2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2019
We have taken several Alaskan cruises, the most recent on the Amsterdam. While we enjoyed the ports, it was not our best cruise. The Amsterdam is worn and dated (although I've read a drydock is in her future). We took our chances ... Read More
We have taken several Alaskan cruises, the most recent on the Amsterdam. While we enjoyed the ports, it was not our best cruise. The Amsterdam is worn and dated (although I've read a drydock is in her future). We took our chances and flew to Seattle the day of the cruise. We arrived before noon and our shared shuttle driver had us to the pier in no time. Check in was fast and our cabin was ready for us. Muster drill was held outdoors. We had a Vista suite and it was similar to what Norwegian calls a mini suite. There was nothing special about the cabin. No butler, sparking wine or afternoon treats. We had a walk in shower instead of a tub and we were grateful for that. Except for the lack of water pressure! The cabin was tight for two. A larger person would have to walk sideways to get around the bed. We had a sofa, glass top coffee table and and end table. The lamp on the end table had a single USB port. The lamp can be switched on and off from a wall switch. More than once, the wall switch was off and our device didn't charge. The refrigerator was inside the end table. It functioned but was completely iced over. The desk area held the 32" tv, DVD player, ice bucket, a make up mirror that once lit up and more drawers than we could use. A handheld hair dryer and another mirror were in one of the drawers. The tv had horrible resolution and more often than not, no satellite reception. The ship does have an extensive DVD library for just this very reason. The balcony held 2 chairs and ottomans along with a tiny end table. We sometimes brought the ottomans inside the cabin so we could watch a movie a little more comfortably. The room darkening drapes were a necessity in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Also, one person could sleep while the other watched tv, with the additional drape adjacent to the bed pulled closed. Food is always subjective but after 50+ cruises, I wasn't impressed. Food was often cold. How can pancakes be cold and hard when you are one of the first guests served in the dining room? Buffet food was not at all appetizing. I did appreciate buffet items being served to you but the selections were very limited as were the times the Lido was open. Don't expect to stop for a snack after attending a show in the theater as the Lido is closed from 8pm til 10:30pm. If the show on the main stage isn't your cup of tea, a movie is shown nightly in the much smaller Wajang theater. America's Test Kitchen shared this space. If you want a seat for ATK get there 45 minutes before the program starts. It is one of the few activities available on sea days. Other activities included Microsoft and photography workshops and several EXC pesentations. Mahjongg was offered every afternoon but at strange times. The casino is small but was never crowded. As a non-smoker, it did not seem smoky. The shops were constantly trying to sell old stock from the 2019 World Cruise. We had been to Ketchikan, Juneau, Icy Strait, Sitka and Victoria on previous cruises. Weather was not on our side so our rain gear came in handy. One morning, I did a load of laundry before we went ashore. $2 to wash and the dryer was free. Best deal on board the ship. They even provide the detergent. We enjoyed walking around Anchorage and Kodiak Island. Our friends have a summer home in the Homer area so we spent the day with them. A highlight was visiting the Kilcher homestead from the Discover program Alaska: The Last Frontier. We also cruised Dawes and Hubbard Glaciers. Amazing! We purchased the Victoria shuttle through Holland. We could've purchased the exact shuttle from the provider at 2/3rds of the cost. We should've known better. We do enjoy cruising Holland America but the Amsterdam was too small for us. My husband was quite bored, especially during the day time hours. Our past experience was on the Eurodam, so we'll stick with a similar size ship in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2019
We are a couple in our early 60’s. We traveled with another couple. We stayed at the Homewood Suites downtown. We took an Uber to the port which was very close to the port at around 10:00 AM. We were on the ship by 11:45. We were ... Read More
We are a couple in our early 60’s. We traveled with another couple. We stayed at the Homewood Suites downtown. We took an Uber to the port which was very close to the port at around 10:00 AM. We were on the ship by 11:45. We were able to go straight to our rooms. We had a nice quiet lunch in the main dining room. The Amsterdam is an amazing ship! Very clean and nicely decorated! Smaller ship but easy to get around. Since our cabin was on the 3rd floor it was very easy to get to the main dining room which was one floor up. Love being in the back of the ship. Dining: We went to the Pinnacle Grill three times. Love the menu and the waiters and waitresses. Lobster bisque, shrimp cocktail, crab cakes, lobster tail and filet were all so amazing! Also had the scallops, candy bacon and porterhouse! All were amazing. Wahyu and Kay were so amazing in the Pinnacle. We also went to the Canalleto one night. Liked their menu also. Mira and Carla were amazing and always friendly and nice when ever we saw them! The main dining room was great. We ate most of our meals there including a couple of lunches and breakfast. Amazing Amin, was one of our favorite waiters! Always had a smile on his face. The last at sea day they served surf and turf and shrimp cocktail in the dining room. Very good! The Lido serves an awesome breakfast. Lots of different juices. Egg making station, pancakes etc station. Lunch they have a great salad station. Ports: Awesome itinerary! Picked this cruise for all the amazing ports! Ketchikan: Bering Sea Fisherman Tour was excellent. We did this tour 11 years ago and couldn’t wait to go back. It was rainy and cold but they provided raincoats and they had heaters on the boat. We watched them catch fish and crabs in the pots. You could hold rock crabs etc. They threw herring and we watched the eagles fly down and catch them . An awesome shore excursion not to be missed! The boat docks right in town. Lots of nice shops etc. Sawyer Glacier at Tracy Arm was beautiful. Nice relaxing day. Juneau: We took the Jeep Wrangler 4 Door Jeep tour. We booked through the ship. We went on our own to the Mendenhall glacier and hiked to Nugget Falls. So nice to take our time and explore at our own pace. We also went to Saint Therese Chapel which was beautiful location in the woods. Amazing area! Then onto the Fish hatchery. Very cool to see that many fish! Icy Strait Point: TOK River Outfitters is a company we found on line. They were awesome! We went halibut fishing! Between the six of us we caught about 25 halibut! The boat was in pristine shape and Nick the captain and Tammy were so amazing! They baited our lines and released all our catches for us. They went out of their way to make our day so awesome! It was a rainy and cold day but we were having so much fun catching fish we didn’t even notice the weather. Anchorage: There is a free shuttle to town. We booked the Glacier Quest Cruise through Phillips 26 Glacier Cruises on line. We actually called direct and got a AAA discount for the cruise. We booked the motor coach for transportation to Whittier which is where the tour begins. The glaciers we visited were beautiful! The lunch was great! This excursion takes all day but it was so amazing to get up so close to the glaciers. We chose the glacier quest which was a shorter cruise because we worried we would not have enough time for the longer 26 glacier cruise. As it turned out though, there was just enough time for the time we had at port to take either cruise. Homer: We took the free shuttle to the Spit. Nice area for souvenir shopping for some unusual things. We booked a private tour through Bay Excursions for a Marine Wildlife Tour. The tour was right down by the water at the spit. We saw puffins and otters and eagles. Very Knowledgeable guys on board our boat. The captain was great! Kodiak: We took the free shuttle to town. The guys booked a Bear Viewing tour through Island Air Service. Expensive but the best tour! Up close to see bears in the wild. They flew them to Fraser Lake in float planes and you are very near where the salmon are. The bears were very close to where they stood and watched them. My friend and I booked a floatplane tour with Andrews Air. We were so close to the mountain peaks that I felt like I could touch them. The take off and landing on the water was so smooth. We highly recommend either place, which were next door to each other, for floatplane trips. Hubbard Glacier: Amazing day to see the Hubbard Glacier up close. The ship offers an excursion to get off the ship to go see the glacier even closer. We didn’t do it though since we had been very close to glaciers in Whittier when we were there. The scenery is just undesirable at the passage into the glacier. Sitka: We took the shuttle to town. We booked a tour on our own with Captain Gary’s Sitka Adventures for a Whale watch. Gary met us in town and took us out on his pristine boat. It was just the four of us. Gary was amazing! We saw so many whales. We saw otters. Beautiful area! Gary was the best! Victoria: The shuttle offered by the ship is $15.95/pp to town. We took a taxi directly to the Butchart Gardens on our own. Way cheaper. The Gardens are about 40 minutes from where the shuttle drops you off at the Empress Hotel in town. The gardens are the most amazing gardens we have ever seen. Highly recommend going there. Embarkation: The Port Valet offered by SEA/TAC is an awesome way to go. Put your bags out at midnight and you don’t have to deal with them until you get to your baggage claim at your final destination. FREE too!!! This itinerary was so awesome! We hoped to go to these same ports next year but they changed them. No Kodiak or Sitka! We hope they bring them back. This was our 16 cruise. 6th cruise with Holland America. We really love Holland!! One big plus for us is that Holland America Line has a priest on board for all their cruises. We really love that they do this! All in all, we can’t say enough how wonderful this cruise was. Alaska is an awesome place to visit! So much untouched amazingly beautiful scenery!! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2019
Chose it for the length, route and price. As usual, embarkation was smooth in Seattle. Cabin was standard ocean view and clean but showing age on chair arms, window frame rust and tile/plastic bathroom walls and sink. Chose ... Read More
Chose it for the length, route and price. As usual, embarkation was smooth in Seattle. Cabin was standard ocean view and clean but showing age on chair arms, window frame rust and tile/plastic bathroom walls and sink. Chose any-time dining and booked same table for entire trip. Wait staff fantastic and food excellent most of the time. (Cream soups seem to be the same plain cream poured over a handful of different ingredients each meal.) Onion soup, offered on every menu was usually excellent except a couple of times when it was way too salty. Rudy's Sel de Mer was a total three-course mess at a ridiculously high price. It began with a half-cooked scallop as an amuse-bouche. Next came a seafood tower for me - routine salad bar popcorn shrimp salad, less than a teaspoon of crab meat and I passed on the octopus. My entree was a really tough whole Dover sole which had more in common with the shoe variety than the seafood type. A friend had the Maine lobster which amounted to two baby critters smaller than prawns. (I didn't know things that small were even legal to harvest.) Other friend raved about rack of lamb. Desert was supposed to be Crepes Suzette. Again, very disappointing. Crepe was very tough, smeared with what seemed to be orange marmalade and served lukewarm with half melted ice cream. No way close to being Crepe Suzettes. Friends profiteroles were standard issue from the Lido. To complete the evening, the wine steward never bothered to return and refill wine glasses and overall service was excruciatingly slow. As standard these days, all land excursions were very expensive and on-board entertainment reduced to the minimum with old BBC videos and house band filling in a couple of times. Favorite locales remain Icy Strait Point, Hubbard glacier viewing and Homer. Other ports/sights are okay but tend to be similar to each other and offer the usual search for wildlife/birds, some totem poles and a church here and there. Cruising remains a bargain if you can ignore a lot of the overpriced things on offer but it seems the day of inclusive pricing is about over. Cruise lines have adopted the airline pricing model - quote a cheap fare, and then add port fees/taxes and a $14.50 a day service charge per passenger called a tip, and then charge exorbitant fees for everything else. I expect to see all menus with à la carte pricing within a year or two. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2019
This July the family decided to go on a cruise to Alaska on the Holland America Amsterdam. We had 7 people in our group and had 2 rooms. Everything on our cruise was absolutely perfect. The ship was very comfortable and up to ... Read More
This July the family decided to go on a cruise to Alaska on the Holland America Amsterdam. We had 7 people in our group and had 2 rooms. Everything on our cruise was absolutely perfect. The ship was very comfortable and up to date. The food was excellent and the service was perfect. Holland America gave us a perfect 7 day vacation and we’ll be looking forward to our next cruise on holland America’ We frequently hear how Holland America is the over 90 crowd but this trip the ship was filled with families and lots of kids. We had 2 18 year olds in our group and they enjoyed Holland America so much that they have been next summers family trip on Holland America. We decided Holland America gets the over 90 reputation from their world cruises as the only people that can take a 100 day cruisr are retired. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2019
