Fabulous 14 days in Alaska: Amsterdam Cruise Review by JD in MD

Amsterdam 5
JD in MD
Member Since 2008
1,104 Forum Posts

Overall Member Rating

Fabulous 14 days in Alaska

Sail Date: June 2012
Destination: Alaska
Embarkation: Seattle
Having been bumped off the July 13th sailing by Holland America when they decided to charter the ship out to a Christian group, we were compensated with $300 of on board credit after we chose this cruise instead. It seems HA does this quite often according to some of the passengers. Fortunately, my husband and I could switch dates this time but I would be leery about the next time with a Holland America cruise.

This was our 18th cruise, although only our second on Holland America but our third trip to Alaska. We flew from Baltimore to Seattle the day before the cruise. Shuttle Express picked us up at the airport and took us to the hotel for a very reasonable price. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza, which was very elegant. We chose this location because it was near the restaurant where a small group of us from Cruise Critic were going to meet for a pre cruise dinner. It was so nice to have one of the Ccers take the time to organize this. We all enjoyed the meeting.

We More took a taxi to the ship the next day around noon. My husband had checked out prices on line and this was the cheapest way to go the short distance to the terminal. Embarkation went smoothly. Our cabin was ready so we could get rid of our carryons and eat lunch and explore the ship. Although we are not yet "Mariners," friends of ours who are, complained that there was no Mariner lunch in the main dining room as they had been promised. The dining room was only open to some other group.

The Amsterdam is a beautiful ship and well maintained. It was easy to find our way around and the Crow's Nest on the top deck was a great place to meet other Cruise Critic passengers at night for a drink. The ship was just the right size for us.

Our cabin (2617) which was an ocean view cabin was the usual size but it had more storage space than most of the other cabins we have been in. Our room steward always had our bucket of ice each night as we had requested and, like most room stewards on other cruise lines, left us towels wrapped as an animal each night. Having a real bathtub wasn't "a big plus" for us but many people were thrilled.

The food was superb with many choices although on some nights, service in the main dining room was slow and the food wasn't always hot enough. One night we ate at the free Canaletto restaurant for Italian food. Although the menu was simple, we liked the food. Neither my husband nor I eat in any of the specialty restaurants since we enjoy the food we already paid for in the main dining room. Our breakfast/lunch was usually in the Lido where the buffet gave you too many delicious choices. Dwi, a young Indonesian girl was always on one side of the Lido with a big smile every day and so willing to get us whatever we needed. On the 4th of July, a barbecue was held around the pool. How nice!

As for activities on the ship, we are Trivia players. Trivia was played every sea day and on other days. Several nights Name That Tune Trivia was played in the Piano Bar. There was also a karaoke competition, the Marriage Game, a Talent show, and great informative and interesting talks given in the theater about Alaska and its natives. There were other usual cruise activies for people with other iterests from ours.

The entertainment was wonderful. Usually, on a long cruise such as this one, we expected one or two nights to be not as entertaining as other nights but each night, I enjoyed whoever performed. My husband wasn't as sold on all of the entertainment. In addition to the nightly shows, the Filipino crew performed a cultural show one night during the first week of the cruise and the Indonesian crew performed the second week. Everyone enjoyed both shows. How hard they work!

My only disappointment with Holland America is that they never sent anyone to the Meet and Greet. The platters of cookies along with coffee, tea, and juice were set up but Holland America was a no show. Shame on you, Holland America. Couldn't you find the time to send someone? Other cruise lines do.

Our weather was less than perfect. It was cloudy in all of the ports except Victoria. Occasionally we would see the sun but not for long. As expected, it rained in Ketchikan and we had drizzle some of the time in other ports. It was cold in Tracy Arm and viewing the Hubbard Glacier. For great viewing, go to the bow of the ship, right off the fitness center and up one flight of stairs to a public deck. Bundle up because it will be cold but the view is spectacular!

All in all, it was a great cruise. We met some wonderful, friendly people through Cruise Critic, saw Mother Nature at her best in Alaska, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

What a shame that none of the cruise lines will be offering this 14 day Alaskan itinerary next summer. It was fabulous even with less than perfect weather.

After the cruise, my husband and I rented a car and drove to Mount St. Helens. What a great day that was! And it was sunny! That night we stayed at the Peppermill Empress Motel that was halfway between Mount St. Helens and Seattle. It was immaculate and even offered a complimenary breakfast the next morning. We flew back to Baltimore that afternoon. HOMER, Alaska
As we got off the ship, we were greeted by seagulls and their babies perched along the seawall. What a wonderful free attraction! Then we took the free shuttle to Homer's Spit. The Spit is a piece of land that juts out 4 1/2 miles into the bay. It's the tourist part of Homer with lots of boats, campers, shops, places to eat, etc. One place we were told we had to visit was the Salty Dawg Saloon. It had 30,000 one dollar bills taped all over the ceiling and walls. We had tried to take a Creatures of the Dock tour but were disappointed when no one showed up for the $5 one hour tour. So we walked up and down the Spit talking to the shop owners and other customers. It was a friendly place.

