cabins were bright, roomy and comfortable with ample storage space. FOOD AND DINING We ate most meals in the two-story La Fontaine Dining Room. For this charter, all tables were open seating with assigned times. The room is attractive with a couple of misfires. The lit stained glass ceiling over the central area is supposed to recall traditional Dutch tile design -- but it comes off as a 1970's flower power ripoff in painted plexiglass. And the fake palm trees? Nothing says "Alaska" to me like a palm tree. But seriously, the space is comfortable with a rich ambiance. Notable also was the wonderful china pattern from Rosenthal. The food was good. Very good. Not perfect (and again, one glaring exception noted below) but good. The high point, as usual on HAL, was the rijstaffel, or Indonesian rice plate -- a tasty assortment of traditional Indonesian treats. Most other items were well-prepared. The beef was uniformly good (again, as usual on a cruise ship) but the lamb chops ordered medium rare were well done only in temperature. I'm a sucker for cold fruit soups on cruises and these did not disappoint. Each night there was a desert item which is normally a flambE, but the only thing flaming at dinner were some of my cruisemates. (Did I say that?) The glaring exception to this is the so-called "Master Chef's Menu Night" or as I would call it "Missteps Chafe On You Night." It was a disaster. First off, instead of a traditional menu, each place is set with a chef's toque. (Now, if they had provided "tokes" from a coffeehouse in Amsterdam, beforehand instead, the dinner might have been more acceptable...) We were informed that the first, second and desert courses were specially created to enhance our choices of starter and entrEe ...riiiight. And no napkins. To the sound of the Blue Danube Waltz, all of the staff arrive waving and fluttering napkins to place on our laps. Overdone and hokey, but all right. Next there was an "amuse surprise" -- not an amuse bouche, and with the description listed below, not much of a surprise either. It was a taste of mushroom pate on a puffy pastry (brioche?). OK, fine. But next we had to sit through another ill-planned production around the salad course. (What's Dutch for "lame?") When that was over, we were presented an inedible whole tomato with rusted greens and enoki mushrooms sticking out of the top and a hint of dressing below. The starter was advertised as a dialog of salmon tartare. It was fine. What made it a dialog, I have no idea (I had anticipated seeing it prepared two ways or something like that). My entrEe of beef was fine. Desert was another silly parade with some chocolate presentation. Luckily, I like white chocolate, so my opinion of this desert was better than that of the chocoholics at my table. In short, leave the waiter parades for the final night and keep the dancing and singing to Carnival. It may be revolutionary, but I expect service people to provide service. Not entertainment. This whole evening was totally out of character from the refined experience I expect from HAL. The lido buffet was good on the few lunches and breakfasts we dined there. Thankfully, the HAL bread pudding was as good as ever!! ACTIVITIES AND ENTERTAINMENT Since this was a gay charter, most of the entertainment was provided by RSVP, occasionally supplemented by HAL. I'll not comment on the non-HAL acts. The first night we saw the production show. It was the usual Broadway revue. The singers and dancers were very talented and they made a few adjustments to the lyrics "Standing on the corner, watchin' all the boys go by..." Top billed for this performance were the costumes "by Bob Mackie." Well, the first ones were just plain ugly! The next 2-3 costume changes were pretty standard fare. Perhaps most damning - on a ship full of gay men, I didn't hear one positive comment about them. What I liked best about this show was that there was no hokey attempt to unify the songs with a narrative or meaning (which often becomes unintentionally hilarious -- I still remember breaking out in uncontrollable laughter during one such moment on the Seabourn Sun as a cast member fluttered barefoot across the stage portraying a muse) This trip had a number of special parties including a costume contest that was not to be believed and a leather dance. (Packing list: tuxedo, swimsuit, winter jacket, costume, leather harness, khakis...) Here was one case where a larger ship would have been nice. With all the events, a secondary large public room (much like the Vista Lounge on recent Princess ships) would be really handy. There were a number of lectures on Alaska wildlife and native culture supplemented by additional presentations on estate and finance planning for gay couples in the nicely appointed Wajang Theatre -- which we renamed the Wang Chung Theatre. They also offered a disappointing cooking demonstration -- the chef seemed to forget that it was a DEMONSTRATION. He provided minimal narration and showed a reluctance to answer questions -- so the presentation left a lot to be desired. The facility is great, though. Of course there was bingo. On a gay cruise, it's inevitably an opportunity for a drag character to handle the balls. The special guest caller on our cruise was a very nice Southern Baptist woman named Sister Helen Holy. She was hilarious -- she took special note of the "lesbyterians" in the audience and dispensed such gems as "Baptists and cats have a lot in common. You KNOW they're getting into stuff, but you just can't catch 'em at it!" -- Best of all, I won $294. (Thankfully, HAL has reasonable pricing of $20 for a packet of 3 squares, 4 games) PORTS OF CALL AND EXCURSIONS Juneau -- I believe Juneau was shortened from the original phrase "Ju know... if we can dump a bunch of cruise passengers here, we could sell them a load of tacky crap!" We took the "Four Glacier Helicopter Tour with Walkabout." Amazing. As a friend said, it was like being INSIDE an Imax movie. Not cheap, but highly recommended. Afterwards, a local bear (see definition above) put together a welcome party at the Viking bar, which we were told was "straight but gay-friendly". It was a great time and all the locals we encountered, gay and straight, provided a warm welcome! Sitka -- Wonderful. When we did a similar cruise in '93, this was our favorite port. This was true again. We found some outstanding local art in the galleries ..unlike the stuff we saw in Juneau. We took the semi-submersible undersea adventure -- it was interesting and fun. The weather was sunny and perfect. Others on the cruise spoke highly of the kayaking and floatplane excursions as well. Ketchikan -- We only were in port for the morning. We took a bus to Totem Bight to see their exceptional totem pole collection and before that, the Lumberjack show. The show was hokey but fun. The best part was seeing the announcer catch herself and break up as she realized that some of the lines in the script took on quite different double entendres when talking to an audience of gay men. She was a great sport and it made the event even more enjoyable. RSVP -- AND WHAT'S WITH A "GAY CRUISE?" Yes, this was a gay cruise. Yet, if you've read this far, you'll notice that much of the experience was the same as for a "straight" or non-charter cruise. RSVP and Atlantis provide cruises for primarily gay men (although there were a couple dozen women and some straight family members aboard). Olivia is known for lesbian vacations and Rosie's R' Family cruises cater to gay families. In all cases, they provide the ability to cruise with like-minded souls and the freedom to "let loose" and not be concerned about what someone might say if you want to give your partner an "I love you" kiss -- or to approach another hot single in the disco without worry. While this hasn't been a problem for us on our many "straight" cruises, it IS nice. Gay cruising on a gay cruise. The first thing most people imagine when they hear "gay cruise" is a bathhouse on the seas. Yes, some of that goes on. No surprise. But mostly, it's a couples' vacation. One couple celebrated their 48th anniversary and we've been together for 23 years. The friendships and camaraderie are important factors to us. RSVP vs. Atlantis. Of the two companies, we found ourselves more attuned to RSVP. Atlantis has a bit more "circuit party" atmosphere -- with a larger percentage of party boys tweaking on some substance or another, whereas RSVP was a bit more sedate. With my bearish stature RSVP seems a somewhat better fit (I love the joke I heard onboard that "I have a washboard stomach ...I'm just doing a load of towels at the moment.") Atlantis tends to book better known headliners, but that's not always an advantage. On our Atlantis cruise in 2001, Deborah Harry was such a mess that she couldn't even remember the lyrics to "Call Me." However, these differences are only by degree and the experiences are more alike than different. (I suspect most of contrasts were more due to the differences between the Caribbean and Alaska itineraries than anything else) The gay surtax. Yes, these vacations are more expensive. They tend to be closer to brochure prices. That's not to say that they aren't a good value -- they are. You can see where the money goes. Extra entertainment, extra staff aboard, etc. THE BOTTOM LINE. Would I recommend this (non RSVP version) cruise to a friend? Yes. HAL is still the best line for Alaska IMHO -- and the ship is a gem. Would I recommend a RSVP cruise to a gay friend? Again, yes. It was a quality experience which provides a unique vacation environment. Will our next cruise be on a gay charter? No. Aside from the fact that we've got a special QE2-QM2 combo booked next, we're comfortable on standard cruises and look first to the ship, itinerary and schedule. However, I have no doubt that we'll go on another gay cruise and will thoroughly enjoy it as much as this one. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
Background: This is our 2nd HAL cruise, the first was in '99 on the old Westerdam with extended family. This cruise was just my husband and I to celebrate our 25th Anniversary. We are both 50/51 and live in the Portland, OR Metro ... Read More
Background: This is our 2nd HAL cruise, the first was in '99 on the old Westerdam with extended family. This cruise was just my husband and I to celebrate our 25th Anniversary. We are both 50/51 and live in the Portland, OR Metro area. We chose this itinerary because it sails RT from Seattle. This is much more convenient than traveling to Vancouver (as we did in 1999). We drove to Seattle the morning of the cruise. Embarkation: Arrived at 11:30 which is the earliest you can begin boarding. Parked in the lot ($12/day) and checked bags inside. No long lines anywhere and within a short time we were walking up the gangway. We had done the Immigration forms on line but at that time of the morning it probably didn't matter. It was nice to have them done ahead of time though. We had lunch in the Lido then took our carry on luggage up to the 9th floor and waited in the Crows Nest until our room was ready (at 1:30). Our bags had all (3) arrived by 4pm. Ship: The Amsterdam is beautiful inside and out. She is elegant and well cared for (there is always someone painting, scrubbing and polishing 24/7). The decorations are tasteful and the public areas are spacious and comfortable. The Exploration's Cafe is well stocked with books, DVD's and current magazines. There are also games and a large puzzle. There were ample computers but we did not use the ship's internet services. There are paintings and sculptures (new and old) and fresh flowers all over the ship. The location of the stairs and elevators made getting around the ship very easy and at each elevator there were ship diagrams and directions to any venue. Most of the public areas had expansive windows to view the ocean as you read, ate or relaxed. The Crow's Nest has the best indoor viewing on the front of the ship. Passengers: There were a wide range of ages and several countries represented. In addition to retirement age vacationers, there were lots of multigenerational families and children of all ages (my guess would be 200+ on this sailing). We were told there were 1500+ pax on this sailing but it never felt crowded anywhere. Stateroom: We were on the verandah deck, portside, mid ship. The room was well laid out, comfortable and surprisingly roomy (including drawer and closet space). It was spotlessly clean and decorated with pleasant colors (oranges/ reds). The bath had a combo whirlpool tub/shower and was very roomy (one sink but plenty of storage space on a shelf under the sink and in the corner mounted medicine cabinet). The bed (we had it set up as a Queen) was very comfortable and the linens were high quality. There was a "menu" showing you the assortment of pillows: soft, med and firm. There were controls on the headboard for room lights, a radio and two reading lights. There was a full sized leather couch and a flat screen TV, DVD,and CD player. The verandah was deep enough to fit a full sized lounge chair as well as a table and chair (mesh, not plastic). It was private but you could hear people on adjoining balconies and cigarette smoke often wafted by! Our last cruise we had an outside cabin. This was well worth the additional money! Electrical outlets are few so bring a power strip or multi-plug adapter. Staff: Our Cabin Steward was excellent---thorough and unobtrusive. Twice a day he cleaned and restocked towels, ice, etc. Our Dining Room Steward and his assistant were wonderful too. They took such good care of us and filled every request (extra lobster tail, nightly latte, etc). Both of us celebrated a birthday on board and they sang and delivered a cake to our table. The Lido staff were all friendly and helpful---smiling and greeting us whenever they passed by (Sunny and Superman knew everyone and greeted them by name!). The Cruise Director, Eric Holland, was very visible and approachable. He seemed to be everywhere and kept things upbeat and fun. Shore Excursions: We did not do any excursions since we'd already done several on our last cruise to AK. We walked around on our own and found the Port Information sheets (delivered the night before) very helpful. In Victoria, the stop is only 5 hours so we opted to take the shuttle bus ($6pp/RT) to the waterfront instead of walking the mile and a half. Activities: There seemed to be something for everyone though there was no way to do it all (and many things like Bingo, Casino and contests did not interest us). My husband signed up for two wine tastings (small fee but highly recommends it) and I signed up for a cooking class ($29 but lots of fun and you get an apron to keep..limit of 12 per class, two classes offered, so sign up in the Explorations Cafe as soon as you board the ship). I also attended 2 (free) cooking demonstrations by the Pinnacle Grill chef who also teaches the classes unless there is a guest chef on board. We both used the gym facilities (nice), pool (lots of kids certain times of day) and hot tub (ditto). I had a pedicure at the spa (very nice)and we also checked out DVD's and books (DVD $3 per day rental unless you are in a room with a balcony, then no charge). The deck was great for that 1+ mile a day walk (fruitless effort to keep the pounds at bay)and the teak lounge chairs have comfy cushions and wool blanket available for cooler temps. We enjoyed tea every afternoon with elegant tea service in the dining room or Explorer's Lounge. My husband was able to attend Catholic Mass every day. We watched movies on TV and in the Wajang theater. We got out the binoculars and saw lots of whales from our balcony and on deck (bring a pair for everyone in your group if you are able). The only activity I should have skipped was the shopping talk. It was more an advertisement for select shops and of no help for specific items NOT featured at one of those shops! Entertainment: We went to all 6 evening shows and enjoyed every one. The singers/dancers were talented and enthusiastic and the band was excellent. The costumes and choreography were very good (IMO). There was a lot of variety. There was a comedian (Janine Gardiner:she was hilarious) and a juggler (funny and entertaining---do not sit in the front row or you may become a part of his act!). A husband and wife piano duo rounded out the headline acts and were very talented too. The Indonesian Crew Show is not to be missed but