We did an Alaskan cruise 6 years ago and loved it so we wanted to return. Alaska is a great destination for us to escape summer heat and experience beauty. We traveled to and from Seattle. Our cabin was 2715 and a great location for us. It ... Read More
We did an Alaskan cruise 6 years ago and loved it so we wanted to return. Alaska is a great destination for us to escape summer heat and experience beauty. We traveled to and from Seattle. Our cabin was 2715 and a great location for us. It is at back of boat where there were only 2 cabins so there was no traffic. It was quiet. A hidden gem was a small deck on the back, almost private with access through the hall. We went to the shows every night and enjoyed them. There were 2 Gala nights, however we decided to be a bit more casual so did not attend. We ate dinner in dining room a few times as well as lunch. Loved the Lido for breakfast and the Crows Lounge for relaxation. Ports were great with the exception of Victoria which we were not a fan of. We chose to purchase excursions in the port as the prices were better and even got discounts too. My favorite port was Skagway as you are able to take a tour out of the town and experience natural beauty. We traveled with Frontier Excursions. The vehicle size allowed for better tour as there were only 9 of us on the tour. Guide was very familiar with history and area and also helpful in taking pictures. We stopped many spots and went to Yukon and the suspension bridge. In Juneau we went on the whale watch tour with Juneau Whale Watch Company. The boats were small and comfortable. The guides had a lot of information. Out of Seattle we were offered a special program through the Port Authority for free. Our luggage was picked up outside our cabin and put through to our final destination and our boarding passes were printed and delivered to our cabin. This was our second cruise with Holland America and we love them. They seem very professional. Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2019
We just returned from a 14 day cruise on a the venerable Grande Dame, Holland America MS Amsterdam. Let me preface this review by saying we (my husband, son and DIL) very much enjoyed this cruise. We chose it for the unique Alaska ... Read More
We just returned from a 14 day cruise on a the venerable Grande Dame, Holland America MS Amsterdam. Let me preface this review by saying we (my husband, son and DIL) very much enjoyed this cruise. We chose it for the unique Alaska Itinerary that included many ports to which we had not been on our previous Alaska cruises. This was our 4th Alaska cruise and first time on Holland America. We have also cruised with Carnival, Norwegian, Celebrity and Viking Ocean. By reading all the previous reviews, we knew that HAL caters to an older crowd; however, "older" is a relative term which in this case means "floating nursing home." I myself am 70 but I felt young and spry on this ship of canes, walkers and wheelchairs. Don't expect to move anywhere quickly, but do expect to meet educated, well traveled shipmates with much good information to share. One of our shipmates reported going to the Lido late-night buffet, when an elderly man wandered in completely naked. Yes, that happened. Holland America knows their target market well, and have staff to help the frail get food at the buffet, enter and exit the ship, and even have the day of the week printed on the rugs in the elevators to help with orientation. This ship still has the great viewing room with floor to ceiling windows that many newer ships have replaced with fee restaurants. There is also a big library/gameroom/computer room with large windows, which is a great place for hanging out. We flew in a day early and had arranged for a car to pick us up at the airport through Seattle Town Cars. Their service was prompt and friendly. They delivered us to The Inn at the Market, which has a good location near Pike Place Market. We did the Savour Seattle food tour, which I recommend. We got to taste many of Pike Place Market's highlight foods including crab cakes, chowder, doughnuts, chocolates, dried cherries, Beecher's cheese and mac'n'cheese, to name a few items. My favorite was the salmon pate piroshky and rhubarb piroshky from "Piroshky, Piroshky." Absolutely delicious! We Uber'd to port, arrived later than most, so there was very little wait in line. We boarded and were able to go straight to our cabin, which I will review in the appropriate section. Dining: I would describe it as hit or miss. It is sometimes hard to find a clean table in the Lido Buffet. Or the table would be clean but the chair greasy or the wide carpeted window bases next to the table would be littered with food crumbs, etc. The bread baker is awesome, the assortment of breads varied and all delicious. And the pastries! You won't find better in Paris--flaky, light and baked to a golden brown perfection. Bravo! We found the Japanese, Chinese and Thai selections to be very good overall. Some soups were very tasty and well-seasoned, others were bland. The gravies on this ship are all deep rich and hearty. I wish I could make gravy that well! If you order filet in the main dining room you will receive a slice of baked tenderloin, good but lacking the crisp sear of a good filet. For that, you would need to eat in Pinnacle Grill, which currently has a $35. per person up charge. It is a bargain at lunch though--only a $10 per person. Make reservations early and know that the Pinnacle has no view and Cannaletto is a closed off section of the buffet (and serves many of the same foods). The Italian foods on this ship are in general just OK. Some dishes (rigatoni) were dried out, some sauces bland or watery. Avoid anything with spinach in it--the veggie lasagna consists of noodles, alfredo sauce and a blob of boiled spinach. Spinach omelettes are similarly yucky. Some foods that would have been delicious had they been served hot, suffered by being served lukewarm or cold. The Dive-Inn burgers fell into the lukewarm category (congealed cheese), but were served with tasty hot fries. Avoid anything with guacamole. It is a blackish-green color. My kids enjoyed the sushi choices and we all liked the salad bar, with many fresh choices, and some excellent house made dressings. I highly recommend the Asian Sesame. The ice cream was a lower quality that I have experienced on any ship, with some choices (chocolate) tasting more like ice milk. My DIL loved the sorbet choices. The Lido has some serve yourself sections, but most hot sections were served by behind the counter servers. This, along with limited hours, led to lines. It was not unusual to wait in a line for your eggs, then wait in another line for your toast. If you do the egg line first, your eggs will be lukewarm, if you do the toast first, it will be cold by the time you get your eggs. The main dining room is beautiful, but has problems. Service varies from very good to glacial, depending on the wait staff in your section and the time of day. We quickly learned where the best wait staff worked and requested their section. (Kudos to waiter Anas at dinner time--- ask for table #177 folks). Be advised that the MDR fills the worst seats first-- the ones that back up to a service station, face a wall, have a view blocked by a large column or surprisingly, are on the side so sunny that you have to pull the curtains and miss the view, while the shady side goes unoccupied. I avoided breakfast in the MDR after two tries. Are they deliberately trying to funnel people to the buffet by making them wait 45 minutes to order and another 45 minutes to receive the order? And then you receive lukewarm eggs, cold toast and cold pancakes. What a disappointment. The room service folks try very hard to get your food to you on time, as ordered and still warm. It is just a long way from the kitchen to the cabins. Toast will be cold (order pastry instead), eggs lukewarm. Do not order the scrambled eggs unless you write in "use fresh eggs," or you will receive tasteless, weird-textured pre-fab eggs. Hint to Holland America: please get some lighter-weight dishes for your hard working servers. Those trays are heavy! And they need a heated cart to keep the food hot. A napkin wrapped around toast is not going to hold in the heat. I only used room service at breakfast--my son and DIL used it once for dinner and commented that it wasn't good. Staff: There were many friendly staff members, but some who seemed stressed, unhappy or unfocused. At breakfast one morning as I waited for my eggs, I watched a (novice?) server mix up the orders, break the over easy eggs, walk away to wipe his nose and then walk back to wipe the edges of the fry pan with the same paper towel. I asked him if he realized what he had just done and he presented a blank stare. After that, I avoided any station where I saw him working. (I did report that to a supervisor.) The room stewards were all very personable and friendly, and there were always smiling folks to wish you a great day as you entered or left the ship. Download the Holland America Navigator App for easy reservations at any of the extra fee dining venues. It has a free chat service with fellow travelers which we found helpful and which was operational most days of our cruise. It also has a list of the days activities, although some days it was not a complete listing and we found it safer to carry our daily newsletter. There was less entertainment on this ship than on any of the other lines on which we have traveled. There were some mediocre to very good singers and dancers, a very funny ventriloquist, an amusing comedian. We liked the violin and piano duo "Adagio." Some evenings the highlight entertainment was a not so current movie or a BBC documentary accompanied by music. Small 1/2-filled bags of cold popcorn were available at the movies. There were also the usual Trivia and Bingo. The Test Kitchen presentations were well attended. If you don't want to stand, you need to arrive 1/2 hour early. They need a mirror over the work surface of the chef, as even if you sit in front, you can't really see what the chef is doing unless you watch the two TV screens at the sides. Might as well skip it, and watch it later in your room. My DIL attended a stretching class which she enjoyed. Each day there is a tea offered at 3 PM. We attended once and it was enjoyable to share a table with new friends, but the bread on the little sandwiches was stale. If you are a swimmer or hot tub lover, this is your ship. They were sparkling clean, the pool is also heated and they were often empty. No problem ever getting a lounge chair and the roof closes whenever the weather is cool/cold. We avoided the casino area because it was so smoky. Unfortunately, the ship's shops are across from the casino and also smoky. I usually enjoy on shop browsing, but not this time. Ketchikan: We booked the George Inlet Crab Feast privately. We have done this before and loved it. I must say that there has been some erosion in quality. Gone was the tasty potato that used to accompany the crab. The dressing on the salad, which was delicious in the past, was not as tangy. In the past, all the crab was fresh and delicious. This time, about one in three tasted watery and not fresh. The fresh ones though were awesome and the cheesecake is creamy and delicious. Be aware that there are many steps to climb to reach the Inn whether you arrive by bus or boat. You can request a ride if you need it. That afternoon, our son and DIL did the Lumberjack show (we just walked up and bought tickets) and they loved it. Juneau: We have done Taku Lodge excursion in the past and it stands out in our memories as one of the best tours we have taken. This time, our son and DIL did it and also loved it. It is expensive, but so worth it. Anchorage: We rented a car from Avis (the "B" street location). We took the free shuttle from port to the drop off point and walked the approximate 5 blocks to Avis. We arrived at around 8:30 AM and there was no line. We drove south along Turnagin Arm which is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. We stopped at Potters' Marsh and watched a pair of geese herd their brood of goslings. We drove on to Girdwood and had a yummy lunch of fried fish and chips at the 5 Chairs Restaurant. It has a charming log cabin feel and a beautiful mountain view. We also stopped at a quirky little coffee shop called "The Grind." We moved on to the Mt. Alyeska Lodge where our son and DIL met their tour for the "Summer Sled Dog Adventure." Both really enjoyed it. Meanwhile my husband and I took the hike through the beautiful woods behind the Inn. There is also a tram up the Mountain for scenic views. We then re-united and finished our day at the Alaska Wildlife and Conservation Center. If I go back, I will rent a car again and do the Portage Glacier Boat ride, which you can book privately. Homer: We loved this port. We took the free bus out onto the Spit. Word of advice--if you plan on shopping, there is no need to arrive before 10AM. We shopped, stopped at the Memorial, walked on the beach and had lunch at The Little Mermaid Restaurant, which I highly recommend. Everything we ordered was top quality and perfectly seasoned and prepared. Service was excellent and friendly and the atmosphere is wonderful. They play great upbeat music and you can hear the happy cooks singing along. Our kids took the Katchemak Bay tour offered by the ship and said it was good. Sitka: We did the Wildlife Quest and Finn Island Lodge tour offered by the ship and enjoyed it. The boat was large, comfortable, with plenty of indoor and outdoor viewing space. We saw one whale blow about 3 times and then dive. We saw many otters and eagles. We then proceeded to the lodge. The room where they serve you is a calm and pleasant banquet hall with a vaulted ceiling and wall of windows overlooking the expansive deck and water view. Everything seems new, fresh and meticulously clean. The food was wonderful--everything fresh, perfectly seasoned, piping hot. It was one of the best meals we had on the entire voyage. After eating, we went out by the bonfire where they had all the ingredients for s'mores, including Reese's cups, which make a surprisingly delicious addition. Sitka is almost always under cloud cover--dress for the likely misty rain. I can only imagine how beautiful this lodge/setting must be on the very rare sunny days they get. Icy Strait Point: We have been before and enjoy this made-for-cruisers stop. This is one