KODIAK, Alaska
We had read great reviews on the Cruise Critic website about Memory Makers so we booked a three hour tour with Dake. We were not disappointed. There were 2 vans with only 6 passengers each, mostly CCers. He took us through Abercombie State Park where we saw dismantled World War 2 artillery and a munitions bunker along with some eagles. We went atop Pillar Mountain but the fog kept us at a disadvantage. We passed the Coast Guard's largest base and stopped for the most delicious cookies we have ever tasted. Less

Published 07/19/12

Cabin review: C2617 Large Ocean-View Stateroom

Great location: near elevators and stairs Wonderful storage space in the cabin Very comfortable bed

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Port and Shore Excursions

I loved Anchorage. There was so much to do. First of all, security was very tight here. You had to take a free shuttle to and from the ship. On some one's review of Alaska on Cruise Critic, I had read about Music in the Park which was a free concert on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at noon in front of Visit Anchorage headquarters. The concert was delightful. Then we went across the street to the Alaska Public Lands Information Center. Their activities were free also. There were short movies in their theater about "Alaska's Coolest Animals," "The Day the Earth Shook," "A Gathering of Bears," just to name a few that we watched. They also had exhibits with push button information. There were free walking tours twice a day with a Ranger and each day a special live program. Unfortunately, "Coffee with a Scientist" did not appeal to us so we skipped it. Too bad because all of the other days had more interesting topics. The man selling hot dogs/reindeer dogs, etc. from a wagon in front of this federal building had the longest line so we chose his food for lunch. Glad we did. We did pay #15 for a 1 hour Anchorage City Trolley Tour. I wish it would have been a Hop On/Hop Off tour. We would have liked to see rather than just pass Earthquake Park. After the trolley ride we spent the rest of the day in and out of the shops. I had wanted to do the Ghost Tour of Anchorage but it wouldn't end until 9 P.M. and the last shuttle bus back to the ship was at 9 P.M. although the ship didn't leave Anchorage til1 11 P.M.

Wildlife Tour

We bit the bullet and decided to take a cruise line tour. We had been to Icy Strait the first year it had opened in 2004. The only difference now is their popular zip line. We are not zip line enthusiasts; hence, the Forest and Nature Tram. Our Indian guide drove us through a narrow trail while telling us stories about the native people from the area and pointed out many of the plants that they use for medicines. Afterward, we took a walk to look at the zip line and then went through the shops in the old cannery building. Many people said this was the best place to do a whale watching tour. We had done that in 2004.

Whale Watching

We booked a private 3 hour whale watching tour with "Harv and Marv's Outback Alaska." It was a small boat with only 6 passengers. Marv's daughter was the pilot and she took us to different locations to see the whales, which we did. Afterward, we were dropped off at the Mendenhall Glacier visitor center. (If anyone is over 62, bring your Golden Age passport or buy one for $10. They are good at all national parks.) We chose to stay longer at Mendenhall and said we would find our own way back to town. We walked to the glacier and saw Nugget Falls. As we were leaving, one of the park rangers pointed out a bear sitting in a tree. So we had started off the day whale-watching and ended up bear-watching. We rode the Blue Glacier Express back to town. ($8/person/one way or #16 round trip) There was a public library with free Internet next to where the ship was docked but we got tired of waiting on the long line. There were many, many shops in Juneau.

Bering Sea Crab Fisherman's Tour

Although it rained for most of the day and it was cold, the Bering Sea Fisherman's Tour was one of the best. We sat under a roof with heaters on the crab boat and got to examine and hold many of the creatures that live in the water. The crew pulled baskets and pots filled with live crabs, shrimp, fish, and even an octopus. We were also taken to a place with lots of eagles. The crew told funny stories and entertained us the whole time. It was a terrific excursion. (www.56degreesnorth.com)

We decided to do our own "thing" in Sitka although we had no definite plans until we spoke to the very helpful lady at the information booth. First, we climbed to Castle Hill (across the street from the information booth) where Russia signed over Alaska to the U.S. Then we took the free shuttle (which is no longer FREE due to the cost of gas) to the Fortress of the Bear. The driver gave us a very informed narrative about Sitka during the ride. The $3 fee to ride the van was definitely worth it. He dropped us off at the Fortress of the Bear for an hour. After we paid the admission, we stood on a raised platform and watched 2 adult brown bears on one side and 3 bear cubs on the other side in a Jurassic Park-type setting although we were told they have knocked down all of the trees that had originally been planted. There was a pond in the middle and 2 of the cubs were quite playful and entertaining. It was a rescue center. There were also eagles in the surrounding trees. Then the van picked us up and took us to the Raptor Center. ($12 admission fee) There we saw eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls. Some were permanent residents and others were being healed so they could be released back into the wild. After an hour, the van picked us up again and took us to Totem Park. Since it was raining really hard at this point and my husband and I had been to the park on our last trip to Alaska, we stayed on the van and got dropped off in downtown Sitka. We did a little shopping (lots of shops) and then walked a short distance to catch the tender back to the ship.

What a delightful city! There was a free shuttle to and from the ship. The waterfront was full of street performers, food vendors, artists, jugglers, a mime, and many many tourists along with such colorful flowers. We walked around a bit and then decided to go to the Pacific Undersea Gardens right there on the waterfront It was a floating vessel moored in the harbor where we descended stairs to look through windows to see salmon, rock fish, eels, crabs, starfish, and even an octopus, thanks to a scuba diver who prodded him along. Unfortunately, the diver only interacted with the marine life several times a day and we missed most of this interaction. I'm not sure it is worth the price of admission. Next we walked up Government Street to Chinatown. I wanted to see Fan Tan Alley which is the narrowest street in Canada. It was! We walked around the city for a while and then took the shuttle back to the ship to have dinner. After dinner, we returned to downtown to see the Parliament lit up. It was spectacular! I'm glad we had a whole day in Victoria unlike the other ships who only had a few hours.
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JD in MD
Member Since 2008
1,104 Forum Posts
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