7 Rio de Janeiro Holland America Amsterdam Cruise Reviews

This was our ninth cruise, but the first with Holland America.  We had originally booked with Royal Caribbean, but later changed to Holland when we discovered that we could also visit Rio and the Falklands.  Holland gave us the cruise of ... Read More
This was our ninth cruise, but the first with Holland America.  We had originally booked with Royal Caribbean, but later changed to Holland when we discovered that we could also visit Rio and the Falklands.  Holland gave us the cruise of a lifetime.   We were unable to get decent tickets to Rio a couple of days early, so arrived in Rio at 6 am the day of departure.  Because of that, we'd made arrangements with therealrio.com after researching on Cruise Critic, and were met at the airport by Clode.  He spent the next eight hours giving us a grand tour of Rio and everything we wanted to see.  We were dropped off at the port by 3 pm and were onboard by 3:30.   Our travel agent had arranged a Lower Promenade outside cabin, as we love to walk each morning, and our stateroom was well laid-out and easily accessible to the promenade deck on either side of the ship.  Throughout the cruise, Holland America staff seemed to be happier and more helpful than some other cruise lines.  There was more complaining from fellow cruisers than we've ever heard before, but we found the Amsterdam staff more than helpful with the room problem we had.  The Amsterdam had more lounges and private areas to hang out than any other ship we've been on, and throughout our 16 night cruise, we tried them all.  They offered a Happy Hour in two of the lounges prior to dinnertime, which we've never seen on a ship before.  With the Happy Hour, the wine card for dinners, and the wine we brought onboard for our cabin, we were quite content.   We spent most of our days in the Crow's Nest on the top deck enjoying the view and were rewarded one morning by passing through the largest school of dolphins we've ever seen.  The hundreds of them literally turned and started racing the ship as we passed through.   The naturalist onboard gave twice daily talks and he was most informative.  If we were unable to get into the theater, which became the case as the cruise progressed, then we could watch his talk on television while getting ready the next morning.  The evening shows were standard fair with nothing outstanding besides the harpist who performed one evening.  The string performers in one of the lounges and the band in the Ocean Bar were much more entertaining, and we found ourselves in either of these most every night.  The food as good as any cruise, and if there was any problem with our meal, it was quickly corrected by our table staff.  We never ate in the buffet other than an afternoon ice cream, but utilized the dining room for each meal.  Twice we had hamburgers from the grill near the pool and enjoyed them, but not the wait in line to get them.   We did not arrange any excursions through the ship, and only had two planned prior to leaving, one of which was arranged by another member on the Roll Call for our ship.  Here are our impressions of the ports of call:   Buenos Aires - This is a HUGE city.  We had previously arranged a Gaucho Tour in the Pampas with Defrantur.com.  It was our responsibility to meet the tour at a particular hotel, and we chose to walk rather than take a taxi.  The port area, and the city as a whole, does not have very adequate sidewalks, so the walking was rough with the unevenness and holes.  The Gaucho Tour was enjoyable and well worth the price.  The food and drink were plentiful and empanadas delicious.  When we were dropped off back in BA afterwards, we walked through the pedestrian walkway and purchased several souvenirs along with some wine for the ship.   We walked back prior to dark for dinner but were so tired, we never made it out again as planned for a tango show.  The next morning, we took advantage of the free shuttle offered by a jewelry store into town.  Then we walked all around, saw the capital building, library, several parks, and the Recoleta Cemetery where we located Eva Paron's crypt.  From there, we took a cab for $12 to the LaBoca area and enjoyed an afternoon watching tango dancing in the streets and wandering the shops before taking another cab ($10) back to the ship.   Montevideo - This is the port where another CC member had prearranged a wine tour for $30 each.  We met onshore and located the van driver, and were transported an hour out of town to an absolutely beautiful winery, Vina Varela Zarranz.  The nine of us had a private tour of the 100 year old buildings and winery and walked the vineyards before sitting down to a tasting of wines accompanied by delicious cheeses and meats.  Since we all purchased wines for the cruise, we dropped our bottles off in our stateroom immediately upon return to the port before walking around Montevideo and the nearby courtyard.  Montevideo is definitely a place where you would want to get out of the city to enjoy the surrounding beautiful beaches or countryside.   Stanley, Falkland Islands - Pulled in to the island as we were walking and watched them prepare the tenders for this port.  We've read where quite a high percentage of ships don't make it into Stanley due to the weather, but we had perfect weather, although windy.  It was not recommended to walk to the cove with the penguins due to the wind and lack of sidewalks there, so we caught a local shuttle for $20 each on shore.  It took us past an old warship from the 1982 Argentina war and dropped us off at Gypsy Cove.  Here we walked the shoreline among some unique topography and watched several groups of the remaining magellentic penguins.  As it was late in the season, there weren't hundreds of them, but enough for our enjoyment.  We caught the shuttle back into Stanley and then walked the length of the town until we ran out of road where we discovered the Stanley Arms Pub and enjoyed conversation with a couple of the locals.  After we walked back into town, we tried each of the other pubs in town, but the Stanley ended up our favorite because it was not touristy; in fact, the bartender said tourists never make it out that far.   Cape Horn - As we neared the Horn, the weather became more and more spotty changing between sun and torrential rain within minutes of one another.  The captain announced we would not be "rounding the horn" due to the wind conditions, but would remain on the leeward side of the Horn for viewing prior to heading away.  The Horn was actually larger than expected, and with the occasional bits of sunshine, we were able to take pictures of the lighthouse and buildings there before the seas became rough and we had to leave.  The seas remained extremely rough the entire evening.   Ushuaia - We both agree that this was probably our favorite port of the cruise.  We got up early and left the ship as the sun was rising above the surrounding mountains.  It was fun watching the city change as the sun lit up the area.  We walked to the prison to tour and then discovered a sign to the ski lift, near the glacier.  So we started walking the opposite direction from the prison along the backside of the city.  The signs were far between, but we discovered a lovely statue of Mother Mary on top a small hill before exiting the city and starting the upward climb.  We chanced upon a sign along the road outside of town marking a trail through the woods and decided to try it.  This was by far the best part of our trip.  We walked on mossy turf back and forth alongside a stream of glacier water.  There were a lot of spots to overlook the city or the stream and the trail was well marked and quite enjoyable.  We popped out of the trail back onto the road with a sign saying the chairlift was 500 feet ahead.  We arrived at the chairlift area, but chose to walk up the steep ski trails to the bottom of Martial Glacier.  The scenery and view were outstanding.  