of my favorite places for souvenir shopping. There is a nice shoreline walk, and a free exhibition of old canning equipment. Don't miss the trail through the woods behind the main buildings. It is an easy walk that evokes the Frost poem, "The woods are lovely, dark and deep." Seriously, it is the kind of old growth, mossy woods where fairies and hobbits would be right at home. Too bad they are building a ropes course in the center. Kodiak: Next time I will take a flight plane to see the bears. Folks who did that highly recommend it. We did the ship's tour that included a Russian Tea. Our bus arrived a little late. Our guide introduced herself and said that both she and the bus were old but still had good engines. I would add that the bus also had good brakes--more on this later. Every two seats had a washcloth hung over the back, presumably to use on the windows, which had to be closed due to the misty rain. With the windows closed, they quickly misted over and between that and the pea-soup fog, our sight-seeing drive was a bust. We could see absolutely nothing. If you have allergies, avoid this bus, there was mold/algae growing on a panel over the door and around the seals of the windows. At one pint, we drove around a corner and traffic was at a standstill due to some construction. Our driver slammed on the brakes and we hydroplaned sideways into the oncoming lane. Thankfully, there was no oncoming traffic, but it gave us all a scare. Our guide was also our driver and seemed unable to focus on both her driving and delivering her spiel at the same time. We stopped at a chapel of a Russian Orthodox Seminary and learned some history and went into a Russian Orthodox Church where the Pastor gave a presentation. We almost missed this second stop as our guide said the church was not open, until someone commented that they could see people going in and out, so we did stop. The tea part of the tour was held in a large room at at an Episcopal church. The tables were laid out nicely with cloths, china and Russian knick-knacks. The tea was a delicious citrus blend. The borscht was bland, the piroshky had very little filling and paled in comparison to what we had in Seattle. We each had one cookie, which was very good. The best part of this tour was the music, played by a large group with unique stringed instruments and dressed in Russian costumes. It was obvious that they enjoyed playing together and they were excellent musicians. Victoria: We took a taxi from port to our meeting point for the 5 Star Whale Watching Tour. We booked early and were able to get the smaller boat, the "Sailish Shadow." It was just us 4 and the captain and only cost a little more than the other large-group boat. The small boat does have a bathroom, but it is tiny and you literally have to crawl in and out. The hour long boat ride out to find whales is not recommended for anyone pregnant or with back problems. Heed that advice--the ride is jolting, at times my bottom and the boat's were air-borne. Still, I found the ride exciting and kind of like being on a thrill ride at a a fair. We saw only one whale, a transient male orca but were able to follow him along a coast-line, watching him blow, surface and dive. He even rolled once and showed us his pectoral fin. Our driver was excellent at maneuvering to get the best view. After our tour, we walked down to see the floating houses on the wharf, then took the harbor taxi boat back, had delicious lobster rolls at Nautical Nellie's Restaurant, and caught a taxi back to port. The two taxis to and from port were 1/3 the cost of using the ship's shuttle. We also cruised to Sawyer and Hubbard Glaciers. Amazing. We luckily had sunny days for both. Hubbard Glacier is magnificent, reminds me of the great ice wall in Game of Thrones and is backed by snow capped mountains. The glacier talks to you with loud creaks and thundering cracks and we were lucky so see an active day of calving. Sawyer itself is smaller and less impressive, but the scenery as we cruised toward it was beautiful and the sun on the glacial water turned the water to jade. It looked like it was lit from under the water. Mesmerizing. We Uber'd from our final port to the airport. Easy peasy. So, final judgement... would I cruise with Holland America again? Yes, but... only if it offered a unique itinerary that my favorite cruise line (Viking Ocean!) doesn't offer. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2019
1. Seattle cruise terminal again was organized and FRIENDLY for both departure and arrival. Everything moved smoothly and the wait wasn't unbearable. Plenty of room for all to sit if they so desired. 2. One of the passengers had ... Read More
1. Seattle cruise terminal again was organized and FRIENDLY for both departure and arrival. Everything moved smoothly and the wait wasn't unbearable. Plenty of room for all to sit if they so desired. 2. One of the passengers had been to Alaska on 2 other occasions, second one it was the first trip. We wanted to see as much as we could so we booked the 14 day trip. 3. Each port was unique and glad to have such a variety of places to go. 4. Ship entertainment was good, shows were good, especially enjoyed the coffee with the cruise director. We heard some interesting tales. 5. Service was good from Lido to main dining room to cabin stewards to laundry staff. (we received a personalized note each time laundry was delivered to the room) 6. The dolphin level outside cabin was a good size for 2 passengers. The only "complaint" would have been the single outlet for the entire room. Thank goodness I packed a multi port charger. We had a problem with the shower draining slow and it was taken care of within a few hours (before our next use) 7. Again the ports were good. Juneau in the sun was so much fun, Sitka and Kodiak were our favorites. The Fortress of the Bears and the Raptor Center in Sitka were the highlight of our tours. 8. So many eagles were spotted we lost count but we saw whales and puffins and sea otters and a seal on an iceberg and so much more. 9. We did eat most of our meals in the Lido and from wait staff to line staff couldn't have been more pleased. 10. The Dive In treated us to hamburgers, fries and hot dogs a few times to have that taste of home 11. Met some very interesting friendly fellow cruisers! We would book this itinerary again on Holland America. We might opt for a balcony the next time Oh and the night spent in the cove was pretty cool, just wish it had gotten dark enough to see the stars, it would have been incredible Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2019
We chose this cruise (our 5th to Alaska) because it went to four new ports and we live within an hour of the Seattle port. The itinerary was fabulous. New ports besides the usual and two glacier days. We liked cabin 6118 very much. The ... Read More
We chose this cruise (our 5th to Alaska) because it went to four new ports and we live within an hour of the Seattle port. The itinerary was fabulous. New ports besides the usual and two glacier days. We liked cabin 6118 very much. The only downside was that it was portside and we noticed that starboard had the better views when docked at each port. The cabin was close to the elevator, which we like. We never heard the elevator or people in the hallway. It is roomy with a slightly larger veranda than many. We liked being about 8 cabins from the front of the ship. This made our trips to most places, other than the dining room, fairly close. We both have some ambulatory issues but don’t use a wheelchair. We could go outside at the front of our deck level during our glaciers days. The staff are very accommodating for some issues we had. I needed extra ice and a wedge for the bed due to being 9 weeks post op from shoulder surgery. My husband needed larger front for the daily schedule and for the dining room menu. No problem. They accommodated us very well. Now, for a few negatives and the reason for the 3 stars. The entertainment was rather lame. They had the three same entertainers for 14 days in the bars. There was a duet (piano and violin), a trio that played music from the mostly 1940’s, and a piano bar that wasn’t the fun sing along kind. He was an excellent player but didn’t play much that a 67 year old woman (me) enjoyed. Fourteen days with these same three. Really?! Boring. The stage shows were ok. Four were really good, a xylosyth ( xylophone/synthesizer) show, a guy that sang Beattie songs, a comic ventriloquist, and a comedian. The problem with the ship’s Singers and Dancers was that they had very bright backlit wall behind them for all shows except one and no front lighting, like spotlights or just lighting in general. It made seeing them kind of difficult. There wasn’t any karaoke. All and all, the ship was just rather boring. I think if one just wants to relax in a very quiet place with not much going on, this might be the cruise for you. For the food...the dining room room food all looks beautifully presented but it’s all rather bland. Even the “spicy shrimp”, etc was bland. I could hardly taste curry in my curry dish. There are only two specialty dining restaurants and they are very good. One Italian, and one steak place. The Lido buffet is just okay, like they usually are. Our favorite free place to eat was the Dive In by the pool. It had good burgers, hot dogs, and a taco bar. Ahh. Finally some spice. The ship’s entire crew were very friendly and gave excellent service. We like the crew director very much. He wasn’t over the top like some are. I guess no cruise is a bad cruise. We just like more going on and we aren’t young. We are 67and 72. I read six books and I’m not a fast reader! Better load up your kindle before heading out on this ship! I did two loads of laundry. The washers takes $2.00 in quarters and the dryers are free. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
We had experienced a partial panama canal transit and decided we had to do a full transit. The workings of the locks is just fascinating if you've never been through it. It was just a relaxing day watching our ship travel through the ... Read More
We had experienced a partial panama canal transit and decided we had to do a full transit. The workings of the locks is just fascinating if you've never been through it. It was just a relaxing day watching our ship travel through the locks and the gentleman who escorted us on the trip with his facts regarding the canal was very interesting. It's hard to believe in this day and time when something starts deteriorating it is torn down and built anew and these locks are over 100 years old and are still operating in their original fashion with the same wooden gates! Staff on board was very courteous and our room steward, Nyoman and Muss were fantastic. They usually had our room cleaned by the time we returned from breakfast in the morning and were always smiling and making sure that everything was satisfactory. Dining room staff was a little slow the first week, however, they soon learned our beverage of choice and had it waiting for us when we sat down. Menu choices were varied and could have had a little more regular items to choose from, but for the most part, the food was tasty and temperature appropriate. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2019
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and it did not disappoint. Check- in was a long process as those going on the World Cruise are mostly four and five star customers and the designated line for that was just as long for the ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and it did not disappoint. Check- in was a long process as those going on the World Cruise are mostly four and five star customers and the designated line for that was just as long for the other guests that were new to the ship. There are a lot of seniors on this trip (who else could take off for 113 days) so don’t be in a hurry to get anywhere as that won’t happen. We had an Oceanview room on the second deck right in the middle. We would not choose this again for two reasons. The pilots that board to help the ship dock usually come in very early in the morning right below your window and then there is the cleaning of the deck (deck three is the walking deck) also very early in the morning. However if noise doesn’t bother you, the cabin was nice. It had a large picture window, plenty of drawers and closet space and ours had a renovated bathroom that had a large glass shower and a marble counter. Unfortunately the rest of the décor was aged and some of the wood on the dressers had chips out of it. The rooms on deck 6 and 7 were fully refurbished during the last dry dock, hopefully they do the same with deck two. The itinerary was the best. Top ports to us were: Easter Island, Komodo Island, all of New Zealand, Singapore, Oman, Jordan, Cadiz (Seville), Copenhagen, Oslo and Dublin. We learned a few things to pass on to others regarding ports. If you are going into a tender port and really, really want to explore that port book a shore excursion. Even though the price is double what a port excursion is, you are first off the ship. We had rough seas when visiting Easter Island and some people did not get on the tender to view this impressive place. However, we were lucky to get a couple of hours on the Island and were very disappointed in Holland America when we saw an awful lot of staff on the island before we got there. Some were helping out with the tours but most were either from the shops or officers, we assumed that guests would have first dibs on the tenders. Pros: - Itinerary was absolutely amazing. - The Microsoft Digital Workshop was a free service that had classes on how best to use Windows 10. We learned a lot - Gloeta was a biology lecturer we had on board that was fabulous. It was standing room only for her lectures on the Pacific Ocean and what was lurking below the water. - The staff was second-to-none. Big shout out to Captain Johnathan Mercer. He kept us informed about all that was going on and always had time to say hello or answer a question. Henk Mensink is the hotel director but you see him everywhere. Wishing you a pleasant day in port, helping you on to the tender, picking up after guest. Holland America is lucky to have him. The wait staff and kitchen help were happy and helpful. - The ship was amazing clean, down to staff polishing the hand rails everyday on every stairwell and even brushing the carpet. Rooms were also exceptionally clean. - The food was all you could hope for. No need to dress up for formal nights in the dining room as the same food is served at the Lido (sure saves on what you have to pack). No need to get to the speciality restaurants either as the food is just that good. I liked the fact that almost all the food is served to you from behind the sneeze guards. We assume that there would be a lot less waste and much more cleanly that way. Cons - The internet is stupid expensive and so unreliable. We paid $700 US for a plan for the whole cruise and had better luck at the ports and in McDonalds on land, than trying to get the internet either to work at all or was so slow you couldn’t connect with what sites you wanted. - Staff – the cruise director was invisible except when the captain was at an activity, otherwise you never saw him or he quickly passed you without even a nod. The shore specialist was more interested in telling you all about the history of the place or what his favourite items were (sailing and pubs) than giving you hints on what to buy, where to buy, how much to pay, etc. Very disappointing for both of these. - Library needs to either get updated books or become a digital library. Some of the books had been there an extended period of time and anything new was few and far between. - The entertainers on board were average at best. Some good, some bad. The average age looked to be around 75 so the entertainment was geared to that era. - There were two big back windows in the dining room that you could not see out of because they were shattered but were never changed out the whole trip. Also couldn’t see out of most of the windows by the end of the cruise as they were not cleaned. We had to complain in order to get our window in our cabin cleaned. Even though there were some cons (as I assume all ships have), this trip was a once in a lifetime experience and what was saw of the world was fabulous. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2019
