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Having always wanted to go to Alaska we selected this 14 day cruise for its itinerary and we were not disappointed. The scenery, the ports of call, the glaciers, the excursions, all surpassed our expectations. We had not cruised with HAL before but based on the reviews on CC we had high expectations. Unfortunately these were not met as the little things, as well as one major disappointment, mounted to spoil an otherwise fantastic two weeks. Our major disappointment was food related. We consider the MDR times for Breakfast and Lunch to be really restrictive and were often forced to use the Lido buffet for lunch. This was disorganised, poorly staffed and contained unimaginative selections. And was invariably cold, assuming of course that they hadn't run out of the item you wanted. Our minor gripes were that the MDR staff seemed incapable of putting the right plate in front of the right person or on occasion of serving the courses in their right order. We never and I mean never got exactly what we ordered for breakfast in our cabin. On another occasion, despite two requests, our ice bucket was not filled. Had to drink warm champagne! The hotel manager did not give us the courtesy of a reply to a letter we wrote to him and therein lies the crux; poor management. Having said all that, and I am sorry to have taken so much space, the good things outweighed the poor. Check in and disembarkation were quick and easy. We found the Amsterdam to be clean and attractive and very easy to navigate around. Our stateroom was fine, the bed being very comfortable We enjoyed the food in the MDR. The bar staff were excellent and generally speaking the room stewards and dining staff were friendly, cheerful and competent. The entertainment was excellent and we enjoyed the dancers and singers, Diane the piano lady, the string quartet and the Halcats band. The itinerary was fabulous. We enjoyed all the ports with the exception of Kodiak which we skipped due to heavy rain. Of the ports not reviewed Homer was great. Although we stayed on the Spit there is enough of interest there and the local brew in the Salty Dawg was excellent indeed, as was the bar. Try the Scottish Ale. We enjoyed a drive to Whittier from Anchorage although it rained and rained. The visits to Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier were highlights of an already memorable cruise. Although we didn't get the best of the weather it didn't put a dampener on our enjoyment of the scenery or the wildlife. I suspect we will not sail HAL again, mainly because our idea of eating times is hugely at variance to theirs and because the micro management is poor. Personally I do not think that uniformed officers should smoke in public areas as it is not a good image. We have lots of the world still to see but I hope that one day we will return to Alaska. If it had not been for the persistent irritations I would have rated this cruise a 5 but a 4 it is! Sorry.

Beautiful Alaska

Amsterdam Cruise Review by scruffy666

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: June 2010
  • Destination: Alaska
  • Cabin Type: Vista Suite with Verandah
Having always wanted to go to Alaska we selected this 14 day cruise for its itinerary and we were not disappointed. The scenery, the ports of call, the glaciers, the excursions, all surpassed our expectations. We had not cruised with HAL before but based on the reviews on CC we had high expectations. Unfortunately these were not met as the little things, as well as one major disappointment, mounted to spoil an otherwise fantastic two weeks.
Our major disappointment was food related. We consider the MDR times for Breakfast and Lunch to be really restrictive and were often forced to use the Lido buffet for lunch. This was disorganised, poorly staffed and contained unimaginative selections. And was invariably cold, assuming of course that they hadn't run out of the item you wanted.
Our minor gripes were that the MDR staff seemed incapable of putting the right plate in front of the right person or on occasion of serving the courses in their right order. We never and I mean never got exactly what we ordered for breakfast in our cabin. On another occasion, despite two requests, our ice bucket was not filled. Had to drink warm champagne! The hotel manager did not give us the courtesy of a reply to a letter we wrote to him and therein lies the crux; poor management.
Having said all that, and I am sorry to have taken so much space, the good things outweighed the poor. Check in and disembarkation were quick and easy. We found the Amsterdam to be clean and attractive and very easy to navigate around. Our stateroom was fine, the bed being very comfortable We enjoyed the food in the MDR. The bar staff were excellent and generally speaking the room stewards and dining staff were friendly, cheerful and competent. The entertainment was excellent and we enjoyed the dancers and singers, Diane the piano lady, the string quartet and the Halcats band. The itinerary was fabulous. We enjoyed all the ports with the exception of Kodiak which we skipped due to heavy rain. Of the ports not reviewed Homer was great. Although we stayed on the Spit there is enough of interest there and the local brew in the Salty Dawg was excellent indeed, as was the bar. Try the Scottish Ale. We enjoyed a drive to Whittier from Anchorage although it rained and rained. The visits to Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier were highlights of an already memorable cruise. Although we didn't get the best of the weather it didn't put a dampener on our enjoyment of the scenery or the wildlife.
I suspect we will not sail HAL again, mainly because our idea of eating times is hugely at variance to theirs and because the micro management is poor. Personally I do not think that uniformed officers should smoke in public areas as it is not a good image. We have lots of the world still to see but I hope that one day we will return to Alaska.
If it had not been for the persistent irritations I would have rated this cruise a 5 but a 4 it is! Sorry.
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Cabin Review