The walk down was much easier and we found a local store on the main street to purchase some beer and sausage before heading back to the ship.     Beagle Channel - We pulled out of Ushuaia prior to dinner and as we were in our stateroom getting ready, the captain made such a drastic turn our just-poured wine glasses went sliding off the desk into the wall and onto the floor.  At dinner, we learned that all the prepared shrimp cocktails had done the same thing, so this was not a move normally made.  As we neared the first of the five glaciers, we positioned ourselves outside with a glass of wine and camera ready.  Traveling in this direction, all the glaciers were on the starboard side and we thoroughly enjoyed some of the most beautiful glaciers we've ever seen.  And the sunset in the channel was spectacular.   Punta Arenas:  This is a port that probably could be eliminated.  Holland chooses to not utilize the port in town and docks outside of Punta Arenas.  We were discouraged by several people on dock that town was too far to walk, but we ignored them and walked anyway.  It was a nice walk into town and we were accompanied by several stray dogs who decided to follow us.  This town was filled with stray dogs, more than the usual amount in a South American city.  We found the local cemetery where strange trees lining the walkway were the highlight of the port.  We found the town square with the usual vendors hawking their wares around the statue, and walked to the overlook where all the tour buses were parked with their customers for a photo opt.  Asked around and located a nice restaurant where we had empanadas and beer before shopping in their local grocery for wine.  A nice walk along the shore line back to the ship.   Strait of Magellan - This was a nice day reminiscent of the Alaskan inside passage.  The captain pulled as close as able to the glacier where we spent over an hour taking photos as he turned the ship 360 degrees for all sides of the ship to see.  We spent hours watching the water to spot whales, floating penguins, dolphins, flying fish, and albatross.   Puerto Montt - We tendered into port here and located a local guide where we joined other people for a tour of the lake area; a seven hour tour cost $35 each.  We saw Volcano Osorno, Petrihue Rapids, Emerald Lake, Lago Todos Los Santas, llamas and alpacas and ate lunch at one of the nearby German towns located on Lake Llanquihue.  After arriving back in Puerto Montt, we shopped the vendors located near the port before walking into town and enjoying the views of the volcanoes and ship from the harbor park.   Valparaiso/Santiago - Here we thought we'd made a big mistake by not prearranging transport to the airport prior to leaving the U.S.  We honestly thought we'd meet up with other couples in our same situation and have negotiation power to arrange something in the port of Valparaiso.  We found ourselves standing by the tour counter, which had preset prices but required a minimum of four people.  Everyone coming up had already prearranged transport, so we spoke with the car rental people who wanted $160 to rent for the day.  Even the taxis outside would not negotiate anything less than $200 just to drive us to Santiago airport.  Talking with the Information desk, they recommended we walk to the nearby bus terminal (four blocks away) and take the local bus to Santiago for $6 each.  So after everyone else on the cruise had left the terminal, we gathered up our luggage and headed across the cobblestone lot to the port gate around the corner.  Imagine our surprise when we were mobbed outside the gate by taxi drivers and tour guides alike that are not allowed into the port.  Since the time indicated we were probably the last out, we said what we wanted to see and our price.  Immediately a nice young lady took our offer.  We were led to an air-conditioned minibus where we were the only passengers with our own private guide and driver.  She took us throughout Valparaiso, Vina del Mar, and Santiago.  They even recommended a nice place alongside the coast in Vina del Mar for lunch.  We were shown everything there was to see in all three cities before being dropped off at the Santiago airport.  We would highly recommend Valerie with transmercury.cl tours, which can and SHOULD be prearranged. 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Sail Date March 2009
My sweetie came home one day and suggested a cruise to Antarctica. I had never cruised before. But Antarctica as a destination: Shackleton and "March of the Penguins" suddenly came to mind. How could I object? The weather was ... Read More
My sweetie came home one day and suggested a cruise to Antarctica. I had never cruised before. But Antarctica as a destination: Shackleton and "March of the Penguins" suddenly came to mind. How could I object? The weather was particularly bad at the time in most of the Northern United States. Flights were delayed and luggage was lost. Taking into account pre boarding and waiting between flights, our commute to Rio took 25 hours. Upon arrival on the Amsterdam, all I could think was that I needed a bed. Desperately. If you've never cruised before, the size of the room will take you by surprise. This is where I'd spend the next three weeks! in retrospect, the room was not that bad and I became quite comfortable in it. Rio in the rain and yours truly somewhat jet lagged. Skipped Rio on the first day, got acquainted with the ship. Good thing to remember, divide your clothes between suitcases. A gentleman we met packed his and hers suitcases; his didn't quite make it to Rio, so the poor chap was wearing t-shirts until his luggage met him in Buenos Aires, on the next port. Two sea days to Buenos Aires. Breakfast in the LaFontaine, followed by 2 hours with my book. There was a lecture at 10 am. I was getting comfortable in my home away from home. Not knowing what to expect, I opted for open seating dinning. I now prefer fixed, but all that is a matter of preference. A cruise will allow one to do as much or as little as one desires. Some people love everything, others find fault with everything. It is not unusual to read contradictory reviews from the same cruise. I was unprepared for Buenos Aires, but was impressed with their Fine Arts Museum. I felt quite at home in Montevideo and was sad to leave the city. Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands was a tender destination. This is a different world. Imagine a rock in the middle of nowhere, where 18 years ago a war was waged between the UK and Argentina. The place looks British. Cars drive on the wrong side of the road, British currency is used, there are red telephone booths. Best way to describe it: Victoria, BC meets Newfoundland. Several options to see penguins. Two days later, we lost satellite transmission and woke up by Shackleton's famous Elephant Island. No TV. From here onward, everything in sight was picture worthy. Only 100 people at the time can disembark on the continent. Due to the size of our ship, no landings were made. Only much smaller and much more expensive Exploration ships have that privilege. They are usually not as smug when they have to cross the Drake Passage. Antarctica has some strict conservation rules. Everything entering must exit, nothing is to remain. No cigarette butts thrown overboard, no littering of any kind. The Amsterdam ensured shift rotation on Palmer Station. New and old members were exchanged on the ship, and we were privileged to a lecture on the Queen's Lounge. Best way to describe Antarctica: powerful, bold, beautiful and desolate. Even with 1300 other passengers on board the experience is not lessened. Crossing the Drake to reach Ushuaia, we rounded Cape Horn on a rainy day. It was windy and grey, but the passage was mild. It isn't always the case. After Ushuaia, we explored the beautiful Chilean Fjords, some Glaciers. All impressive in their own right, but everything pales after Antarctica and this beautiful country is no exception. I skipped Punta Arenas. This