Sail Date: June 2011
Alaska is a beautiful place to visit. We had heard so much about it's beauty and had heard great things about Holland America as well. We've taken 15 cruises and had never been on Holland America. When we saw the 14/day itinerary ... Read More
Alaska is a beautiful place to visit. We had heard so much about it's beauty and had heard great things about Holland America as well. We've taken 15 cruises and had never been on Holland America. When we saw the 14/day itinerary we were very excited. There was so much to be disappointed about on this cruise. The service was very poor - especially the first week. We were almost in shock as the crew seemed untrained and unprepared to handle the mealtimes in the Lido and the dining rooms. It took several requests to get a cup of coffee or a glass of iced tea. There wasn't adequate staff serving and resulted in very long lines in the Lido and taking as much as 20 minutes to get a sandwich made at lunch or an omelet at breakfast. It took over an hour to get waffles in the dining room for breakfast. The maitre d personally apologized - but we noticed that the dining room attendees became fewer and fewer over the course of the cruise. The Lido served the same meals at dinner that were served in the dining room. This is very different from other cruises we've been on. The cabin stewards were very personable and professional. However, they appeared to be overworked. Our stewards were responsible for cleaning 30+ cabins. Our cabin was frequently not cleaned before 2:30 and in the evening we came back 9:30 from dinner/show to find them still working on cabins. Several nights when we were ready for bed - we asked that they skip us so we could turn in for the night. The library/computer area was a favorite location on this ship. The room is adjacent to the coffee bar and is equipped with lots of books, comfy chairs and a great view. The librarian has initiated an impromptu knitting group on days at sea. There was an opportunity to join with others who enjoyed the craft. She has information on great knitting shops we could visit on our port visits. I'd love to see this offered on other ships . The second week there was noticeable improvement. However, many were not happy or pleased with this cruise and indicated that it was very different from other Holland America cruises they had been on. Alaska is a beautiful place to visit - however, many of the ports had little to offer and the tours were very over-priced. I think if we had been much older, we may have enjoyed just the cruising and the views which were spectacular. Our favorite was the Hubbard Glacier. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2011
AMSTERDAM, 14 day Alaska, May 13-27,2011Pre-Cruise: two nights at the Seattle Sheraton, a convenient location. Nice room, pleasant staff, free Internet in the lobby. Booked via Priceline two weeks before departure. Cab to Pier 91 was ... Read More
AMSTERDAM, 14 day Alaska, May 13-27,2011Pre-Cruise: two nights at the Seattle Sheraton, a convenient location. Nice room, pleasant staff, free Internet in the lobby. Booked via Priceline two weeks before departure. Cab to Pier 91 was $11.75 plus tip.BOARDING: be aware that you will probably have to schlep your luggage into the terminal as Seattle apparently does not offer porters for the masses. We carted our bags to the security scanner and then proceeded upstairs to check in. We checked in about 11:30 and were placed in group 7; group 2 was boarding. Seating was plentiful and our number was called about 20 minutes later.We dropped off our luggage in the cabin (yes, they were ready) and headed to the dining room for lunch. By the time we returned to the cabin, our luggage had arrived.PORTS: The ports are the reason most people take this cruise. We fully enjoyed our time in the ports. Although the Amsterdam was a bit of a disappointment in several ways, the ports are what counted.In Ketchikan we rented a car from Alaskan Car Rental and had an enjoyable day visiting Totem Bight, Walmart, Bugge Beach, and generally cruising around the area. Weather was clear with a high of almost 70.Tracy Arm: Weather was clear, and not very cold. While this makes being on deck more pleasant, I actually missed the misty, very cold day we had previously experienced at Tracy Arm. The ice flow seemed less than when we were here about the same time 4 years ago. Once again, we got nowhere near Sawyer Glacier.Juneau: We took the MGT bus out to Mendenhall Glacier and spent several hours there. Tide was out, so we did some beach walking. We also did a bit of hiking. Of course, we also made our way to Alaska Shirt Company to stock up on t-shirts. The weather was a bit overcast, but not raining. Don't forget the Juneau Public Library offers free Internet and is adjacent to where the ship docks.Icy Straight Point: I really enjoyed this port and the hiking opportunities. We walked the second generation forest trail and then decided to walk into Hoonah. (Shuttle available for $8 round trip or $5 one way.) The shuttle used old green Denali buses. Hoonah had some great eagle viewing opportunities and we enjoyed seeing the actual town rather than having a made-for-the tourists experience.Anchorage: free and frequent shuttles provided into center of town. From there we took a free shuttle to the Alaska Native Heritage Center. This was really enjoyable, and we left knowing a lot more about the First Nation tribes of Alaska.Homer: Another port we enjoyed although that sentiment was not shared by everyone. We forked over $15 for the HOHO bus, and it really was a bit much for three stops. However, we enjoyed getting to the Alaska Islands and Oceans Center and having a cinnamon roll at Two Sisters Bakery. For shoppers, there is an interesting array of eclectic galleries. Lots of good beach walking here. We, of