As a first time cruiser, I really didn't know what to expect. We had always wanted to go to Alaska and this seemed the perfect way to do it. Our ship was the Amsterdam from Holland America and here are my impressions: We live in ... Read More
As a first time cruiser, I really didn't know what to expect. We had always wanted to go to Alaska and this seemed the perfect way to do it. Our ship was the Amsterdam from Holland America and here are my impressions: We live in Seattle and so the getting there and boarding was very easy and practical for us. We were shown to our stateroom (an outside stateroom on the Main Deck - Deck 2), having been upgraded by HAL from the Dolphin Deck. I was very pleasantly surprised by the size of the stateroom. It was very spacious and well appointed. The Cabin Steward, named Dwi, was exceptional and took real pride in making everybody comfortable. In fact, the attitude of all the staff was incredible. They went out of their way to make sure everybody had all their needs met. One thing I wasn't ready for was the age of most of the cruisers. I didn't realize but Holland America has quite a following among the older folks. We met people from 70 right on up to age 92. Most of the music they play is big band stuff and I am convinced the cruise director would like to be Bob Barker when he grows up. ("Johnny, tell her what she won!") Read into that, cheesy. As you can tell, the cruise director did get on my nerves a little bit. The food. Well, what can you say. The food was very good, very rich, and there was a whole lot of it. The staff did everything they could to please even the most difficult customers. There were no low points, but some pretty awesome high points. The chocolate buffet was pretty incredible just to look at. The Odyssey Restaurant was spectacular, and even the tuna sandwich was pretty dang good. They had no problem giving you more or less, depending on what you wanted. The steaks were always cooked to perfection, the seafood was always just the right temperature, and the salads were always crisp and fresh. I'm not much of a dessert person but my wife said the bread pudding was to die for. The ice cream bar was ok. The cheese cake was very good. The coffee was lousy but then again, I am from Seattle and am kind of a coffee snob. Other stuff: My wife had a manicure and facial from the Steiner Spa on board and said it was fabulous. The ports of call were excellent. It rained in Juneau and Sitka and at Hubbard Glacier, but Ketchikan was bathed in sunshine and just gorgeous. My wife kayaked to Whiskey Cove and said it was wonderful. I took the deep sea fishing and wilderness trek, where you catch your fish and then go to a spot in the rain forest where they cook it for you while you take a walk through the old growth. The meal was very well done and I would do this excursion again. Julie, the lady who is the excursion manager, was helpful and very efficient. The entertainment seemed pretty good. We never actually got to see a show. Each time we went, everybody was saving seats (even though they tell you not to do that) and those that did dare to sit down usually got cussed out by some 75 year old lady from Michigan or Ohio or New York or Pennsylvania who talked like Edith Bunker and who's life quest was to save those seats. Eventually we decided to forget it and go read. (If you're seventy and from New York and talk through your nose, you should feel lucky we let you breathe, never mind have any clout.) I would do this cruise again. The scenery was that spectacular. The staff really hustled and even the Bob Barker wannabe got the job done. dave@bellevuechurchofchrist.orgNovember 2002 Read Less
WOW ... that's the best short description for our feeling about our cruise on the lovely Amsterdam on the Alaska Explorer Cruise. We knew this was not the Inside Passage but felt the trade off to be able to round trip from Seattle ... Read More
WOW ... that's the best short description for our feeling about our cruise on the lovely Amsterdam on the Alaska Explorer Cruise. We knew this was not the Inside Passage but felt the trade off to be able to round trip from Seattle was well worth it. And we loved the sea days. This was a family Anniversary and Birthday trip, hopefully the first of many, ages from 54 to 4 1/2. Not one of us was disappointed, our expectations were more than met. The Ship - Beautiful, elegant, spotless... We took a galley tour and it was amazing how they can do so much for so many people and keep everything so clean. The Cabins - We had a suite, the rest had cabins on the Dolphin Deck. Ours of course was fantastic, spacious, luxurious, many perks, we felt extremely spoiled. The Dolphin decks were also spacious and had plenty of closet space and well as a generous bathroom including tub. The Service - SUPERB. Everyone made a special effort to make you feel as you were the only person they waited on. After we all got back we commented how it will be hard to go to any hotel or restaurant as we will never experience service like we received on the ms Amsterdam. The Food - Wonderful and very plentiful. A great selection for all the age groups. Two of our group ordered "surf and turf" every night along with all the other courses, they loved it. In fact on lobster night our wonderful waiter brought extra lobster tails for them, wow!! The "running of the moose", Dutch Night, and Baked Alaska was also really fun. The hamburgers and pizza on the Lido deck were also good and thank goodness for the hot dogs for my niece. Club HAL - the children's program was so enjoyable that the kids did not want to be with us after their first outing. Job well done. Speaking of kids, the way the entire staff treats children is the best, they all go out their way to greet the children each time they see them and make sure they feel special. Embarkation/Debarkation - smooth as silk. We were very lucky as our weather was mild so no problems with seasickness, etc.. We were able to get 3/10 mile from Hubbard glacier, an awesome experience. Thank you Holland America and the staff and crew of the lovely ms Amsterdam for making this much anticipated trip everything we hoped for. And a huge thanks to all the people on the Cruise Critic boards who assisted me in being totally prepared for our adventure. All your helpful hints and packing instructions helped so much. I am addicted to the boards even though our trip is over. Of course now I am anxiously figuring out when and where to go next!!! mconner@charterinternet.com December 2002 Read Less
I booked this cruise with high expectations. First, it was a holiday cruise and would be festive and second the HAL line had a great reputation. Well, I've learned once again, go with no expectations and you won't be ... Read More
I booked this cruise with high expectations. First, it was a holiday cruise and would be festive and second the HAL line had a great reputation. Well, I've learned once again, go with no expectations and you won't be disappointed. This cruise was filled with many frustrating and unpleasant experiences, all unnecessary and avoidable in my opinion. I will tell you the good and the bad Embarkation and Debarkation were both nightmares and handled as poorly as anything I've read about, but never experienced. I overnighted in Miami and was informed my bags must be picked up from my room by 6:15 and I must be ready to board the bus by 7AM. The bust didn't leave until 9AM! The organizer was obviously overwhelmed with irritated people and when I asked about the delay, she stated that eveyone had to claim their bag before they could board and it was holding them up. No one had informed us of this and they hadn't built the schedule to accommodate this reasonable security process. She just said it had been like this since 9/11! Are they too stupid to revise their process? I won't go into the rest of the journey to the ship, but suffice it to say even if the cruise were wonderful, I'd never travel on HAL again for their insensitivity to the burden of getting on their ships. In my 20+ cruises I've never experienced the difficulty and hassle of this trip. The ship itself is new, spotless and filled with interesting art, spots to sit and roomy well thought out accommodations. While the sleeping/dressing area was standard size and roomy enough to move around without bumping into furniture or walls, the bath was a joy. Because I had only a shower stall there was no awkward bath to step over and the floor space was large enough so you could actually dress in the room if needed. I regretted the lack of a nightlight, a simple but wonderful touch when getting up in the night. The only option is a bright light, annoying and unnecessary. The cabin steward was professional, around when you needed and not intrusive. Room service was slow (45 minute wait) and there was no phone directory or direct dial service for anything but information. Which, when busy, made any service or inquiry frustrating to get. The ship had been ¾ full over the past few weeks (9/11?) and I believe they may have been understaffed for the full ship for this cruise. If you don't smoke, you may not like the smoking policies. They stick smokers in the front of the dining room so we had to run a gauntlet of pipe, cigar and cigarette smoke to get to our table each night. And the layout of the common areas assures you will smell like smoke if you go out in public for long. While the crew was generally friendly, service in the dining area was spotty and they appear understaffed and overworked. There were several signs of stress during the cruise. I cruise for