destination is mostly used as a launching pad to other destinations, i.e. excursions. By Puerto Montt, Antarctica was but a sweet memory captured in 2 rolls of Fuji NPS 160. Valparaiso was the end of the line. We took an excursion to Concha y Toro winery which included an incredible lunch and the biggest barbecue any of us have ever seen. A visit to the top of Santiago, the artists district and a 19th century church, followed by a drive to the airport. Highly recommended. The Amsterdam is 780 feet long. Not a big ship by modern standards, but bigger than anything else we encountered. I had filet mignon in the Pinnacle Grill with a Pommard. Well worth the extra $20 per person. All my meals in the dinning room were outstanding. Several times not fancying the day's menu, I'd opt for a New York steak. There are three extra menu options in case the day's menu doesn't speak to you. There was a different movie every day. We enjoyed the comedians and the piano trio at dinner. The room was comfortable. I slept with the curtains open and spent most of my time in the room gazing out the window. It was the most relaxing vacation I've ever had. New to cruising? Pick your destination, do your research, put your feet up and enjoy the ride. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
My wife and I decided to take a 4-day Pre-Cruise to the Iguazu Falls before cruising to South America and Antarctica on January 4, 2009 through Holland America. It was an uneventful flight to Rio de Janeiro. HAL put us up at the Rio ... Read More
My wife and I decided to take a 4-day Pre-Cruise to the Iguazu Falls before cruising to South America and Antarctica on January 4, 2009 through Holland America. It was an uneventful flight to Rio de Janeiro. HAL put us up at the Rio Intercontinental Hotel for an overnight stay. The day of our arrival happened on December 31, 2008. The hotel was busy getting ready for the New Years Eve celebrations. On the bus ride from the airport we were offered tickets to purchase for the hotel's celebrations or for an evening tour of the Copacabana and Impanema beach areas. I do not recall anyone buying any. We were all too tired (some traveling over 20 hours to get here) and now we needed some rest. We were awakened at midnight by massive fireworks going off across the street from our hotel. After breakfast, 38 of us met with our two tour escorts for the excursion to the Iguazu Falls. Arriving at Foz de Iguazu, we boarded our bus and headed to the Brazilian side of the Falls and did a leisurely walking tour. We got a panoramic view of many of the 275 plus cascading falls. It was awesome and very refreshing. We were told that it would rain anytime now. The locals were predicting rain for the last few days. Our walk was perfect and the weather held out - sunny and dry - which meant the volume of water over the falls would be smaller. We boarded our bus at the end of the Brazilian trail and were taken to Hotel Cataratas, located in the National Park on the Brazilian side of the Fall, for the next two nights. The hotel was built in 1935 and is now being renovated. The rooms were very rustic but efficient. We stayed for the hotel's buffet dinner, which was excellent. Next morning, after eating a large breakfast, we headed to the Argentine side of the Falls. After a 35 minute ride to the park entrance, we boarded a Narrow Gauge train that took us to the Catwalks that led to the dramatic "Devil's Gorge". From here our senses were stretched. The roar of the falls made me realize this was nature at work and I was in awe. The heavy mist got us very wet and we knew we were very close to the Gorge. The Catwalks also took us to many smaller falls which in itself were spectacular. The excursion was truly awesome. That evening we signed up for an "Iguazu By Night Three Country Dinner Show" at the Rafael Restaurant. The specialty at this buffet was their barbecued meats. The food was great and the show was a variety of singing and dancing from Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay - a very nice ending to a spectacular two-day Iguazu Falls Excursion. That evening it did rain. In the morning, my wife and I got up very early before breakfast and went to hike the same trail we did on our first day. The water run-off was much heavier from the overnight rain and the roar of the water was louder. It also created alot more misting, covering many of the falls. Definitely not good for picture taking. Our afternoon flight back to Rio was delayed for two hours. Our escorts knew we were going to miss dinner so they made arrangements at our Hotel Intercontinental for a complimentary late buffet dinner. Early the next morning, we put out our large check-in luggages for pickup to be delivered to the Amsterdam. We headed off on a half-day tour of Rio before boarding our ship. The tour included the world famous beaches, downtown, Sugar Loaf Mountain, Flamingo Park, financial districts, St. Sebastian Cathedral, Lapa Arches, National Library, Fine Arts Museum, and the Sambadrome, site of Rio's famous Carnival parades. In a far distance, Christ the Redeemer Statue was shrouded in fog. By noon we arrived at Rio's Cruise Terminal. Check-in was a breeze taking no more than 15 minutes. Our stateroom was not ready so we headed up to the Lido Buffet. Lunch was good - great variety of pasta, salads, meats, vegetables, sandwiches, pizzas, hamburgers and hot dogs. The Lido was very clean and the staff was "Johnny-on-the-Spot" helpful and very polite. This made Lido dining very pleasant. After lunch we headed to our stateroom on the Main Deck, forward, port-side. Our stateroom showed no wear or tear. It was dust-free and immaculate. We got to meet Abdul, our stateroom attendant and his sidekick assistant, Din. They were very friendly and helpful and spoke English well. My preference was to have only a sheet on my side of the bed and my wife likes her sheet with blanket combination. They made the change right away and it was like that throughout the cruise. Abdul left my blanket in the closet thinking I may need it while cruising the Antarctic Seas. We always had a full bucket of ice and extra bath towels as well as the handmade towel animals every night. Can't get better service than that. We had early dining in the open-seating La Fontaine Dining Room. The quality and variety of food were good and so was the presentation. Dining staff was only okay. I felt our waiter and his assistant were sometimes distracted. I like to start my dinner with ice tea. Some days it was already on the table when I arrived and other days it came midway through my dinner. One evening I ordered soup; it never came. Our dinner usually took two hours. Some evening we would skip dessert in order to catch the early show. We would then get our dessert during the 11 o'clock late buffet in the Lido. The production stage shows were very good. Performers sang and danced with a lot of energy and passion. The ship's travel guide, Chris Fisher, is very informative and has all the answers you would need. At first I was bored by his monotone voice, but I got use to it because of all the pertinent information he was giving. He did a great job. The Exploration Speaker Series was also a perfect way of getting us ready for the three days of cruising the Antarctic Seas. First speaker was Robert Hofman, a Marine Mammal Scientist. Second speaker was John Splettstoesser, an Antarctica Geologist and finally Captain Patrick Toomey, who was an Ice Pilot for the Canadian Coast Guard. The three speakers spent many years in the Antarctic and gave a total of ll lectures covering their own specialty. John Splettstoesser has two mountain ranges named after him. One is located in the Ellsworth Mountains and the other at the Victoria Mountains. Each time the lectures were given, the Queen's Lounge was packed with attendees. Cruising the Antarctic: Day 1 - Cruising the South Coast of Elephant Island. Into the Antarctic Sound, high winds prevented the stopping at Esperanza