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Amsterdam Cruise Review
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
399 Reviews

Amsterdam 14 day Alaskan Explorer, May 13-27, 2011

Amsterdam Cruise Review by MsSteinrunner

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Trip Details
  • Sail Date: May 2011
  • Destination: Alaska
  • Cabin Type: Large Ocean-View Stateroom

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.

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