relaxation and high-quality food, prepared impeccably. I don't care about the itinerary when cruising the Caribbean as I have all the T-shirts and watches I need. This cruise line is relentless in their pursuit of your shopping dollar. The most obnoxious, loud announcements seemed to incessantly flow from the intercom system. It hurt your ears! So if you're enjoying a book or a quiet conversation, or even a nap on deck, forget about it. It will be interrupted at some point by "Mr. Bingo or the Gold Chain sale" announcement. Please, if we want to shop, it's not that hard to find your shops and we read your schedule everyday and know when bingo is. As for the food, it was mediocre at best. While the variety was good, the preparation was uneven. Most of the red meat was overcooked, the fish varied from raw to tough. Meals arrived at my table generally lukewarm. And asking for coffee prior to dessert was not honored. They did throw out a pile of large shrimp and king crab legs (partially frozen) the last two days of a 12-day cruise but otherwise there wasn't anything I'd go to a local restaurant and pay for if it was offered. The lido breakfast had your normal buffet items and special order eggs but pancakes, waffles and breads were insipid. I ordered toast and English muffins on two occasions only to receive warm bread and muffin. Another irritating item was, although they provided pepper mills, the grind was too large and made food inedible. I brought both these small items up to management and received a promise the toast would be toasted in the future. It wasn't on the 7 days I remained on ship. The peppermill was attributed to "corporate decision" and nothing could be done! I use the exercise facilities, which have an adequate variety of aerobic and weight training items. The stationary bikes and treadmills do not face a tv. A simple, but nice feature in most health clubs. But, even if you could see a TV, you couldn't change channels to what you wanted to watch, even if no one else was in the club! I challenged this, but was told the hotel director had made the decision and it was not to be changed. This attitude seemed to be prevalent throughout the ship. Anything that would make the cruise a bit nicer and not cost them any extra, seemed to be a hassle or against "policy". I appreciate the fact that its their cruise line and they can set the rules anyway they want. In fact I won't bother them again. I know there were many people who loved the cruise and I wish them many happy returns to HAL. It may be more suited for those who are happy to vacation at Holiday Inns and eat at Country Kitchen. And that's not to denigrate Holiday Inns or Country Buffet. But they charge a lot less than this HAL cruise cost and are just as good. If anyone is interested in more info or a recommendation for a truly fine cruise line for similar costs I'd be happy to do so.thouts@mn.rr.com January 2002 Read Less
Amsterdam Russian Rhapsody Review Here's a review of our Russian Rhapsody Cruise on the Amsterdam. It was an absolutely fabulous trip and I'm sure those of you scheduled for the Aug trip will have a wonderful time. Our ... Read More
Amsterdam Russian Rhapsody Review Here's a review of our Russian Rhapsody Cruise on the Amsterdam. It was an absolutely fabulous trip and I'm sure those of you scheduled for the Aug trip will have a wonderful time. Our Background Just a brief overview of who we are. This trip was to celebrate our 25th anniversary. My husband is 50 and I am 48 and we do not have any kids. This was our 11th cruise overall and our 3rd on HAL. It was our first one of over 7 days and our first trip to Europe (other than a business trip I took to Germany in 1983). My parents joined us on the trip and it was wonderful to be able to spend some time with them since we do not see them very often. It was the first trip we've taken together. They live on the Oregon coast and just celebrated their 49th anniversary. It was their 10th cruise and 3rd on HAL. They had taken a Mediterranean cruise for their 40th (on Princess) and had been to Ireland last year. We are not the types to go out wandering on our own especially in foreign places so we took the ships tours and were very happy with them. Getting There We made our own air arrangements to avoid having to fly overnight and to allow ourselves at least a few hours sleep Friday night before boarding the ship on Saturday. However, we did buy the HAL transfers from the hotel to the ship and the ship to the airport. Because our flight got in at night they would not provide transportation from the airport to the hotel. We took a short early (6:00 a.m.) flight from Cincinnati to Chicago before boarding the longer flight for London Heathrow. The flights left on time and we were very pleased with the service on American. We arrived just after 10:00 p.m. and after making our way through immigration and customs tried to find out where to get a taxi to the Hilton on Park Lane. Our TA had told us it would be about 25 pounds for the trip. We finally found a hotel arrangements desk and he told us to exchange some money and then take the Heathrow Express to Paddington and get a cab from there to the hotel. It was a bit confusing but we did find our way to the train. As we were taking the elevator down to the train, some people trying to catch it said it was the last one for the night so we were lucky to have made it. We arrived at the station and had some problems finding the area for the cabs because of construction in the station but finally did find it and arrived at the hotel just about midnight. Between the train and the cab it cost us about $50 to get from the airport to the hotel. My parents purchased the flight and hotel package from HAL. They left Wed afternoon and got to London mid-day Thursday. They were not very pleased with the British Airways service on the flight. We all stayed at the Hilton on Park Lane and from the little we got to see of it, it was a very nice hotel. It was very well located for seeing London. My parents were able to see quite a bit in the short 1-½ days they were there just by walking around. Day 1 (Sat 6/23) I called my parents room about 7 a.m. to find out what the plans were for the day. They said they had left a message for us but the person checking us in the night before said there were no messages. He also had no information on the HAL transfers. My parents said we were supposed to have our bags outside our doors by 8:15 and then meet in the lobby by 9:15 since the bus would leave about 9:30. We got ready and put our bags out then met my parents for breakfast. The buses arrived just after 9:30 and we boarded for a short tour of London on our way to the ship. The tour was very interesting for us since it was our only chance to see London. We drove by most of the major sights in London (Buckingham palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Wheel, etc) and made a stop at the Tower of London before heading out to Harwich. We arrived at the ship just before 2 and were quickly checked in and boarded the ship. We were escorted to our cabin on the Main Deck. We had booked an inside guarantee (deciding to use the difference from an outside cabin towards the tours we wanted to take). My parents booked an outside guarantee. We both ended up on the Main Deck forward. It was a good location, very quiet and close to the forward stairs. We were all hungry so quickly headed up to the Lido for wonderful lunch. The ship is very beautiful and we didn't have any problems finding our way around. We found our pre-booked Tour tickets in our cabin when we boarded. We got everything we ordered except for the Imperial St. Petersburg tour, which we were waitlisted on (and so were my parents). Two of our bags were in our cabin when we got back from lunch and the other arrived shortly after so we started to unpack. I like the way HAL's cabins are arranged providing a sitting area (couch and chair) so that the beds do not provide the only sitting areas. We've been on other ships where the beds are normally in an L Shape and when they put them together it looks that way. On HAL it looks like they were meant to be a queen size bed including the bedspread. On our RCI trip they put the beds together but then did not have a bedspread on it for the entire trip making the room look like it was never made up. (small thing but one of many that is why I prefer HAL). There was plenty of storage area with 5 closets (two with full hanging storage, 1 with ½ hanging, and the others with shelves), 3 drawers in the main dresser, and 2 drawers each in the nightstands. We had Late Seating as requested and ended up with a wonderful table (#111) for 4 right by a window on the Starboard side on the lower level. With the late setting of the sun on this trip it was wonderful to be able to watch the scenery etc while dining. The Dining Room is absolutely beautiful and much quieter than some other ships we've been on. Every night they had a string quartet playing music for the first 20 or 30 minutes of dinner which was very nice. After dinner we headed to the Queens Lounge for the Welcome Aboard Show. It was a very brief show with one song from the Amsterdam Cast and a few introductions from the Cruise Director (Karla Glaser). I thought it was a bit too brief but everyone was tired from the long trips to the ship so there were not a lot of people there. Day 2 (Sun 6/24 At Sea) After breakfast in the Lido we took the tour of the Kitchen, which was very interesting. It was a self-guided tour with a handout explaining what you were seeing. The chef was at the