Argentine Station. Passed m/v Corinthian II. At 1700 hours, while circumnavigating Paulet Island,the Amsterdam encountered "Katabatic Winds" gusting to 80 knots. We were told later by Capt. Toomey that the ship listed 12 degree. That was exciting! Passed Rosamel Island and reentered the Antarctic Sound from the Weddell Sea and headed west to Bransfield Straits to overnight to Dallmann Bay. Day 2 - Entered Dallmann Bay from the north and passed Cuverville Island. m/v Corinthian II was anchored there. We transited southbound to Errera Channel. Cruising Andvort Bay, we passed m/v Akademik Shokalskiy southbound. Southbound in Neumayer Channel. m/v Andre entered Port Lockroy as m/v National Geographic Endeavor came out. Eastbound in Bismarck Straits, then northbound in Gerlache Straits. m/v Akademik Shokalskiy headed westbound. In Paradise Harbor, m/v Marco Polo at Chilean Station Gonzalez Videla. We cruised to Almirante Brown Station Argentine. Dallmann Bay northbound while m/v National Geographic Endeavor also northbound. Amsterdam overnight cruising off west coast of Anvers Island. Day 3 - 0830 at U.S. Palmer Station to embark 14 scientists and staff. Headed southbound to Lemaire Channel. The Palmer crew gave a slide show briefing in the Queen's Lounge. To accommodate Amsterdam's large number of cruisers, they gave two briefings. Afterwards they lunched in the Lido and answered more questions from the passengers. Petermann Island was the farthest south we went (80.4 nm from the Antarctic Circle and 1,460 nm from the South Pole). We headed northbound to Cape Horn. This ended the three days cruising the Antarctica. I have been on 15 cruises. This Antarctic Itinerary was the BEST AND MOST INTERESTING, SPECTACULAR, AND SATISFYING one. The bonus was having the U.S. Palmer Station personnel coming onboard to brief us on their mission. Outstanding event. Kudos to HAL for serving hot soup on the outside decks during those three freezing days. Luckily, the weather was perfect. Another highlight was the port call to Port Stanley, Falkland Islands. We signed up with HAL to do the Bluff Cove Penguin Rookery. What a KICK! There were 8 passengers to a van and we were taken for a 45 minutes ride and transferred to a 4-wheel Drive Land Rover and rode another 25 minutes to get to the Gentoo Rookery. Dead center of this Gentoo Rookery were 6 Male King Penguins. I could distinctly see one of the Kings holding his egg on top of his feet with his tummy covering it. What a sight! Another HAL excursion was at Punta Arenas Patagonia Experience and Otway Bay. Here we saw the Magellanic penguins: five to six of them playing follow-the-leader, babies waiting to be fed and others jumping into the surf and swimming off. Awesome sight, not to be missed. Other ports-of-call on this cruise were Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego) and Puerto Montt. Each city had its own highlights, which were enjoyable. Final destination was Valparaiso, Chile. Our flight home was scheduled at 2200 hours. That left us with over 14 hours before our flight time. We booked with HAL for an 8 hour Santiago City Tour. Our luggage was put out the evening before and we were to claim them later at the airport. The bus ride from Valparaiso to Santiago took 1 and 1/2 hour. We stopped at a jewelry store, rode a funicular, had a delicious salmon lunch and went to a Dominican Craft Village for some final shopping. Around 1630 we headed to the Santiago Airport. Arriving outside of the airport check-in building, we saw hundreds of our luggage sorted on carts and lined up for us to claim. We wheeled them inside to the Delta Airline check-in line and waited two hours for the counters to open. Kudos again to HAL for having our luggage ready. This made it a very smooth transition for the end of a wonderful cruise holiday. Our flights home were uneventful. I need to mention that on the Pre-Cruise Iguazu Falls, there were 12 of us who already knew each other through CruiseCritic.com on the South America "Roll Call" Board for the Amsterdam. Shark410 (Sharon) made arrangements with the Seattle Office for a Cruise Critic's "Meet & Greet" get-together at the Crow's Nest on January 10, a sea day. The ship provided coffee, tea and two kinds of cookies. 30 people attended this Meet and Greet. Attending from the ship were Hotel Manager Hans Dernson, Cruse Director Michelle Worthley, Chief Housekeeper Ali Mushochib, Environment Officer Ronald Bloeme, and Crew Purser Julie Brnsey. Thanks to the above for attending and making this an outstanding Meet & Greet. This was so successful Sharon scheduled another Meet & Greet, this time in the Sports/Piano Bar. Of the 30 attendees, 15 were interested in joining CruiseCritic.com. Thanks to Beverage Manager Guido Kollmann for making this happen. One last event to mention. The original group of 38 that did the Pre-Cruise Iguazu Falls also wanted a get-together. Sheri V. from the group asked and set up a HAL ms Amsterdam Iguazu Falls Reunion". Guido and Michelle hosted this event at the Sports/Piano Bar on January 13, 1600 hours and served hot hors d'oeuvres. Definitely a "Class Act" from the Amsterdam, and thanks to its officers and crew. In a nut shell, the Holland America Line January 4, 2009 South American Explorer and Antarctic Experience 20 Days Cruise was a wonderful and a "Great Valued" package. This cruise had it all - itinerary, food, entertainment, speaker series, ports-of-call, service and professionalism. It is "5 STAR+". Gimer. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
Holland America's Amsterdam Introduction I have traveled fairly extensively, having cruised on many occasions. This cruise would be my 7th cruise. I have cruised mostly on Princess Cruises; have experienced premium cruise lines ... Read More
Holland America's Amsterdam Introduction I have traveled fairly extensively, having cruised on many occasions. This cruise would be my 7th cruise. I have cruised mostly on Princess Cruises; have experienced premium cruise lines like Cunard's Queen Mary (Queen's Grill Class) and Silversea's Silver Cloud. However, this is my first cruise on Holland America and since ms Amsterdam is Holland America's flagship, I should be expecting the best that Holland America has to offer. This cruise was selected because it was the only cruise ship offering South American cruises during this period. In fact, it is the last ship to ply these waters for the season. The 33-day cruise embarks from Rio, Brazil and ends in San Diego USA. This cruise have a fair number of days at sea, a hence with plenty of free time on my hands, I decided to write this account. The following is focused mainly be on the ship itself and less about the destinations visited; otherwise this would be rather lengthy. The following account is based on my experience and observations on the cruise. The opinions are personal. Hopefully, this account would reach the good people in Holland America as constructive criticism and other potential passengers considering cruises with Holland America. The Ship I will not go into the statistical details about the ship; this information is readily available on many websites. Generally, the ship is mid-sized, small enough for embarkation to be a breeze. Queues are generally never too long for services. Large enough to have a decent sized theatre and productions. Opinions about the interior design of the ship are subjective. There is a fine line between elegance and tackiness. Amsterdam's interior design is treading dangerously towards tackiness. Let me illustrate my point with the Queen's Lounge. The color scheme is as follows: purple, red, gold and silver. There are semi-naked statues finished in silver-leaf, holding up backlit platters lining the walls. Class or crass? You decide. The heart of the ship is a three-storied atrium where the front offices, lounges and shops surround. The atrium itself is not large. In the middle of the lobby is an 'Astrolabe'. It's a rather impressive contraption, with