A Grand World cruise is a bucket list thing. We loved every day of this. The trip from Aqabah out to Petra was breathtaking. Tahiti was a disappointment...just a big dirty city. Bantry , Ireland was a serendipitous stop...Bantry House ... Read More
A Grand World cruise is a bucket list thing. We loved every day of this. The trip from Aqabah out to Petra was breathtaking. Tahiti was a disappointment...just a big dirty city. Bantry , Ireland was a serendipitous stop...Bantry House was amazing, as well as the impromptu Irish dance and music at Ma Murphys Pub. Snorkeling at the Pink Beach in Komodo, Indonesia..outstanding! But the best of all was having the President of the cruise line treat us ALL to a private reception at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam! What an awesome privilege! Travelling around the world , from east to west means lots of extra hours as we turn our clocks back through all time zones! Music was wonderful, for easy listening or dancing. Captain Jonathon Mercer took us through some stormy seas, we were never nervous. Service was top notch. There’s just something incomparable with a Grand World on HAL! Class act all the way. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
Panama Canal Cruise 2019 January 7th – 22nd ~~~Departure from Los Angeles, January 7th~~~ Having planned this cruise for many months I was dismayed - to put it mildly - when about an hour before my scheduled pickup time by ... Read More
Panama Canal Cruise 2019 January 7th – 22nd ~~~Departure from Los Angeles, January 7th~~~ Having planned this cruise for many months I was dismayed - to put it mildly - when about an hour before my scheduled pickup time by SuperShuttle to take me to the World Cruise Center in San Pedro I received a telephone call from SuperShuttle informing me that at they had NO vehicle available to me and that they were cancelling my ride! My next thought was to try to get an Uber ride instead but, not having any experience with Uber, I was not sure how to pursue it. With the minutes fleeing by I went next door to ask Nina who I knew had used Uber for advice. It seems that Uber relies totally on the use of cell phones, which I do not have. Nina immediately found me an Uber ride, arriving within 10 minutes, just enough time to turn off my TV and lock up my house. An Uber arrived very soon and I was off only a few minutes later than my original departure time of 9 am with SuperShuttle, arriving at the World Cruise Center and my ship, Holland America’s ms Amsterdam, at about 10:30 am. Almost no one else was checking in this early and I was checked in with no wait at all by 11 am, going into the waiting room until my group numbered 7 was called to board, which occurred just before noon. Very quick process! I easily found my upgraded room, 2633, on the Main Deck 2 and it was as to be expected - almost. About 2/3 back from bow of the ship, its location is about the best possible. One change I immediately observed on entering was the bathroom that had been substantially upgraded with the old-fashioned tub and shower combination now replaced with a beautiful and large glass-enclosed shower. My room on the ms Zaandam last July on my Alaskan cruise was identical - except for the bathroom. Since my luggage would not be delivered for a while I went to the Dining Room for a casual lunch, and a glass of wine - of course! Then I stopped by the Pinnacle Grill to schedule my two evenings’ dining at this specialty restaurant, pre-purchased beforehand online. Departure time for our voyage was to be at 5 pm and occurred shortly thereafter. With my luggage now having been delivered to my stateroom I proceeded to begin my unpacking, delayed by my 8 pm dinner in the Dining Room where I had requested a table of 4. However, it turned out that I was the only one at this table so the Maitre D’ suggested that I might prefer a smaller table for 2, which I gladly accepted. Unlike other cruise first nights, prime rib was NOT offered! Too bad! Expecting rough seas because of the recent stormy weather in Southern California, I was pleasantly surprised by the absolutely smooth seas and had no difficulty at all falling asleep in my very comfortable double bed on this, my first night aboard the Amsterdam, headed for the Panama Canal. ~~~At Sea, January 8th & 9th~~~ The seas continue to be smooth as glass, much to my surprise but not to my disliking. With all of the stormy weather in Southern California, I had expected rougher seas. So far, so good! Being the first day at sea this was the first of three “gala”, or formal evenings during this cruise, so out came my coat and tie to wear. The day had been very relaxing with little to do except to complete my unpacking so I was ready for my dinner scheduled for 8 pm and it was not disappointing. I do not recall my menu choices but they were very good in any case. Then it was another early to bed; I am not the night owl I once was! On Wednesday, our second day at sea, I spent most of the day in my stateroom after enjoying yet another breakfast delivered to my room, which will be my normal habit, I think. Although yesterday I did go to the dining room for breakfast, it is so easy to just order in. I know I am missing all of the interplay with the rest of the passengers but, after 53 cruises, I quickly grow tired of hearing all about their grandkids, health problems, recent surgeries, etc., etc. Enough! Fortunately the TV in staterooms has my favorite MSNBC channel which I watch most of the time. With the government shutdown I am beginning to become concerned about my return flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Los Angeles on January 22nd, by way of Charlotte, North Carolina, a major hub for American Airlines. I am hoping that the wait time for TSA Security check is not unreasonably lengthy when I get to the Ft. Lauderdale airport for my 1 pm flight. Also the weather is of concern. We shall see... That’s about it so far; I will have much more to report after tomorrow’s stop in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. ~~~Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - January 10th~~~ After another night of calm seas, our arrival in Puerto Vallarta was right on schedule, at 8 am. There was another Holland America ship, the ms Eurodam, also in port. It has been a few years since I was last here and I was amazed at the recent growth: new port facilities, numerous new high-rise buildings stretching all along the shore of Banderas Bay. My choice of tour for the day was “Best of Puerto Vallarta” departing at 9 am. This is a repeat from the last time I was here, and involved a walking tour of old downtown PV including a walk along the Malecon, or bay front, with all of the many bronze statues present there. The street along here is now restricted to a pedestrian one which was a wise change. We then had a short visit to the famous Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral that incidentally was my first there. Then it was back on the bus for the Tequila Factory part of our tour. The drive out of Puerto Vallarta, past the busy International Airport, was farther that I recalled, but soon we arrived at the familiar Hacienda Dona Engracia for our tour of tequila making, followed by tasting - yeah! - followed by a nice buffet lunch - including choice of beverage - beneath a large tent. My choice was a Margarita, of course! New this time was a performance by a talented group of two couples of fiesta dancers, performed on a center stage in the middle of the tent. Their dances were both quite active as well as exquisitely costumed. There was even a very talented ropedancer performing during a costume change for the dancers. All in all, a most excellent addition to this popular tour. Oh, did I mention the unlimited supply of Margaritas? A good time was had by all! Leaving the Tequila Factory, we returned at 2 pm to our ship, the ms Amsterdam, concluding a wonderful visit to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Tomorrow is another day at sea until we reach Huatulco, Mexico, on Saturday, so there probably won’t be too much to report. ~~~At Sea & Huatulco, Mexico - January 11th & 12th~~~ Another day at sea on remarkably smooth waters, I spent most of the day in my stateroom, again enjoying my breakfast delivered by Benny, in exchange for a customary $2 tip: black coffee, cranberry and orange juices, ham and cheddar cheese omelet along with hash brown potatoes and English muffin. I can wear my sweat pants and sweat shirt in the privacy of my room - all very laid-back and relaxing. I forgot to mention my dinner at the Pinnacle Grill, a specialty restaurant aboard, on the evening of the second day at sea, Wednesday, January 9th. Online I had purchased for $62 two dinners here, each regularly priced at $35. Starting with a shrimp cocktail of three enormous shrimp - easily the size of small lobster tails, my entree was a 10-ounce filet mignon steak, expertly cooked to medium rare and so, so tender! Dessert was a chocolate soufflé that was incredible. Enjoyable, to say the least! My other dinner here will be on our last evening at sea before arriving at Ft. Lauderdale on January 21st. Huatulco is our second port of call in Mexico, which I had visited on a previous Princess cruise years ago. Today my choice of tour was a “beach break” at one of the many new resort hotels now populating this once-small port, the Secrets Resort. After a small coach ride of about 30 minutes, we arrived at the resort’s gate and were temporarily delayed from entering until proper identification was made. An enormous new resort with many levels leading down to the perfect, crescent-shaped Conejos Bay, the open lobby with high ceilings greeted the 12 of us in our group. After a brief explanation of the facilities and what was available to us, we were allowed the use of all of this inclusive resort’s offerings, including restaurants, pools, beach, and bars. My first choice was a trip to the Castaways Restaurant, located at some distance from the lobby and accessed by means of a small shuttle. I was about 5 minutes early for their 12-noon opening but was soon seated at a table in this open-air luxurious establishment. Ordering a Margarita on the rocks I relaxed immediately for a leisurely lunch. The menu was presented on a large billboard placed near my table and my choice was a rib-eye steak following delicious guacamole and salsa dip with chips. The steak was prepared to perfection as medium rare, and was absolutely delectable! A dessert of coffee flavored mousse topped off my “lunch”. A short shuttle ride brought me back to the lobby where I began looking for the pools. An elevator took me down to the lower level where a variety of beautiful pools were located and, unfortunately, the lounges were already fully occupied. So I sought out a nearby beach bar and ordered more Margaritas. After the two I had enjoyed with lunch, I enjoyed two more here! On the way back up to the lobby I stopped for yet another drink at another open-air bar, enjoying the coolness of it all. We were to meet in the lobby at 3:30 pm for our return trip to the ship, so I went back up to the lobby just after 3 pm, not wanting to be late. There I found yet another bar offering me yet another Margarita while waiting. Others in our group began to appear and 3:30 pm came and went with no sign of our coach back to the ship. Finally, around 4 pm, one arrived - not the same one in which we had been brought here. Evidently through some mix-up, our original coach had been cancelled and another replacement made. Never the less, we were delivered back to our ship, almost on schedule. All in all, a very enjoyable - and liquid! - day in Huatulco, Mexico. Tomorrow we are to be docked at Puerto Chiapas, Mexico a first visit for me. ~~~Puerto Chiapas, Mexico - January 13th~~~ Being my first visit to this small port of call, I had chosen a tour to the Argovia Express: Coffee Tasting and Botanical Gardens for the day. Nothing much else exists at this port except for a new elaborate cruise center. So I was dismayed to be informed the evening before that, due to low participation, this tour had been cancelled! Other tours were offered in replacement but none to my liking, so my visit to Puerto Chiapas was aborted; I chose to stay on the ship all day. Thus, my day was spent much the same as a sea day, relaxing in my stateroom. With ports of call for each of the next