end with the photographer taking pictures. We then decided to go to the Slot Clinic in the Casino and though we'd all been to casinos many times we found this to be very interesting. The manager of the Casino was very friendly and showed us how the machines work and explained many of the newer games. We purchased alternates tours for the 2nd day in St. Petersburg since they did not give out much hope of getting more space on the Imperial St. Petersburg tour we were waitlisted on. We spent the rest of the day just getting to know our way around the ship and relaxing in preparation for the busy tour schedule ahead. We then prepared for the Captains Welcome Reception. The Captain was Nico Corbijn and he is extremely friendly (and very good looking by the way!). We then headed down to another wonderful dinner in the Dining Room. After that we headed to the Queens Lounge for the first of the Amsterdam Cast's Production shows (they did 4) called Personality, Too! They have several very talented people in the cast and the show was good but typical. Day 3 (Mon 6/25 Oslo) We had a quick breakfast and then headed to the Queens Lounge for our tour of Oslo. We had all selected the Historic Tour of Oslo. They are very organized in getting the tours off. You need to show up in the Queen's lounge about 15 minutes before the time with your entire group. They give you a sticker color-coded for the specific tour with the bus number you will be on. There were a few confused people the first day but it seemed to work pretty well. It was actually easier to know you always went to the same place for a tour rather than remember that some tours met in one lounge, others on the pier etc as we've seen on other cruises. We ended up on Bus #1 and headed out to see Oslo. We headed thru the City and up to the Holmenkollen Ski Jump site, which was very scenic. We then headed to the Norsk Folke Museum and it was very interesting to see the old buildings and the women who explained them were all very good. Our last stop was at the Resistance Museum, which was in the old Fort just across from where the ship was docked. We decided to walk from there back to the ship. After a late lunch we spent the rest of the day relaxing. The show for this night was a comedian/juggler named Barnaby and he was extremely funny. This was one of the best shows of the cruise so if he is on your ship, be sure to go. Day 4 (Tue 6/26 Helsingborg, Sweden) We arrived for our first stop in Sweden with another beautiful day. We were originally supposed to anchor at this port but ended up docking there. We had signed up for the Hoganas & Kullaberg Tour so made our way to the lounge and then to the waiting buses. We had a nice drive through the town and out to the Countryside. We had a brief stop at the Kullen Peninsula. We next stopped at a lovely outdoor cafe where we had coffee and "cakes" in a beautiful garden setting. We then stopped at a 12th century Medieval Church that had beautiful paintings on the walls and ceilings. Our tour guide was very good and we had a wonderful tour of this part of Sweden. Then it was back to the ship to relax and another fabulous dinner in the Dining Room. Since the next day was going to be an early call for the Berlin tour we decided to skip that night's show, which featured a pianist named Jeannette Owens. I never heard anyone mention the show so can't give you any idea of if it was good or not. Day 5 (Wed 6/27 Warnemunde, Germany) My father came down with a bad cold so decided to stay on the ship for the day so my mother, husband and I set out for Berlin. We met in the Queen's Lounge at 6:30 and then for the Train. It was a short walk from the ship to the Train. Everyone one had sticker indicating what Bus they would be on in Berlin (based on the tour selected) and a ticket for the Train Carriage they would be in. The train was interesting and consisted of compartments of 6 seats. The Shore Excursion talk on the TV on the ship had indicated the train ride had been shortened, because of work on the tracks, to less than 2 hrs but it turned out to be a 3 hr trip. It was a pleasant trip and we enjoyed visiting with the others in our compartment. Soon after we left they brought by our "snacks" in large brown bags. We all had a laugh at what was provided since it included a sandwich (this was at about 7:30 in the morning), a banana, orange juice, cheese, small muffin, and a Twix candy bar. We arrived in Berlin about 10:30 and loaded the buses for our Highlights Tour. We saw quite a bit of the city, which has had a lot of things rebuilt in the past 10 years and there is still a lot of construction going on. We had a very nice lunch at a hotel and an hour or so of free-time to do some shopping. However, the shopping near the hotel was more of a mall with clothing stores and that sort of thing. There were no craft type stores but we wandered around for a bit before getting back on the bus and the rest of our tour. The train ride back brought yet another brown bag snack. I heard later throughout the cruise from some people that were disappointed in the City itself but I'm still glad we went. We didn't arrive back to the ship until about 8:30 so headed up to the Lido for dinner. The captain was outside welcoming us back when we arrived. He had also been there in the morning to see us off. They had scheduled a German Bierfest and Oom-Pah band on the deck for the evening (there was no show) since most people would be getting back so late. There was a huge crowd of local people there to see us off and it was fun to wave to them as we pulled out. Day 6 (Thu 6/28 Ronne, Denmark) We had decided not to take a tour at this stop since it was about ½ way thru the cruise and would be a good time to relax before the rest of the trip. We did wander into town for some shopping (there was a free shuttle to/from the ship and the center of town). It was a very pretty little town but the one place where there were a lot of people that didn't speak English. I found something I wanted to buy in one shop but they didn't take credit cards or English money and we did not have a lot of Danish money with us. We did buy a few things in the other shops then headed back to the ship. There was a craft area close to the ship that had some very nice pieces of handmade glassware and we did buy some things there. We then decided to do some laundry using the Self Service laundry rooms. It is $2 a load for the washer, which includes detergent, and the dryer is free. We did 4 loads and it took us less than 2 hrs. It was starting to get crowded when we left though since everyone had the same idea. This was the 2nd formal night of the cruise so we dressed up for dinner and another one of the Cast's production shows called Jazzmatazz. Nothing spectacular but pleasant overall. July 2001 Read Less
Alaska Explorer Cruise Alaska was to be the fourth of our cruise destinations on our cruise check list. We had originally booked an Inside Passage Cruise but Holland American changed the cruise to an Alaskan Explorer Cruise sometime ... Read More
Alaska Explorer Cruise Alaska was to be the fourth of our cruise destinations on our cruise check list. We had originally booked an Inside Passage Cruise but Holland American changed the cruise to an Alaskan Explorer Cruise sometime after we booked in November 2001. The itinerary was basically the same except for more time spent out in the Pacific Ocean rather that the Inside Passage. Regardless, we were ready for an Alaskan adventure when August finally arrived. Another reason we wanted this cruise was for the port of departure, Seattle, Washington, which is roughly a 4-½ hour drive from our home. We arrived in Seattle on Saturday, August 10th, by 11 am and had some time to explore the piers on the waterfront. At 12:30 pm we parked our vehicle in the parking facility directly across from the HAL cruise ship terminal. They even supply a walkway over the roadway. Our luggage was carted away, we went up to the embarkation area, checked in, were given a number an told to wait until our number was called at which time we would be allowed onboard the Amsterdam. We waited approximately 1 hour and boarded the ship at 2 pm. We had an outside cabin on the Lower Promenade Deck (located nearer the bow of the ship), which was clean and nicely decorated in tan, gold, orange and brown with dark blue carpeting. Not the colors I would decorate a new ship with but they didn't ask me J. Exploring the ship was interesting as it was not too glitzy, not too drab, not too elegant, but just about right for all tastes. It felt like it could be home for a week. The main areas we tend to use are the dining room (very pretty with 2 floors), the showroom (you can see well from all seats), the casino (just enough different slot machines and tables), and the buffet restaurant (basically the same on all ships). All of these areas and the others we visited occasionally suited us just fine. Our travel agent had booked us with the Virtuoso Voyager Club so we were treated to some extras, which turned out to be a great deal. We had a wonderful cocktail party in the Crow's Nest Lounge and enjoyed appetizers and drinks while waiting for departure. During the rest of the week we also were treated to another cocktail party, a 5 hour excursion in Ketchikan which included a jet boat trip and visit to Salmon Falls Resort, a replica of the MS Amsterdam enclosed in an acrylic case, a Blue Delft plate, made in Holland, with the dates and ports painted on (Amsterdam painted in the center), a $100 shipboard credit and a free 8x10 photo. Be sure to ask your travel