is a bit late at night. The Rosario Strings played in various lounges (great) and there were sing a longs and disco/music dance nights in the Crow's Nest(till 1:30am---don't let anyone tell you this ship goes to bed at 11pm!!). I repeat, something for everyone. Itinerary: RT Seattle is very convenient but goes into some open ocean. Several nights there was quite a bit of movement and seasick passengers. I get motion sick very easily but took Bonine every night including the night before departure and never had a problem. Tracy Arm and Endicott Glacier are beautiful but you don't get close like Glacier Bay so you don't experience calving. I'm still glad to have seen them both. Food: IMO the food was wonderful---in selection, presentation and taste. The Lido had many options for breakfast and lunch (never ate there for dinner). The desserts are hard to resist so be forewarned (esp the pastries and bread pudding). Fresh squeezed OJ and nice brewed coffee started the day out right. The dining room food was especially good and artfully presented. The beef was cooked to perfection and the fish (which I chose almost every night) was never under or over cooked. The sauces were imaginative and tasty. The fresh bread was hard to pass up (refer to laps around the deck comment). We ate there every night, main upper at 7:45 and had a table for two on the rail overlooking the lower DR. Two nights were formal (with tuxes and suits and gowns to make the evening feel special) and there were Chef's Dinner's, Dutch Dinners and other special presentations. We never had a bad meal. The menu can be a bit confusing because it is categorized as Chef's Recommendations (including starters and entrees), Starters (appetizers, soups and salads), Entrees and Daily Offerings (like steak, chicken or Salmon you can order every night). I often chose two appetizers but no soup or salad (but any combo would work). The chilled berry soups were wonderful. The dessert menu was separate and I was never disappointed!! My personal favorites were souffles, creme brule, chef's special dessert (a surprise) and Tiramisu. Room Service was very prompt (we used it for breakfast x3) and the food arrived within minutes of the requested time with hot food hot, cold food cold and a flower on the tray! The tray was removed within an hour without us ever making a call. Disembarkation: Very well organized. You can stay in your room until your group is called if you wish. We asked for a later group (no connections to make) and were off by 9:15. Luggage was arranged in a well organized way at the terminal and we were on our way by 9:30. Summary: This cruise and this ship were everything we had hoped it would be. Relaxing (but not boring) pampering and beautiful. We would cruise on this ship again in a heartbeat, regardless of the itinerary. But Alaska was the icing on the cake! Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
My name is Laura. I went on this cruise with my husband, Tom; his mother, Dorothy; and his sister, Susan. Dorothy and her husband, my father-in-law, Don, had planned to take this same trip in August 2005. Shortly before they were to leave, ... Read More
My name is Laura. I went on this cruise with my husband, Tom; his mother, Dorothy; and his sister, Susan. Dorothy and her husband, my father-in-law, Don, had planned to take this same trip in August 2005. Shortly before they were to leave, Don was diagnosed with a brain tumor and he died in January 2006. Dorothy wanted to take the trip to honor Don because it was something they had both dreamed of doing. Thursday, July 12, 2007 Dark and early before dawn (4:00 a.m.) Tom and I were up and raring to go. The plan was to be at Dorothy & Susan's house by 5:00 and leave their house at 5:15 bound for Denver International Airport. Right on schedule, we were on the road. The security lines at DIA seemed longer than on previous departures, but the lines moved fast. There is a special line for travelers needing more assistance. Because Dorothy uses a cane and because for this trip she brought a "spare chair"* our whole group got to use the special line! (*"Spare chair" - like a walker but with a seat to sit on when you're tired - or to cart your treasures back after some major shopping.) Through security, and with McDonald's breakfast in hand, we were at our gate with an hour to spare before takeoff. And, thankfully, with the spare chair and cane, our group qualified to be first in line to board our Alaskan Airlines 737 bound for Seattle. Arriving about 20 minutes ahead of schedule, we touched down in Seattle at 9:25 while the pilot applied major breaking power to stop before we reached the terminal! Our car rental was with Thrifty. We had reserved a full size Dodge Charger, but after taking note of our large pile of luggage, opted for an upgrade to a mini van, a Chrysler Town & Country with all the bells and whistles for a mere $40 more. This vehicle even had two DVD players. We could have watched movies while cruising through rush hour on the Seattle highways! By the time we had picked up our luggage and were in the rental van and on our way to find our motel it was 10:30 - 11:30 Denver time - and time for lunch! Restaurants were limited to non-existent on the drive from the airport on International Blvd. When we reached the Sleep Inn (where we had reservations) without seeing another place to eat, we decided to stop at IHOP, right next door to the Sleep Inn. Good food but service was a bit slow. Check in time at the motel is 3:00 but while we were waiting for our food, Tom went over to see if the rooms were ready. One was, so after lunch we took the bags out of the van and put them in the room. Then went to see if the other room was ready and it was by then. The Sleep Inn Seattle Sea-Tac is a 2-star motel by the rating standards. Rooms run just under $100 per night. This particular Sleep Inn is clean and modern. All fixtures, walls and carpeting seem new. Susan and Dorothy had a room with two double beds, which runs a few dollars higher than the room Tom & I shared with one queen bed. The double-bed room also had a microwave and refrigerator, so well worth the extra few dollars. Both rooms had hair dryers, irons and ironing boards, great shower heads and very comfortable beds. The neighborhood is on a major highway (International Blvd.) in the flight path of several airplanes. But our room was quiet except when the window was open. The neighboring community consists of low-income housing. Most of the surrounding homes were well kept. After lunch we headed toward the Space Needle. The Space Needle was completed in 1960 for the 1962 World's Fair; and is a major tourist attraction in the city. When we got there we noticed the line that snaked along a ramp from the first floor near the gift shop to the second floor, where an elevator takes passengers about 20 at a time to the top. I don't know how tall the needle is, but for the math brains, it moves at 10 mph and takes 41 seconds to get to the top. When the wind blows, the needle will sway one inch for every 10 mph. In strong winds they have to close the needle because people get motion sickness and throw-up all over the observation deck, a mess to clean up! After we bought our tickets ($16 for adults, $14 for seniors), the ticket lady gave us a pass to the "Blue Elevator". That is a special place for those with disabilities. Thanks to Dorothy for using a cane, we zipped right past the snaking line and were first on the elevator before it made the stop on the second floor to pick up those that had been waiting for an hour or more. Tom had chosen to stay at the bottom ("Been there, done that." he said) and was in charge of parking the car and waiting for us. The views from the top of the needle are amazing! It was easy to spot the two new sports stadiums - Qwest Field for the Seattle Seahawks football team and Safeco Field for the Seattle Mariners baseball team. Somewhere across from these two stadiums is Pier 33 where our ship, the ms Amsterdam of Holland America Line, will depart tomorrow, north to Alaska! After leaving the space needle we made our way to the pier area to visit Pike Place Market. This open-air market started 100 years ago this year, in 1907 and their theme symbol is a pig. In Seattle this year there are large pigs made of various materials (ceramic and metal to name a few) all over the downtown area. In October 2007 all the pigs will be sold on eBay to the highest bidders. The money goes to Seattle-area charities. Pike Place Market has been featured on news shows, documentaries and in movies. This is the place where, upon placing your order for a fish, the workers throw the fish from one worker, where the fish is on ice, to another worker at the fillet table. After slicing, it is then wrapped for you to take home and cook As a special request of our son, Matt, we searched for and found the original Starbucks store. (Matt works at a Starbucks in suburban Denver.) All we knew of the location that it was at Pike Place Market. The market takes up at least two floors of a several block building. The vendors, besides fish, sell fresh flowers ($5 a bunch), fruits and vegetables, and crafts. It is a very popular place for residents and tourists alike. It is very crowded and busy. We found Starbucks by asking directions! It's not in the actual market at all, but two blocks down and across the street. It is another very popular place. This Starbucks Store has a gift card available only at this location. That was Matt's request, a gift card from the original Starbucks. We also got him a mug available at no other store. And enjoyed a cool drink. After the Starbucks experience, we walked across the street to relax at a park that faces Puget Sound. It was a nice park in a beautiful location and seemed to be a hang out for residents and tourists about in equal number. There was a man playing a washtub with a broom handle and string, accompanying himself with a harmonica. There was a very relaxed guy smoking something in a very small pipe. And there were tourists carrying shopping bags. Because we had parked the van six to eight blocks away and W-A-Y down one of Seattle's very steep hills, Tom went to get the van and come pick us up. We were all pretty tired from getting up at 4:00 in the morning and traveling. We decided to go back to the motel. We ate again at IHOP for dinner and called it an early night. Friday July 13, 2007 Friday the 13th! On board we learned, or were reminded of, triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number 13. But that's in tomorrow's narrative. Stay tuned! Today we had planned to leave the motel at 9:00. That's because we wanted to get the rental van back within 24 hours so we didn't have to pay for an extra day. Not that we are especially cheap, but that money could be spent better in other locales. We needed to get the van back by 10:15, but not knowing how traffic would be, we wanted to be on the road early. Breakfast was included in our motel stay. Great food if you need the carbs! They had waffles, bread for toast, sweet rolls, donuts - oh, and some fruit, apples and bananas. Plus coffee, milk and juice. Tom & I were packed with our suitcases in the car before 9:00. Our group was ready to leave by 9:20. That turned out to be plenty of time. We came into the pier area and immediately noticed the ms Amsterdam docked at Pier 33! She was waiting for us! That is a wonderful, exciting site to see your cruise ship docked and to know you will be on her when she leaves! The Thrifty return lot is on Pier 48. We returned the van there and had only a short wait for the shuttle to take us to Pier 33. We were among the first passengers to enter the "staging" room. I don't know the official name for this room; it's a big auditorium-type place, concrete floors with metal roof and sides. Before entering this room, we showed our tickets and passports to the officials outside and deposited our luggage to be scanned by security. We didn't see our luggage again until it was deposited in our cabins. Check in involves a) filling out a form that says you have not had symptoms of diarrhea or fever in the past 24 hours and that no one in your party has been sick either, b) signing the boarding papers, c) having your picture taken, and d) issuance of your cabin key card. The key card is your room key, your ship charge card, and your pass to get on and off the ship. The photo is taken so that when they scan your card upon entry and exit of the ship, your picture is shown on the security computer screen. After check in you get to board the ship! There is someone on down the line checking that all your papers are in order and then there is someone taking another photo. That's the embarkation photo; look for it on sale in the photo gallery later that day! We're on board! First to the Lido Deck for lunch. They had a full buffet waiting for us with well over 100 items to choose from. Tom hit the ice cream bar first thing. The rest of us ate lunch. The greeter on the side of the buffet we went to is named Superman. He is Indonesian, as are many of the dining and hotel staff. He asked our names and never forgot them for the whole week. And it's not just our names he didn't ever forget. Anyone who goes though that line and tells Superman his or her name is remembered. And it's the same on the other side of the buffet where Sonny is the greeter. With one introduction, the cabin stewards remember our names, too. They are our great friends for a week, and then they start all over with a new set of passengers. It is truly amazing! After lunch, I took Susan and Dorothy on a short tour of the ship until our rooms were ready and luggage was delivered at about 1:30. After a short time unpacking, we were ready to cruise! But first, the lifeboat drill. Everyone has to put their life jacket on then proceed to their assigned life boat station where the crew attempts to make sure everyone is there from every cabin. This is required on every cruise ship. And of course, this is another photo op! Look for your life jacket photo in the gallery! After lifeboat drill, we went to the sail-away party on Lido Deck (8) Aft, by the pool. The band was playing, drink specials and hors d'oeuvres were served, and there were more photo ops, all while we were cruising out of the Seattle harbor on a beautiful sunny day, temperature about 80. We were on our way! Since we had the early dinner seating, at 6:00 most days, we didn't stay more than an hour at the sail away party. Our dining room steward was Abdul and his assistant was Daniel, both Indonesian. They took great care of us. Daniel was on one of his first cruises, but he remembered our names every day. The first show of the cruise was Friday evening, just one showing at 10:30. It was an introduction to the longer show of a comedian we would see later that week, Janine Gardner. Susan and Dorothy made it to that show and thought the act was great. Tom & I? Sleepyheads. Saturday, July 14, 2007 This was our only full day at sea. Breakfast is usually the start of sea days. You can order room service, or eat in the Lido at the buffet, or eat in the dining room. Tom & I have always eaten in the Lido. Susan and Dorothy had room service delivered on the days they needed to be up and about early and said it worked great, always delivered on time and always delicious. There are always lots of choices for breakfast. I ate omelets on two days, most days I had scrambled eggs with bacon, pancakes and muesli. It is cold oatmeal mixed with yogurt and fruit. It's very good! Most days I didn't eat lunch - wasn't hungry! I had planned to walk a mile every day around the deck. On the Amsterdam, a mile is 3 and ½ times around the ship. I actually did walk the mile today, but didn't make it every day. It's not that I wasn't active, it just I didn't find time to walk the deck. Today Tom & I started earning the "dam" dollars. Tom promised to earn enough for me to get a sweatshirt - 30 dam dollars. Not so easy when sometimes you only earn one per event. You earn the dollars by participating in different events. Today we played ping-pong - or attempted to. There are a lot of expert ping-pong players that you meet on cruises. They are tough to beat! We also played shuffleboard and Tom did some golf chip shots into the pool. I missed that. Also today Susan, Dorothy & I played the first bingo of the cruise. Surprise! I won $173! Wow, that's the first time I ever won at bingo, except