three days, the loss of this day was not too great. ~~~Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala - January 14th~~~ Originally I had booked a tour just to the old city of Antigua but, having my previous coffee tour cancelled, I decided to change to a tour that would also include a visit to a coffee plantation: “Coffee Estate & Antigua”. Leaving the ship around 8:30 am we traveled on a very new coach for 90 minutes to the Filadelfia Coffee Estate on the outskirts of Antigua where we were given an informative tour of different portions of the estate: nursery, drying areas, mills, and packaging. Then we were invited to a lunch at the estate of an expertly prepared strip steak along with guacamole, black beans and rice, followed by a delicious coffee flavored mousse. Of course, a cup of their finest coffee accompanied this substantial meal. I heard NO complaints at all! Then we were given the opportunity of shopping in their small shop; for me, a bag of their coffee! Switching to two smaller vans, now required in the city instead of the large coaches, we then proceeded into the center of Antigua where we were given a somewhat lengthy walking tour, ending at the city square and the large cathedral. My legs are still crying out in pain! Finally, back again on our large comfortable coach, we spent another hour or so returning to the port and our ship at 4:30 pm, a long, enjoyable albeit energetic day. It was so good to return to my comfortable stateroom for a rest before preparing for dinner. ~~~Puerto Corinto, Nicaragua - January 15th~~~ My tour today was first to the ancient ruins of the original capital city of Leon, destroyed by a volcano and seismic activity in 1610, covering it completely, and becoming the “Pompeii of Central America”. Rediscovered in 1967 it is now a World Heritage Site. It involved walking around the several acres observing walls or parts of walls still existing. The destruction was so severe that it was decided to relocate the new city elsewhere. All very interesting if you are into archeology but with all of the walking with not too much to see, my boredom reared its ugly head - in addition to my also sore legs. Returning to the entrance we were treated to an enjoyable and delicious Nicaraguan lunch in a local restaurant, consisting of chicken, steak, rice and beans, along with crispy fried plantains (bananas). A welcome relief from our walk! We then proceeded on for another hour to the modern city of Leon, traveling through very interesting and scenic country, including many volcanoes, most dormant but some still active. Mount Momotombo is the largest volcano and steam clouds could be seen coming from its cone-shaped summit. In the “modern” (really colonial) city of Leon, we were let off our coach near the city square and given a tour of the monumental cathedral there; it is immense! The interior is quite impressive with the many arches, altars and artwork. We were given the opportunity of climbing the 85 steps to the bell tower from which a magnificent view is possible. OR, if not, visiting a nearby restaurant for a cooling beverage; I chose the later! Finally it was back on our comfortable coach for the hour-long drive back to the port and our ship, arriving again about 4:30 pm along with several other buses at the exact same time. Getting back aboard became a lengthy process. Again, it was SO good to be back in my stateroom to rest my weary legs. Tomorrow in Costa Rica there will be MORE walking! ~~~Puerto Calderas, Costa Rica - January 16th~~~ This will be my 5th visit to Costa Rica and it remains one of my favorites. Seeking to try something different as far as excursions, the one entitled “A Walk in the Clouds” caught my attention, and it did live up to my expectations, although my poor legs might disagree. Leaving the ship at 9:30 am our coach departed the port of Calderas, one of the two Pacific ports for Costa Rica, the other being Puerto Arenas, about 20 miles away, and began our slow but gradual climb up into the range of mountains, their tops covered by clouds. Eventually we will have climbed to over 4500 feet above sea level and be right among the “clouds”. The drive was quite pleasant with the vistas right out of a picture book. We drove through several small towns, coffee plantations, and past many luxurious homes. Finally arriving at our destination, the Finis Nature Conservatory, amid a thick cloud cover, our first stop was for the rest rooms. Then after a short orientation talk by our tour guide we were separated into two groups for our trek. The group I was in was assigned a young enthusiastic naturalist student who was excellent in his knowledge of everything we would be observing. Our first stop was a nearby butterfly enclosure into which we entered and saw dozens of the fluttering insects. One in particular was a very large butterfly with bright blue wings, and whose name escapes me. Our guide explained all of phases of a butterfly’s life that I found most interesting. Next we came upon a suspension bridge, one of many that we would be crossing, high above the canyon and definitely a bit scary! We then proceeded to hike down and down along a trail marked with many stair steps, toward the small river below. A thick cable alongside the path aided tremendously in steadying our progress. More suspension bridges were encountered and eventually we reached the creek at the canyon’s bottom. A spectacular waterfall could be seen nearby and it was here that we encountered the other group having traveled in the opposite direction. Then came the hard part: going back UP the other trail, back to our starting point. My legs screaming out to me, my main problem was breathing and exhaustion but with several rest stops, I made it to our stop near the top where many hummingbird feeders were located. Hundreds of these tiny and colorful birds flittered all around, helping themselves to the feeders. Our guide then explained a lot about the different kinds of hummingbirds present, their habits, and aspects of their lives. Then it was only a short distance farther to our starting point where our lunch was waiting in a large open-air building. Lunch consisted of a buffet offering chicken and beef along with salads, rice and black beans. A delicious berry drink completed our hard-fought-for repast. Then it was time to reboard our coach for the trip back down to our ship. In one of the towns through which we had passed, a brief stop was made for shopping at a large store that offered many souvenirs of Costa Rica, including many coffees for which this country is famous. I purchased a bag of Cafe Britt Dark Roast coffee beans for $17; rather expensive I thought. On previous trips to Costa Rica I had toured the Cafe Britt Coffee Plantation in San Jose and had purchased coffee from them there and on their website. I don’t think I paid so much then! Our tour guide decided to take us by way of a different route back to the port and our ship and we passed through many small towns on the way. In each, he pointed out the presence of a Catholic Church, a school, and a soccer field. Costa Rica has one of the highest literacy rates of any country in the world, largely in part to their elimination of a military many years ago, the resulting emphasis then being placed on education. Right on schedule at 4 pm we arrived back at our ship, this time being the only tour getting back. There was an ambulance at the gangway, most probably some passenger had had a medical emergency; I never found out. As always, it was a relief to get back to my stateroom for a rest before dinner at 8 pm. ~~~At Sea & the Panama Canal Transit - January 17th & 18th~~~ Another full day at sea was required for our travel on to the Panama Canal from Puerto Calderas, Costa Rica, and about the only significant activity of the day for me was the “Gala” or Formal Night. As usual I enjoyed my in-stateroom breakfast, delivered by Benny - who gladly accepts my daily $2 tip: ham and cheddar cheese omelet with hash browns, coffee and juices (cranberry and orange). Finally, our Gala Dinner included “Surf & Turf”, fillet mignon and lobster tail, all very good with my steak grilled to medium rare perfection. Dessert was a Peach Crisp, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum-yum! Our approach to the Panama Canal started quite early on Friday morning with our passing beneath the Bridge of Americas occurring around 6:30 am. With the many towers of the very modern Panama City visible in the distance to the right, and the cranes of the port along side our approach in the channel, we reached the first set of locks, the Miraflores Locks, about 7 am. Passing through this set of two locks took about an hour putting us in the small lake leading to the second lock, the Pedro Miguel Lock, about 8:30 am. The new set of locks recently opened are located to the left and consist of a set of three locks, much larger at 1200 feet long and 150 feet wide, than the original locks at 955 feet long and 106 feet wide. Once past these locks we entered the portion of the Canal called the Culebra Cut where the majority of the construction excavation took place. A relatively new bridge spans the Canal just before this entrance, and is a stunningly beautiful modern structure. Materials removed for this Cut were used to build the Gatun Dam across the Chagres River, creating the Gatun Lake, one of the largest lakes in the Western Hemisphere, and supplying the constant source of fresh water used in the locks. At around the middle of the Canal, before entering the Gatun Lake, we passed by the port of Gamboa at about 10:30 am where much of the maintenance equipment for the Canal is located. Then it was on into the large Gatun Lake for the lengthy passage across to the final set of locks, the Gatun Locks, arriving there around noontime. With three locks, the transit of the Gatun Locks took almost 2 hours. The newly opened set of three locks is located to the right side of the original Gatun Locks, and the super structures of the immense cargo ships using it could barely be seen over the trees. While in the midst of our ship being lowered from one lock into the next, we observed huge cargo ships being raised in the adjoining locks, some stacked so tall with containers as to strain one’s imagination! And yet they were able to use the original locks! One last such cargo ship entering the Canal southbound through the Gatun Locks appeared to be a car transporter because of its huge solid side walls and a ramp on its rear. Gigantic! After returning to the sea level of the Caribbean Sea, we further transited a channel into the Sea, passing beneath an almost-completed new bridge across the Canal, a beautiful new modern bridge not unlike the one crossing the Canal just prior to the Culebra Cut. Entering the Caribbean Sea, the port city of Cristobal was just off the right side. Once we took a cruise on the Grand Princess that, being too large to transit the Canal, ported us here; we then took the train across the Isthmus to Panama City. This railroad predates the Canal by many years and only takes an hour or so to make the trip alongside the Panama Canal. Our entrance into the Caribbean saw the end of our smooth seas; that evening was quite bumpy, a indication of rough seas to come. One good finale to the day was the serving of delectable prime rib in the restaurant that evening. My slice of prime rib was one of THE BEST I have ever enjoyed! Tomorrow: Cartagena, Columbia, our last port of call. ~~~Cartagena, Columbia & Day at Sea - January 19th & 20th~~~ After a night of active sea action, our noon arrival in the huge bay of Cartagena was a relief from the bumpy ride from the Panama Canal. The newer part of this ancient city is resplendent with high towers, mostly residential. On the other side of the bay is located the remnants of the old walled city, walled for protection from the pirates of old. Our ship docked at the main pier to the right of this section, next to another ship, the Monarch, one of Pullmantur’s fleet. The tour I selected for our afternoon in Cartagena included first a catamaran ride from near where our ship was docked, requiring a somewhat lengthy walk, around the bay past the towers on the peninsula to the left and the older section to the right, passing the Colombian Navy installation, finally docking alongside a dock near the walled city. Disembarking the catamaran we were immediately besieged by hordes of street sellers, selling everything from jewelry to hats to T-shirts to water, ... Having been here twice before, I was prepared for the constant barrage, just saying “NO!” repeatedly. Crossing a busy street we came alongside a proportion of the old wall, to an opening that we entered and proceeded with our waking tour of this older part of the city, around the very narrow streets and visiting several plazas. One special plaza was dedicated to Simon Bolivar whose statue adorned the center of the square. A cooling breeze largely compromised the reported high temperatures for the afternoon. Otherwise it would have been miserably hot. Much shade was also provided by the buildings being so closely packed together. We passed by a very elaborate building that had been the one time home of Sir Francis Drake, now available as a high rent hotel. Most buildings facing the narrow streets contain central courtyards with trees and fountains. Also observed was the old cathedral although we did not get to enter. Proceeding around several blocks we eventually returned to our original entrance where a tour of an emerald museum was offered. Entering we were presented with a mock-up of an emerald mine and a museum guide told us all about emerald mining. According to him, Columbia is the largest and best source for emeralds in the world. Of course we were eventually lead into their showroom where emerald jewelry could be purchased. I bought nothing! We were then given an hour or so of free time and, when I asked our tour guide for a good place to get a beer, he indicated a stairway leading to a very nice restaurant just above the emerald museum, where I found a table on their balcony overlooking the square below. Excellent location! After two beers I felt hungry so I ordered a shrimp dish that turned out to be absolutely delicious! And a third beer, of course! When the check arrived, the total - in pesos - was 69,000! Putting it on my Alaska Airlines Visa, this huge total amounted to just over $20. Rejoining