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B.J. Maxwell

Age: 47

Occupation:Registered Nurse

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Amsterdam

Sailing Date: September 4th, 2005

Itinerary: Alaska

We recently returned from a 7-day cruise out of Seattle (great city- be sure and spend a day or two here before you leave) to Alaska aboard Holland America's Amsterdam. After months of planning, and a lot of money, we booked a deluxe verandah suite. We had always heard that the inland passage was beautiful, and that to fully appreciate it, you needed to have the verandah. Because we were taking our two children, we splurged and booked a Deluxe verandah suite...for the extra room, the verandah and just for the extra "spoiling".

Unfortunately, the cruise did not measure up to the “dream vacation” we planned on. Although the suite was very nice visually, and extra room a real treat, the noise from the rattling wall and verandah ceiling took away from the peacefulness of the trip. At night, when the ship went above 19 knots, the wall between our bed and the bathtub rattled- enough to keep a light sleeper awake. Some of the metal slats that formed the ceiling on the verandah were rusted, loose and rattled when the ship picked up speed, hit swells, or when it became windy. When those weren’t making noise, we heard clomping of shoes, objects being moved and chopping noises!

When we called the concierge, she told us that after checking it out, the noise was coming from the deck above, in the hamburger grill section by the pool. Since it was a public area, there was little they could do !!! My husband then went to see for himself and found it was the work area of the grill. For a company that prides itself on its “signature of excellence”, perhaps better sound proofing is in order to insure that their suite guests have a peaceful, quiet ride? There were many times we couldn’t enjoy the verandah because it was much to noisy- hard to believe when you are paying around $6,000 for a week’s journey.

Another big disappointment was Club Hal. Granted we were not cruising during the time school was out and more children were on board, but the hours of operation were sporadic. The morning opening was a 9am, closing from noon – 2pm. At 4pm-5pm, it was “family hour”, and unless a parent was there with the child (no matter the age), they had to leave. It again opened at 8pm-10pm. So, if you wanted to enjoy the spa, or take a quiet walk around the ship after lunch with your spouse, forget it. A show and drinks afterwards??? Forget that too, unless you wanted to pre-arrange expensive babysitting (that is if they had a crew member who was willing to do it).

The food was okay, pretty bland most of the time, but always with nice presentation. The Pinnicle grill was delicious, but was an extra $20 per person. Again, after spending the money we did, a one night visit should have been included in our package. The afternoon tea option in our suite was nice, but the same goodies came with it each time, and were the same goodies served everyday in the private suite area’s Neptune lounge. Nothing special. Because of the size of the ship, the ship did roll and jog at times, again making a vibration in the suite in a series of 3- perhaps a mechanical issue. After speaking with a gal on the train home who took another ship (a mega ship), she said they never rolled- it was smooth sailing all the way. So, you have to decide if you want to put up with more people, or a smoother ride.

I’ll take more people next time ! To give positives, the scenery was spectacular. We had some great shore excursions- the ride to the Mendenhall Glacier/city tour in Juneau, the duck ride in Ketchikan (and for kids, the Lumberjack show was cornedy, but fun). The raptor center in Sitka was really great- how many times do you get to sit 5 ft. away from a bald eagle? They are doing wonderful things there, its worth your support. Finally, our horse trolley tour of Victoria was fun, although it’s a shame you are only there for 4 hours, in the dark. The service of the crew on our cruise was fantastic.

I hope Holland America knows how hard these folks work to make everyone feel special. They went above and beyond to make us comfortable, and were so sweet to our children. Our tips for a great cruise on HAL- watch where your room is located. Check out the actual hours of the children’s area operations, and see if it works for you and your spouse, if it doesn’t,

Perhaps a cruise without them would leave you more rested!

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