agent if they are affiliated with Virtuoso so you can get some of these perks in future cruising. I am not one to write much about all of the ship amenities or comment too much on the cuisine. Holland America does a nice job in all areas and I would recommend cruising with them any time. The ship was wonderful and had all of the same things the other lines I have traveled with. They did have an Ice Cream Bar, which we visited several times. They use ice milk not real ice cream but it was cold and sweet so I won't complain too much. Also, the Coffee Bar was nice too. Cappuccinos and Lattes were good. The food in the dining room was average. My only real complaint would be that some things were not served hot enough. The selections in each course seemed limited compared to my recollection of Princess and RCCL. The food was fine and tasty. The desserts were mediocre. The dining room experience should make your mouth water weeks after the cruise is over. Sorry HAL. I can usually gain a few pounds on a cruise but I actually lost 2 pounds this time. Now on to the cruise itself: Day One - At Sea Our first day was spent making our way from Seattle's Puget Sound to Chatham Strait. We did catch a glimpse of two Orca whales late in the day on Sunday. Other than that it was ocean with a few views of mountains and islands in the far distance. Later in the evening the winds came up and the waves got bigger (5 feet plus) and I retired early with a queasy stomach. Day Two - Juneau, Alaska We docked in Juneau at 9:30 am and were off the ship at 10 am for our excursion. We had booked the Mendenhall Glacier, Wildlife and Whale Watching Quest. They loaded us on the bus and took us on a brief city tour (15 minutes) and off to Auk Bay where our tour boats waited for us. Our tour took us up Lynn Canal. We saw bald eagles, sea lions and lots of whales. About 2 hours into the 3-hour trip the rain started but we were all so thrilled at the humpback whales all over the place we didn't mind. When the winds picked up and the waters got choppy we headed back in. They loaded us on the bus again and we headed to a foggy, wet peek at Mendenhall Glacier. The US Ranger Station was without power as the winds had knocked down a tree and took out the power all around the island. On the way back to the ship we found out that the 2 ships parked in Auk Bay when we came by on the way to the glacier were unable to go up to Skagway due to the high winds. Those folks had spent the day sitting on their ships in Auk Bay. Back in Juneau we met with friends for several hours. They have lived in Juneau for the past 20 years. It was good to hear all about the area from the locals. The ship left port at 10 pm heading north to Yakutat Bay and Hubbard Glacier. Day Three - Hubbard Glacier The storm had really set in by late Monday night and early Tuesday morning. The swells were up to 10 feet and both of us were seasick big time L all night. Remember we were at the bow. The Pacific Ocean can be a real beast. My husband, who has pretty good sea legs, was down for the count too. We finally were able to get some rest when the ship entered Yakutat Bay about 10 am. The ship reached Hubbard Glacier about 1 pm. The fog was still thick and the face of the glacier was just visible. The captain was able to get the ship within four tenths of a mile from the glacial face. This is closer than any reviews I have read. I think that since it was so rainy and foggy he felt sorry for us and pulled in as close as he dare get. We watched and listened to the glacier for about 2 hours. There was no calving but the moans and groans and cracking was awesome sounding. We headed out of Disenchantment Bay at 3 pm on our way to Sitka. Husband and I made our way to the infirmary for Sea-Calm, which worked perfect the rest of the cruise. Here is a bit of another story pertaining to Hubbard Glacier I thought review readers might like to hear about. Hubbard Glacier had advanced in the past few months closing Russell Fiord to a trickle of a stream into Disenchantment Bay. It was now called Russell Lake. The waters had risen to over 60 feet above sea level causing concern amongst the geologists and scientist watching the area. In the early morning hours of August 14th the rain waters and lake waters burst the sediment dam pushed by the glacier into Gilbert Point. On August 15th photos taken of the area showed a 300-foot wide opening between the glacier and Gilbert Point. The waters of Russell Lake had gone from 61 feet above sea level to 16 feet above sea level and Russell Lake was now Russell Fiord again. Our ship had been right at the face of the glacier very close to the sediment dam at Gilbert Point in the early afternoon of August 13th. I, for one, am very thankful the dam did not burst while we were parked at the glacier. I shudder to think of what could have happened. The Good Lord was watching over the MS Amsterdam and her passengers on August 13th, 2002. If this has peeked your interest there is a wonderful web site regarding the whole incident at www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass. The pictures are worth the look. Day Four - Sitka, Alaska A beautiful, sunny day greeted us in Sitka. After a day and a half of rain we were ready for sunshine. The ship anchored in Sitka Sound and we were tendered in. Sitka is a beautiful, little city on Baranof Island. We walked about the city enjoying the shops and sights. Totem Square, Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center, St. Michael's Cathedral, Sitka Lutheran Church, and Isabel Miller Museum at Harrigan Centennial Hall were amongst our day in Sitka. We also had the chance to watch the New Archangel Russian Dancers perform. We tendered back to the ship at 4pm and the ship set sail at 6 pm. Making our way out of Sitka Sound was spectacular with the mountains rising out of the waters on a glorious, warm, sunny evening. We intend to make Sitka a point of return some day. Day Five - Ketchikan As if the weather could get better, well it did for our day in Ketchikan. We sailed through Clarence Strait to arrive at Ketchikan at 7 am. Our Salmon Falls Jet Boat Excursion, compliments of Virtuoso Voyagers Club was set for 11 am so we went shopping for a couple of hours in the morning. After buying canned sockeye salmon, Ulu knives, a couple of pieces of tanzanite jewelry and the souvenir mugs (I was told no more tee shirts J). We loaded on a bus for Salmon Falls Resort, which is 20 miles north of Ketchikan on Behm Canal. We loaded onto jet boats for a 3-hour trip up the canal up to the north end of Revillagigedo Island and back to the lodge for drinks and snacks. Since the ship was sailing at 3 pm they had us back at 2:30 just in time for last boarding. Leaving Ketchikan through Revillagigedo Channel was breath taking in the afternoon sunshine. The blue of the waters and the green of the mountains were awesome. A roll of pictures later we were into Dixson Entrance and sailed to Hecate Strait. Day Six - At Sea and Victoria, British Columbia From Hecate Strait we sailed the Inside Passage through Queen Charlotte Sound then proceeded into the Pacific Ocean to Victoria BC. The marine fog was thick as we traveled along the western side of Vancouver Island. We arrived in Victoria at 7 pm where the fog had dissipated and the evening sun was still shining. We were bussed from the cruise ship docks into downtown Victoria. Our 3 hours stop was far too short but since I had just been there in April for 5 days I was not nearly as disappointed as many of my fellow passengers. Victoria is a lovely port and a full day still would not have been enough time to see the sights this city has to offer. We walked through the Empress Hotel, shopped downtown as the shops near the harbor stay open late for the cruise ships. It was a lovely evening in Victoria. The ship sailed at 11 pm for disembarkation in Seattle at 7 am the next day. Day Seven - Seattle, Washington Arriving in Seattle at 7 am we ate our last breakfast in the Lido Restaurant and then waited for our number to be called to disembark. Since we did not have a plane to catch we were near the tail end of the passengers to get off the ship at 9:30 am. Customs was a breeze. Our luggage was waiting for us. I waited on the curb while my husband got the vehicle and we were on the road heading home at 10:30 am. I was impressed with disembarkation. It was just like clock work. So this completes my review of the Holland America Alaska Explorer Cruise. If I were to give the overall experience a rating it would have to be an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest). I can't fault HAL for the weather, which did take away from the glacier experiences. Both glaciers were fogged in. And of course 10-foot waves are a bit more than my tummy can handle but then again the Pacific Ocean is not known for it's calm waters J. I really did want an Inside Passage Cruise so I will have to try it again just to make sure I get to do just that. The food has come to play a less important part since this is my 4th cruise but HAL could make the dining experience just a bit more creative and extravagant. Alaska is a sight to see and every cruiser should experience it at least once. Please email me at diamondeb1954@yahoo.com if there are questions or more information I can supply for you. Thank you for the opportunity of allowing me to share my Alaskan Cruise with you. September 2002 Read Less
We just returned from a HAL Alaska cruise on the Amsterdam. We were very disappointed in the cruise route; out at sea in the Pacific, NOT on the Inside Passage except when entering or leaving a port-of-call. This borders on material ... Read More