our tour group at 4:15 pm, we all then proceeded back to where our catamaran was waiting and boarded for the return boat ride back to our ship. Upon arrival we were offered a free shuttle back along the dock to our ship’s location, fortunately! My poor legs were complaining! As always it was good to again be back aboard and in my stateroom. The ms Amsterdam departed Cartagena at 6 pm. Once past the harbor entrance, the sea action began again and continued through out the night. The next day was another sea day, one of two until our arrival in Ft. Lauderdale on Tuesday morning. My day was as usual, having breakfast in my room, and writing some more on my cruise journal. As the last of our “Gala” nights, I again dressed for dinner in coat and tie. It was a surprise that we again were presented with the same menu as for our previous formal night, “Surf & Turf” which I gladly enjoyed once again, beginning with a generous shrimp cocktail. Staying up way past my bedtime, I waited up to observe the lunar eclipse of the “Super Moon” that occurred around 10:30 pm. My location on the ship for viewing was in the Crow’s Nest Lounge on Deck 8. The full moon was directly overhead as I sat near the front of the lounge. Very cool! Tomorrow I am invited to the Captain’s Reception at 12:30 pm for the Mariners Society, Holland America’s loyalty group of repeat customers, to be followed by a special luncheon in the Dining Room at 1 pm. We will no doubt be receiving the traditional Delft tile from HAL. ~~~Last Day at Sea & Return Trip Home - January 21st & 22nd~~~ The seas had calmed down quite a bit during the day and I went to the Main Stage Theater for the Captain’s Mariners Society Reception at 12:30 pm where I encountered a huge crowd; Holland America has a great repeat business. After struggling to receive my free glass of champagne - I didn’t sit in the right seat! - I did enjoy viewing the many awards to several passengers, mostly quite old, for their unbelievable numbers of cruises taken. My 10 cruises and 129 days had already received a Bronze Medallion on a previous HAL cruise, so I was not individually recognized. Following the Reception we all moved to a special area of the Dining Room for our Mariner Society Luncheon, including wine! Luckily I sat at a table with my new friends, Pat & George, from my many visits to the Ocean Bar on Deck 5. My menu choice was a delectable filet mignon, cooked to perfection - medium rare, and so, so tender! The Captain spoke once more and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves a lot. Dessert was a delicious berry cheesecake that was outstanding! All in all, a very nice experience. Then it was the most dreaded time of any cruise - packing up to leave! However, over my 54 previous cruises I have become adept in the accomplishment of this duty so my luggage was almost completely packed by late afternoon, needing only the clothes and dopp kit required for getting ready for my second evening dining at the specialty restaurant, the Pinnacle Grill at 7 pm. I had delivered extra tips to my waiters and wine steward in the dining room the previous evening, so only remaining were my favorite bartenders in the Ocean Bar, and my two room stewards that I would deliver tonight. For a cruise of this length - 15 days - I usually give them each $20; this is in addiction to the automatic tip of $13.50 charged daily to my shipboard account that is distributed to all service staff - they say! I often wonder how much of this substantial amount actually reaches the intended people! As usual I went to the Ocean Bar before dinner where I said my goodbyes to both Suvit and Mervin - both from the Philippines, as well as to Pat & George from Virginia with whom I had become good friends. Then it was off to the Pinnacle Grill for my last meal aboard. My appetizer again was a cocktail of HUGE shrimp - 4 of them, and almost as large as small lobster tails. SO GOOD! And again I chose the 10-ounce filet mignon, grilled to perfection at medium rare, accompanied by side dishes of creamed spinach, mushrooms and grilled asparagus. I ate every bit of it! For dessert I enjoyed a berry Baked Alaska, sufficient size to serve two, but again I finished it off! What a final dinner! Then it was reluctantly back to my stateroom to finish my packing that was done quickly, adding my dinner clothes and dopp kit to my luggage, being careful to leave out clothes to wear in the morning. In addition to my one suitcase I also use a Princess tote bag to carry my iPad, head phones for the airplane, passport, and a SuperShuttle confirmation sheet, along with American Airlines boarding passes which I had earlier printed in the ship’s internet center. All done, I placed my locked and tagged luggage in the hallway for pickup before midnight; mine was out by 10:30 pm. Special tags indicating departure group from the ship had been issued - mine was Yellow 1, and I left right on schedule at 8:30 am for the Ft. Lauderdale Airport and my 1 pm flight to Charlotte, NC, there changing planes for Los Angeles. Of course I missed my usual breakfast room service on the morning of departure, but waiting in my stateroom until my group color was called allowed me to sleep in until around 7:30 am. Departure was through the forward exit door on Deck 2 so it was most convenient for me since my stateroom was 2633, on Deck 2. A special parting touch of this cruise was the lineup of crew members at the exit as we left the ship, all bidding us farewell and thanks for choosing Holland America. I don’t recall anything like this on previous ships. Very nice! After the long walk in the terminal to the baggage collection hall, I found mine quickly and showing my passport to the emigration control agent allowed my exit to the awaiting airport bus located at the entrance. First telling the driver my flight airline - American Airlines, I went aboard and relaxed for the short drive to the airport, very nearby the cruise ship terminals at Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale. Arrival at the airport was around 9:30 am and, after a short walk from where the bus dispatched us for American Airlines to the terminal, I quickly checked my luggage with an outdoor agent, not having to pay the $25 fee since I have an AAdvantage Visa card. Inside I found NO lines for security check in and rapidly made way through TSA Pre Check with no delay. Then it was off to find my departure gate E5 and then a nearby restaurant to eat breakfast. Luckily there was a Jack Nicklaus restaurant right next to Gate E5 and, after a short wait for a table, I ordered an immense 3-egg omelet loaded with mushrooms, onions and sausage, served with hash browns and wheat toast: and coffee, of course. Since my flight was not until 1 pm with boarding at 12:30 pm, I had a very enjoyable and relaxing breakfast, sitting there watching all the hordes of people now passing by; the terminal had gotten quite crowded since my arrival. With my Main Cabin Extra Seat on American Airlines, I receive early boarding so just on schedule I boarded Flight 1924 for Charlotte and found my assigned bulkhead seat 5C with no delay. Then I got to watch as the plane filled, all passing right by me. After a bit of bumpiness on take off, the rest of the 2-hour Flight was remarkably smooth and our arrival was almost 30 minutes early, which caused some delay in finding an open gate; the one originally assigned was still occupied. Deplaning in this very large and busy terminal of Charlotte, a hub for American Airlines, I located my departure gate for Los Angeles and was dismayed to find it to be Gate B14; our arrival gate had been at Gate C5. So away I went, riding the many moving sidewalks, until finally I reached Gate B14, at the very end of B concourse. Upon arriving I read that boarding would begin in 15 minutes! Very close connection with the gate change. Boarding was actually delayed by our aircraft arriving late and our eventual departure for Los Angeles was not until 4:20 pm. Again I boarded right away and got to my seat 5C right away. The flight was in fact overbooked and the boarding agent was asking for volunteers to take a later flight; I did not do so! An almost 5-hour flight, I enjoyed a Chardonnay wine twice during the flight that was really quite smooth with only few short periods of minor turbulence. Sleep for me occurred in short patches during the flight and I was happy when our final descent into LA began. There was some turbulence as we passed over the Banning Pass moving our plane about, but the landing was smooth. We landed on LAX’s north runway and had to circle the airport, around the new construction area, past Bradley Terminal, until finally reaching our Gate 42B. First stopping at the nearest bathroom, I then proceeded to locate our baggage carousel that turned out to be Number 4. I was lucky to see my luggage come around very soon and, with a struggle to get it off the carousel, I was then off to find SuperShuttle’s dispatcher for my prepaid ride home. I found the dispatcher’s desk vacant and waited for the next SuperShuttle van to come along. With some confusion, the van for John Wayne Airport eventually took me aboard, along with 4 others seeking transfer to Orange County, so I expected it to be another lengthy trip; I was actually the third one delivered, at about 9:15 pm. The end of a long, exhausting day of travel. Struggling to find the right keys to open my front door, finally I was inside and immediately turned on my heater. Everything looked just fine after 15 days of absence, and it was so, so good to slip into my own bed last night. Today, Wednesday, it could not be more beautiful outside and I put the garbage cans out for their regular collection. My luggage full of dirty clothes will just have to wait! I am home! ~Ron Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We were looking for a Panama cruise and this fit the bill as far as the ship, type of passenger, itinerary. The ship itself was very nice, the crew were good, the activities good. There was plenty of room on board with places to relax. ... Read More
We were looking for a Panama cruise and this fit the bill as far as the ship, type of passenger, itinerary. The ship itself was very nice, the crew were good, the activities good. There was plenty of room on board with places to relax. The pool and hot tubs were not too crowded. Overall, a wonderful experience with friends. My complaints were as follows 1. The butter put out at breakfast for toast etc was rancid and moldy. The Lido restaurant staff were told about it by multiple passengers including myself, but it was not until almost 10 days after they were told of the problem that it was finally removed and replaced. 2. The snorkel/beach excursion in Huatulco was a fraud. The coral is almost completely dead. It was a sad experience and a total waste of money. We would have been much better off just going to the beach and restaurants in the main part of town. 3. They were trying to sell water as you got off the ship to go on shore excursions which included free bottled water. Maybe spend a little more time showing consideration for the passengers and a little less time trying to sell them stuff! Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
We cruise quite a lot and have been sailing Princess nearly exclusively for the last 6 years or so. We felt we owed it to ourselves to try another line and see whether we should "branch out". Here's a quick good, average ... Read More
We cruise quite a lot and have been sailing Princess nearly exclusively for the last 6 years or so. We felt we owed it to ourselves to try another line and see whether we should "branch out". Here's a quick good, average and ugly rundown. The good (sometimes great): Without question, the singers and dancers who performed many times throughout this voyage were the best we've ever seen. We were disappointed whenever a headliner was featured (the headliners were a mixed bag and on average were just OK) because that meant we wouldn't be seeing these 10 incredible performers. Kudos to HAL for producing incredible shows with minimal sets that really showcased the talent. We also need to give very high marks for the dinner service in the Open Seating MD on 4. From seating to service to food - they get a 10 out of t0. The only issue I have is not with the food or service but with the incessant upset. Some waiters were very pushy and insistent regarding the bottled water, the lobster, the 75 oz steak (OMG), the cappuccino, etc. I don't blame them, and the service was otherwise perfect, but it was sometimes pretty annoying and quite a shame given how great the food was and how hard they otherwise worked to deliver a very upscale experience. The average: On the occasions that we were able to enjoy a casual breakfast or lunch in the Lido (see the ugly for an explanation) we found the choices to be abundant, so many things to choose from but frankly the food just wasn't very good. The salad bar was OK, the dressings were bland and the service was sometimes pretty slow. We liked that food was served by staff and utensils weren't handled by passengers but it was often tedious. The offerings at the Dive In stand poolside was another option that looked better on the menu then in delivery. Again, the food was OK at best often evidenced by the amount of uneaten wasted food left around the pool tables. We tried a few times and were disappointed on each occasion. The band in the Crows Nest gets a nod for showing some enthusiasm and playing a good mix of music to dance to. The tried to keep the small crowd happy and up on their feet. The bad: We are both seniors, retired and pretty seasoned travelers and we found this ship to have a very institutional (assisted living) feel to it. We just returned from a 60 day cruise on Princess where the average age was very high. The vibe on this ship was much older. It's hard to explain but the whole experience seemed more suited to a senior center than a cruise ship despite having a large number of young families and kids away with grandma and grandpa for the holidays. --The reason we couldn't enjoy breakfast or lunch daily was because, despite having a large, two sided buffet, they simply closed the whole thing for long stretches at times when we would have enjoyed a meal or snack. If you danced till 12, relaxed with a book in your room, woke up at 9:30 and took a shower - you missed breakfast - completely closed