Amsterdam Cruise Review by gomontavista
- Sail Date: July 2017
- Destination: Alaska
- Cabin Type: Large Ocean-View Stateroom
Embarkation was better than average with minimal waiting, and the port in Seattle was very easy to navigate. Holland allows 3 bottles of wine per adult which can be placed in regular luggage, but bring your corkscrew if you will drink in your room. Corkage in the dining room was $18 plus tax in Washington :-( . Once out of Washington, no tax. Wine steward service was very good with our bottle always waiting for us at dinner, and each bottle lasted 3 dinners for us.
Mildly upsetting was that Holland initially tentatively charged our credit card account $1,499.82 on embarkation (per our bank) while our final bill was only $32.20, overestimating the final amount by 4,657.8 percent. Seems to me that they should have disclosed this to passengers so that they would know what to expect since many banks now inform their customers of each charge made.
The ship appears to be old and desperately needs renovation with SD TV's with poor reception in the staterooms (even for the usual onboard sourced programming) with noticeable wear in the bathroom and cabin and dated ship decor. There was substantial deferred maintenance
In our stateroom, the bottom desk drawer didn't function well (other passengers said theirs did not work at all) and when I decided to take a bath (I am used to the tiny showers on other lines) there was ring around the bathtub. Yuk - showers on out. I also noticed that the grout had brown stains and the toilet seat showed signs of wear. The bathroom had ample shelf space with toiletries bags and reading material going under the sink and a closing corner vanity cabinet with three levels, There was a hair dryer mounted on the wall as well as a corded hair dryer in the desk which we did not use. A magnifying mirror was mounted to the desk and there was another in the desk as well. Two bathrobes were provided.
During our cruise, they were apparently sanding and varnishing outdoor stairs between decks (we were pretty far aft). The strong smell permeated the hallway and rooms and caused both my wife and I to become nauseated. This continued for a substantial time. At one point, someone propped up am outdoor chair in the exterior doorway, but that was soon removed. They were also varnishing the railing on the top deck. Unfortunately, their "Wet paint" signs were placed on small labels facing the sea twisted somewhat around the railing structure. I found out that there was wet varnish the hard way. In another area of the top deck, the top wood rail was completely missing and remained missing throughout the two week trip. Others complained of smoke odors in public areas (purportedly no smoking allowed) and we noticed curry smells near the stairwell once or twice - we presume that the crew must have been cooking in the lower decks.
Clean windows appeared to be a low priority on this ship. Besides the stateroom windows which is understandable due to their inaccessibility, windows for public areas, particularly the dining room, were filthy substantially blocking the view outside. Even accessible windows (like the windows on doors in public areas were filthy).
Stewards were very polite, as were most personnel on board - much better than we have experienced on competing lines, while shop personnel were typically hard sell as on other lines.
Food service in the dining room was good though food sat too long and was too repetitive. With a few exceptions, soup was placed in pitchers and poured into bowls at the table which helped to keep it hot, but most everything else was lukewarm. Portions promoted good health but seemed small. They served Alaskan crab at one dinner which consisted of two segments of a single leg.
Dinner fare was unimaginative and repetitive. Souffles were sparse, and the variably prepared creme brulee was available every day. The one time I tried a souffle, it was very cupcake-like. The dinner rolls were likewise the same for the whole trip while other cruiselines provide different variations and styles. I was surprised when the surf and turf night did not include a baked potato. Interestingly, this cruise featured demonstrations by America's Test Kitchen, but it did not appear that anything was communicated to the cooking staff.
Eating at the Lido Buffet was similarly unimaginative.
Breakfast was substantially the same everyday. There were several stations with different types of food, but the food was generally unchanged and if one wanted different things, several stations would have to be visited. There were separate stations for fried eggs, omelets, waffles, poached eggs/congee, one for juices/milk, ... If one wanted poached eggs/eggs benedict and sausage, that would require a trip to two different stations, or even more if one wanted toast, with each having a separate queue which became very long at times. The stations generally did not have any additional assistance when the queue grew. Potatoes were cooked the same throughout the trip - no variations like potatoes o-brien, hash browns, etc. were offered. Fruit was sparse, and there were no smoked fish like salmon\ or trout, nor a large variety of sliced meats like those offered on other cruiselines.
The servers were apparently instructed to work fast, but in their effort to serve the next person, often failed to provide what the prior person wanted. Once, and elderly gentlemen in front of me wanted a couple of different items. When he politely repeated what he wanted, the server became visibly peeved, finally responding to him and filling his request. Things similar to this were often repeated and it appeared that the servers either didn't want to listen or did not understand the people they were serving. It appeared that their failure to listen resulted in longer delays in the lines, though by the third or fourth day, I gave up and took whatever they scooped.
Beverage service (coffee, water, tea, lemon syrup water) was spotty, depending on what personnel were present. Even though we were generally approached fairly quickly, beverage speed ranged from immediate to times when after finishing my food, I went to get iced tea from the dispenser myself. Even the supervisors (in suits) were variable - sometimes they would be helpful, sometimes they were busy talking amongst themselves and didn't care, and there were times when the dining area was relatively empty - they served a single diner, but refused to acknowledge other diners who wanted refills, even turning around and walking away after seeing diners wanting service.