the ability to tell time, constellations, moon phases, etc. This "Astrolabe" completely dominates the already small atrium, rendering it generally useless, negating any opportunities for functions to be held in the atrium. I do however appreciate the fresh flowers arrangements throughout the public areas of the ship. The variety of potted orchids on the Lido buffet adds a pleasant touch to the dining experience. Cabins I stayed in a Balcony suite. It is divided into three sections. First, the entry with closets on one side and the bath in the other. This is typical of most hotel rooms. There is a bathtub with a Jacuzzi. Second, the sleeping area, there are two beds that can be combined to become a double. There are curtains that separate this area from the other. Third, the sitting area, the sofa converts into a single bed for the third passenger in some rooms. There is a large desk with the television on one side. The Balcony has a lounger and a chair. The cabin is comfortable with plenty of storage. There is nothing much to complain about here. Food There are several dining options available on the ship. The main dining room is called the La Fontaine, the only 'Fontaine' noted were the two automatic hand sanitizers on two sides of the entrance. It's a double-decked dining room with a central atrium complete with fake palms. There are two sittings for dinner. A typical dinner consists of 4 choices of appetizers, 3 choices for soups, 2 choices for salads, 7 choices for main course, many choices for deserts. There is always a fruit based item for the appetizers. There is always a cold soup, fruit based as well. The main courses are divided into two parts, items from the entree or grill. There is always ice cream and a flambE item in the desert section. Food quality is generally good, through not up to be standards of premium cruise lines like Silversea but hey, it cost a lot less. The quality and variety of deserts is somewhat lacking. (Princess offers better deserts, for those sweet-toothed cruisers out there). The western dishes prepared are good enough. The problem arises when the chefs attempt to interpret cuisines that they are not familiar with. I take particular offence to the appetizer named "Grilled Chicken Sate Singapore Style". We're from Singapore and imagine the delight when we saw the item on the menu. All of us ordered it only to be gravely disappointed. It neither looks nor tastes like the satay (we spell 'sate' as 'satay') we know. Even the accompanying condiments are wrong. We would have no issue if the dish were called 'Grilled Chicken Sate Amsterdam Style'. Please do not associate Singapore with the culinary imposter. When and if the Amsterdam gets to Singapore, please try the real Singapore Satay and see how wrong it is. My family has registered our comments (and displeasure) over the item in the comment cards midway through the cruise, only to find the item repeated again on the menu. Either the chefs had ignored our comments or thought that those pesky (and occasional) Singaporean have disembarked and that it is safe to bring out the dish again. Chances are, the dish would be repeated again. So, a word of caution to all diners on the Amsterdam, do not believe that you are getting 'Grilled Chicken Sate Singapore Style' when you order the dish. This is not the only Asian dish bastardized by the chefs, the "Thai Prawn Curry" is another story, but I'll let the Thais take the issue up with the chefs... The Lido Buffet is located on the top for the ship. It offers breakfast from 7.30am to 10.00am, lunch from 11.30am to 2:00pm and dinner from 5.45pm to 7.30pm. My biggest issue with the buffet is that it does not offer continuous service. For example, there is no food from 10.00am to 11.30am. (Gasp! No food on a cruise ship! Its sacrilegious!) There are days where I had to make myself wake up in time for breakfast (OK, I'm a pig) especially during those long sea days. Holland America could easily have extended breakfast service on one of the two buffet lines while preparing the other for lunch, so the two could overlap. It's simple enough and have been frequently done on other cruise ships and I don't see why Holland America can't do it. It gives passengers peace of mind that food is always available. The Lido also has an ice-cream bar as part of the buffet. While the quality of the ice cream is not quite Haagen Daaz, it is very well appreciated and exploited, much to the detriment of the waistline. There is premium restaurant is called the Pinnacle Grill at the Odyssey. There is a cover charge of $20 per person. Holland America says that the cover charge goes towards the premium ingredients. Personally, I have not eaten there. The feedback I received from fellow passengers that have dined there was that the food is indeed better than that served in the main dining room, but it was not worth the $20 charged. On the occasions where I have walked pass the restaurant; it is semi-deserted most of the time. It seems that the popularity of the restaurant could be improved either by improving the quality of the food or by reducing the cover charge. Entertainment There is always a two identical shows on every night of the cruise, one for the early seating diners and the other for the main seating diners. Throughout the cruise, there are four production shows with a cast of 4 lead singers and 6 dancers. Because for the length of the cruise (33 days), the production shows were repeated for the benefit of guests that has joined us midway. On the other nights, there are other guest performers. There are a wide variety of genres offered. We had performances by pianist, flutists, comedians, singers, dancers, magicians etc. Most of the performances were well executed and a joy to watch. All the performances are backed up by the wonderfully and professionally by the Amsterdam Orchestra. One suggestion to Holland America: The ship was docked overnight in Buenos Aires, Argentina. One of the optional tours offered was to watch Tango in one of the bars in the city. We were disappointed when we were directed into the venue. It was a small and dingy hall with a tiny stage. The stage lighting was rudimentary. The dancers and the musicians were good though, but the stage could hardly accommodate all of them. Holland America could easily have invited the performers to perform on board at the Queen's Lounge. The stage, sound and lighting system are far superior to what the bar had to offer. It would also save us the hassle of transfers from the ship to the bar. More passengers instead of only those who signed up for the tour would be able to enjoy the performance. That would also mean that Holland America could not charge us $79 a person for the show without dinner. Those who opted for dinner were charged even more. It boils down to whether the ship could absorb the cost of the bringing the Tango performance onboard, to be open to all guests. Having said that, I would rather pay a nominal amount to watch the show in a 'state of the art' stage onboard the ship where the full potential of the entertainers could be better expressed. Overland Tours My family and I have signed up for a 4-day, 3-night overland tour to visit Machu Pichu. The tour was booked through the Internet based on the itinerary from Holland America. The tour was to begin at 1030am in the morning of the first day, arriving in Lima in the afternoon for an overnight stay. That would give us sufficient rest before the next morning's flight into Cuzco. One day before the departure, we received the itinerary in a briefing. It came as a shock to most of us. The tour only departs at 4pm in the afternoon. We will only arrive into Lima at 10pm, arrive at the hotel at 11.30pm. Breakfast the next morning would be at 3am! That leaves us with 2 and half hours sleep at most for the night. Understandably, a lot of us were unhappy with the arrangement. The tour office offered us the option of canceling the trip with a full refund. But for many of