We just returned from a HAL Alaska cruise on the Amsterdam. We were very disappointed in the cruise route; out at sea in the Pacific, NOT on the Inside Passage except when entering or leaving a port-of-call. This borders on material misrepresentation by the line (false advertising.) Compared to a true Resort Hotel, the ship was not even comfortable. More like a Ramada with tiny rooms. The food was OK (not even '4 Star' though) but sitting in the dining room for over 2 hours in order to be served a '5 course' meal was unreasonable. There was little choice, as seating was unavailable on the Lido deck or in its dining area during buffet meals, except at port stops. The common areas on board were typically very overcrowded, on-board entertainment was lame (except for 2 of the club acts) and the info regarding port stops was all & only about local shopping. That info was senselessly biased, and the skimpy destination info was generally inaccurate. The only procedure that worked was to buy the packaged excursions & be treated like cattle. Otherwise, just walk around in the overcrowded port towns - cabs often weren't even available due to cross-booking by under-equipped tour companies. I've worked in Alaska previously but my wife had never been. It was a pathetic shell of an 'Alaskan Experience' and more closely resembled a Disneyland 'North to Alaska' ride. And at each port there were from 4 to 6 large cruise ships, meaning an extra 6,000 to 10,000 tourists crammed into teeny towns that can barely serve their own needs. The Mendenhall Glacier visitor area was MORE crowded last week than Yosemite was last month. Unbelievable. Disgusting. Sad. I'm ashamed to have been a part of it. We will go to Alaska again, but will fly into a destination town (probably Kodiak) and arrange our own excursions in advance from there. Maybe take the train to Denali Park. But the current Alaska Cruise fervor is going to help destroy a beautiful place without even giving the participants the true experience of being there. Here's a quote from the AOL cruise boards: "I do agree, it's not for everyone. One more word--you have not "seen" Alaska if all you do is cruise the Inside Passage. That is a very true statement. Cruise Critic seems to have much better info, too bad we didn't find you before cruising! This negative experience may not prevent us from ever cruising again, but we will certainly be skeptical and check with you first.jnelson@open.orgOctober 2002 Read Less
Christmas Panama Canal Cruise December 19 - 29, 2000 Route: Ten-day cruise starting in Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica - Nicaragua - Panama Canal - Aruba - St Thomas - Half Moon Cay, Bahamas - Ft Lauderdale. 1. General Comments: A ... Read More
Christmas Panama Canal Cruise December 19 - 29, 2000 Route: Ten-day cruise starting in Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica - Nicaragua - Panama Canal - Aruba - St Thomas - Half Moon Cay, Bahamas - Ft Lauderdale. 1. General Comments: A great cruise, and my wife and I will gladly cruise again with Holland-America (HAL). This was our second cruise, and we were celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary. The main reason for choosing this trip was for seeing the canal (I last saw it from a troop ship in 1965) and to enjoy the warm weather. We booked the cruise (C category cabin) early in the year, and this got us upgraded to a B-1 mini-suite with private verandah. This was most welcome for watching the canal. Early reservations also got us a table for two at the second seating. We chose the cruise-fly package offered, and it certainly saved grief in trying to make airline reservations over the Christmas-New Years holidays. We further chose the one day stopover in San Jose, Costa Rica before the day of the ship's departure. Traveling on December 18 turned into a godsend as our routing was through Atlanta. Atlanta had serious weather problems on the 19th. Passengers arrived at the ship literally ten minutes before departure time at Puerto Caldera. We delayed departures in Nicaragua and the Golfo Dulce in Costa Rica as we were picking up further groups of passengers. Luggage was still being delivered as late as when the ship had cleared the canal and was preparing to sail to Aruba. 2. Travel to Costa Rica and Embarking: The flights to San Jose were uneventful and on time. We were met at the airport by the HAL contract company and bused to a pleasant hotel halfway between the airport and San Jose. What was left of the day was free. Bags were collected in the morning and the trip to the pier at Puerto Caldera was basically a scenic drive/tour. We drove around San Jose and stopped in two villages (one church and one ox-cart handicraft center) enroute. We arrived at the pier around 2PM, and check-in was a breeze. 3. The Amsterdam: The ship was very attractive, and the Christmas decorations were nice. Our cabin was comfortable for the two of us. There was plenty room for putting away clothes and suitcases. There was even good shelf space in the bathroom. An indication of the modern world is that the ship receives CNN International broadcasting -- in this case English language targeted at Brazil. Only in the Bahamas did we start receiving the US version of CNN. We also received a daily 8-page NY Times Fax newspaper. The ship has an Internet "cafe" arrangement where you can log on to your favorite ISP and check your e-mail or whatever. Cost was 75 cents a minute with a five minute minimum. Our friends and family got a kick out of receiving an e-mail while we were cruising from the canal to Aruba. The crew and staff were tops. Officers were Dutch, cabin and dining room stewards were Indonesian, and bar personnel were Filipino. Deck crew was also Indonesian. I think at least one of the kiosk salesmen was Russian. On our cruise we were around 1,400 passengers and 630 crew. While HAL appears to have a reputation for older folks, this was not the case for this Christmas cruise: there were around 160 children on board, and there was a good number of young adults as well. It was interesting to see the extended family groups (of at least three generations) on this cruise. As for mobility, there were as many baby strollers on board as there were wheel chairs and walkers. 4. Meals: We join other travelers who say that HAL food is excellent. We gained little weight on this cruise, not because of any food problem, but just plain old will power. Breakfast and lunch are open seating in the dining room or cafeteria style in the Lido restaurant. The Lido was quite popular for these two meals, probably because one could pick and choose more easily. We did not try the "alternative" Italian restaurant, but it was quite popular and early reservations were needed. Dinner is the only meal with specified sittings in the dining room. The wine list is respectable. One has to marvel at the ability of the kitchen to prepare such a variety of meals offered at each dinner. Each seating is around 600 people sitting down at the same time for a full meal. No restaurant on land has such a capability. Portions are of respectable size, and if you don't try to eat all the courses everyday, you should not do bad weight-wise. The kitchen is quite prepared to handle special dietary requests. On one morning there is a quick walkthrough tour of the kitchen; we highly recommend it. The Lido Deck at poolside also runs a hamburger/pizza line for those who can't survive from lunch to dinner. 5. Dressing for Meals: For this ten-day trip it was three formal, three informal, and four casual. The ladies on board were all dressed well for the formal evening meals. While 90 percent of the men were in tuxedos or suits, I fail to see why ten percent could not at least bring a suit on board. If you can afford to take a cruise, you can afford to bring a suit, or rent a tux (this can be arranged through your travel agent). I heard one woman berating her husband because he had only brought "one white shirt" along. 6. Shore Excursions: HAL sent a booklet listing all their shore tours with details and prices, so you have a good idea what you want to do before ever arriving at the ship. You need to know what tours you want to take because the first evening on board there is a crowd booking tours, and some of the tours fill up rapidly. If you know the ports of call and want to travel by yourself, then, of course, you don't need the ship's tour office. HAL's tour prices are not cheap; you are paying for the convenience of having the ship organize the tour rather than you doing it after you get ashore. Also, if you obtain your tour through the ship's staff, you have support when there is a problem. There were no more spaces on the bus for our tour in St. Thomas, apparently because the tour company did not send enough minibuses. Along with profuse apologies from the ship's staff, we received a full refund on our tickets and a fifty percent refund on a tour we had ordered at the next stop, Half Moon Cay. This cruise first visited San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua. This sleepy fishing village has no redeeming values other than being the starting point for tours to other parts of Nicaragua. Most people were still recovering from their travel to the ship and just wandered a bit around the village. For stamp collectors, the local post office does have a pretty good collection of current stamps for sale. The highlight of the tour was, of course, the passage through the Panama Canal. No matter what you've read in school