for the tee shirt I won on one cruise because it was taped to the bottom of the chair I happened to sit on. Dorothy won that day, too. She won some fingernail polish that changes colors in the sun. She gave it to Susan. Tom joined us later in the day for Trivia. Our team, which was the four of us plus a lady from Canada and her dad, lost big time. But that's when we learned that fear of the number 13 is triskaidekaphobia. It was one of the questions. Sea days just seem to fade into the horizon. You get up and think you have a lazy day ahead and before you know it, you are dressing for dinner. Where did the time go? These are the best days on a cruise, by far. No matter what exotic ports you visit or what activities you do in those ports, there is nothing at all like a sea day. You can do a little or a lot, watch the world go by or participate in the activities. You begin to realize that you can let go of the trivial problems of life and simply enjoy. We received an invitation for tonight, 5:00 - 5:45 in the Crow's Nest (9) for a champagne party for everyone who booked through a travel agent that is a member of Signature Travel. This party was a total and welcome surprise. We knew about the excursion arranged for this group for Juneau, but not the party. With the invitation came two pairs of binoculars. Binoculars are essential for Alaskan travel; because everything is Alaska is bigger than life, but sometimes far away. Since tonight was our first formal night, we dressed for dinner, and then went to the cocktail party. We met some great people that we talked to all week as we ran into them in various places. After two or three glasses of wine and some party foods, we were all ready for dinner. I couldn't tell you what we had, (I'm writing this one week later,) but I can tell you it was delicious. We always had about 6 choices for the main course, plus 3 to 4 salads, soups and several choices of desserts. Certain items were offered every day - grilled salmon, New York steak, French onion soup and Caesar salad. We went to a show tonight, which was a performance by the Amsterdam singers and dancers. This is a very talented group of performers. I normally doze a bit on other cruises I've been on when the singers and dancers come out, but not these singers and dancers. They were very entertaining! There are first-run movies shown on board, a different movie every night. Some of them are shown on our in-room TV's, too. Susan and Dorothy saw quite a few of the movies. There is a comfortable theater on board and they even provide the popcorn! The movies that were shown this week were Blades of Glory, Wild Hogs, Reign Over Me, The Astronaut Farmer, Premonition, Music & Lyric's, and Disturbia. Sunday, July 15, 2007 Today we were in Juneau, the capital of Alaska. In area it is the largest state capital; in population, one of the smallest. You cannot drive to Juneau in an automobile. You arrive in Juneau by air or sea. Juneau has quite a few roads; we were even in a traffic jam (of sorts). Juneau is the 3rd largest city in Alaska by population. The total population of Alaska is about 600,000. Anchorage has the largest population with about 300,000; followed by Fairbanks, Juneau and Ketchikan. Juneau is the place where gold was discovered in 1880 by Joe Juneau and Richard Harris. The town was originally called Harrisburgh. Later, in February 1881, the townspeople decided there were already too many Harrisburghs in the USA; the name was changed to honor a Navy commander. It was called Rockwell. By the end of 1881, with many complaints from Joe Juneau that nothing in the area was named for him, and with his lobbying of the miners in the area, the name of the town was changed to Juneau. While I was eating breakfast today in the Lido, I looked off the port side of the ship and saw a pod of 4 to 5 Orca whales about 30 feet from the ship. That was a special sight to see. This is the third trip that Tom & I have taken to Alaska, and we have never seen Orcas before. Too bad I didn't have my camera with me. The ms Amsterdam docked at 10:38 a.m. Susan, Dorothy and I left the ship and first went to the Mt. Roberts Tramway for a ride up the mountain. There are great views from up there, plus shops and a museum. You can buy a ticket and use it all day long, although we only went up one time. We watched a short 18-minute film about the Tlingit (pronounced Clink-it) Native Alaskans and learned a lot. We also visited the gift shop. After we got off the tram at the bottom of the mountain we looked around in some shops on our way back to the ship. We had to get ready for our excursion provided by Signature Travel. The woman in charge of the Signature Travel goodies was named Linda. She is one of the friendliest people we met on board. Our trip left the dock at 3:30 by bus first to Mendenhall Glacier, which is probably not more than 15 miles from the dock. Mendenhall Glacier is part of the National Park system. It was a warm day in Juneau, sunny and close to 70 degrees. The Mendenhall Lake at the foot of the glacier had chunks of glacier ice floating in it, but that didn't stop some people from swimming in the water. It was pretty cold, but I guess that once you get numb, it might feel OK. We stayed at the glacier for 50 minutes, then got back on the bus for a drive to Salmon Creek and a salmon bake. Tables were set up outdoors and they had a big fire where they were cooking the salmon (delicious). Dinner included fish chowder (delicious), cornbread (delicious), cole slaw (delicious), baked beans (ditto), a cash bar and blueberry cake for dessert. There was also a place set aside to roast marshmallows by a fire. There is a waterfall near the eating area that is an easy walk. Sometimes there are salmon running up the creek, but alas, as with everywhere else we went to view salmon on this trip - too early for them to be running. There was a guitarist singing songs and huge mosquitoes that were kept partially at bay by all the fires and heat lamps. There were buses running hourly to return us to the ship. After spending some time there after dinner, we were on a bus back "home". After getting back on board, we had the evening free since we had already eaten dinner. We saw a show - a guy who is a magician and comedian named Tyler Linkin. He was OK. Later I went to the casino with $20 of my winnings from Bingo. I turned that $20 into $60 in about 30 minutes. Wish I could always make $80 an hour! Upon returning to our cabin room there was a message on the phone. Tom had entered our names in a drawing for 250 internet minutes valued at $100. I won! But I never collected the prize. I didn't have time to mess with the internet on this trip. I was feeling lucky, so later in the cruise I bought lottery tickets for a free Caribbean cruise for 2. I didn't win that. The ship left Juneau at 10:30 p.m. bound for Glacier Bay National Park. Monday, July 16, 2007 Today the ship was in Glacier Bay National Park from 8:45 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. We cruised around the park and saw glaciers. Some glaciers were calving - where parts of the glacier fall off into the sea - some were not. This is a beautiful place. My words wouldn't describe the beauty as well as the pictures, so please enjoy the pictures! (Sorry, can't put them in this review.) Two National Park Service Rangers and a Tlingit Hoonah (Tlingit from the town of Hoonah) Interpreter were on board to give us history and fun facts of Glacier National Park. Later, after we had left the park, but before these guests departed the ship, they gave a talk on board. They were very interesting and informative. It was raining for a lot of the day in the park, but the temperatures were fairly warm. The weather at noon was "Light airs, overcast skies with rain, temperature 50 degrees F / 10 degrees C", (from the ship's log). Tom & I were outside most of the day, sometimes even together! We don't always stay together on board the ship because we don't always want to do the same things or be in the same places. It's nice when we run into each other, though! Dorothy found a spot in the Crow's Nest (deck 9 forward) to view the glaciers in comfort. The Crow's Nest is a gathering place with a bar and dance floor and lots of comfortable chairs around the floor-to-ceiling windows to view the changing scenery. Susan wandered the ship decks taking photos with her new camera and we ran into her now and then. We were served Dutch Pea Soup on deck while watching the glaciers. There was salmon bake on deck for lunch. Lots of good stuff to eat. They kept us well fed all week! I took a line dance class in the afternoon (after we had left Glacier Bay). Unfortunately I missed the Country Western Jamboree later in the Crow's Nest where I could have practiced the line dancing. It started too late - I had to get up early the next day for our Sitka excursion! The show tonight was The Amazing 88's, a husband and wife dueling pianos team. They were fun to watch. Tuesday, July 17, 2007 Today we went to Sitka, Alaska. Sitka was first a Tlingit community. After the Russians discovered the fur-bearing animals in the area they moved in and there were battles between the Tlingits and the Russians, often won by the Tlingits. The Russians also brought missionaries to the region and even now there are several Tlingits that belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. There is a small blue church in the center of town called the Archangel Michael Russian Orthodox Cathedral. The original cathedral was built from 1844 to 1848 of wood. On January 2, 1966 a fire started in a dry goods store across the street and eventually spread and burned the cathedral, the Lutheran Church and 22 businesses. The area has been rebuilt. The original building plans of the cathedral were saved from the fire as well as 95% of the artwork inside. The cathedral was rebuilt using the building plans, but of concrete and steel this time. The cathedral holds at least three services a week and has a growing membership of about 50 today. Sitka is also the place where the papers were signed and money exchanged for the sale of Alaska on October 18, 1867. The USA bought Alaska from Russia for about 2 cents an acre. The total area of Alaska is 570,374 square miles land area and 86,051 square miles water area. Today we all agree that it was a great deal for the United States, but at the time Secretary of State William H. Seward, who closed the deal, was not looked upon kindly. The purchase was called Seward's Folly for spending so much of the taxpayer's money on all that worthless land. October 18 is Alaska Day and celebrated every year with great enthusiasm. Another place to visit in Sitka is the Sheldon Jackson Community College, currently closed, but the museum and aquarium are still open. Sheldon Jackson was a Presbyterian missionary. He did many great things for the people of Alaska, but before he began his work in Alaska in 1877, he worked in the mountains of Colorado. There is a small church, the Sheldon Jackson Memorial Chapel, in Fairplay, Colorado to honor the man who helped bring the Presbyterian religion to the Colorado Mountains. Sitka is a small town, but a lot of history happened here. If you get a chance to visit, don't pass it up. Sitka is the only port we had to tender into. That means the ship anchored out in Sitka Sound and we got to shore by the larger lifeboats that are known as tenders. It was a short 5-minute ride from the ship to the dock in calm waters. Today we got up early to be ready for our excursion to St. Lazaria Island, a National Wildlife Refuge. We boarded the Esther G II with Captain Davey Lubin at about 9:00 a.m. This is a trip I researched and booked on the internet and it turned out to be one of the highlights of our cruise week. The four of us plus two other cruisers from the ms Amsterdam were the only passengers. As we began our tour of Sitka Sound, and during the entire 3-hour trip, Captain Davey told us about the wildlife of the Sound and life in Sitka. His boat, the Esther G, is named after his wife's grandmother. We had not gone far from Sitka when we saw the first of several humpback whales. Normally you spot them first from the "whale breath" spray in the distance. Our first whale spouted not 40 feet from our boat. We edged up closer and got a great show. The whale stayed on the surface for several minutes, then took a slow motion dive so we could all get a photo of the tail. Another time we were equally as close to a pair of adult whales. The larger of the two was the largest Davey had seen in the sound, about 60 feet in length. We had the option of staying and watching for more whales or heading out to St. Lazaria. We all opted for the island. St. Lazaria is 65 acres of a protected wildlife preserve. There are over 200 species of birds that make the island their home. Our goal was to see the Puffins, and they were there, but there are so many interesting birds it would be hard to pick a favorite. There were black birds with orange bills three to four inches long. It looks like they have a carrot attached to their face. This bird is called the Oyster Catcher. There were birds that resembled penguins when they are sitting on the steepest part of the cliffs. These birds could fly, and in flight didn't resemble penguins so much, they looked more like ducks. These birds nest on the steep cliffs and lay one egg per year that they lay in the crack of the cliffs. Many times the egg will fall off into the ocean or will be stolen by other species of birds. Then they have to wait for another year to try to reproduce. These birds are Cormorants. There are several pairs of Bald Eagles that live on the island. Bald Eagles normally mate for life and do not take another mate when their partner dies. Along the sides of the cliffs, at water level for high tide (we were there at low tide), we saw many starfish clinging to the sides. The starfish were bright orange and bright purple in color. There were also bright colors of algae on the cliff sides; pinks, oranges, and purples. Very beautiful! According to the ship's shore excursion director, Holland America doesn't arrange excursions to St. Lazaria Island anymore because many times the seas are rough and in the smaller boats passengers get motion sickness frequently. On our tour, the seas were extremely calm, almost like glass. We had a great trip! If you ever go to Sitka, check out puffinsandwhales.com on the internet and be adventurous. On our way back from St. Lazaria, we saw sea lions sunning on rocks and sea otters playing in the water. Sea otters mostly swim on their backs. Their babies ride on the mother's stomach. Sea otters, prized for their fur, were completely wiped out in Southeast Alaska by the Russian hunters before the purchase of Alaska. A few breeding pairs were introduced back into the region in 1967 and they are in abundance today. The temperature in Sitka was about 60 degrees with overcast skies and no rain. After our boat tour we stayed in town and went our separate ways. I went to visit the Russian Orthodox Cathedral, shopping along the route, and later walked out to the Sheldon Jackson Community College. I thought I would visit the aquarium across the street from the campus, but I ran out of time. "All Aboard" today was at 4:00. Back on the ship by 3:45, we dropped our stuff in the room, I grabbed a glass of wine from the stash in our cabin, and Tom & I were off for the Elephant Toss, another sports-at-sea activity. Those elephants are heavy and big to stuff into an ice bucket! Get the picture? Now change the picture in your mind to stuffed toy elephants. They are still hard to throw into the ice bucket, but pretty easy to get in the plastic bin. After getting back on board, it was time to get ready for dinner and the show. This was the "Master Chef's Dinner". We all got to wear chef's hats at dinner, at least until they fell apart or we took them off. The show was the comedian from the first night, Janine Gardner. She's very funny. Tom & I had seen her before on another cruise. Some of the jokes were the same. It was the end of another glorious day on our cruise vacation with time running out. Only two days left! Wednesday, July 18, 2007 Welcome to Alaska's 1st City Ketchikan, The Salmon Capital of the World Ketchikan earns the title of Alaska's 1st City because it is the first city you come to on your way up from Canada. They claim to be the salmon capital of the world