us, that wasn't much of a choice, because we would not be returning to this region for a long time. (South America is a 30-hour flight away for us). The reason given for the change was the flight schedule. Underlying the dissent was that this tour was exorbitant to begin with. We were each charged $1699 for double occupancy for the 'standard' package. The luxury package costs $2199. What Holland America should have done was to verify the flight schedules before publishing them on their brochures and not promise what they cannot deliver. They could also have informed us, days, if not weeks in advance of the change in the itinerary, giving us time to make alternative arrangements. Note of advise to other passengers, don't bet on all the information on the brochures. On a positive note, the tour guide assigned to us, Kika was efficient, friendly and informative. (We had one more hour of sleep in Lima, arranged through skipping breakfast in the hotel, it was much appreciated). Technology Holland America claims the ship to be 'State of the Art'. But there are little things that make me wonder. We all remember the key cards that we are issued at embarkation. This is the first ship that I have been on that does not record an image of the passenger in the ship's database. As result, we are all required to display a 'government issued photo ID' whenever we board the ship. The security at the gangway would then match our faces with the photo ID and the names on key cards. On all the other ships that I have been on, whenever the key cards are swiped, the passenger's face would appear on the monitor behind the security desk, immediately verifying the identity of the keycard holder. No photo ID required. Yes, it's a minor inconvenience, but the technology isn't rocket science either. However, its implications on the ship's security would be of greater concern. The security personnel would also accept a photocopy of our passport as verification (since the ship is holding our passports). If a passenger were to lose his keycard with a photocopy of his passport, any criminal with access to photocopying machine could easily superimpose his photo onto the original. All the security features inherent in the original passport are voided in the photocopy. The criminal would hence have free access onboard the ship. The ship's photographers still use film. Considering the number of photos, some wanted, mostly unwanted, taken on and off board, the amount film wasted must be phenomenal. While cost of the digital camera equipment is high, its running cost is minimal. Given the volume of photos taken on board, I'm sure the cost would be covered in no time. Think of all the rolls of film and chemicals needed to develop them. Digital is the environmentally friendly way to go. The above may be viewed as minor, but viewed on the whole, it's indicative of a company's willingness to embrace technology for the convenience and security of its customers. Let's not forget that the Amsterdam is the flagship, I wonder what's on the other sister ships... Conclusion Would I travel on another Holland America Cruise in the Future? The overall experience is pleasant enough and I did enjoy the trip. However, I find Princess Cruises to be marginally superior to what Holland America. I would have opted for Princess Cruises if given a choice. (The two cruise lines are in the same price category.) However, my criteria for selecting cruises is based more on the destinations rather than the cruise line, so if Holland America can come up with interesting itineraries, I might yet return... Hopefully, the above account is construed as constructive criticism by the management in Holland America, including suggestions to improve their product. I hope that the above would be helpful other potential passengers considering cruises with Holland America. Read Less
Sail Date March 2005
The MS Amsterdam is an elegant ship with a nautical theme. This was my fifth cruise and the longest one to date . Traveling solo I found that it was easy to socialize with other passengers since this ship only carries 1380 pax . I felt ... Read More
The MS Amsterdam is an elegant ship with a nautical theme. This was my fifth cruise and the longest one to date . Traveling solo I found that it was easy to socialize with other passengers since this ship only carries 1380 pax . I felt that the fare that I paid for this cruise represented a good value for what was offered on the Amsterdam. PRE-CRUISE ARRANGEMENTS I used the Holland America one night pre-cruise package which was at the Rio Sheraton Copacabana. I was met at the airport by a shuttle service and alnog with some other pax who arrived early was driven to the hotel. The check-in at the hotel included some pre-cruise paperwork and was expedient. We checked in to our rooms and had the day to do whatever we wished. The smooth way this was handled was a sign of good things to come for Holland America! The Sheraton is in Leblon and is very clean and well maintained , but it is too far away from the beach area to walk or to do any sightseeing . Some fellow cc'rs and I went to the Grayline desk and booked a dinner and show at the famous Plataforma. The dinner at the Churascarria was good and the show was GREAT. This show is a must see in Rio !!! EMBARKATION The next morning a shuttle bus picked us up at around 10:00 a.m. and did a city tour on the way to the ship. We arrived at the pier in a timely manner and embarkation was quick , smooth and painless. Onboard the vessel we were directed to the Lido where we had lunch cafeteria style.A NOTE :( When traveling solo and dining at the Lido one should carry a bag and place it on the table otherwise when going away for a refill the table will be cleared off before you return with your drink .) Exploring the "DAM" ship The Amsterdam is one of two flagships for Holland America. She has a pretty three tiered atrium with an astrolab clock and a planetarium. There are a lot of artworks in niches and it is tastefully done . My first stop was at the front desk to sign up for the unlimited laundry package for $140.00. This was worth it for me as I never wore the same thing twice without being cleaned and I can travel lighter this way . I did not come on vacation to do laundry !! This was on deck 4 and I then went over to the small but adequate computer center. Special internet packages are available which can keep one in touch with business associates and loved ones at home . The Java Bar is right next to the computer center on the way to the Pinnacle Grill. The Java Bar is a cozy area that serves Cappucino and lattes with an ever changing assortment of cookies. This area is at NO extra charge.It is a quiet space to relax or to meet newfound friends. Our small CC group met there on our first day at sea . The Pinnacle Grill is right behind this space. This reservations only restaurant is a $20.00 charge per person and was worth every penny and more !!!! The service was flawless and the food simply exquisite. I dined there twice on this ship and had the petite filet mignon , the clam chowder , and the volcano cake Yummy !!!!! I went down to deck three and found a lovely teak promenade with teak deck chairs. This made for a great place to view the Antarctic on this itinerary . Wondering back up to deck five I found the Queen's Lounge which was an ample place for the two sitting shows and to gather the groups for Bingo and for shore excursions. There are several other venues for socializing on this ship. Decide what mood you are in and you can go dancing at the Ocean Bar on deck five , listen to an entertainer at the Rembrandt Lounge on five or relax in the more quiet explorer's lounge on five. You can take a break from gambling at the well laid out casino in the casino bar on five or go to the Lido pool area and see Danny Boy for a card trick and a drink. The ship is easy to explore and very well laid out as I found all of these venues easily . I came across two pool areas on this ship. The