books, this is worth seeing. The ship had a gentleman on board who gave three lectures detailing the canal. During the day-long passage a member of the canal administration announced noteworthy sights on the ship's speaker system. The stop at Aruba was a disappointment; it was Sunday and Christmas Eve. All the stores either closed at 2PM or were closed for the entire Christmas holiday. Also, Aruba is not Hawaii; it is flat and desert. Aruba has the second largest water desalinization plant in the world. An interesting place, but been there, done that. St. Thomas was a good contrast to Aruba. It was hilly, reminding of Hong Kong harbor. The shopping was interesting, and apparently there are plenty of sights to see, too. We were four ships in on that day, and the crowds showed in the downtown area. One person mentioned he was from the Carnival Triumph, carrying 3,400 passengers and a crew of 1,000. That was just too much ship. Taxi drivers said the next day there would be eight ships in port for the day. Young people especially enjoyed the stop at Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. Plenty of time to go swimming, fishing, snorkeling, etc. We were only two ships at this HAL-owned islet, but that made for some crowds at the food line. 7. Shipboard entertainment: The ship has a daily schedule full of activities for all tastes: sports, cards, bridge, bingo (for serious players)! etc, etc. The evening shows were pleasant and worth seeing, even if all of them were not of Las Vegas caliber. The casino was of good size and the payoffs did not seem to be much worse than Las Vegas. Duty-free liquor on board was more expensive than in stores in St. Thomas, so you have to know your prices and not jump at the "cheap" prices on board. The liquor on board will be there long enough to do comparison shopping first on shore. You'll have plenty of pictures taken of yourselves by the ship's photographers--pricey, but a good souvenir. The library is well-stocked; there are plenty of nooks around for quiet reading. Those into the disco scene will enjoy the Crow's Nest on the 9th deck which runs into the "wee hours." 8. Tipping: Tipping is truly not required on HAL ships, but after reading the various views on the subject on the Net we made our own decisions: We tipped the cabin steward and the dining room steward. The "area" maitre'd and the assistant dining room steward received about half of what we gave the dining room steward. The wine steward received a rounded off 10-15% of the total wine bill. The bar waiters and waitresses received ca 10-15% of the bar bill. As we had four different bar waiters serving us during the cruise, this made for some "over payments," but it was nothing to worry about. We handed out tips the last night on board as you really don't see these people when disembarking. We would also say that the tips were received with a true "thank you." There was no hanging around looking for something. 9. Settling of Accounts: During your cruise anything you purchase on board (drinks, souvenirs, tours, duty free items, photos) is punched into a computer; you sign one copy of the ticket and you receive a copy. The day before the end of the cruise you receive a preliminary statement of your account. This gives you time to clear up any problems. At the beginning of the cruise you give the ship's front office an imprint of your credit card. In the morning before disembarking you receive a final statement and a copy of your credit card slip. Very painless. The only cash you need on board is for the casino and for some of their "gambling games" like bingo. Serious gamblers can authorize up to $500 a day charge on their account at the casino. You will also need cash for any tips you want to disburse. 10. Disembarking: One reviewer described this procedure as hurry-up and wait. Very true. Your bags have to be out by 2AM, breakfast is from 6 to 8, and you should be out of your cabins by 9. Your bags are color coded by the type and time of your onward transportation. However, waiting around in the comfort of one of the lounges on board is much preferable to sitting on the floor in the Delta terminal at Ft Lauderdale because we were three ships disembarking that morning. We were called to disembark, found our bags in the color coded area pierside, handed our bags in to the Delta counter at pierside, and were on the airport bus. This again is one of the benefits of using HAL's fly-cruise package. Airline personnel from Delta and USAir came on board to give out boarding passes and baggage tags. Once through this system, you don't see your luggage again until you arrive at your home airport. 11. Conclusion: The cruise was nearly flawless. HAL's experience shows and it was a pleasure to celebrate on board with them. HAL has a "frequent flier" program and two people on board must be among their star travelers: they each had over 700 days sailing with HAL. HAL must be doing something right, and we'll be back. If anyone has questions, send me an e-mail at LTC519@aol.com.01/08/01 Read Less
CHRISTMAS, 2000 PANAMA CANAL CRUISE ABOARD THE MS AMSTERDAM. We booked this cruise in January of 2000. At that time the HAL brochure said all we needed was a certified copy of the birth certificate and a photo ID, the same that we ... Read More
CHRISTMAS, 2000 PANAMA CANAL CRUISE ABOARD THE MS AMSTERDAM. We booked this cruise in January of 2000. At that time the HAL brochure said all we needed was a certified copy of the birth certificate and a photo ID, the same that we had used on our other 7 cruises. When the tickets came, there was a note saying we would not get on the ship without proper documentation. I called our travel agent and, sure enough, we needed passports for this cruise. There was a great rush, but we got our passports in time. We left Tucson on Monday, December 18, the day before the cruise. We flew to Miami where we spent the night at the Miami Airport Hilton. Before we left the airport we checked in our luggage with the airline we were to use the next day. The airline was Miami Air but the plane was one from Planet Air. The next morning we got up and went to the airport and boarded the Planet Air plane. They served breakfast during the two and one half hour flight. We arrived in Liberia, Costa Rica, and got on a bus for the two and one half hour trip to the ship. The bus was not very comfortable. The seats were too close together so there was no room for my knees. It was a very long and tiring two days of travel for us. We were lucky we were not delayed by weather as many of the other passengers were. We spent a lot of time in the "hurry up and wait" mode. I do not know how HAL could have done better as they had so many passengers to deal with. We were glad we did the difficult portion of the traveling before the cruise as we had the cruise to look forward to. We knew we could recover on board. The ship was a welcome sight. She is beautiful and classy. The port, Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, is nothing but a dock and a warehouse. It reminded me of the port in Seward, Alaska. When our luggage arrived in our stateroom we noticed that two of the padlocks were missing. When we opened up the suitcases we knew someone had gone through them. They had opened up a carton of cigarettes and taken two packs. They put a big greasy hand print on one of my white tops. I haven't been able to get it out yet. We had brought eight little boxes of chocolate for Christmas gifts. They unwrapped one of them and left it. Although this was an annoyance I was glad we heeded the warning to carry your medicine and your jewelry with you. At least one lady was not as lucky. She was filling out a claim form at the front office for jewelry that was stolen. We left about two hours later than scheduled as we had to wait for some passengers who were late. We picked up more passengers over the next two days. Many passengers had been delayed by winter storms. On day two, while we were cruising Golfo Dulce, a tender went to shore to pick up 19 passengers. We were wondering how they got out to where the ship could pick them up. Costa Rica does not have a lot of highways or public transportation that would get them to us. The first day of the cruise we were in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Several tours were offered but each one required a one and one half hour bus ride to get to the place that is featured. After the long bus ride the day before, I was glad I did not take one of these tours. We were in Cabin 6173 on the Verandah Deck. The cabin was the same as on the Ryndam except the panel under the railing on the verandah is made of Plexiglas. You can see out while sitting in your chair. There is more space between the rail and the divider so you can more easily talk to the people next to you when you are both hanging over the rail. You can take out the back half of the barrier that is between the cabins. This would be great if you have a friend in the next cabin and want to talk or go between cabins without going out into the hall. The elevators on the ship have lots of mirrors. The first few days I would step back so the person in the elevator could get out. Then I realized that I was just seeing a reflection of myself in the mirrors. Once I got confident and walked right in I would run into someone coming out. Thank goodness they were not crowded very often. Others have written reviews about the look of the ship so I will not go into that. If you do not take a tour of the ship you want to stop by each of the pieces of art and read the plaque. That will give you some