Vista Suite with Verandah
Cabin B 6114
Good size. Narrow space by door a hindrance. Great bed. Great balcony.
Verandah Deck Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Juneau
    Whale watching with Dolphin Tours at 9.00 am. Found out later that afternoons are better. However we did see 6 sperm whales, sealions and eagles. Photographic opportunities were limited. Slightly disappointing although the company was professional enough. They then dropped us at the Mildenhall glacier for an hour which although our third glacier trip was still spectacular. Retired to the excellent Red Dog Saloon for an Alaskan Amber.
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  • Ketchikan
    We had arranged a Float Plane trip to Misty Fjords with Michelle of Island Wings. Fabulous. Although the weather was cloudy, misty and rainy the beauty of the region was highlighted from the air. Michelle is a star and despite my efforts to cause a crash by inadvertently kneeing the control column the flight was smooth and enjoyable. We landed on one of the lakes for a half hour stroll in the rain before returning, Michelle pointing out some seals and a bald eagle nest or two. Shopping in Ketchikan was excellent and we enjoyed an Alaskan Amber before returning to the ship.
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  • Sitka
    Our only tender. We visited the raptor centre, The rehabilitation work they do was very interesting although there were not that many birds to see. Nonetheless very enjoyable. We walked down to the National Park and their totem poles. Nice stroll through the forest although there were no salmon in the Indian River. Nice totems. The town was very pretty and we found a great bar near the bridge full of friendly locals where we enjoyed Halibut kebabs and more Alaskan Amber.
    View All 336 Sitka Cruise Port Reviews
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  • Skagway
    Having hired a car from Sourdough rentals (recommended as cheap and cheerful, well used cars but reliable enough). Drove to Emerald Lake in Canada which was an interesting drive if lacking the spectacular views of say the Arthurs Pass drive in New Zealand's South Island. The information provided by the many boards on the route brought the gold rush era to life. We saw two bears just beyond Emerald Lake. The Red Onion saloon was fun and much to our surprise not at all expensive. More Alaskan Amber. Very pretty and atmospheric town.
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  • Victoria
    Orca trip with the ship was cancelled due to rough seas. Went into town which looked great and found an outfit called Seafun Safaris and their superb boat Serengeti. After an Alaskan Amber in the waiting area set off at 6 pm and after a superfast run of about 1 hour found J pod (40+ orcas). Spent nearly an hour observing and photographing with Jeff the driver providing an expert commentary, including lowering hydrophones so we could listen to the orcas. Now the exciting part. Returning to Victoria the wind picked up and the waves near Victoria were 6 feet high. What a ride, extremely exhilarating. Serengeti is one hell of a boat with its 3 250HP outboards although it can get a little wet as it bounces over the wave tops at 40mph. Loved it. Got in late so didn't have time for a beer.
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