Lunch at the Lido was similar. There were multiple stations with a few variations (whatever was left over from a prior meal). Pizza, relegated to one regular station, was the worst I have had on a cruise, in part because it generally sat around for a long time (I don't know if the older passenger demographic was a cause). It was refreshing to be offered sushi, but there was only a very few variations of mini rolls (surprising since this cruise served lots of salmon), so after the second day, meh. They were small enough that people often got several, poured the sushi onto one plate, and abandoned the empty dishes. Many also gave up on waiting for the server - they just reached over and grabbed what they wanted. The buffet closed between meals though the food was placed in warming ovens quite early. The food, having sat for an extended time, lost its freshness by the time it was offered. An example - one station had small plates of pasta. I did not encounter any fresh plates. The plates had been sitting around long enough that the outside was dry and hard. Very few people partake. For lunch, sparcely filled small sandwiches were often available in small paper bags. Unsealed, these sat around long enough that the bread was often hard and dry.
Lido provided snacks 10:30p - 11:30p. Comfort food such as wings, fries, tortilla chips, potato chips and other leftovers were offered. The wings, though not real fresh, were pretty tasty (unlike the other fried chicken which could have come from a frozen TV dinner. The fries were the best I have had on a cruise ship with two variations, one well done and one regular, provided. The chips, probably coming from bags, were typical. Guacamole was provided, but typically went very quickly without replenishing and at other times, stayed, the surface clearly discolored from sitting too long.
The Lido dining area was not well maintained. The tables were often a little sticky (They need to replace the cleaning buckets more often) and it appeared no one bothered to vacuum the carpet, particularly noticeable near the windows.
Desserts where typical - nothing fancy - but were not replenished quickly enough. Ice cream service was exceptional, extensive queues not withstanding. There were several choices of real ice cream (eg: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, chocolate chip, cookie dough, etc., sherbets) as well as soft serve, served in regular cones, waffle cones, or in bowls with a selection of toppings such as marshmallows, syrup and chocolate chips. This started near lunch and ran throughout the day.
The Pinnacle Grill provided a quiet experience with attentive service though the food was unexceptional.
The Italian restaurant was a cordoned off part of the Lido. It had attentive service and good portions, though the food was not up to par and was not close to what we consider good authentic Italian food. It tasted the same as the dining room although with a little different spice mix. Since there were very few people there, it was very quiet. Their written confirmation was off by a couple of hours for us as well as another diner, but with few patrons, it did not matter. The only Cioppino I ever had before this was San Francisco Cioppino and this did not compare. I appeared that the ingredients were boiled separately with Italian inspired broth poured over. The seafood had little flavor.
Entertainment was next to the worst we experienced in the over 10 cruises we have been on. The ship's personnel's shows were karaoke style with mostly recorded instumentals accompanied by a lone violinist. There was good one male singer who apparently also worked the restaurant while the others attempted a reasonable facsimile of a high school musical. Dancers included one woman who clearly had some ballet training, but the others were not so graceful. The troup's attempt at a county western bar motive was, with obviously non-native English speaking backgrounds, was entertaining, but not in a good way. The guest performers were better than the onboard musicians and dancers, and they were often accompanied by a live band which appeared to be professional. There were also the requisite lounge musicians. Stateroom TV's provided old NTSC(?) standard definition analog video of very poor quality with lots of distortion, NOT caused by degradation of satellite signal. Last time I watched video that bad was close to 20 years ago. Although the TV appeared to be a first generation stereo set, all signals going to it were mono.
This was a 14 day cruise covering just a few more ports than shorter cruises and allowed extensive time in each port, so there was no hurry to get off the boat or rush back to the ship. Unfortunately, at least for us, when we returned to the ship, it was often after lunch hours and there was no food available. For extended hour ports, we arrived after dinner hours, so no food either until snacks at 10:30. This was the first time we were left hungry on a cruiseship, and after 11:30 pm, no food (although room service was still available). It would have been nice if they coordinated the buffet, but no such luck.
It was surprising that many halls, stairwells and elevators and outside decks were empty after hours. It was refreshing and comfortable, if a bit spooky, to be able to walk the halls of a cruiseship without seeing another human. This contributed to the slowness of the environment.
Maybe because young families cannot always afford to take a 14 day vacation, this cruise attracted an older crowd and we sexagenarians appeared to be among the younger of the crowd. This is NOT a cruise for young people though there was one pack of less than 10 millenials wandering around the decks. Our adult child would have been miserable.
The whirlpool on the pool deck closed at 10pm (the pool closed earlier) which was disappointing (we like to linger later) though after 9, there were very few people on deck. Well before 10, the retractable roof over the pool area was closed.
Some ports were small enough that unless you paid for a shore excursion, there was very little to do. One port provided a short shuttle to the other side of the spit where there were only a few shops catering to cruise passengers.
This being our fourth cruise to Alaska, we did not go on any shore excursions.
Embarkation was the best we have experienced. Port Valet service allowed passengers to check in their luggage on the ship and obtain boarding passes for their flights FREE of charge. Luggage fees were charged to our onboard account at cost ($25.00). It made it very easy and comfortable to disembark without having to deal with luggage, and made disembarkation the easiest and most efficient we ever experienced (They or our overbooked airline did lose our seat assignments, but we were able to get new assignments at the airport). I do not know whether it is a Seattle port program or a HAL program, but the ability to transfer our luggage and check in was much appreciated.
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The bathroom is getting old and dirty with noticeable bathtub ring and grout stains, and a worn toilet seat, at least on our trip. The bathroom had ample shelf space with toiletries bags and reading material going under the sink and a closing corner vanity cabinet with three levels,Door jambs and other areas showed obvious wear. TV reception is bad. The bottom desk drawer was difficult to use - it had to be jerked out hard to open.
Note that there is no refrigerator in this cabin.
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