and you can find each of the five kinds of salmon in their waters. Those five are chum, aka dog salmon because it is used mostly for dog food; sock-eye; king; silver aka coho; and pink. Ketchikan also claims to be the rain capital of the world with an average of 102 inches a year. And Ketchikan is Alaska's 4th largest city, population 8,000. The ms Amsterdam docked at Ketchikan, Alaska at 6:32 a.m. It was raining and overcast. Tom & I had booked a trip to Misty Fjords National Monument by boat. We had to be up and ready to go at 6:50 a.m. The tour lasted for most of the five hours the Amsterdam was docked at Ketchikan, but it was worth the time. While walking to the dock where the tour boat was waiting, we caught a glimpse of the Sea Star, a retired fishing boat formerly featured on the TV show "Deadliest Catch". We took a picture, but there was no time to take a tour. We also saw another of the retired boats from Deadliest Catch now being used as a fishing charter out of Ketchikan, the Aleutian Gal? Anyway the Aleutian something. The trip to Misty Fjords started out very misty, in fact for parts of the trip the pilot was navigating by GPS only. You couldn't see two feet in front of the boat. The sky cleared up, got foggy again, cleared up, got foggy - you get the picture. By the time we were in Misty Fjords, about an hour from our beginning point, it was sunny with patches of fog, just enough to make the scenery look mysterious. Fjords are deep, deep canyons covered in water. The average depth is 450 feet, long enough to take our cruise ship, the ms Amsterdam, turn it vertical, and sail another boat over it with no problems (for the other boat) (the Amsterdam might have a bit of a problem.) Some parts of the fjords that we went through are over 1,800 feet deep! Picture Yosemite National Park with water half way up the cliffs. The cliffs are that steep on each side of the fjord. The passageway is narrow, about the width of a 10-lane highway. But not nearly the traffic, we didn't see any other boats on our trip once we got into Misty Fjords. It was a relaxing trip with lots of photo-taking opportunities. On the way back to Ketchikan we were watching a film about the native Alaskans when the pilot stopped the boat, turned off the film and said "Sorry, I don't want to run into the Orcas." There were two females and a male. I don't know how to tell the difference, but people who watch whales frequently seem to know right away. They surfaced, one on the port (left) side and two on the starboard (right) side. We watched them for several minutes until they left us. After we disembarked from the tour boat, we walked the two blocks back to our ship. We had about 20 minutes until all aboard at 12:15. Well, you can't leave shore without souvenirs, can you? We had spotted a shop with cheap tee shirts and other stuff earlier. We stopped by there and did the quickest shopping I personally have ever done. We made it back in plenty of time. The line to board was about three blocks long. We could have shopped some more instead of waiting so long in line. While we were out on the tour boat, the sun came out in Ketchikan, burned off all the clouds, and it was a beautiful sun-shiny day in Ketchikan as the ms Amsterdam departed. I wish we could have stayed longer. While Tom & I were on our Misty Fjords tour, Susan and Dorothy took a Duck Tour. The "duckmobile" is an amphibious vehicle that can go on land or sea. They went on both in their tour and saw a lot of the sights in town and along the shore. I think they also took a city bus tour. And probably went shopping. I guess I didn't talk to our traveling companions much this day, although I think this is the one day, besides the first day while still in port, that all four of us were together for lunch. We ate poolside in the Lido. This afternoon was the 5K walk to raise money for breast cancer research, called "On Deck for the Cure". I somehow translated 5K to five miles in my mind and was expecting to walk quite a bit more. It was only 10 laps around the deck. Holland America matches all the funds raised by participants. We each donated $15 to walk of which $3.25 goes for the tee shirt and bracelet and the rest to cancer research. I met a lot of nice people on this walk that I hadn't seen on board until today. Tonight was also our second formal night. All the other nights were "smart casual". Some passengers think smart casual means you wear blue jeans and your clean ball cap. They like to see you dressed up a little nicer than that. I had been waiting to see if they would have escargot for an appetizer on this cruise. I was happy to see it tonight! Good stuff. I played on the slot machines tonight in the casino, but it seems my winning streak has come and gone. It was fun while it lasted. We saw another show tonight; it was the Amsterdam Singers and Dancers. The program consisted of music through the decades, from the 50's to the 90's. It was a really good show. From 10:30 to midnight was the Dessert Extravaganza. There were lots of fancy-looking and delicious-tasting goodies. Like I said earlier, they fed us well all week. Thursday, July 19, 2007 Our last day on board. Sad, but with lots of happy memories. Today was an "at sea" day until 6:00 p.m. when we docked at Victoria, BC for 6 hours. It wasn't the usual "at sea" day because it was packing day. Stuff it all into your bags, sit on the bag, and if it still won't close, that's why you brought the duct tape! Luckily I brought a spare bag for some of the extras I bought in port and on board. There were two bingo games today. One was for a free cruise for two to the Caribbean. They have given away two free cruises on each of the cruises we have been on. Our turn to win should be coming up, but we didn't hit it on this time. When the guy yelled "BINGO" I had only one square left on my card. The second bingo was for the snowball jackpot. It hadn't been won in the previous days, so the jackpot was $3,087. I didn't win that one either. That would have easily paid for a cruise for two in the Caribbean with money left over. Both Dorothy and I were within one square of winning this one, too. Better luck next time. We had the Disembarkation Briefing this morning. They made it easier on us by serving champagne. After that, Tom & I went to the Mariner's Meeting with more champagne. You are a Mariner if you have completed at least one Holland America Cruise. This was our fifth one. At the conclusion of this cruise, we will have 38 days with Holland American. We received our 25-day pin on our cruise in the Mexican Rivera last December. We hope to get the 50-day pin (only 12 more days) during our next cruise! This was also the day we got to turn in our "Dam Dollars" for "Dam Prizes". Between us Tom & I had 49 Dam Dollars. You need 30 to get the sweatshirt. We both wanted a sweatshirt. And we both got a sweatshirt plus a nice beach towel each. The beach towels are 25 Dam Dollars each. You may be thinking that the figures don't add up. We had gotten to know one of the crew on the activities staff pretty well. She wanted us to both have the sweatshirts, so she said, at the last ping-pong tournament, that she would just get us the sweatshirts and we could use our money to get something else. And when we went to redeem the dollars, 49 Dollars was as good as 50 so we got two beach towels. There was a show this afternoon at 4:00, the final show featuring some of the acts from previous nights. We skipped it. That's when we were turning in our Dam Dollars. Dinner was early for our seating, at 5:00, due to the docking at Victoria at 6:00. None of us had planned any excursions. Tom & I got off the ship around 9:30 after we had completely finished packing to walk along the breakwater structure. It's a nice walk of about half a mile out and half a mile back. We didn't take a camera, but I have the pictures in my mind. The sunset was beautiful. Every night at midnight in the Lido Buffet they have a partial dinner menu plus hamburgers and desserts. Tonight Tom & I went to that. We had a small snack and were amazed at the number of people who must go to this every night. Afterwards we took a walk on the deck. Friday, July 20, 2007 Time to disembark. It was a great cruise. Tom & I were up by 6:00. The ship was scheduled to dock at 7:00 a.m. and begin allowing passengers off at about 8:00 after clearing customs and the Port Authority. When I went to the Lido for breakfast at 6:30 we were already docked. I thought of all the people getting ready to board later that day and how excited they would be. We had scheduled a tour of Seattle before going to the airport, so we were among the first to disembark. Our tour, "Boats, Buildings and Billionaires", was interesting and fun. We boarded a bus that took us on a tour to see some of the buildings downtown. We went out to the Space Needle, The Music Experience, and Pike Place Market. The bus driver told us about some of the other buildings and their history in the downtown area. Then he took us to board a tour boat for a cruise on Lake Washington / Lake Union. We saw floating houses, which are different than houseboats, in that they don't move from place to place. Floating houses have foundations; some of those foundations even have basements with portholes so the residents can look into the water and watch the fish swim by. Sometimes they see swimmers go by looking in their portholes. The tour guide told a story of a man who sawed a hole in the living room of his floating house so he could go fishing while sitting in his recliner and watching TV (I don't know if that was a true story). We saw the floating house where the movie "Sleepless in Seattle" was filmed. The billionaires' part of the tour was showing us the multi-million dollar homes of some of Seattle's elite; the most famous of which was the home of Bill Gates. Nice little shack; estimated value of $130,000,000 - (one hundred thirty million dollars). We also saw quite a bit of the University of Washington, including the sports stadium of the Husky's. The U of W has the top nursing school in the nation and their medical school is among the top 15. They also have a big water education program. After the boat tour, we got back on the bus for a little more Seattle history and fun facts on our way to the airport. It was time to go home. Following an uneventful flight, we touched down in Denver a little after 6:00 in the evening, retrieved our bags and our car and went back to life in the Mile High City. After enjoying temperatures in the 50's, 60's and 70's for nine days, Denver welcomed us with highs pushing 100. There's no place like home Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Flying from DAY to FCO 3 days before the cruise departure allowed for some sightseeing time in Rome. I was the only pre-cruise guest arriving at that time and with the help of a Princess Cruise representative in Baggage Claim area, I was ... Read More
Flying from DAY to FCO 3 days before the cruise departure allowed for some sightseeing time in Rome. I was the only pre-cruise guest arriving at that time and with the help of a Princess Cruise representative in Baggage Claim area, I was able to locate my driver for the transfer to the hotel, the Visconti Palace. The hotel is a modern facility, well located for walking visits to many sites, including the Vatican. Many restaurants are in the area, but be advised that they do not open for dinner until 7:00 P. M. or later. I spent the first afternoon visiting the Castel Sant' Angelo, which I would recommend, and the second day thoroughly visiting the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's. Late morning the next day, I checked out of the hotel and along with a couple awaited the transfer to the port. We were the only passengers in a good sized van and got to the Amsterdam in about 105 minutes. Luggage was quickly taken by the crew and as the three of us were led aboard the ship by an officer, there were several crew members lining the gangway, each welcoming us aboard. A most pleasant beginning. Check-in formalities were handled at the Front Office, quickly. And, a steward was summoned to lead us to our staterooms. Within 25 minutes after arriving shipside, I was in my stateroom, meeting my cabin steward, with the luggage already on the bed. Inasmuch as this cruise was the final segment of the 2007 Grand World Cruise, Dream of Discovery, I was expecting the cruise experience to be a notch or two above the usual. I was not disappointed! Starting with the warm welcome, I will attempt to describe the differences that I noted on this cruise aboard the Amsterdam. In the stateroom, I found two large umbrellas in the closet, 3 different floral offerings were delivered during the 17 days, many gifts were received(i.e. luggage tags, straps, tiles), and personalized logo stationary was delivered twice during the cruise. Our only tendering port was Monte Carlo. The refreshment table set up there for waiting passengers included a bouquet of flowers. There seems to be more crew aboard than on a non-Grand voyage; service was excellent, very attentive and pleasant; lots of smiles; had time to talk with the guests. The only exception to this was my Wine Steward in the dining room. He seemed to have too many guests to serve. Dining Room meals were all excellent. The quality of the food served was the best I have ever had, anywhere. Each dining room menu was different and separate for that day. One could tell that it was not part of a "menu cycle". Some items were repeated--like lobster tails(3x) and Dover Sole(2x). Each evening saw the offering of some type of beef dish--porterhouse steak, New York sirloin, Prime Rib. And, dinner salads also were on the menu and looked good. Usually, there would be a pasta appetizer that could also be ordered as an entree. And, at dessert time, a dessert tray was displayed by our Steward and there was always a flambe item available along with a cheese and fruit platter that contained many unusual cheeses. During dinner each evening, the table's Head Steward made at least two visits to inquire about our satisfaction with our dinners and the service. Even breakfast, in the dining room or by Room Service, was different. Each morning in the dining room, there would be 4 special items offered, not one or two as in the past, and Room Service offered an expanded breakfast menu. When the Room Service tray arrived, a glass of water and usually a small vase of flowers was included. Fresh squeezed Orange Juice, usually only available in the Lido, was also served in the dining room as well as by Room Service. During Happy Hour, hot hors d'oeuvres as well as cold canapes were served by a steward in each of the lounges. Tea service seemed to be a bit more elegant than usual. Tea selections(in bags) were offered, with many herbal tea choices. Open faced mini-sandwiches, scones with cream and jam, and at several types of pastries were served by white gloved stewards with the Explorer's Lounge string trio playing in the background. For those active cruisers, participating in various events allowed one to earn Dam Dollars that could be redeemed for prizes, if one had enough. The photographers were on board, of course. But, during my 17 days aboard,they made only one attempt to get a picture during dinner. At the Disembarkation Talk and the Crew Farewell Show, Orange Juice and Champagne were served. Many, who had been on for such a long time, had tears in their eyes after the singing of "Love In Any Language". Upon our arrival in Fort Lauderdale, the final event for the Grand World Cruise was an overfly of the ship by a small plane, pulling a banner that read "Welcome Home Amsterdam World Cruisers". The ports for this cruise were Livorno, Monte Carlo, Malaga, Funchal, and Ponta Delgado. We were supposed to visit Casablanca after Malaga. But, there were threats being made towards cruise ships after an explosion of a bomb near the American Embassy at Casablanca. So, we were informed we would go to Gibraltar instead. Arriving off the pier at Gibraltar, the wind and swells were quite strong, causing the Captain to decide that it was unsafe to dock. The pilot left the ship and we headed out to sea. Bound for where? The next morning, we found we were headed for Funchal, arriving a day earlier than expected and we would then make a port visit to Ponta Delgado in the Azores. From there, it was a pleasant trans-Atlantic crossing to New York where some of our passengers disembarked and some embarked for the positioning cruise to Seattle. Then, two days to Fort Lauderdale, arriving there the night before we were due to arrive inasmuch as the Navy was arriving on the morning we were due for Fleet Week. (The port was closed to commercial traffic due to Navy ships arriving.) For me, the highlight of the cruise was being able to travel with 8 wonderful friends with whom I first met on a Cruise Critic Roll Call prior to the 2002 Asia Pacific Cruise aboard the Volendam. Over the years, we have kept in touch and sharing another journey with them was truly magnificent! Plus, I made some new friends, some I expect to sail with again in the near future. This cruise was a grand, Grand Voyage! Read Less