idea of its importance. Also, be sure to look for the little bear playing with the stick in the area of the Lido pool. We got up early to see the Panama Canal. They were serving "Panama rolls," coffee, and juice on the outside decks. They opened up the "crew only" area on the Promenade Deck. There was plenty of room for everyone to see the Canal. The Canal was as impressive as I thought it would be. There were lots of families on board. The children dominated the pools and the Jacuzzis. There were 168 children during this Christmas cruise and only 8 children the week before. Overall the children were well behaved. Santa came Christmas morning. He did not seem to like children, but the children liked the presents he brought for them. The Christmas dinner was good. I had the biggest lobster tail I have seen on any ship. My husband had the turkey dinner. He was disappointed as it did not taste like the traditional turkey, dressing, and gravy we get at home. We had dinner at the Odyssey Restaurant one night. We thought the food was better in the dining room. I had seen pictures of intimate tables for two nestled into a nook in the restaurant. The nook ended up being windows onto the inside hall. If you get one of those tables you also get everyone going by the restaurant stopping and checking out what you are eating. There were very few lines. If there was a line, as in the Lido during meals, they moved fast. They have the food arranged so you can enter the line at several places depending on what you want to eat. Our last stop was the private island, Half Moon Cay. It was beautiful. The water was too cold for us wimps from Tucson, but many people were swimming. We went on the Glass Bottom Boat tour and enjoyed it. They have some permanent buildings on the island such as a church, a bar, stores for souvenirs, Ben and Jerry Ice Cream, and a few others. The only problem was that the Volendam was there the same time we were. The island is perfect for one ship but was very crowded with two. We went to get some lunch and the line was so long, we didn't even try to get anything. All the chairs on the beach were occupied. I feel that HAL should re-think having two ships there at the same time. Overall, it was a wonderful cruise. I would highly recommend the itinerary and the ship. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at Shipcruise@AOL.com.01/08/01 Read Less
We're home now, doing laundry and catching up on emails. I thought I'd post a review of my impressions of HAL, the ship and my very first cruise experience. HAL -- A well-oiled machine. Boarding was smooth and on time. We ... Read More
We're home now, doing laundry and catching up on emails. I thought I'd post a review of my impressions of HAL, the ship and my very first cruise experience. HAL -- A well-oiled machine. Boarding was smooth and on time. We cleared security and found our cabin. Our bags were already there. I called Information with a few questions. The nice young lady had my answers ready and was calm, polite and efficient. In fact, I had to ask very few questions due to the comprehensive information made readily available at every turn. The staff were wonderful. Harry in the Lido, Sinta and Teddy in La Fontaine and Ady of the bell staff really stood out. Our room steward Tutag seemed to have psychic abilities -- he anticipated our needs and we had to ask for very little. My knowledge of a few Indonesian phrases was greeted with surprise and delight. I could get very used to being "Madam Aanya". The food was very good. I had read a few reviews that lowered my expectations but I was surprised. The Lido is casual dining served cafeteria style, sure, but the food was better than "standard cafeteria fare". If Carpaccio Rolls with Celeriac Salad is your idea of standard cafeteria fare, I wanna know where you dine! I liked La Fontaine, too. An imaginative menu with lots of variation. I noted the clever vegetarian options. The ShipWe unpacked quickly and I was very impressed at the amount of storage we had in such a small space. Yes, I overpacked like a madwoman but you never know what the weather is going to do and I never know what I'm going to want to wear. I never felt crowded and packed in (except on the tender) despite knowing there were 1400 pax on board. There was a lot to do and I really appreciated that no one enforced any participation on me. I logged a fair number of sea miles asleep in the Crow's Nest in a comfy leather recliner and no one hassled me at all. I had read about the smoky nature of this ship and I was pleasantly surprised to find almost no smoking at all, except in the bars, casino and a small area poolside. Lovely! There were a great number of senior citizens on board. I thought the activities and options available to them were terrific. I would not hesitate to suggest that my parents, aged 83 and 72, head north with HAL. I had a small amount of seasickness. The Sea-Calm tabs they provide are very effective -- I took two the first time and ended up pretty sedated. We had 27-foot seas and a force 6 gale on Sunday night and overall more motion than I had expected. A completely Inside Passage cruise would have much less. What I didn't like -- Registering our credit cards at the Front Office was irritating -- we registered mine and had the Devil's own time getting my hub's card registered as well. The lady seemed determined to ignore us. Good thing I am not easily deterred. We had some creepy little kids on our cruise that vandalized the elevators. The little [darlings] were dumb enough to carve their own names into the brass plates. I heard their parents had to pay for the repairs. My husband wanted larger popcorn bags in the Wajang Theatre and I wanted larger coffee cups (to go cups) for the espresso drinks. I know -- small potatoes but I am from Seattle. We DID NOT like that there were a few common areas reserved for private parties over the course of the cruise. I'd wished that those events has been listed on the daily schedule so we'd know what to expect. My husband was turned away from the Crow's Nest one afternoon to accommodate one such party. A little notice ahead would have solved that. Will we cruise again? You bet! With HAL? Sure! Next cruise? Somewhere warm, so the hub can scuba dive. Thanks to all from [Cruise Critic] who provided me with terrific info and pointers before the trip -- they paid off well in knowing what to generally expect. Thanks and take care—AanyaOctober 2002 Read Less
Sail Date: August 2003
TOPLINE: The cruise was amazing. Alaska, Holland America Line, and the m.s. Amsterdam are all highly, highly recommended. The ship was gorgeous, the service outstanding, and the ports were both fascinating and easy to explore. The ... Read More
TOPLINE: The cruise was amazing. Alaska, Holland America Line, and the m.s. Amsterdam are all highly, highly recommended. The ship was gorgeous, the service outstanding, and the ports were both fascinating and easy to explore. The following review is fairly long, but I've tried to categorize it so that people can find particular sections that may interest them. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask: patricia_fessler@yahoo.com SHIP: m.s. Amsterdam is a beautiful ship, well designed and just the right size. Hardwood and brass abound, giving the ship an elegant, nautical feel. This is enhanced by excellent art and antiques, where there is an emphasis on Dutch and Asian pieces. Portraits of Holland America ships by Captain Stephen J. Card are a particular highlight. The library was good, well-stocked with books, stationery, and games. (There was one glaring omission in the book collection, though - "125 Years of Holland America Line" which is a great history of the company. I'm always surprised not to find it on their ships.) I'm a real stickler about upkeep, and I'm pleased to say that the Amsterdam was very well kept up: the flowers were always fresh, all the brass was polished, and the carpets were clean and unworn. I guess this may sound like an expected baseline, but believe me if you're obsessive like me, you see all kinds of flaws even at the nicest hotels, so it was a delight to see things just so. (One small gripe: during the cruise, it seemed like some kid scratched the brass button-plate in the elevator. HAL may wish to weigh the cost of replacing / sanding the brass periodically vs. installing cameras, like in many hotels.) With about 1500 people onboard (lots of families with 3+ a stateroom/suite), the ship was completely booked but never felt crowded. Lines were rare and short. I was reminded of the importance of a small(ish) ship when we docked next to the Radiance of the Seas, a mammoth ship that had enormous lines to get back on the ship. FOOD: This was by far the best food I've had on any cruise line. It totally eclipsed even Celebrity, which is supposedly known for its great cuisine. The presentation was lovely, the range and quality of ingredients was excellent, and the breadth of options was mind-boggling. Of particular note: - THE PINNACLE GRILL. I'd eaten at the Pinnacle on the Statendam in the Spring, and ever since had been dreaming about rare Sterling beef, seared at 1800 degrees. I was not disappointed. This place is a steak lover's dream, infinitely better than Morton's or Ruth's Chris. At $20 a person, it's a ridiculous bargain. One down side is the apparent removal of prime rib from the menu, which I'd had on Statendam. Nonetheless, the porterhouse was outstanding, as was the filet mignon. I read that on Oosterdam, HAL has introduced Hungarian waiters in the Pinnacle. I think this should