at 10, reopen for lunch 11:30. If you get off the ship, as we did on a port day and return to the ship at 2:05 - no lunch for you - visit the Dive In or wait a few hours. If you get off the ship at an overnight port and return at 9:05 (yeah just our luck) the DR is closed, both sides of the buffet are closed and will reopen for a short When we lacked other options we waited 20 or 30 minutes until the phone got picked up. You can't have this kind of schedule unless you have an International Cafe type venue. Ridiculous. --The only reason we ever got to go to breakfast was because of the incredibly loud announcement at 9:15 most mornings. Usually you have to open your cabin door to hear what's being said. No here. The speaker was so loud that sleeping through it was impossible. My pleas to lower the volume were spoken to deaf ears (pun intended). Three times on this 17 day voyage the captain chose to have crew drills at 9 AM, blaring 7 short and 1 long blast into the cabin along with instructions to the crew. So loud. We've never been woken up by a crew drill in 100's of days cruising until now, 3 times in 2 weeks. Why? --The Ocean Bar would have been a lovely dance venue in the center of the ship but the trio catered to a very elderly crowd, particularly one couple and played slow fox trots and waltzes almost exclusively. One night we were the only people in the venue before the early show let out. After hearing two songs that were written in the 40's I asked the piano player to play a salsa, no one else is here. He told me that the band didn't have one - What? That was our last night in the Ocean Bar. --For probably half of the trip at least on hot tub was not useable because the temperature was way too high. Reports to the crew didn't solve the problem. Where was the crew regarding chemicals and temperature? On a ship with only one pool and two hot tubs this is a big issue. --Lastly, this old gal needs some service. Our cabin, 1801 had a loose panel that squeaked terribly when we had some seas. I reported it so they shimmed the panel.. It didn't work. I told the staff at Passenger Services that if it's not fixed by the time the world cruise comes about they will have a very unhappy guest. All in all we made our own good time. We were told, over and over again, not to let the problems evident on this ship keep us from trying HAL again. So many passengers we're complaining about the scheduling, the noise, etc but they indicated that it's not common. We may give them a chance if the opportunity arises but we may well stay loyal to Princess for some time. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
Friends talked us into going on this cruise with them. Before this HAL was their favourite line ... now they've said they'll never cruise with them again. Horrendous doesn't begin to describe this. Constant maintenance ... Read More
Friends talked us into going on this cruise with them. Before this HAL was their favourite line ... now they've said they'll never cruise with them again. Horrendous doesn't begin to describe this. Constant maintenance (grinding rust most days for several hours), they closed the shops down, they closed the pools down, there was virtually no onboard entertainment (with the exception of the nightly show), few activities, and rude staff (not all of them, of course). Our cabin steward, Deny, was awesome - the best thing about the cruise. This ship should have been in dry dock but instead, greedy Holland America put it into service and did the maintenance while passengers were on board. Disgusting. You couldn't hold a conversation in the lounge because of the constant rust grinding going on. The gym was great - could always get onto the equipment. Only one gym instructor for the whole voyage. She worked from 6am-6pm every.single.day. Supposed to be two but this cruise line is so penny pinching. Onboard band was pretty good but they only played about four times. New Year's eve was a 'mentalist' - so bad half the audience walked out. Happy New Year! We've cruised many times but this was our most expensive and worst cruise ever. With the exception of breakfasts (waffles cooked to order with fresh fruit), the food was terrible. Christmas day consisted of boiled vegetables. We had asked for mashed potato but they were so incompetent they forgot to bring it. Merry Christmas! I complained to Holland America and they didn't give a toss. Tough luck ... but thanks for letting us know. NEVER. EVER. AGAIN. Do yourself a favour and go with a professional cruise line, like Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Cunard etc. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2018
MS Amsterdam Grand Pacific & Asia Cruise from Sept 30 – Dec 21, 2018 Our background: Couple in our early 70s, well travelled, cruised on 15 different lines including HAL. We pick cruises for their itineraries. This 82 day cruise ... Read More
MS Amsterdam Grand Pacific & Asia Cruise from Sept 30 – Dec 21, 2018 Our background: Couple in our early 70s, well travelled, cruised on 15 different lines including HAL. We pick cruises for their itineraries. This 82 day cruise was the longest we had ever taken and we are pleased to say that it was also one of the best. Fellow passengers: Not surprising on such a long cruise, more than two thirds were 66 and over. Most were avid HAL cruisers and many I spoke to like long cruises on the Amsterdam. Ship: In good shape; frequent cleaning going on inside and maintenance outside. Crew: The hotel staff is definitely the best we have ever encountered. On other ships, it is often just a few members who go out of their way to be helpful. On the MS Amsterdam, the warm and friendly service was consistent. Everyone in the Lido buffet restaurant, the dining room, and the Neptune Lounge went way beyond what we are used to from other ships, including the Hapag Lloyd luxury line. Nothing was too much for our waiters, tea and honey when I had a cold, spicy sambal when I thought an Asian dish needed more pep, crispy dinner rolls, and you name it. Food: I believe the food budget was higher on this cruise than on our previous 14 day b2b cruises on HAL ships. We are picky about authentic taste. We were happy with the European dishes that tasted just like in the Old Country. There was daily sushi and an Asian counter in the Lido, but also all the American favorites. Daytime activities: There were so many to choose from that every passenger could find several to enjoy. I went to water color, arts & crafts, and Tai Chi taught by Master Cathy Chen, but there were many more options. My husband played bridge organized by a bridge instructor. All the presenters were interesting with topics on the regions where we travelled. Port information speakers were excellent. We had wonderful cultural ambassadors in Australia and from Fiji to Hawaii. Courageous passengers learned to dance the hula and to play the ukulele. Conclusion: We are looking into booking another HAL grand cruise. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
This is our second cruise on the lovely Amsterdam, and we were pleasantly surprised with her face lift! For an 18 year old lady, she is a gem. We stayed in a Lanai Cabin, and there isn't anything better. Ms Amsterdam had an ... Read More
This is our second cruise on the lovely Amsterdam, and we were pleasantly surprised with her face lift! For an 18 year old lady, she is a gem. We stayed in a Lanai Cabin, and there isn't anything better. Ms Amsterdam had an interior makeover in May of this year, and she is just like new. We loved the colors, the decor, and the new stateliness she exudes. The Lanai cabins are new to this ship, and they are the absolute best location for us. We could enter through the hallway on the main deck, or enter and exit through our sliding Lanai door onto our entire 3rd deck balcony. An added plus to this ship is the amazing crew. Everyone was welcome and happy and most pleasant to be around. We understand there is a new Hotel Director, and it is obvious the crew loves him. Leadership matters! Finally, Ms Amsterdam is still my favorite ship! Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
This was my 4th cruise to Alaska.(HAL) This time on Amsterdam. She is a lovely ship with many beautiful greek statues. Layout of the ship was very easy. Embarkation and disembarkation was amazingly smooth and fast (as compared to 3 ... Read More
This was my 4th cruise to Alaska.(HAL) This time on Amsterdam. She is a lovely ship with many beautiful greek statues. Layout of the ship was very easy. Embarkation and disembarkation was amazingly smooth and fast (as compared to 3 prior cruises). Cabin was inside with a view on lower prom. deck. Only noise was 9:30 PM approx. when cleaning the deck. We ate all meals in the Lido and the food was outstanding. Entertainment was piano bar (very good) and "On Tour" singers, dancers and musicians was very good. Husband attended all Windows workshops and rates A+. He used the gym and movie theater daily. The service from our cabin to the Lido was excellent (as always in past cruises). Every crew member was happy, smiling, and very courteous. Only shore excursions this time was Fortress of the Bear (Sitka) and the Raptor Center(Sitka) - SO GOOD. In all other ports we walked around on our own. First cruise we had time to enjoy shipboard activities. "Ask The Captain" virtual bridge tour was excellent, as was America's Test Kitchen shows daily. Enjoyed the casino. We have booked a 14 day Alaskan tour onboard Amsterdam in June 2019 and looking forward to it! Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
This was our first cruise. We chose the Amsterdam specifically for its smaller size and itinerary that included Hubbard Glacier. We loved the presentations by Kelly who shared about wildlife, points of interest and historical significance. ... Read More
This was our first cruise. We chose the Amsterdam specifically for its smaller size and itinerary that included Hubbard Glacier. We loved the presentations by Kelly who shared about wildlife, points of interest and historical significance. She came across as smart and witty. We also really enjoyed the entertainment. I’m still humming songs that Don the piano guy chose. Seats in the piano bar were prime real estate when he was singing oldies, Neil Diamond hits, and rock n roll tunes. We were super impressed with a BBC wildlife film set to live music on the main stage. Magical. We went to one gala night, of two, in the main dining room and found the food and service less than spectacular, so most of our meals were taken at the Lido Market. Hubby loved the pasta station where you chose the sauce, veggies and meats that were cooked right there. There was steak on the daily menu and delicious desserts that tickled my palate. My favorite lunch spot was the Dive-In for juicy, delicious, charred to perfection burgers. Breakfast was nearly always served to us via room service. We alternated between fresh fruit and yogurt or perfectly cooked scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and toast. Coffee was hot and strong! Speaking of rooms, we had a veranda suite. The stewards, Bagus and Yoga, tended to our every need—including finding duct tape to patch one of our aged suitcases. The young men were cheerful and attentive. In port, we did a couple excursions. One was booked through the ship and the other through the travel company we booked with via United Airlines. Both were memorable and offered us great subjects for photographs. We did a whale watch in Juneau on a smaller vessel—17 passengers. In Sitka, we went to the raptor center, saw salmon spawning in a stream, visited a park with totems and local carvers, then a native dance performance—all on one excursion. Amelia, our guide, was knowledgeable and witty. We felt that both excursions were money well spent. So, embarkation and debarkation seemed daunting before we went through it. We found it super efficient and organized. No lines. Lots of helpful, cheerful people to show us the way. We used the port porter service in Seattle that allowed us to check in for our United flight onboard and handled our baggage all the way to Colorado Springs, our final destination. No charge! (At this writing, we haven’t gotten to Colorado Springs yet, so I can’t report on whether our luggage will actually get there, so I’ll update once we know the final outcome. The Amsterdam is a beautiful ship. There were lots of different kinds of “public” spaces to enjoy our time at sea. We’d grab a coffee at the Explorer Cafe and spend quiet time nearby where folks were reading, playing games or completing puzzles. The Crow’s Nest offered spectacular views and a bit more energy than the coffee spot. We viewed the approach to Hubbard Glacier from there with Kelly narrating. We chose to take pictures from our stateroom balcony once we got there. The captain positioned the ship so each side, port and starboard, had significant viewing time. I still can’t believe how close we got. The whole Hubbard Glacier event was surreal, unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. So, we loved our cruise. We actually started planning our next cruise before the first was done. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2018
We booked this cruise on a whim as we had never been on a cruise and found a great deal. Seattle isn't far from Vancouver BC Canada (about 2.5 to 3 hour drive) so having this embark and return to Seattle was convenient. We drove ... Read More