Sail Date April 2007
Previous Cruise Experience: Carnival Mardi Gras (1982) Celebrity Infinity 14 day Alaska June 05 in a Sky Suite Overall Impression: My wife and I agreed that the room, food, and service were better than we experienced on Infinity. Not ... Read More
Previous Cruise Experience: Carnival Mardi Gras (1982) Celebrity Infinity 14 day Alaska June 05 in a Sky Suite Overall Impression: My wife and I agreed that the room, food, and service were better than we experienced on Infinity. Not that Infinity was bad, just that the Amsterdam was better. Our Demographics: I'm 37, my wife is now 40. The impetus for the cruise was her birthday! Prior to Cruising: I had the opportunity to interact with Ship Services last October to arrange 2 special dessert specials, reservations, and table selection prior to our cruise so that I could make my wife have an extra special time. Additionally, I had purchased some items via HAL's website. Everything was delivered as promised. Enroute: We left one day early and arrived into Ft. Lauderdale to what appeared to be an average day at the airport. Luggage arrived quickly. After alot of searching, I settled on the Renaissance near the port. We went via taxi. No airport or cruise port complementary transportation. Overall, this hotel was adequate. The rooms were clean. The hotel staff was cheerful and helped arrange a private transfer to the port the next morning. The hotel slept quietly. Bed was a B+. Dinner in their eatery was quite good. We had the option of going via water taxi to several dining establishments, but my wife wanted to watch football instead! Day of Departure: The private van showed up right on schedule and got us to the port for $6 per person. We arrived at 1050am along with 300 or so other early risers. 5 ships in port. Not much traffic at all at the cruise terminal at this time of morning. Embarkation: Getting to the terminal in San Francisco had been horrific...boarding a breeze. Here, we got to the terminal okay, but apparently the port authority, NOT HAL, had a problem with the metal detector equipment and scanners. And although one was working just fine, the fine "security" people of TSA weren't about to let anyone through until they had BOTH lines working. Once that started, we took only 6 minutes or so from our place in line to get through. From there, it was up the escalators and into another line for about a 15 minute wait to get boarding cards, etc. We had completed online documentation. Nothing bad here. From there, an easy jaunt up the ship (about 12:15pm) and greeted with hand cleanser (not a bad idea in general..keep it up!) Ship: Handsome. This is a masculine ship. Dark tones, soft fabrics with splashes of art. It never felt crowded to us. We took a mixture of both stairs and elevators (surprised by the changing of the carpet in the elevators everyday!). Others may call it "dated", I call it classy...just like the entire cruise, cruise staff, attitude, and for the most part, the cruisers. Cabin: 6158..right in the middle on the port side. Very adequate room. The 2 curtains, one in the entryway from the closet/bathroom area and one in the room between the sleeping area and living area were great! helped keep the room dark for great sleeping. We left the bathroom light on at night and pulled the curtain. This allowed going to the bathroom in the middle of the night to not be a blind and fumbling experience. The sofa was big enough for my 5'11" frame to spread out on and nap. Infinity was a short sofa. The dressing table was great for my wife with plenty of drawers and was the place she used her weapons of mass construction each morning (makeup). The balcony was superb. Plenty of space with very comfortable furniture. The room attendant, Meery, did a great job. I gave him $20 on the first day. All of our gift cards were laid out on the bed and nicely arranged. Suitcases arrived by 300pm..delivered by Meery. Main Dining: Superb. Our waiter, Hardi, and our assistant waiter, Ketut, always served with a smile. In 12 nights, no menu items were repeated! 2 Formal, 2 Informal and 8 casual. The chilled soups were very good (made a believer out of my wife) and the apple soup was our favorite. Several themed nights...instead of telling, I'd rather you just be treated! The beef wellington was good as advertised..but the Teriyaki Flank steak was by far my favorite! wine steward Roy was efficient and friendly. The dining steward, Syrarif was always around..either chatting with guests or helping waitstaff. BTW, we're from Louisiana so we can often be tough on food critiques. Lido Dining: Again, really good and better than Celebrity. I loved the scrambled eggs! Lunch was always different and I thought that the Asian food was really good...but to each his own. Again, lots of treats here, but I don't want you to know EVERYTHING! Pinnacle Grill: First night...so so. my steak was a big downer. Second time we dined, much better. However, the SS United States on Infinity blows this place out of the water. It was good, but HAL needs to think long and hard about how it is utilizing this eatery. It was never full while we were on our cruise that I am aware of. The waitstaff seemed to be more Eastern European here..and almost tried to carry off a false snootiness. Either lower the price, the expectation, or raise the bar on service HAL. They need to get away from steaks. Without a big grill, they just don't come out right without using prime beef. Entertainment: Hard working singers and dancers. At first, I wasn't as impressed, but later on, I really appreciated what they were doing. Some of the vocals were canned, but overall, you try singing, dancing on a moving platform with the level of energy they were begging from these folks. The room itself is termed a "lounge"..and that it is. It is not a "theatre" and one should not expect that. There are a variety of single seats and love sofa style seats throughout the lower level. The upper level was tiered. When you think about the average cruiser on this ship...the fewer the stairs and slopes the better. We only went to one of the non-ensemble shows, a comedian, and he was fair at best. Celebrity had the edge on the featured entertainers. Ports/Excursions: Quite simply, Dominica was my favorite. I had booked 4 shore excursions prior to embarkation via the HAL website. Half Moon Cay Cabana, river tubing in Dominica, catamaran to St. John, and Orient Beach in St. Martin. The river tubing was a HOOT! 40 minute drive each way...1 hour tubing (I could have done that for Hours!!!) Orient beach was okay...if you like the beach. WAter was a little rougher..and lots of people here. LOTS. The excursion, however, was handled very well from start to finish. St. John's excursion was cancelled due to timing (we were tendered there) and the replacement excursion to Trunk Bay was about a 2 on a scale of 1 - 10. Ferry left 45 minutes after the fact, 90 minutes on beach after a bus ride...pitiful service at the single food stand.... Half Moon Cay. yellow cabana. I would always try to get a cabana further down from the main area. We had a BLAST here. It was not very crowded and everything was delivered as advertised. Disembarkation: I don't think this is ever a good thing. i wish they would just let people off. 11 ships in port that day. This ship did what Infinity did, which was to try and clear everyone BEFORE allowing disembarkation. There are always a couple of yahoos who either (a) don't think it applies to them or (b) forget to go. Just let people off the ship and force them to go through immigration before getting luggage. It's simple. Hints: Book your return flight home AFTER 12 noon and HAL will send your luggage directly to the airport from your stateroom! new service and was being taken advantage of by several people. ****I wrote almost daily updates from the boat and put them on the boards. There is much more info regarding shore excursions, ports and items concerning internet access, etc. Final question: Would we sail this ship again? yes, in a heartbeat! Wonderful, wonderful time! We met great people, had great food and would pick our balcony cabin over the Celebrity Sky Suite any day of the week! Read Less
Sail Date January 2007
We were among the lucky few who were able to take the 2007 World Voyage on Holland America's Amsterdam. We embarked at Ft. Lauderdale on Jan. 15. Embarkation was painless though lengthy. During the hour or so it took to board, the ... Read More
We were among the lucky few who were able to take the 2007 World Voyage on Holland America's Amsterdam. We embarked at Ft. Lauderdale on Jan. 15. Embarkation was painless though lengthy. During the hour or so it took to board, the ship provided free juices and sodas and had seats at strategic locations for those who need to rest. We would recommend arriving about 2PM to board. By that time there is virtually no line. Pre-embarkation was more trouble. Holland America did not do a good job with the details prior to leaving. Apparently they were installing new computer and phone systems. It took more than seven frustrating hours to pay for the cruise via phone and then our credit card was charged five times for the cost. It was also very frustrating trying to book excursions on line.. We ended up booking many excursions on our own with non-ship agencies. Holland America sent no information on shot requirements or visa requirements until we called and asked 40 days prior to departure, just in time to complete the requirements. Some passengers could not embark with us because they had not been informed about the required visas. They flew to Easter Island to board about 14 days into the voyage. Once on board the cruise was flawless. We had perfect weather for 102 of the 105 days. The dining room and cabin staffs were outstanding: patient, polite, and always smiling. Considering some of the picky passengers their behavior very notable. The training and HR departments of Holland America are commended for selecting and training such high quality personnel. As is typical, meals were served in the formal dining room or in the Lido. Sandwich and pizza stations were open during the day at the covered pool. The food was superb. Lots of expensive dishes were served, veal, lamb chops, venison, etc. There was always a choice of 10 entrees and choices of appetizers, soups, and deserts. There was entertainment every night. On a cruise this long, the entertainment was surprisingly varied and consistently high quality. Unusual entertainments include the playing of a 144 string hammered dulcimer, xylophones, banjos, theramin, and even Hawaiian music played on a bagpipe. You had to be there to understand! Though we had the least expensive category of cabin, the cabin was spacious with a couch and four closets. Plenty of room for practical packers was available in the closets. Sanitary standards were strict. Stewards stood at the entrances to the dining room with hand sanitizers for us to use prior to entering the dining room. In each public restroom, towelettes were to be used when opening the door when exiting. This was in addition to admonishments to wash hands. At the first indication of a virus, passengers were quarantined in their cabins for two or three days. They were reimbursed $150 a day for this. Consequently, there was no outbreak of viral illnesses. We did get to see an exciting medical evacuation at sea, 200 miles off the coast of Australia. The critically ill passenger was taken to a hospital in Australia. After a lengthy recovery, she rejoined the ship. With 65 sea days in a 105 day voyage, we got to know other passengers quite well. Almost all were easy to get along with, well educated, interested in the world about them and retired. Plenty of activities and lectures kept those who wanted stay busy occupied. The gym and spa were very well equipped. They were well used but never crowded. If one wanted to sit and relax, plenty of spaces were available for that; the outdoor pool, the covered pool, the very large and well stocked library, the theater, and a number of lounges. Often walking through the ship, we wondered where everyone was. So many public spaces dispersed the passengers. After a flawless on board experience we were welcomed back to the real world on April 30th with a two hour wait for a porter to get our baggage and shopping additions though customs and to transportation to the airport. It was an orderly process but verrrry long. This time there were no chairs or refreshments provided. That's another on shore irritant Holland America might be able to exert some influence over. So, if you have the time and money, consider a world voyage. It was exciting, educational, relaxing, and never boring. Read Less
Sail Date January 2007
Amsterdam Dec 9, 2006 Panama Canal partial transit We stayed the night before at Amerisuites.  We had been there before but it has gotten quite ratty. They did have free parking for the entire cruise and free shuttle service to pier. ... Read More
Amsterdam Dec 9, 2006 Panama Canal partial transit We stayed the night before at Amerisuites.  We had been there before but it has gotten quite ratty. They did have free parking for the entire cruise and free shuttle service to pier. Only bad thing we got there around 6pm and the sign-up for the shuttles left us a 1 pm slot ! So we did take a cab to the ship around 11am. Only $10, so that wasn't bad.  no problem returning to the hotel with the shuttle. Embarkation: We got there before the doors were open so we had a little wait outside, line moved quickly after they opened and we were on board in no time. Ship: Beautiful, spotless, great shape. We had an outside cabin on Dolphin deck (sleeping with the fishes !) It was roomy, lots of storage.  our steward was good.  bed was wonderful. Plenty of hot water and 2 hairdryers ! good storage in the bathroom. I brought a power strip since there is only one outlet and we had a mini-fridge.  allowed me to plug in camera charger without disconnecting the fridge. We brought wine on board and had a glass or two before dinner on the promenade deck. Lovely !! Dining: We had the 8pm seating.  table for 4 right on the balcony.  room was pretty, service excellent. The food was good, not gourmet but very good. Some nights had more of what we liked, but hey ! I wasn't cooking or cleaning up afterwards.  so everything was wonderful. 2 formal nights. Ports: We stopped at Half Moon Cay despite it being quite breezy.  some excursions were cancelled.  and it was a bit on the chilly side. So we didn't get to snorkel there but the beach was very pretty. Sea day and then on to Aruba.  here we used our own equipment and took a cab to Malmok Beach and snorkeled for about 2 hrs.  cab came back on time (I was a bit nervous about that) and then we had time to do some exploring. Since we had stayed in Aruba for 2.5 weeks over the years we only found internet access and peeked in a few stores. Then to Curacao.  never had been there.  thoroughly enjoyed the island. We took a cab tour on our own and saw some highlights. Again, inexpensive internet access (as you can tell I have an addiction to the net !!). We walked around the city, enjoyed the floating bridge.  left in the dark so the lights of the pretty pastel buildings was neat to see.  