be fine, but my Indonesian waiter (Tony) was knowledgeable, helpful, and never intrusive (something I found to be a problem with the over-chummy Hungarian waiters in specialty restaurant of Celebrity's Millennium). - DUTCH NIGHT. I never before associated the Dutch with fine cuisine, but I was wrong. Their version of Duck a l'Orange (I can't remember the Dutch name) was delectable, and a martini made with Dutch gin is really good (super-smooth and vaguely lemony). My mother said the Indonesian luncheon was also wonderful, but I was off exploring the port. - ROOM SERVICE. Frequently a weak point for many cruise lines, the room service was very good here, with attractive presentation, croissants wrapped in an insulating linen napkin (not plastic wrap), and bacon that made it to my mouth HOT. STAFF: HAL's staff has always been one of its great strengths, and the Amsterdam staff are no exception. They were cheerful and friendly, hard-working, remembered my name, and fulfilled assorted special requests (eggs done just so, sliced mangos at breakfast, etc). I'm also happy to report that the bar staff were right on the ball. HAL seems to have a policy of never wanting to intrude or hassle, which is good (especially compared to occasionally pushy tactics on other lines), but in the past I've sometimes had trouble getting a drink (!). Nowadays, I think the staff hit the balance just right - if I so much as raised a finger, someone came straight by, but if I was absorbed in a book, no one troubled me. I had the honor of meeting Captain van Zanne and Hotel Manager Henk Mensink; both were models of their professions. Apart from getting us from point A to B safely, Captain van Zanne was statesman-like and had a manner that made one feel confident that this was a well run ship. Mr. Mensink was charming, but also thoughtful, and the quality of the food and accommodations is a testament to his hard work and skill. The entertainment staff were a fun bunch, and kept the Crow's Nest rockin' until well after I had to go to bed. I did have one bad experience, with my dining steward. I asked him if some spring rolls contained shrimp, explaining that I am allergic to shellfish. He told me, with apparent confidence, that they were vegetarian. Fortunately, I cut open the roll and saw the shrimp before I could take a bite. I advised my dining steward and the supervisor, and got the impression my dining steward got a talking-to. The Port Shopping Ambassador, Ivan, seemed a little smarmy but I fear that's a function of his job. He seems like a paid shill because he is. (Ever see the Simpson's episode with the monorail salesman? He reminded me of that guy.) Maybe those recommended stores would be more relevant to me if I bought jewelry and other big-ticket items where a guarantee is important, but since I don't, I prefer to shop at small, independent places off the beaten path. Ivan's talks were easily avoided. More educational and interesting options that shopping abounded: The on-board naturalist was very good, and a great help to whale-watchers on deck. Her slide shows were also informative and entertaining. The native Alaskan artist, Moses, was a great story-teller, had lovely artwork, and was a truly charming guy. ENTERTAINMENT: In the evenings, the classical trio was absolutely amazing. They were called the Champagne Strings, but they were a different group than the guys of the same name on the Maasdam. I'd found those guys (led by "Papa Attila") to be fabulous, but these guys just blew me out of the water. Not only were they good enough to play without a lick of sheet music, they were good enough to really PLAY with the music. They would improvise and enliven classical music in a way I'd never seen before. Holland America, Hungarian musicians are definitely the way to go - as good as the Rosario Strings are (Filipino?), they can't hold a candle to the serious musicians from Hungary. (BTW, my family is Filipino and my aunt was a concert pianist, but by and large Filipinos are better at rock n' roll.) Incidentally, I thought it was very tasteful that the musicians didn't have a tip cup, but did sell CDs. Since they had them right there (no need to go to the shop), I happily bought a CD, and so did plenty of other people. I didn't catch a lot of the formal shows, because I preferred to listen to the classical music, dance, or just hang out with my family, but I did see the magician. I can't recall his name, but he was GREAT. He's one of the few magicians I've seen who blends magic and humor while still coming off as a great guy. (Copperfield, Sigfried and Roy, Lance Burton, etc. all seem to be real shmucks - to their assistants and their audiences.) His tricks were also excellent, especially one where he takes the wedding rings of three audience members, "magically" interlinks them, and has each man confirm that the ring is really his. Especially with projector screens showing the close-up detail, this trick brought the house down. SUITE: We were in 7058, a handicapped-accessible suite (for my mother). The suite was lovely, spacious, and had more storage space than you could shake a stick at. The bathroom had a flat-floor, handicapped-accessible shower, and ALSO a wonderful bathtub with whirlpool jets. The only mild downside with this cabin was that because we were high up and at the far end of the ship, we felt the motion of the sea more than other places on the ship. One suggestion for the shower: the emergency cord should be labeled as such. My mom pulled it, not sure what it did ... we found out when the front desk called to make sure everything was okay. The standard shampoo, soaps and moisturizer were good as usual, and I was pleased to see extra-nice "Institute Suisse" bath amenities in the medicine cabinet. Didn't use them, but a nice touch for the suites. As for the bed, the mattress was comfy, the pillows perfect, and the towels large and fluffy. In the past I always found HAL's regular staterooms very roomy and comfortable, but in addition to the extra space and whirlpool bath, a few special amenities made the suite really worth the splurge: - NEPTUNE LOUNGE. This charming, suites-only lounge always had delicious snacks prepared by the Pinnacle Grill chef; perfect for breakfast, a light lunch, a mid-day snack, another mid-day snack... you get the idea. Tony, our waiter in the Pinnacle Grill, worked here doing the day, and was again very charming. - CONCIERGE SERVICE. Snookie the concierge (I kid you not, that was her name), and her assistant Maria Rachel, were unfailingly helpful. We never had to wait in line at the front desk, the ladies handled all our shore excursion arrangements, and were a real delight. - COMPLIMENTARY LAUNDRY. This may sound silly to some people, but I loved the idea of going home with clean clothes! The laundry staff were amazing, in addition to impeccable work on my blouses, I believe they even ironed my underwear. Zounds! - SUITE RECEPTION / LUNCHEON. These were opportunities to meet the captain and the staff in a small, sociable setting. The food was, once again, delicious. Had caviar for the first time in my life ... apparently it was very good quality, but personally I like smoked salmon better. Champagne and wine flowed freely. I had a really chats with the Captain, the Hotel Manager, and the Assistant Food & Beverage Manager. EMBARKATION / DISEMBARKATION: Holland America has recently introduced new and very much improved embarkation and disembarkation procedures, they are now really rather pleasant. For some reason, lots of people always turn up well before the "official" embarkation window, in this case 3pm-5pm. In the past, they had to wait around a pretty barren room at the port (these ports are owned by the city, not the cruise line). Now, Holland America lets you get onboard much earlier, even as the staff are still cleaning up from the previous guests. You can't yet go to your stateroom, but you can hang out in the comparative luxury of the cruise line's lounges. Now, on our sailing extra cleaning needed to be done due to safety precautions around recent virus outbreaks (lots of people got sick on a Princess cruise, and a very few on the previous Amsterdam sailing). So while folks weren't allowed on the ship quite so early as usual, the company brought out refreshments to the waiting room, and people had a snack while they hung out. You could also book spa appointments, Pinnacle Grill reservations, and pre-order wines. PORTS: We went to Juneau, Hubbard Glacier (not really a port, but a destination), Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria. All were fascinating, and the shore excursions were well chosen to provide a range of activities for everyone. Also, we always had the BEST docking positions: right downtown. While other lines had further-out docks (eg, Princess) or even had to tender (eg, RCI), we got to walk ashore. (Everywhere except Sitka, which has no dock for cruise lines, and everyone had to tender.) My only small gripe was that I would have liked more time in Ketchikan ... but frankly that's just inspiration to go back! FELLOW PASSENGERS: A nice mix, with a surprising number of families. The kids seemed well entertained, and were never a bother. As usual on HAL, I met some really great people with amazing backgrounds. Read Less
Amsterdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 4.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 0.0
Family 3.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 4.0 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 4.0 0.0

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