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Rhonda Tallant

Age: 39

Occupation:Systems Support Manager

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Amsterdam

Sailing Date: May 10th, 2003

Itinerary: Alaska

My husband and I, along with my parents, recently returned from a 7-day Alaskan Cruise aboard the MS Amsterdam. This was the third cruise for my husband and I, and the fifth for my parents. Speaking for all of us, while we did enjoy the cruise, it was not our most enjoyable one.

The embarkation went surprisingly smooth. My parents wanted to arrive early thinking we would be able to board earlier. That wasn’t the case and we did have to wait for a couple hours. It was our fault for getting there so early though. Once our numbers were called, we were shown to our cabin. We had a mini-suite on the Verandah deck and the room was the highlight of the cruise. It was spacious (as much as cruise cabins can be) and we had a private balcony towards the back of the ship. We would wake up each morning and open the curtains to see absolutely stunning Alaska scenery. I highly recommend a balcony room.

Our room steward met us at our cabin on the first day and I can’t say enough good things about him. Our ice bucket was always full, the room cleaned twice a day, and he even placed our empty luggage under the bed to give us more room (we never thought to do that!) If we left any clothes lying around, he would either fold them and lay them on the bed or hang them on the wall hooks. If we saw him in the hallway, he would greet us by name and would rush to open our door for us if our hands were full from shopping. He was just awesome.

While the cabin and our room steward were the nice aspects of the cruise, the rest of the service and the food were the not so great aspects. The previous cruises we had all taken had excellent service. We were used to having our water and tea glass always full, food being served hot, etc. This was not the case on the Amsterdam. Our waiter in the main dining room and his assistant were very likeable and I don’t blame them for the poor service. I could see they were constantly moving and working. Instead I blame the set-up. They had 6 tables in their station. One was a table of 8, the rest were tables of 4. (We sat at a table for 4). The way they work is to take all the orders from all the tables. The entrees (or whatever course you are on) are then all brought up, for all tables in his area, and placed at the waiters’ workstation. He goes through and begins handing out the meals and he usually started with the table of 8. By the time he got to us, our food was almost always cold. His assistant was busy picking up the used dinnerware and too busy to keep our drink glasses filled.

The quality of the food was okay but not superb. Of course, the fact that it was usually cold added to the problem. The desserts in the main dining room (La Fontaine) were outstanding however. The buffet food served in the Lido dining room ranged from awful to great. The one exception was the bread pudding, which was truly excellent. We found the service poor in other areas as well. While sitting outside on the deck, the waiters would come by to sell beer and wine, but if you wanted water, soda, coffee or hot cocoa they acted like it was a big imposition.

Our ports of call were Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Vancouver. Unfortunately it rained on and off in all the ports, but it wasn’t a cold, uncomfortable rain and it wasn’t constant. We did enjoy all the stops but were disappointed with the very short stay we had in Ketchikan, as we felt very rushed. Also, the stop in Vancouver was 6pm-11pm and we found many stores were closed.

The on-board entertainment was nice. The one complaint I would have is that we would have like to play bingo one of the nights, but they scheduled it where it interfered with our dinner seating time. It seems they would have put more thought into that.

All in all, it was an enjoyable cruise. The Alaska scenery was spectacular and made the cruise worth it, but if you want total pampering, excellent service and superb food along with the scenery—then I wouldn’t recommend Holland America. Speaking for the four of us, we want it all! Therefore we all agreed we would definitely take another Alaskan cruise, but we would not be taking Holland America in the future.

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