aft pool was a fresh water open air pool where the Antarctic Penguin Swim was held --boy was that COLD BRRRRRR !!!! The Lido pool area is also fresh water and has two hot tubs. This pool area is enclosed by a retractible magrodome which was nice in both warm and cooler weather which we experienced on this South America / Antarctica voyage.The spa area and fitness center are beyond the pool . I never used the spa , but had a great view of the ocean from my treadmill on the bow of the ship. My only criticism here is the lack of any instructior . Several of the older pax had trouble setting the equipment and no one there to attend to this . the other great venue for socializing and viewing was the Crow's Nest Lounge which was above the gym area on deck nine . this is where we had the Black and White Ball and the Ice Ball !!!! DINING There are four different venues for dining on the Amsterdam. The La Fontaine dining room is a two sitting affair with two levels and a double tiered brass staircase. This is a beautiful public space which served a good average to above average menu of meals . the service was not flawless , but was met with a smile and special requests were handled with a YES SIR !!! The Lido cafeteria served above average victuals for this type of dining . They had everything one would want . For example there was a deli sandwich bar , great salad bar and ice cream bar which was open all day long on this ship !!!! The Lido pool area also had a small buffet which had a taco bar and condiments to go along with hamburgers , hot dogs , cheeseburgers , and garden burgers . They also put out fresh pizzas and french fries from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Yummy !!! :-) The Lido also had a late night snack at 11:00p.m. The pinnacl was wonderful as I have already mentioned while exploring the ship earlier. CABIN My outside view cabin was on the lower deck , the Dolphin Deck #1919. It had a nice King sized bed, a sofa , a dressing table and a small coffee table . The cozy accomodations had ample closet space and a nice bath with a separate tub and hand held shower. Holland America provided bath amenities , but I onle used the combo shampoo for my thinning hair !! There was a tv for catching up on the latest news but no refrigerator and no robe. ACTIVITIES and SPECIAL EVENTS What can I say !!!! I stayed so busy for twenty one days that I need a vacation !!!! HA !! This ship was a destination in itself . During twenty one days they held a Black and White Ball, an Ice Ball, a Penguin Swim and sooooo many other things . there was always something going without being too noisy or tacky ! PORTS OF CALL The places that we went to on the South America / Antarctica itinerary were FABULOUS !!!!We went to Rio de Janeiro , Montevideo Uruguay , Buenos Aires Argentina, Port Stanley The Falkland Islands , The Antarctic Peninsula , The Antarctic Circle , Cape Horn , Ushuaia Argentina , Punta Arenas Chile , Puerto Chacabuco Chile , Puerto Montt Chile , and ended in Valparaiso Chile Whew !!!! It would be too lengthy to go into detail here . Suffice it to say that we had greta weather all the way around . Pack some gloves , a jacket and layer your clothing and you will be fine . I used all of the Holland America shore excursions when I went and found them to be well organized. Many of them they had bottled water for us and I feel that they were worth not having the hassle to book one at the pier. I fell that oce again Holland America took care of us !! I booked these online before I left home and the tickets were in my cabin upon arrival . FABULOUS !!! FABULOUS !!! FABULOUS !!!! ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment was good most of the time . There were the standard cruise ship reviews etc. There were a couple of duds but it was good by cruise ship standards . DISEMBARKATION This went smooth as silk ! We went to various public spaces and disembarked as our numbers were called. I had purchased the Air-Sea transfer with Holland America and they did a city tour of Santiago while on our way to a hospitality room at the Sheraton. Most of our flights were late at night and this was an unexpected surprise !!! Usually when the cruise is over they kick you off the ship but not Holland America . I think that it shows that Holland America appreciates my business and treats me well !! I will definitely be looking their way in the future for other opportunities !! Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
We sailed the Amsterdam on Dec. 1-17 from Rio de Janeiro to Valparaiso. One of the things that made the trip special was it's length, 17 days gives you many opportunities to make onboard friendships with other pax and the staff as ... Read More
We sailed the Amsterdam on Dec. 1-17 from Rio de Janeiro to Valparaiso. One of the things that made the trip special was it's length, 17 days gives you many opportunities to make onboard friendships with other pax and the staff as well. Overall, I would give the Amsterdam an A for the entire trip! Despite the fact many received greatly reduced fares, I did not notice anything that would suggest that the staff was doing anything to cut costs on the trip. The ship had been booked for this cruise since the middle of the summer, and a group of us through Cruise Critic had been exchanging posts and information in anticipation for the cruise. We arrived the day of embarkation into Rio to find a pervasive warm rain falling. The views were obscured by the rain and generally foggy conditions it caused. Embarkation was clearly the worst part of the entire trip. For this, HAL gets an F! We arrived at a dark reception building that contained only a few working fluorescent bulbs and were told that prior to embarkation we had to fill out immigration questionnaires for Argentina or Chile. We all tried to fill the forms out, but due to the non-existent lighting in the terminal and the color of the print on the paper it made it impossible! People were angry and upset, and I worried that the process might be indicative of our time to come. This was a Honeymoon cruise for my husband and I and we were fortunate to be able to book a Suite. This was a first for us, and the extra room and perks were wonderful!!! Our room steward Pete was the best we have had too. He always had a smile and immediately introduced himself having already memorized our names upon embarkation. As soon as he met us he went down for our bags, and we were unpacked fully into our new Suite well before dinner. The Suite itself is so spacious as well as the drawer space on the Amsterdam. The bath in the suite was a full length albeit narrow jacuzzi bathtub. I found that with the cooler weather we experienced with this itinerary I used it faithfully! The balcony was my favorite part as is often the case with me. Up until now, I have always stayed in a veranda mini-suite and this balcony was 2X+ anything we'd ever experienced! We ate breakfast out there many mornings, and one afternoon enjoyed a full afternoon tea, silver tea service out on the Veranda! We choose the early seating and were put as requested at a table of 8. Our table mates were 3 couples, one from California, one from Long Island, NY and one in Maryland. One thing was apparent throughout the cruise, most of our fellow cruisers were very well traveled. We found that we enjoyed hearing of their experiences and recommendations and each and every dinner was a lovely experience. On a longer itinerary, I think your tablemates can really enhance the experience. We enjoyed breakfast and lunch in the Main Dining Room many times during sea days and in the Queen's Dining Room once (where Suite Passengers were invited to eat). All of our meals were warm and as requested, and we enjoyed meeting other cruisers during meals. That is except for the couple we were to be seated with at breakfast in the Main Dining Room by a window at a table for 6. She started screaming that they didn't want to sit with anyone at the meal!! I