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5-Day on the Amsterdam

"Sister Cruise up the West Coast"

Overall Rating: Good


Sail Date:05/16/2013
Departed From:San Diego
# of Nights: 5-6 Nights
Cabin Type: Verandah
Sailed As: Prefer not to say


Overall Value:Excellent
Spa/Fitness: Didn't Use
Embarkation: Excellent
Debarkation: Excellent
Staff/Service: Very Good
Overall Rating: Good


My sister lives in Texas and I live in Illinois so we decided to meet up in San Diego to take a 5-day cruise up the West Coast on Holland America’s Amsterdam. We selected this particular itinerary from San Diego to Vancouver because of the start/end cities and because of the price! I assumed (correctly) that this cruise was to get the ship up to Vancouver to start its Alaska season. What I didn’t realize was that half of the ship would stay on in San Diego to finish a 21-day Panama Canal crossing and also a 120-day World Cruise! My bad – I should have done my homework better – because it did make a difference to the onboard atmosphere.

When you see my ratings, you will see that I gave every individual category either an Excellent or Very Good mark, yet the overall rating I gave was Good. There were several reasons for this, one being the atmosphere, but others that you will see as I describe the cruise:

We arrived in San Diego a day early and stayed at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, which is a great location for exploring the Seaport Village, the Waterfront, and the Gaslamp Quarter. The hotel itself was wonderful, with newly refurbished rooms and friendly, accommodating staff. The breakfast buffet was delicious!

We could embark the Amsterdam at 1:00 p.m. Embarkation was very quick and easy because only 700 of us were getting on in San Diego. The rest were enjoying a regular port stop, which made the ship very quiet and vacant… Our luggage came quickly and we were soon settled in. Lunch was being served or we were free to get back off the ship and tour San Diego as the ship would not leave until 11:00 p.m. I am one who always enjoys the festive atmosphere of embarkation day and the sail-away, so the lack of both was kind of a letdown. In fact, when we pulled away at 11:00 p.m. – most of the ship was already asleep!

The next day was a stop at Avalon on Catalina Island. We had to drop anchor and tender ashore; that operation was handled very smoothly. We did not book an excursion here but had a great day walking the harborfront with its many shops and restaurants. We then had two days at sea to relax and enjoy the ship.

Our last stop was in Victoria, BC, Canada. We did not arrive until 2:30 p.m. and our shore excursion to the Butchart Gardens was delayed by an hour. The excursion itself was absolutely wonderful! We had two hours in the gardens, which of course, was not nearly enough, but then shore excursions never are – they can only give you a taste of what there is to offer. By the time we were back on the ship at 8:00 p.m. it was pouring a cold rain so we were glad to be back. We left port at midnight and arrived in Vancouver in the morning. Disembarkation was calm and well-run.

The Amsterdam entered service in 2000; I’m not sure if it has undergone renovations, but there were some problems, the most prominent being the plumbing. Our stateroom toilet quit working 4 times and overflowed once. Thankfully it was clean water, but it made quite a mess, not to mention the fact that it was a nuisance to have to find public bathrooms at all hours of the day/night while we waited once again for the plumber. As we talked with people about the ship, there were many others who cited problems with the toilets and/or showers. Several were directed to take showers in the spa area, which I’m sure was quite inconvenient. Problems with water delivery systems caused many backups in the Lido buffet. Lack of water pressure on one side of the ship closed down that service which of course, overwhelmed the other side. There was quite a lot of vibration on this ship – especially felt in the elevators and in your bed at night! I don’t think it was the location of our stateroom (Veranda Deck 6, forward) because you could feel it throughout the ship. Speaking of our stateroom – it was very nicely laid out, with plenty of storage. The bathroom is quite large with a tub and shower. The veranda also was a nice size and covered. They don’t put your name outside the stateroom like most other lines do, but they did have personalized stationary on the desk – different small touches. The beds were nice with lots of pillows – hooray! This ship itself is beautiful, with lots of wood and the traditional promenade deck. Since it is smaller by today's standards, it is quite easy to get around.

HAL has tried to keep pace with new sailing options such as the “anytime” dining concept, but did not quite have it figured out on this ship. On the one formal night during our voyage, we waited almost an hour for a table. And they would not honor requests for sharing/non-sharing of tables – you “took what you got”. Having said that, I will say that the service in the dining room, as well as the food, was always excellent. Dining hours and options on this ship are fairly limited. The buffet closed at 9:00, as did the dining room…. I think room service went on a bit longer.

If you are a fan of the casino, you will be disappointed in this one. It is half the size of most casinos and quite a few of the machines were down. They tried to separate smoking/non-smoking areas, but the space is just too small to accomplish that effectively. I enjoy playing a few slots, so could endure for the short time I was there, but others may have a problem if they spend a good deal of time there.

The Library is wonderful – very spacious and well-stocked. That would make sense, as I’m sure it was well-used by the World Cruisers.

The covered Solarium pool was quite busy on our sea days since it was quite cool. There are plenty of tables and chairs, but not many loungers. The hot tubs were wonderful! They would crack open the cover just a bit several times during the day to let some wonderfully cool air circulate. There was a pool-side grill that had yummy pizza, burgers, hot dogs and other quick food options that were all quite good.

Back to the atmosphere – as I indicated, this was the tail end of a longer cruise and then a World cruise to boot, so many people were accustomed to a routine; were used to sitting specific places in the lounges and theater; almost felt entitled to first dibs in the buffet lines, etc. There were no Welcome Aboard shows or introductions of officers/crew – in fact, we never formally met our cabin stewards – we just happened to run into one of them one day in the hallway. Having said THAT – I will say that our cabin was always spotless and well-supplied.

Do you get the idea that this was sort of a “this/but that” type of experience? That is it in a nutshell. Just as I would decide that I would not bother with another cruise on this ship or HAL (this was my second cruise with them,) they would do something extraordinarily well and I would change my mind again! Next time I will research a little better to make sure I will experience what I enjoy most. Things that bothered me may not bother other cruisers so everyone really has to decide what experience they like best. Today, my bottom line, I would try HAL again…with a different ship and a different type of cruise.

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Thanks for sharing your cruise review. As I mentioned to you previously, I have friends sailing the Alaska itinerary in a couple of weeks, and I sure hope they work out the plumbing issues by then and that my friends don't return disappointed.

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Good, honest review, Andi. I like hearing the good and the bad, which is how I write my reviews. I can understand the awkwardness of joining a cruise underway. I think we all enjoy the sailaway, when collectively, the entire ship is starting its journey together. It sounds like there was a bit of "seniority" attitude going on, which could be a downer. Also, the plumbing problems. I'm glad you were able to enjoy yourself anyway, but I can see how a first-time cruiser might be convinced not to come back, if they were forced to take showers in the spa. Time to bring the ol' girl into dry dock and flush her pipes! Maybe a large bottle of Drano will help.

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Thanks Andi for the review. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that you should have done a little more research. I, too, would have thought that the cruise was ending in Canada. I, too, would have been a tad bit surprised to learn that others would be staying on for a much longer sailing. Wow, can you imagine being on there for all that time with the plumbing issues?

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We enjoyed reading your very nice review. Plumbing issues on HAL ships seem to be an ongoing probem. Maybe they do need what Kevin has suggested!

I agree that they have been ongoing - we sailed on the Ryndam back in 2000 and I remember many of the public bathrooms being "down" and that ship was fairly new at the time!

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