We wished we had gone on the little tour train (like the conch train in key west) early in the day and then took the taxi tour.  the train was done around 3pm !! so we didn't get to it. Panama Canal: Amazing thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We did not take any excursions, just went through the Gatun Locks twice. Friends took the boat to the Pacific side and enjoyed that. There was a lecturer on board Michael Millwood. He gave three talks on the canal and one on Christopher Columbus and his explorations in the Caribbean. All were enlightening. During the canal transit we had a narrator from the canal talk us through. Found internet access in Colon at the pier. Then to our last port....Costa Rica.....We took the ship's boat tour on the Tortugera canals. Saw monkeys, sloth, bats, and a crocodile ! Clean rest rooms where we got on the pontoon boats.....they had music, fruit, beer and juice ! complimentary. Then on the way back to the ship we stopped at a banana plantation and learned a bit about picking, processing and shipping the fruit. The bus ride to and from the ship provided us with the opportunity to learn a bit about Costa Rica from our guide. Some took tours of the local area, went horseback riding in the rain forest.....everyone claimed their tour was the best ! Great port ! Got online there too !! right by the pier..... Sea Days: 2 sea days on our way back to Ft L were relaxing weather was perfect. Met up with several fellow cruise critics during the cruise.  had 2 meetings in the Crows Nest lounge. Never went to the casino, never played bingo. The shows were good. Dancers/singers have so much energy ! Comedians, violinist, magician all were good. I was surprised at the quality of the entertainment.  very good ! I went to a cooking demo.  chef from the Pinnacle Grill and the head baker did challa bread and potato pancakes. Very enjoyable ! The Pinnacle chef is very witty and could have his own TV show. Friends did a hands-on with the chef desserts. They thought it was fun.  got to sample their efforts and received an apron and a few other trinkets. You have to sign up very early to get in to the classes. They did this before dinner on the first night. There were several places to listen to pre/post dinner music. Piano, strings, light rock&.all very good. The Mariner cocktail party was also very nice. Champagne and a few tidbits. There was so many repeat cruisers !! Says a lot for the quality of the experience on board. We are avid HAL fans ! And Superman was the best !! He greeted us every morning in the Lido.  remembering our names after the first day. Amazing. Do not miss the Indonesian show&.the crew puts on a super show&.so much talent. The staff were all very friendly, always offering smiles and greetings. They seemed genuinely interested in your day ! Disembarkation: A little longer than we thought, but you could go anywhere on the ship or stay in the cabin while waiting. Getting the luggage was a snap. and we were in our car by 11am heading to Tampa and home. All in all it was a wonderful 10 days. I made an online album and if anyone wants to see it just post with your email and I will forward it. It is long !! Took about 250 pix ! __________________ pam Read Less
Sail Date December 2006
This is 17th Cruise I have taken since Jan. '05 & the 4th Holland America Cruise in 2 yrs. I've traveled on Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Oceania & Princess lines. This voyage was one of the best all around. EMBARKATION: ... Read More
This is 17th Cruise I have taken since Jan. '05 & the 4th Holland America Cruise in 2 yrs. I've traveled on Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Oceania & Princess lines. This voyage was one of the best all around. EMBARKATION: Getting to port was very easy & fast. I had rental car & they brought me to port. Lines were a bit long but went smoothly & staff at pier were very pleasant & accommodating. Arrived about 1:30pm & was on board by 2:30pm. Even security staff were pleasant. THE SHIP: This ship is very well designed & comfortable for cruising. There was only one place that you had to go up & down stairs to get to & that was the LaFontaine Dining Room on Deck 4. The rest of the areas on the ship were easily accessible & didn't have any traffic flow issues. The public areas are very tastefully appointed & kept up in very good condition. The main theater was smaller than I'm use to after being on larger ships but it was very adequate & had all the latest stage equipment. There are laundromats on 3 decks. There were 4 machines on my deck & they worked very well. This is a great convenience if you do a lot of cruising. The library on this ship (Explorer's Lounge) has the most comprehensive selection of current travel books on any ship I've traveled on. They also have an extensive DVD rental library. Their is an outside deck (3) that allows you to walk completely around the ship. They also let you go up to the bow of the ship when in a port to get a great view. The pool area is nicely configured although not very large & they have a closeable roof in case the weather is inclement. DINING: There are 4 main areas for food service. (1)The main dining room (La Fontaine) is located on deck 4 & 5. (2)The Lido Restaurant is located on Deck 8 & is the Buffet restaurant for the ship. I try to eat breakfast in main dining room on most ships because food is usually better. The Lido Restaurant on this ship was a surprise because the buffet was equally as good. I opted to eat there most of the time for breakfast & lunch. Food in the Lido Restaurant was better than most buffets that I have experienced. I especially enjoyed the chocolate bread pudding in the dessert area. I traveled earlier in the year on the new Noordam (Caribbean & Transatlantic) & the food was of equal quality here. (3)The Terrace Grill is outside near the pool on the Lido deck. It is a small area that features Hot Dogs, Hamburger, Bratwurst, Pizza, etc The food in all areas of the ship was excellent. Food was best in the main dining rooms & was consistently well prepared, presented and there was ample variety. Service in the main dining room was prompt & courteous. I was at a table for 8 at 8pm. I also had friends at a table for 10 at the 8:30pm sitting. They didn't seem to have as good service as I did. We always had ample time to dine & still catch the shows for each evening. I also tried the hot dogs & hamburgers one day & found them to be excellent. Went to the (4)Pinnacle Grill with a large party (10)one night. Food was superb & service was also great considering size of table. Generally I don't go the specialty restaurants (have tried on most of the cruise lines) on board since food in main dining room is usually quite good. This was an excellent meal. I was very pleased overall with the food on this ship. CABIN: My cabin was wonderful & ideally located. I was right in the middle of the ship on the port side. There was easy access to the dining rooms, show lounges, & pool deck. I was in a Veranda Suite with a balcony. Room was well appointed & very comfortable. It was quiet & my cabin steward was excellent. Always had cabin made up after breakfast & turned down after I left for dinner. There is jacuzzi in bathtub which I used couple of times. Balcony had a lounge, chair & table. It was great for viewing during visit to the Panama Canal & at each port. They have the new beds in all cabins & they are really comfortable. My cabin also had new flat screen TV with a DVD player. ENTERTAINMENT: The entertainment on this ship was very good. The production shows were (4 of them) above average but I have seen better on other ships. The singers & dancers were very energetic & performed very well. The other talent was also very good. They had a comedian (Al Katz) who was very professional; a flutist, that was very professional & talented; & a great magician. There was a Filipino Crew Show one evening that was great. The producer of the show (Nestor) was our wine steward. The overall entertainment was definitely above average & I went to all performances. PORTS: There was a great mix of ports & sea days on this cruise. It allowed you to relax between running. Half Moon Cay - weather was a bit rough & missed going onshore by 20 minutes. They stopped tendering & would only allow people to come back to ship. Enjoyed another day aboard ship. Aruba - Had a private excursion planned but due to weather it was cancelled. Walked around & took public bus to hotel zone. Turned out to be a nice day. Curacao - Took a private all day snorkeling tour that was great. Had a good day. Town is really nice to visit. Very clean & seemed safer than Aruba. Panama Canal/Cristobal - After much hassle from the port agent, was able to get private tour from Gatun Lake to Portobelo including snorkeling. Had a great day. Colon is rough town & would not recommend walking around on your own. Shopping at pier was competitive with decent selection. Puerto Limon - Took another private tour here & had a great time. Walked around town a bit before going back to ship. DISEMBARKATION: This went very smoothly. They let you stay in your cabins if you want to instead of having to vacate at 8am. This is a real nice touch. I found on RCCL that they want you out of your cabin by 8am. Took the ships transfer to airport. Cost $12 which is very reasonable & this went very smoothly. Best transfer I had to date. OVERALL EVALUATION: The MS Amsterdam is the flagship of Holland America Lines. It does an around the world cruise in January. I found it to be a very comfortable ship. The staff & crew were very hospitable. The food was one of the best on any cruise I've taken. I really liked the design & tasteful ambiance created by the architects of this ship. I will sail on this vessel again in the future. Regards, Cory Lynn Read Less
Sail Date November 2006
This is VERY LONG so grab a cocktail turn off your cell phones and relax and enjoy. We just returned Nov.9th from 10 days aboard the Holland America Cruise Line Amsterdam. This review will go into different details of our trip from ... Read More
This is VERY LONG so grab a cocktail turn off your cell phones and relax and enjoy. We just returned Nov.9th from 10 days aboard the Holland America Cruise Line Amsterdam. This review will go into different details of our trip from the ship to the tours. First because there are few reviews about the Amsterdam I will start on the ship first. And if you care to go on reading about the rest of our Most Excellent Adventure please do so. What can I say. The MS Amsterdam is an outstanding ship with a great crew. A ship is only as good as its captain and that being said everybody did an outstanding job. You could really tell that EVERYBODY on the ship really loves working on the Amsterdam. Everywhere you go they are smiling and saying hello to you, as you past them and really seem to be enjoying there work. There where 1,380 guest aboard with a crew of 590 Fuel consumption 120 tons/day (32,000 gallons) Fresh water used on the ship 160,000 gallons a day. Ship has its own desaltation plant on board. Other water used that is not fresh like for the toilets (Potable water) 370,000 gallons a day. Captain Dirk van den Berg was very visible through out the ship and very friendly. Jill Tasker the Cruise director was outstanding very friendly (those brits and there since of humor ) she did make the cruise fun. She was always around and easy to talk to. I also talked to the Executive chef Peter Kolfer as well as the Guest Relations Manager Grace Zerna Culinary Manager Martin Groenendijk as well as other officers and staff and you could tell that they ALL enjoyed working on this fabulous ship. The rooms: We where on deck 3 lower promenade rooms 3315 obstructed view and 3357 inside. Both rooms where outstanding. With 3315 we really did not care about the obstructed view because all we wanted in the room was the extra day light so that my mother could see better. Yes if you looked outside of the window and looked to your right you could see the water. But it was no big deal for us and we did save some money by going with this room. The Amsterdam had completed the Signature Of Excellence upgrades and all I can say is WOW. The Euro-Top beds where great. I never slept better. I really wanted to take the bed home. We also loved the extra-fluffy large towels that they supply in the bathrooms. (RCL and Princess could take a lesson from this). The rooms had plenty of storage for all our gear and the daily fresh fruit in the rooms was very nice. Just because I got up early every morning to walk around the promenade deck and having a fresh apple while doing this and waiting for the rest of the gang to get up for breakfast was a nice treat. (3 and 1/2 times around the ship equals 1 mile.) Also late at night when I got the munchies it was nice to have some fresh fruit in the room. (Although having room service bring fresh cookies and milk was also a nice treat late at night) Our room steward was great keeping our ice bucket full. In fact ever time we left the room it seems that he was in there straighten things up. He was a very hard worker and a very nice person to talk to. Always with a smile and a hello. Dinning room: The La Fontaine Dining Room Was very beautiful. Upper and lower level. We had the 6:15 lower level dinner time at table 168 a table for 8 people. Near the stair case in the middle of the dinning room. To me a great location to do some people watching. Our waiter team could not have been better. They remember our names by the second day and knew what we like to drink with dinner and after dinner. Our head waiter also knew that Mom has a hard time reading the menu so was always there to help her with the nightly specials. As for the food- Ok I know that this is a very subjective thing. So I'm not going there. All I will say is that I REALLY enjoyed everything that I had and I did not have one complaint about anything when it comes to food. The presentation of every dish was great and the food was very appealing . Lets just say I did not go hungry in fact I gained 5 ponds on this cruise. The good news is that I have already lost 2 ponds of this in one week. The Lido Restaurant on deck 8. Typical food but all very good. Loved the sandwich station and of course in the morning the fresh omelets that they would make. Also we all know about the fresh squeeze orange juice they have there every morning. Could not live with out my daily 3 glasses of the fresh OJ. I do have to say that breakfast got to be the same old thing. But I'm not much of a breakfast eater so no big deal. At least lunch was always good and something new everyday. We did try to have lunch in the La Fontaine Dining Room as much as possible because we wanted The experience, being waited on and sitting at a new table and meeting new people. Plus hey, we are on holiday. Its nice to have someone waiting and serving you the food. The menu was always good and something new to try. The Terrace Grill Lido poolside. Great hamburgers and hot dogs. The pizza left a little to desire. The sauce on the pizza was just to bland. They also had a great taco bar. Again as I said before we never went hungry. The Pinnacle Grill Lets see what can I say? How about WOW. It was a gift from our TA and my nephew and myself went there one night. The service was OUTSTANDING as well as the food. Our wine Stewart knew his wines and turned us on to a very nice bottle of wine. It was so good that we had to have another bottle of it. Needles to say we where not feeling any pain that night. The Pinnacle is ruined like a 4 star restaurant and we where will taken care of. I had also made reservations through ship services in September at the $20.00 rate before the rate went up to $30.00. We did think about going back there again and using my other reservation but we where enjoying our dinner mates at our table that we decided not to go back. And we did get a ship credit of $40.00.. Would I go back to the Pinnacle? Yes in a hart beat but I would have to think about spending $30.00 per-person. I fond the food in the main dining room at dinner was just as good. So for $30.00 it would have to be a very special occasion. The Fitness Center Small but very nice well kept up, clean and plenty of excuse machines to use. I never had to wait to use any of the equipment. The staff was also very friendly and nice to talk to. As for the bars: Crow's Nest great location for going up there in the day time to read and have a cocktail while at sea. At night there was always something going on and a fun place to go. Bartenders would remember your name. In fact it seems like the bartenders remember my name to whatever bar we went to. And NO I don't have a drinking problem. I'm a lite weight when it comes to drinking. They just seem to remember you after the first time and don't forget you. (I wonder if the crew has photos