course, also made our way to the Homer Spit and now own Salty Dawg t-shirts.Kodiak: this was our only rainout - a really cold, yucky day. We walked into town, but we canceled our rental car due to weather conditions. No shuttle offered.Hubbard Glacier: fantastic! Good weather, fantastic scenery.Sitka: another gorgeous day! We booked a private tour with Jim Seeland of Sitka Sound Tours and spent three hours sailing Sitka Sound. Our day was filled with sea otters, tufted puffins, seals, whales, and more types of birds than I can remember. I think everyone saw whales in Sitka, and we felt our tour was well-worth the money. Jim was an excellent guide, and his boat was quite comfortable.Victoria: this is the only port where we booked a ship's tour - city highlights and Butchart Gardens. The tulips were gorgeous.Formal Nights: the three sea days and the evening of Kodiak. The last formal night also had a Black & White Ball. The Sitka evening was the Master Chef's Dinner. Quite frankly, the Lido was absolutely packed with people on these occasions as they avoided the dress up routine. On other nights, jeans were the normal dining room attire for those of us choosing our own dining time. As someone said to us: The Amsterdam is a small ship with big ship problems. Crowding and lines were constant; windows were filthy; the right hand often did not know what the left hand was doing. Lido: absolute pandemonium! We started eating breakfast & lunch in the dining room to have a place to sit after finally getting food in the Lido and circling and circling and circling, never to find even a partial table available. When we did eat in the Lido, the food was often not warm. We could not eat our Rustic lasagna or sweet & sour chicken as the food was not even lukewarm.Menus: food is subjective, and we were not impressed. We actually ordered from room service three evenings as there was nothing on the menu that appealed. The Caesar salad continues to shrink, and other economy measures were obvious. Desserts were less than inspiring. I'm sure others loved every meal, but this was the first time on HAL where we have been disappointed with food.Thermal Suite Pass: we wasted our money on this; however, the fault is ours as we should have known better. The hot tub jets were almost non-functioning, but the Lido hot tubs worked perfectly. There was no monitoring of the area, and I actually shared the room with a woman in a bathing suit top and white thong underwear as the bottom. It was a revealing experience! The Greenhouse Spa relaxation room was literally that - several people slept in there all day! Somehow the atmosphere of this spa area seemed more like a day cruise to Freeport. The cruise is so port extensive that we just didn't use the Thermal suite, and we should have known better than to fork over $299.Happy Hour: on this ship, happy hour is 4-5p.m. with the second drink being $1 The Ocean Bar guys kept us well watered, and overall, they were just great.Pinnacle Grill: we enjoyed our boneless ribeyes!Cabin: run, run run away from 3370. We survived this cabin for a week as we did not want to complain. Thankfully, when we did complain, Guest Services took us seriously, and we were offered a comparable cabin. Cabin 3370 is under the dishwasher that vibrates and groans loudly until about 11 p.m. We survived that, but then the engine casing started causing loud noise 24 hours a day; it was like trying to sleep in the engine room. The ports made this trip a success, but if this had been our first trip on HAL, it might have been our last.Beards from Seattle were on the ship in Juneau, and a small number of cruisers were invited to a focus group to discuss HAL. (They also met with crew focus groups.) The experienced cruisers gave them an earful about the lack of service, the cold coffee, the noise issues, confiscated curling irons, etc. I suspect they might have been a bit shocked at the service complaints. As a relative HAL newby, I was astonished at how unhappy some 3 & 4 star Mariners were with all of the service glitches.Luggage Direct: this turned out to be a pain for us. When we received the information in our cabin the night before sailing, we had one luggage tag rather than the 2 I had requested, and my husband's boarding pass was for someone with a similar name who was traveling to San Jose, CA. We live in Florida. We trekked to the Guest Services area to try to get things corrected. We were told correct boarding passes would be delivered to the cabin as Southwest was responsible for the error. After verifying that I had indicated in writing that we needed two luggage tags and a few minutes, they gave me the second one, and assured me they had been providing this service for 4 years. When we arrived in Tampa after 11 p.m., one of our bags was missing. Want to guess where it was? Yep, San Jose! The person at the front desk ran off another luggage tag, but the bar code was keyed to the erroneous San Jose boarding pass. That bag will hopefully be delivered to our home tomorrow.For us, Alaska was the attraction, and we were certainly not disappointed as the two week experience offered a far more expansive view than our 7 day cruise of several years ago. Parts of the cruise experience were enjoyable: we met many nice people with whom we enjoyed drinks and dining. Our second set of cabin stewards was alert, attentive, and efficient. Certainly, we ran into some glitches, but these did not ruin the experience for us. In any travel, stuff happens. Misery is optional. 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: 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
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!!! 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 January 2002 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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