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John Hoge

Age: 61 to 70

Occupation:Professional Engineer

Number of Cruises: 2nd

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Amsterdam

Sailing Date: January 28th, 2001

Itinerary: Panama Canal Cruise

This is our second cruise on HAL .  All pre-cruise information was helpful and well organized. This Panama canal cruise aboard M/S Amsterdam left from Puerto Caldera Costa Rica sailing for Fort Lauderdale on Jan-28-2001. We chose to take the HAL organized flight arrangements from Montreal to Miami on Jan-27 with a HAL paid stopover in Miami at the very nice HOTEL SOFITEL. The next morning we flew to Liberia Costa Rica via MIAMI air charter.  Baggage handling was excellent and HAL agents at the airport and hotel were available and helpful. Some confusion about the size and quantity of carry on luggage aboard the Miami Air charter was of concern to some people.  We boarded buses in Liberia for about a 3 hour trip to Puerto Caldera. The buses were good quality and the tour host told us a lot of interesting information about Costa Rica.

Boarding the ship at 13:30pm was expeditiously handled.  It was lunch time as the bus had not stopped enroute. We thought that “first time cruisers” would not have known that the LIDO buffet was open for lunch.

We had a large inside cabin amidships on deck 2.  This cabin was very adequate ,comfortable., lots of storage and a very convenient “free” electronic safe. The bathroom , with just a shower, was a good size with a medicine cabinet and an under counter shelf.  The shower was a good size but suffered from water temperature fluctuations almost continuously. (This also happened on a previous cruise aboard the Ryndam)

The ship seemed to suffer from more creaking and shuddering than I expected. We had 18-27 foot seas one day but the pitching and rolling was well controlled.

The public areas of the ship are tastefully and in some areas beautifully decorated and elegant with lots of art and antiques that are well integrated into the whole ships feeling.  We understood that the ship was full yet it never seemed in the least bit crowded.  HAL caters to an older crowd so if you are interested in a continuous party environment this is not the place to be.  We saw one 5 year old and 3 babies on the ship.

You always get more than enough to eat and by and large the food is of good variety, very high quality well presented.  Dinner in the spectacular  La Fontaine dining room always has at least five choices of appetizers, soups and/or salads, entrees and deserts.  Service in the dinning room can be spotty depending on whether you get a good waiter. Our dinner waiter and wine steward were great, but at lunch time and breakfast service and menu variety and taste were not quite as good. We preferred to eat in the LIDO for breakfast and lunch, they had the same fare as in the dinning room and more. The Amsterdam has a new Italian restaurant called the Odyssey. You must make reservations to eat here.  Everything about the Odyssey is exceptional, the food the décor the service the ambiance.  This was probably the best dinning experience we had ever had anywhere.

The nightly shows were also very well done. The Amsterdam cast with their dancing and musical reviews were of very professional caliber.  The acts that were brought in were also quite entertaining and of  good quality.  The other entertaining groups  in the various bars were good and quite danceable but nothing spectacular.

We have not been a big fan of the shore excursions, finding them overpriced.  We did take a half day tour to Granada in Nicaragua and were appalled by the garbage strewn everywhere and filthy children begging constantly.  The Panama canal was very interesting . A good series of lectures and Q and A,s was given by an engineer who had worked primarily in the operations of the canal. Since we live on the St Lawrence seaway this was in someway “old hat” to us. Curacao was very colourful , clean and interesting, and we enjoyed the shopping and the markets there. St Johns of course is more shopping. Half Moon Cay is Holland Americas private island and is a beautiful beach with the nicest sand I have seen anywhere. The noon barbeque on the island was great, and the water was lovely. 

In summary  a most enjoyable cruise, good value, and high quality with only a few weak points.

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