of us in the crew area with our names on it that was taken when we board the ship on the first day. How can they remember so many people?) The Explorations Cafe Good coffee drinks for a charge. Is where you will find the library. This was a great location to relax and read. A very well stock library. As well as you could rent DVD for your room $3.00 a day. They had over 100 DVDs to chose from. Lido Bar by the pool, good service. Sports Bar by the casino spend lots of time there. They did have ESPN and Sunday and Monday Night Football. The bartenders there where really friendly and fun to talk too. The Rembrandt Lounge with the nightly piano singer of LAREE. She had a great voice and knew her songs. Great place to hang out after dinner or the shows.. Also on board was the Explorations Speaker Serie Done by Mike Millwood. He had 3 lectures through Out the cruise and if you missed it you could see it on your stateroom T.V. that evening or next day. He talked to us about the building of the Panama Canal and Columbus first voyage to the Caribbean. Mike is an outstanding speaker and should NOT BE MISSED. We had a chance to meet him and His lovely wife through out the cruise and they are both a wealth of information. Next is ship board Activities. Lets just say if you can't find something to do on this ship you are not trying. On sea days there was Bridge games going on and that made mom very happy. There was a good turn out of about 30 people every time there was a bridge game. There where movies to be seen in the theater. Ping Pong, Shuffleboard, morning walk a Thon, bingo, spa seminar, the dreaded Art Auction, afternoon tea, shopping, dance classes, daily trivia, wine tasting classes, and of course you can leave your daily donations in the casino. As well as just sitting by the pool and chilling out and reading a good book. So if you say you can't find anything to do on a cruise ship then its your own fault. It seems to me that the days really went too fast for me to enjoy it all. I could have easily spend another 10 days on the ship. So in a nut shell the Amsterdam crew and staff made this a very enjoyable cruise. They where very hardworking, pleasant, friendly and helpful. And I would sail her again in a hart beat. Now I will get into the day by day stuff. So if you don't want to read on, this is a good time to leave us. The cast of carters. Mom 86 years young, Richard her friend 84 years young and a good story teller. My nephew Jake 24 years old this was a graduation present from collage and myself John 53 years old. I was glad that Jake was coming on this trip. Just trying to handle Mom and Richard is a hand full by myself, with Jake it make the trip a lot more easier and enjoyable. I did warn Jake that the average age on this cruise would be in the mid-60 range and this was true. But he still had a great time spending time with his grandmother and just relaxing and catching up with his sleep. He was a great roommate. We had the inside room. Monday, October 30th So to begin with we left Denver on the day of the cruise. Usually I like to leave the day before but Jake wanted to go with his dad to the Bronco game that Sunday. He lives 6 hours away from Denver and does not get much of a chance to see them play anymore living so far away. Plus my brother and sister in-law where in town for the weekend , so A Monday flight to Ft. Lauderdale was to be done. This made me nervous with the kind of weather we get in Colorado in November but it turned out to be a very nice day. (Denver temp was 40F. When we got to FLL it was 80F.) We boarded our Frontier Airlines flight at 7AM and the flight left on time at 7:35AM non-stop getting into FLL at 1PM, 15 min ahead of schedule. All our bags arrive. Got a cab for the 4 of us for $15.00 with tip and where at the dock by 1:35PM and on the ship at 2PM. Having our first of many meals at 2:30PM. Lifeboat drill was at 4:15 and over by 4:30. We sailed away on time at 5PM. On board the ship was the usual sail away party's going on and people getting settle in for there 10 day adventure. Dinner for us was at 6:15PM in the lower level of the Fontaine Dining Room and we where seated with 2 other great couples making it a table of 8..We all enjoyed each other company and it made for a great 10 days. After dinner we walked around the ship getting our bearings and went to the Queen's Lounge for the welcome aboard show. It was ok. Nothing special. As you all know the first night in the show lounge is more of what's going to happen for the rest of the week. Show was over by 9:30PM so a quick stop to make my donation in the casino and off to bed. It has been a very long day. Tuesday, October 31st Half Moon Cay, Bahamas. This is Holland America private island. We arrived there at 7:15AM but we did not take the tender until about 10AM. We all slept in this morning and had a light breakfast. What can I say about the island. It's beautiful white sand beach the temp was 82F with a nice breeze and crystal clear waters. The water temp was around 80F. I had pre-reserved 2 clam shells for shade on the beach and I'm glad we did. Otherwise we would have been much too hot just sitting out in the sun. Richard was asleep as soon as he got settle in his clam shell mom and Jake joined me in the water. We did get Richard into the water. At first he did not want to go in, but once we got him in the water we could NOT get him out. He really enjoyed himself on the island. At 12:30 we made our way to the BBQ they had and we found the food to be very good. They had fresh fish, burgers, hotdogs, chicken, and ribs as well as a nice selection of salads and killer cookies for desert. We where one of the last to take the tender back to the ship at 3ish. Did not realize how sun burned I got until I got back to the ship. I usually wear a shirt when I'm in the water. This time I did not and I paid for it for the rest of the cruise. All well live and learn. A quick note about the staff working on the island. I found them very rude and not helpful at all. I'm NOT talking about the ship staff that came ashore to help with lunch. I'm talking about the staff that comes over from the near by island where they live. They act like they own the island and had no time for us. Too busy talking with there friends there radios playing very loud . They could use a class in guest services. Kept giving us the run around about where to go to get our clam shells set up. They just seemed that they could care less if we where there or not. To them it was just another day at a low paying job. That day was Halloween and some of the guest did dress up that night for dinner in costumes. But the dinning room staff where all dress up for Halloween all looking great. I think they enjoyed putting on make-up and looking like zombies and the such. They also did a great job with the decorations at the entrance of the dinning room with smoke blowing and a grave with a crew member in it. At least I think it was a crew member. Could have been that stowaway passenger we heard about and what they did to him. :-) Tonight's show in the Queen's Lounge was Pampas Devils Gauchos Traditional songs and dances of Argentina. We did not attend but heard the show was good. In stead we went to see the movie The Break Up with Jennifer Aniston. Movie was ok. Best thing about HAL movies is the free popcorn that they give you before the show. That's right we are still eating. Hay its been at least 2 hours since dinner. After the show a quick stop at the casino to make another donation then Jake and I headed Rembrandt lounge to hear Laree play the piano and sing. We also went up to the Crow's Nest to check out the Halloween costume party. Some very unusual costume to say the least. All had fun up there that night. Wednesday November 1st. A great day at sea. Temp was around 85F. Boy where did that day go too. It sure went fast. Left Jake to sleep till about 11AM. Took Mom and Richard to Breakfast at 8:30AM. Mom then went to a bridge lecture at 10AM, Richard roamed around the ship and I did a kitchen tour at 10:30. I really enjoyed the kitchen tour. Its amazing what and how they get things done in the kitchen serving over 4,000 meals a day. That afternoon Jake joined us for lunch in the Lido Restaurant. Like I said before it was good but we then decided that from now on we would do lunch at the La Fontaine Dining Room on sea days from now on. That afternoon Mom had a hot bridge game to go to. Jake went to the pool to read and relax and I really don't remember what I did. Most likely I fond a place to read and sleep. Just like Richard.. By the time mom was done playing bridge it was time to get ready for Formal night. We all looked our very best. Boy can we clean up good if we want to. Went to the Captains welcome reception and then to dinner. A great meal was enjoyed by all of us at the table. After dinner it was show time with the Talented singers and dancers of the Amsterdam cast. It was good. We also went to see the movie Click with Adam Sandler. This was the second time I saw it and was not as good as the first time. At least Richard got in a good nap before going to bed. Again we did the usual things of hitting a lounge or two before going to bed. I do have to say we where in bed most nights by midnight. Of course Mom and Richard where in Bed by 10PM most nights. Thursday November 2nd Oranjestad, Aruba. We did not get there till about 11AM. I let Jake sleep in till about 11AM and he met us for lunch in the dinning room at 12.15PM. That morning Mom had another hot bridge game at 10AM. After dropping off mom I went to the gym to work out and Richard found a nice place to read and take his morning nap. Aruba lies outside the hurricane belt and gets less rain then virtually any other popular island in the Caribbean. The island is 20 miles long and 6 miles wide. The temp is a constant mid 80s with a breeze all the time making it not too bad. At about 1:30PM we got off the ship. I found a taxi driver that would take all 4 of us around this very small island for a 3 hour tour. We saw the outdoor market place, Saw the Santa Cruz and Frenchman's Pass--A historic battlefield. The gold mill ruins and the famous divi divi trees shaped by the trade winds. We also headed to Casibari Rocks and the quaint village of Noord. Our driver William Gomes was very good had a brand new taxi with good air and told us a lot about the history of the island. Just ask for taxi number 217 or you can e-mail him at iraida71@hotmail.com . I found Aruba an ok place to visit but I prefer Curacao if I plan on spending any time on these islands. That night Jake and I where going to have dinner in town. Ship was going to leave at 11PM. After hitting a few bars and finding nothing to our liking and the town pretty much closed up for the night, we headed back to the ship for dinner. That night they where doing a Poolside BBQ and it turned out to be fun and boy where those ribs to die for. They also had fish, chicken, stake. And a whole lot more to gorge on. And yes we did gorge ourselves. They also did a Ice Carving Demonstration at the pool during dinner. After dinner you could go to the Latin Fiesta Deck party at the back pool or, That night there was no show in the Queen's lounge. Instead they had a movie Looking for Kitty not a bad movie. They where also showing Find Me Guilty a Vin Diesel in the other movie theater. By the time the movie was over at 10:30, I made my way up to the Crow's nest for the Broadway Trivia and then made my nightly donation. Also that night was the Indonesian Crew Show. Something you should not miss. They put on a very good show. If you miss it because it starts at 11PM you can always see it the next day in your in room TV. Friday November 3rd Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. This island was claimed in 1499 by Spanish explorers. More then any other islands in the Antilles, Curacao is reminiscent of Holland. You'll notice it at once in the local architecture. Willemstad was established in 1643 and the porches shutters, and pastel colors accommodate the warm Caribbean climate, but overall style is distinctly Dutch. As you sail into port you can almost reach out and touch the colorful buildings. The ship arrived at 7AM. We had a nice breakfast at 7:45AM. Jake had room service, Uncle John made the delivery and we where off the ship by 9:00AM. The temp was about 88F that day very humid with a light breeze. I had made arrangements with Mingo at Blue Angle Tours. through the net to take us on a tour of his island. This was a 5 hour tour and some of the sites we saw where the Synagogue one of the oldest Synagogues in the Caribbean with a sand floor. We also toured the Kura-Hulanda museum. This is where slaves from Africa where brought to before they reach America. (It was the Ellis Island of that time for slaves) I found this museum very interesting and could have spend another hour or two there but Mom and Richard where getting tired as this was our last stop of our tour. Although the ship was dock only a 10 min. walk away from this museum. Also no stop at Curacao is complete without a stop at the Curacao Liqueur factory. Made with the peals of oranges. Our tour guide Mingo was great. Not only did he show us the island he went out of his way to make us feel at home. He was a wealth of information and was able to answer all our questions. Told us about the school system and there health care system. He showed us the rich and the poor side of this beautiful island. Made a stop at a beautiful beach where the water was so clean and clear I could have spend a few days there. And of course to a top of a mountain area for another great view of this beautiful island. We also saw the floating market and had a very nice tour of the downtown area. I will be back to this island to do some diving and I will use his service again when I return. He is a great person And I highly recommend his service, if you do plan on seeing this island. He is much cheaper then a ship tour and you will get the personal attention that I know you will like. You can contact him at his web site. www.blueangeltours.com After our tour with Mingo Jake and I went back into town to look around and have a drink or two at the local bars. Back on the ship by 4PM Jake went to the gym I just relax and read my book before dinner.. That night they had face up blackjack. We did not go to the show that night but heard it was very good. That night Mom and Richard where able to stay awake for the Dutch Chocolate Dessert Extravaganza by the pool. At 10:30PM. All I can say is wow. They put up one heck of a show with all the great desserts. I really loved the deep dish Dutch apple pie. With a full stomach and a sugar rush we all headed to bed. After a super day in Curacao. Saturday, November 4th Day at sea: Met Mom and Richard for breakfast at 8:30AM Jake slept in till about 11ish. After breakfast we went to see the Explorations speaker Mike Millwood speak about the Trans Ocean Canal Project An excellent series put on by Mr. Millwood. Mom and I really enjoyed it. Richard got his morning nap in during the lecture. We met Jake in the dinning room for an excellent lunch. After lunch I had entered myself, Richard and Jake into the Slot Tournament. Richard did good and place but was knock out of the finals but he did have a fun time. Mom had another hot bridge game that afternoon and Jake and I went to the gym while Richard set out on deck reading and sleeping. And meeting new friends. That night Jake and I had dinner in the Pinnacle Grill as I said at the begging of this review this was a super meal and we where feeling NO PAIN when we left after our 2 ½ hour meal. We both had a hard time sleeping that night, too much food and wine. Sunday November 5th The Panama Canal: I was up by 6:00AM so that I could watch us go through the first set of locks. What a beautiful sunrise it was, watching the sun come up over the jungle and the canal. This was truly a special time to be up on deck. They where also serving juice and coffee and rolls on deck for all of us early risers. (That's right more food) I called Mom and Richard to get them up, but by the time they got to my viewing location we had already started going through the first set of locks. (7AM) We final got through the 3rd set of locks at 8:00AM and it was time to get some breakfast before we started our tour. At 9:45AM we boarded a tender in Gatun Lake to start our tour of the Canal. This tour is called The Canal