We booked this cruise on a whim as we had never been on a cruise and found a great deal. Seattle isn't far from Vancouver BC Canada (about 2.5 to 3 hour drive) so having this embark and return to Seattle was convenient. We drove down in the morning at 7:30AM and parked at Seattle Cruisepark by 10:30 (we had enough time to stop for coffee). They have shuttles that take you to and from the terminal every 15-20 minutes so it was quite convenient. Embarkation was great and straight forward. A porter took our bags before hand and they were already in our room by the time we got on board. Our room was configured in a twin-bed setup, and after our concierge introduced themselves we asked them if they could change it to a single-bed setup while we roamed the ship. They happily obliged. We went straight for the Lido deck to eat as our morning drive and check in left us starving. It did not disappoint as there were plenty of foods ready for everyone as soon as the boarded. The ship itself wasn't particularly huge, but you didn't feel confined either. Memorable for us were the variety of shows on the main stage every night. You could gamble at the casino, go to some cooking demonstrations, watch movies in a theatre, swim, relax in hot tubs, drink in the birds nest or on the Lido rear deck; plenty to do. The main dining room is surprisingly elegant and huge, and the food was delicious there as well as the Lido Buffet. One night we had dinner at the Pinnacle grill. I swear, I had THE BEST 18 oz Ribeye Steak that i've ever had in my life (and this is from a guy who has eaten a fair share of steak!). One night we danced as the Birds Nest turns into a club with dance floor and nearby bar. Alaska cities were beautiful, and the time of year we went (1st week of September) happened to have warm weather at all of our stops. Juneau was 26 degrees celcius!!! Hubbard Glacier was nice as the boat engines were turned off and the only sounds were the calving of ice into the bay. The tradition of Pea Soup served to those on deck was neat, as I don't often have pea soup. In Ketchikan I got to see the Time Bandit (a boat from the show, Deadliest Catch) in port. Sitka Alaska didn't have much to do in town and we didn't book any excursions, so we took the day to relax while everyone went off-ship as well as do laundry so that we didn't have to do so much when we got home. Onboard there are a few laundry rooms with several washer/dryers. Washers cost $2.00 a load, and you can get change from the Front Desk. Soap is free, as well as the Dryers. We popped our clothes in and went to eat with plenty of time before going back to swap the clothes in the dryer and go back to the Birds Nest for some Pina Coladas. For a 7 day cruise near our home and for our first time, this cruise was excellent and we are itching to book our next cruise! Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
This was our 5th cruise first trip to Alaska and on Holland. We booked last minute and ended up with a cabin on the main deck 2647. It was quiet with a walk in shower! We bought the spa pass and felt it was our own spa for the cruise. ... Read More
This was our 5th cruise first trip to Alaska and on Holland. We booked last minute and ended up with a cabin on the main deck 2647. It was quiet with a walk in shower! We bought the spa pass and felt it was our own spa for the cruise. We used it in the morning after our exercise in the gym and it was empty. The service was top rate from room Stewart to dining to ocean bar. Everyone referred to us by name and were very attentive. The food was the best I have experienced on all cruise lines(carnival, celebrity,norwegian and royal caribbean). We were in the dining room for lunch and dinner and it was fantastic. We did 2 excursions: In Juneau we did the whale watching and Mendenhall glacier. The whale watching boats so crowded 150 people? Too many! In Sitka we did an ATV which was fantastic. There was only one other couple. We took a small boat to a volcanic island and saw 3 whales, sea otters and bald eagle. The ATV was fun and beautiful scenery. Afterward we went to town and the totem pole park. Hubbard glacier was breathtaking. In Ketchikan just walked the town. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
We had been to Alaska in June on the Celebrity Solstice and my wife wanted to go back to Alaska. We booked a last minute cruise on the Amsterdam because it was out of Seattle, visited a couple of new places, and the price was right. The ... Read More
We had been to Alaska in June on the Celebrity Solstice and my wife wanted to go back to Alaska. We booked a last minute cruise on the Amsterdam because it was out of Seattle, visited a couple of new places, and the price was right. The ship has an old world feel and was very comfortable. The food was not up to the same standard as the Solstice. The entertainment was slightly better. One of the reasons we took this cruise was that it went to Hubbard Glacier and Sitka. Hubbard Glacier was amazing! We stayed at the glacier for more than enough time to see several calvings. The captain also rotated the ship to give both sides of the ship time to experience the glacier. I would go back just to see Hubbard Glacier again! Sitka was also great. It had a completely different feel from all the other ports. We would take a cruise on the Amsterdam again. Read Less
15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
This was our 9th cruise, first time on HAL, first time to Alaska. Excellent cruise all around. We spent a day in Seattle the day prior to boarding, Having seen the wine prices listed on HAL online, we decided to bring a case of wine ... Read More
This was our 9th cruise, first time on HAL, first time to Alaska. Excellent cruise all around. We spent a day in Seattle the day prior to boarding, Having seen the wine prices listed on HAL online, we decided to bring a case of wine onboard and pay the $18 per bottle corkage fee. We found a nice selection of wines for under $20, 15% discount on a case, at Pike’s Place Market wine store (Pike and Western Wine Shop, 1934 Pike Place). We used Lyft from the airport to our hotel (Homewood Suites Downtown – pretty good), from Pike’s Place to the hotel, from the hotel to the port and from the port to the airport. Very easy. If you are a new customer, look for a Lyft discount code displayed at baggage carousel when you land. Embarkation was super easy. No lines to wait in at noon, and so many smiling faces. One of our party forgot his passport – we were directed to a lovely woman who assured us that the colored copy we had was sufficient! I have carried copies of our passports for years, and this is the first time I had to use it. Disaster averted. Before we went to check in, we were directed to a table where corkage fee was charged to our room and stickers were put on the bottles, assuring that we could drink it anywhere on the boat. We were told at check in that our rooms were ready! So nice to go right to the room and be rid of carry-ons and wine. We were in rooms 6102 (ocean view – front of ship) and 6116 (port side verandah). Good location for ease in getting around ship. Each room had 2 robes, 2 pair slippers, 2 wool throw blankets. The verandah room had binoculars. 6102 had a tub, 6116 had a shower stall. 6102 had a sloped ceiling, which made the room seem smaller, and reduced the closet space somewhat. Both rooms had wonderful views. We really felt the ship movement the first night from Seattle towards Juneau. Other times, we felt movement/vibrations, probably due to the smallness of the ship and the Pacific Ocean. Not a major issue – did not see any seasick people. Room 6102 was above the theater and on some late nights the noise was annoying. The combo of movement, noise, and sloped ceilings would keep me from booking this room again. Weather was mostly cloudy, with highs in the 50’s and 60’s. We did not have any pelting rain while on shore. In Sitka, the sun even came out! For excursions/walking outside decks, layers were key. Two of our party wore long underwear. I wore a long sleeved wicking shirt, then a polartec fleece hooded sweatshirt, a lightweight down jacket and covered it all with a raincoat. Combined with a hat and light gloves, that took care of the coldest day – at the Hubbard Glacier. Low hiking boots were perfect for everywhere. On our kayaking excursion and our jeep/canoe excursion, raincoats/waterproof pants were offered. The interior of the ship was very warm. We were fine in short sleeves, and never needed sweaters or shawls at dinner. The Amsterdam is a lovely ship, with great service from everyone. There is a huge library, lots of public spaces with expansive views, and a card room with playing cards, chess sets, mahjong and many games and puzzles. The staff is very low key – you won’t be pestered to buy anything, or pose for photos. We really appreciated that aspect. The clientele does skew older. There were some children onboard, but mostly as part of large family groups. Our mid-twenties kids were perfectly happy with available activities. The food was very good in the dining room and the Lido. I am a vegetarian and each night at dinner, I was offered both the menu for the next day and the special vegetarian menu so I could choose the next night’s meal. We had second seating but were able to switch to first seating on our last night so we could visit Victoria at the 6 pm docking. We enjoyed the America Test Kitchen demonstrations – it was standing room only most of the time, so arrive early. I booked two of our excursions (Glacier View Kayaking in Juneau and Canoe and Jeep Adventure in Ketchikan) through Costco and the Sitka Marine Adventure directly at their website (sitkawildlifetours.com). We were joined by people from our ship who had booked directly from HAL, and there was no issue about getting back to the ship on time was not an issue. Liked all the excursions, highly recommend the Sitka Marine Adventure! Debarkation was painless and quick. We managed our own bags, and exited about 8 a.m. We made it from the stateroom to the airport in under an hour. Sea-Tac was very busy, with long lines for checking baggage and TSA screening. We had no trouble making our 11:20 a.m. flights. Definitely planning to cruise with HAL again. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
My Mother bought us a family cruise for all of us for our Birthdays. We were very excited. The whole trip was a disaster on the Ansterdam. 1st day they gave my brother’s in laws a 2 bed bedroom and my other brother and his daughter a ... Read More
My Mother bought us a family cruise for all of us for our Birthdays. We were very excited. The whole trip was a disaster on the Ansterdam. 1st day they gave my brother’s in laws a 2 bed bedroom and my other brother and his daughter a one bed bedroom. They would of switched rooms but my brother’s room had no hot water the whole 7 days of the trip. They wouldn’t switch the room for him or the in laws. So he and my niece had too shower in my Moms room and they would only give her a $200 credit. The toilets did work for a couple of hours 3 times and we didn’t have water from 12 midnight till 5 am and it still didn’t really fix the problem. The DVD player in my room didn’t work, TV was fuzzy the safe locked me out. The movie they played in the so called movie theater was the same movies they played on the 2 TV movie channels. Their nature experts couldn’t answer simple question like does Alaska have Racoons. She said they didn’t but we asked a excursion guide and he said of course we do. The food was not soso the service was poor. I could go on and on. My brother summed it up the cruise was a floating Motel 6 with Denny’s food. Alaska was beautiful! It was just a awful ship. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
Really enjoyed this cruise. Things were very organized and flowed well. Management were responsive to feedback. I had been worried I'd be bored, but there really were enough different activities, presentations, shows, etc., that I ... Read More
Really enjoyed this cruise. Things were very organized and flowed well. Management were responsive to feedback. I had been worried I'd be bored, but there really were enough different activities, presentations, shows, etc., that I didn't experience this. I had loaded a bunch of books onto my Kindle just in case but barely spent any extra time reading. The Hubbard Glacier was definitely the highlight of the voyage. Just an incredible sight and cool to hear and see the calving. I was really surprised at just how close the ship got to it. Saw plenty of whales and porpoises. It's quite enjoyable sitting there eating a meal while watching whales. The Rudi's Sel de Mer night was exquisite dining! Can't recommend it highly enough. Lido food often was more flavorful than the main dining room. Although the Asian tastes offerings were fairly sad. Didn't matter if it was called Vietnamese, Malaysian, Singaporean, etc., it all tasted the same. But it isn't as comfortable as the main dining room, and service can be hit or miss. It can also get pretty dawn busy in there. We really enjoyed eating breakfast in the main dining room. Much more relaxed, much less crowded, and great offerings. The food experience in the MDR improved during the cruise, though. Pinnacle Grill was also great and holds really well to the steakhouse theme. Go hungry, though. Portions are very good-sized. The biggest disappointment was in-room dining. The first day we ordered breakfast and were told it would take 45 mins. It took over an hour, and they left things off. Our 2nd try was much improved. We did in-room breakfast on the final day, and it was missing stuff, too, but at least they showed up on time. Getting sodas at meals can be quite the challenge. Only the bar servers/wine stewards can get you a soda. During the first gala night, it took 3 requests and about an hour to get a single can of soda for my daughter. It wasn't rare for it to take about 20 mins regardless of which public dining room you were in. If you're at the Lido pool, though, it goes more quickly since the bar is right there. Happy hour in the Crow's Nest was enjoyable. They served pretty good appetizers along with the drinks, and service was great. It's such a great view. My teen really enjoyed it. The teen club wasn't as organized as it could be. Often she would shop up for a scheduled activity, and they wouldn't be there, or they'd announce they're closing 5 mins after she got there (for the scheduled activity). They did have some fun activities, though. Our room only had one outlet which I thought was odd. They had an adapter plugged in which gave you 3 plugs to use, but you had to be careful changing or adjusting one of them as it would turn the cabin lights on and off. Even though they knew I was bringing on a CPAP machine, I still had to go to guest services to get an extension cord since the outlet is nowhere near the beds. No biggie, but so you know. Adagio was one of my favorite musical performers. The violinist is superb. I listened to them almost every night. Lots of lounges, and each one has its own look and feel which is quite nice. Gives you some great variety. Read Less
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 3.9
Family 3.0 3.9
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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