assured her, we had no desire to sit there either and shook it off as there is always one in a crowd. I could go on and on about the itinerary on this cruise. I will keep my comments succinct though, as most are reading this to hear about the ship. Our favorites I think were Colonia (a UNESCO World Heritage site outside of Montevideo), Buenos Aires (so European!), Falklands (the penguins at Bluff cove were the best) and Ushuaia (the Tierra del Fuego is surreal in it's beauty!). It was all spectacular, but those places in retrospect stick out in my mind! This was a 17 day cruise, yet I didn't see one menu that repeated throughout the cruise! The nice thing about a longer cruise is that you get to meet more passengers, especially with the amount of sea days we had. We didn't attend many of the evening performances, but the ones we did attend were quite good as they were local troupes that came aboard to entertain with their traditional dances. We also enjoyed the various lecturers on board. We did expect to see more sea life than we did. We saw one whale next to the ship one lunch and some wonderful seabirds, but Alaska seems to have much more sea life than we experienced in SA. Harry, the bar manager, and Veronica, the concierge, assisted me in putting together a Cruise website get together on board. They even printed and delivered invitations to the Cabins of the 34+ cruisers who had been sharing posts in preparation for the cruise. We had a lunchtime reception in the Crows Nest where HAL served hot appetizers and then we ate in the bottom part of the main dining room that was reserved for just our group. All of this was done willingly and gratis by the HAL staff. The friendships we made out of that group will not be forgotten! I would highly recommend the Amsterdam and her crew. She is, bar none, the nicest Ship I have had the privilege in cruising on. Thanks to them, my husband and I have wonderful and treasured memories of a very special honeymoon adventure! Read Less
Sail Date December 2003
It has taken me nearly a month after our cruise to write this, but the holidays took precedence. We sailed the Amsterdam on Dec. 1-17 from Rio de Janiero to Valpariso. One of the things that made the trip special was it's length, 17 ... Read More
It has taken me nearly a month after our cruise to write this, but the holidays took precedence. We sailed the Amsterdam on Dec. 1-17 from Rio de Janiero to Valpariso. One of the things that made the trip special was it's length, 17 days gives you many opportunities to make onboard friendships with other pax and the staff as well. Overall, I would give the Amsterdam an A for the entire trip! Despite the fact many received greatly reduced fares, I did not notice anything that would suggest that the staff was doing anything to cut costs on the trip. The ship had been booked for this cruise since the middle of the summer, and a group of us through Cruise Critic had been exchanging posts and information in anticipation for the cruise. We arrived the day of embarkation into Rio to find a pervasive warm rain falling. The views were obscured by the rain and generally foggy conditions it caused. Embarkation was clearly the worst part of the entire trip. For this, HAL gets an F! We arrived at a dark reception building that contained only a few working fluorescent bulbs and were told that prior to embarkation we had to fill out immigration questionnaires for Argentina or Chile. We all tried to fill the forms out, but due to the non-existent lighting in the terminal and the color of the print on the paper it made it impossible! People were angry and upset, and I worried that the process might be indicative of our time to come. This was a Honeymoon cruise for my husband and I and were fortunate to be able to book a Suite (7006). This was a first for us, and the extra room and perks were wonderful!!! Our room steward Pete was the best we have had too. He always had a smile and immediately introduced himself having already memorized our names upon embarkation. As soon as he met us he went down for our bags, and we were unpacked fully into our new Suite well before dinner. The Suite itself is so spacious and the drawer space on the Amsterdam. The bath in the suite was a full length albeit narrow jacuzzi bathtub. I found that with the cooler weather we experienced with this itinerary I used it faithfully! The balcony was my favorite part as is often the case with me. Up until now, I have always stayed in a veranda mini-suite and this balcony was 2X+ anything we'd ever experienced! We ate breakfast out there many mornings, and one afternoon enjoyed a full afternoon tea, silver tea service out on the Veranda! We choose the early seating and were put as requested at a table of 8. Our table mates were 3 couples, one from California, one from Long Island, NY and one in Maryland. One thing was apparent through out the cruise, most of our fellow cruisers were very well traveled. We found that we enjoyed hearing of their experiences and recommendations and each and every dinner was a lovely experience. On a longer itinerary, I think your table mates can really enhance the experience. We enjoyed breakfast and lunch in the Main Dining Room many times during sea days and in the Queen's Dining Room once (where Suite Passengers were invited to eat). All of our meals were warm and as requested, and we enjoyed meeting other cruisers during meals. That is except for the couple we were to be seated with at breakfast in the Main Dining Room by a window at a table for 6. She started screaming that they didn't want to sit with anyone at the meal!! I assured her, we had no desire to sit there either and shook it off as there is always one in a crowd. I could go on and on about the itinerary on this cruise. I will keep my comments succinct though, as most are reading this to hear about the ship. Our favorites I think were Colonia (a UNESCO World Heritage site outside of Montevideo), Buenos Aires (so European!), Falklands (the penguins at Bluff cove were the best) and Ushuaia (the Tierra del Fuego is surreal in it's beauty!). It was all spectacular, but those places in retrospect stick out in my mind! This was a 17 day cruise, yet I didn't see one menu that repeated throughout the cruise! The nice thing about a longer cruise is that you get to meet more passengers, especially with the amount of sea days we had. We didn't attend many of the evening performances, but the ones we did attend were quite good as they were local troupes that came aboard to entertain with their traditional dances. We also enjoyed the various lecturers on board. We did expect to see more sea life than we saw. We saw one whale next to the ship one lunch and some wonderful seabirds, but Alaska seems to have much more sea life than we experienced in SA. Harry, the bar manager, and Veronica, the Concierge, assisted me in putting together a Cruise Critic get together on board. They even printed and delivered invitations to the Cabins of the 34+ cruisers who had been sharing posts in preparation for the cruise. We had a lunchtime reception in the Crows Nest where HAL served hot appetizers and the ate in the bottom part of the main dining room that was reserved for just our group. All of this was done willingly and gratis by the HAL staff. The friendships we made out of that group will not be forgotten! I would highly recommend the Amsterdam and her crew. She is, bar none, the nicest Ship I have had the privilege in cruising on. Thanks to them, my husband and I have wonderful and treasured memories of a very special honeymoon adventure! Read Less
Sail Date December 2003
Amsterdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.4
Dining 4.0 4.1
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 4.0 4.5
Fitness Recreation 4.0 4.0
Family 3.0 4.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 4.1
Enrichment 4.0 3.9
Service 4.0 4.5
Value For Money 4.0 4.2
Rates 4.0 4.2

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