Experience to Colon It was a 7 hour tour. And both Mom and Richard did a good job by making it through the tour. Richard was able to get his afternoon nap in on the bus ride back to the ship. On This tour we experience the full wonder of the Panama Canal. We first had a 40 min drive through the Isthmus to Gamboa, where our tour boat was waiting for us to take us through the rest of the locks. We crossed the continental Divide. Enter the Pedro Miguel Locks, which lower our tour boat 28 feet on its way to the Pacific. We then sailed across the Maraflores Lake to the Maraflores Locks, which lower us another 56 feet, matching the level of the Pacific Ocean. At around that time it started to rain and I mean rain. A typical jungle thunder storm that lasted for about 15min and cooled everything down. Temp was around 85F with a light breeze. We did get a little wet but no big deal by the time we got off the boat we where dried. About the boat we where on. It was a small tour boat that was cover with a tarp, that holds about 250 people. I say there was about 150 on board. They did have drinks on board and told us to drink lots of water. Lunch was supplied by the ship and was just a sandwich, that's ok with us we could skip a big meal for a change. Also there was a little room on this boat for people that fond it too hot to sit outside that was air condition. Richard spend most of his time in there. Jake and myself did not find the weather too humid and enjoyed watching the boat going through all the locks. It was a very nice day. Our tour ended at the port of Balboa in Panama City. Boy, the water at this port was dirty and polluted . You would think that the Panama authorities would spend some money cleaning up this port. After all they do charge a lot for ships to go through the canal. I was told it cost our ship $120,000 just to go through the first 3 lock before it turned around and went back to wait for us in Colon, Panama. After getting off in Balboa our bus was waiting for us for the 90 minute ride back to the ship. It was a nice drive but the country side we notice near small towns was very trashy. It seems like people just throw there trash anywhere along the road they want. Again you would think that the Panama government would do a better job in keeping there country clean. Yes I know it's a third world country. But again with the money they are making on the canal you would just think they could clean things up a little. Or maybe the locals just don't care. We where back in Colon, Panama around 4ish. And where drop off right by the ship. There was a Shopping area with local things to buy. Nothing really caught my eye. But, Yes I did have to buy a $5.00 T-shirt with the Panama Canal on it. Just another shirt I don't need but had to buy. Ship left port at 7PM. Another nice dinner was enjoyed by all of us in the dinning room that night with our table mate. After dinner we went to see the Show. It was very good the person doing this show was name Kirby and he was an excellent stand-up comic. Doing amazing sound-effect routines and impressions, along with his hilarious humor and musical bits. Everybody on the ship really enjoyed his show and want him to do another show sometime on the rest of the cruise. He did on the final night. Just as good as the first night with new routine. This was an early night for us as we where up very early that morning and needed to get up early the next day, we all where in bed before 11PM. Jake and I rented a DVD and where asleep before the movie ended. Monday November 6th. Puerto Limon, Costa Rica: To start off with I can really say that, Costa Rica is a beautiful place to visit and I cant wait to go back to spend more time there seeing more of this country and doing some diving. As I was watching the sun come up over the mountain of Costa Rica I was really impress on how green the mountains looked. Yes I know I was looking at a jungle on the mountains but you got to remember I live in Colorado and our mountains DO NOT look like anything like what I was looking at. I got everybody up by 7AM so that we could meet our tour by 8:30AM. Again I brought breakfast to Jake in the room. He just does not like getting up early. This was going to be another long day for Richard and Mom but only about 6 hours. I had made arrangements through , Oscar Brown Tours http://www.oscarbrowntours.com/ It started to rain as we started our tour but it was not too bad and it seemed to stop every time we got out of the van, with the exception of our stop at the banana plantation where it came down in buckets. Hey what do you expect when you are in the Jungle. Anyway at the banana plantation it was no big deal as we where covered by a building while watching the worker cut the banana plant and sort them, wash them and pack them for shipping all over the world. I found this a very interesting stop. From there we stop at a small home along the road where Oscar showed us different types of plants and coffee beans plants, as well as a sloth and some other type of critters. After that it was on to our tour of the Tortuguero Canal. This tour on a small boat took us through the rain forest, (yes it was raining) where we saw the native wildlife, including, alligators, monkeys and more sloths and a variety of different types of birds and plants.. Oscar dropped us off at hotel Bary where our boat through the canal and our guide HARLIN was waiting. This was a one hour trip and HARLIN really made this trip for us. He knew his wildlife and the local plants. He fond the plant that they make Channel #5 out of. All we did is rub a few leafs from this plant on our hands and our hands smelled nice all day. We kept sniffing our fingers through out the tour. HARLIN was an excellent guide and if you do book through Oscar Brown make sure that he gets you HARLIN for your tour through the Tortuguero Canal. In fact I wish Harlin was our guide through the whole day. He really know his stuff and told us a lot of interesting things about Costa Rica that Oscar did not tell us. I'm glad we did go through Oscar Brown Tours because it was much cheaper then the ship and we where a small group of 6. But Oscar needs to learn more about Costa Rica and the history and be more outgoing and telling us things with out us having to ask. He was more of a driver then a guide. Oscar you have a good new business that you are starting but you need to tell your guest more information and be more outgoing, telling us about life in Costa Rica and how you and the people live in Costa Rica. Anyway back to our tour. After our Canal tour Oscar dropped Jake and myself off at Brisas de la Jungal" www.junglebreeze.com for our canopy zip line tour. Mom and Richard got some more of a tour of the area while we went zip lining. WOW what a great time. If you want an adrenaline rush then this is the tour for you! Glide through the treetops with this exhilarating adventure: 12 cables and 13 platforms stretched across the length of the rain forest. The longest cable is 270m long and you will experience heights up to 60FT. Here you can enjoy the gripping thrill of the wind in your face as you soar through the rain forest witnessing some of the most spectacular views. Even though it was lightly raining while we where doing our zip-line we never really did get that wet. I guest the heat and humidly help kept us dried. Our two guides Jamie and I forgot the other person name where very professional and safety came first over everything else. What a great afternoon we had zip-lining over the rain forest in the jungle. Jake had a great time talking with Jamie as she was just starting collage. She is taking tourism classes to be a tour guide in her beautiful country. Oscar was waiting for us with Mom and Richard as we finish our zip line and after saying are good byes to our zip line guides and give them a very nice tip it was off to the ship. Mom and Richard where tired now so we did not do any more stops. After saying good by to Oscar. Mom and Richard headed back to the ship. Jake and I headed into town to look around and to by some coffee. The town of Puerto Limon is not much to see but right at the dock they do have booths set up to sell you anything you might want and I did find the prices better there then in town so we did all our buying by the dock. But if you do get a chance to go into town go for it. We did feel safe and it's something you should see. That night on board the ship was the Master Chef's Dinner in the dinning room. It is like a Broadway show with your dinner. (Dinner and a show) I guess this is replacing HAL Dutch Night. It was very entreating but the menu was set that night and the food was just ok. don't get me wrong it was good but I wish we had more to select from. After dinner went to the show and saw Petrina, www.petrinasworld.com she is a very gifted person and very big in U.K. After that it was another stop for my nightly donation and off to bed. Tuesday and Wednesday November 7th and 8th Two days at sea as we head home. The seas where very nice and we did not hit any bad weather. Yes we did hit a few rain showers but no big deal. Time to rest up after the past few days. I really do not remember what we did. As the days went by very fast. I do know there was plenty of things to do and we where kept busy with whatever activities we did. All I know was I was exhausted at the end of each day. Really got into those sea days. As well as Mom, Richard, and Jake. On Wednesday our last day at sea we spend the late afternoon packing and saying good by to all our new fond friends. Thursday November 9th. Back in Ft. Lauderdale. Ship Docked at 6AM. And people where starting to get off by 8AM. We where in NO hurry as our flight did not leave until 2PM. So Mom, Richard and myself went up for our final meal around 7:45AM. Jake slept in and had room service bring him something around 8AM. We where out of our rooms by 9AM and went up on deck to relax until we where called off the ship. At 10AM then made the announcement that anybody left on the ship must leave now. So as we where kicking and screaming as they made us leave the ship we headed down the gang way. Cleared customs in 5min. And yes we where the last ones off. Our bags where waiting with a porter who thought he might have to put them in storage as they where the last bags and nobody else was getting off. He had us and our bags in a taxi with-in 10 min after we where off the ship and we where at the airport at 10:30AM. We could not check our bags in until Frontier Airlines counter open at 11:30AM. But someone came to work early and we where able to check-in at 11AM. And then out to the gate for our 2 PM flight. The 3 hours went fast and before we knew it. It was time to get on board. Flight home left 20 min. late taking off but we made up time in the air and got home at 4PM 20 min. earlier. All in all we all had a super time Mom, was a real trooper and would do anything and seemed to be really enjoying herself. She ate very well on this trip. And it was good to see her eat and put on a few more ponds. Richard ,who did not really want to go on a cruise also seem to enjoyed himself, I feel he did have a good time when he was not napping , and also was a good eater on this trip. Both Mom and Richard don't eat much any more but they sure did eat very well on this trip. It made me feel good to see them both eating for a change. Jake ,what can I say. He is just like his Mother (Debbie) could not pass up a bathroom if given the chance. In fact the plumber on the ship and Jake got to be very good friends in our stateroom. I'm glad Jake joined us. It made the trip easy for me and I also enjoyed his company. He made a great roommate and we had a super time being with each other. I look forward too traveling with Jake again. I myself love too cruise and can't wait to go on another cruise a.s.a.p. . The Thrill of The Seas is the Important thing. And I will Continue too enjoy All the cruising that I can do for a very long time. Well congratulations you made it through the whole review. I hope that you enjoyed ourMost Excellent Adventure. John Read Less
Sail Date October 2006
The ship was great, our cabin 6180a was very spacious with a tub and Jacuzzi and the veranda was large enough for a lounge and a chair. Service aboard was excellent in all areas except the wine steward. If you brought your wine to the ... Read More
The ship was great, our cabin 6180a was very spacious with a tub and Jacuzzi and the veranda was large enough for a lounge and a chair. Service aboard was excellent in all areas except the wine steward. If you brought your wine to the table as a gift from your travel agent as was our case, and you asked to have him open the bottle, he waited until he completed orders from paying customers, then at his convenience came to open our wine and in most cases was when we were in the middle of our main course. The food was excellent and presented very well. we ate in the pinnacle grill one night, which was a very pleasant dining experience and we recommend it highly. The entertainment left something to be desired as the quality of some of the cast was less than other performers we have seen on other ships. The shore excursions were for the most part very good although we did not partake in Visby or Aarhus. We enjoyed Berlin the most and in particular the train ride from Warnnamunde to Berlin which took three hours each way. We found St. Petersburg to be very interesting, even though our tour guide made it a point to tell the people on the bus that she works for tips and was disappointed with the way she was treated the day before by some of the guests on that particular bus she was on, and this was reflected in her attitude toward us in the manor of the way she handled the tour .(tacky) The hotel we stayed in pre and post cruise (the Scandec Hotel) was at best a Class B hotel with no air-conditioning. They have a what they call a cooling system which most of time does not work so if it is warm which was in our case this time of year it was almost impossible to sleep. I believe Holland America should look for better places to stay. Both embarkation and disembarkation went without any problems. Their system is so far the best we encountered Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
Overall, the 10 day Baltic Cruise on the Amsterdam was excellent. The cabin was spacious and had ample storage - more then we even needed. The staff was wonderful - always smiling, greeting and very polite. The food was exceptional, ... Read More
Overall, the 10 day Baltic Cruise on the Amsterdam was excellent. The cabin was spacious and had ample storage - more then we even needed. The staff was wonderful - always smiling, greeting and very polite. The food was exceptional, especially in the dining room. Wonderful soups, appetizers, main courses and lovely desserts. The only item that could have improved was having a larger selection of salads. Coffee and tea was included, but sodas were extra. If you like soda, the 20 drink soda card for $20 was the least expensive way to go. Food on the Lido deck was good, but for dinner, it was not nearly as good as the dining room. The ship was spotless, except in the late afternoons around the main pool area where the staff could have done a far better job on picking up towels and glasses after passengers left. The evening shows were mediocre. The dancers, who were there almost every night, were amateurish. The comedy was ok - but nothing to write home about. The Internet fees at 55-75 cents per minute, I feel, were excessive. The casino was there for donations, especially the slots. Getting on and off the ship at the ports was seamless. Never really had to wait long to get on or off. We made our own arrangements for shore excursions as we felt the HAL prices were out of line. For example, 6 of us contracted with a private tour company to go to Berlin - a 2 ½ drive, for only $167 per person, vs. $300 per person that HAL wanted. Overall, again, it was an excellent cruise with only a couple of minor complaints Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
Amsterdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.4
Dining 4.0 4.1
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 4.0 4.5
Fitness Recreation 4.0 4.0
Family 3.0 4.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 4.1
Enrichment 4.0 3.9
Service 4.0 4.5
Value For Money 4.0 4.2
Rates 4.0 4.2

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