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Ted Freeman

Age: 41

Occupation:Airline Operations Controller

Number of Cruises: 6

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Amsterdam

Sailing Date: May 14th, 2007

Itinerary: Vancouver Repositioning

We booked this three-night cruise as it seemed a great way to link our flight from Australia to a cruise to Alaska. This was the final stage of a Panama Canal cruise for the Amsterdam, and was sold as a Pacific Coastal repositioning cruise. This is a great way to get from A to B if you have the time – it sure beats flying! Given that you get transportation, accommodations and meals all included, they’re outstanding value for money. We managed to get a balcony cabin at a very small premium over an outside cabin, and were very happy we did so.

Our Qantas flight from Sydney arrived on time, and I had pre-booked a “Super Shuttle” from LAX to San Pedro over the net. It all went very smoothly, and we were pier side at San Pedro in no time. Checking occurred quickly as we’d also completed our registration online. We had the usual friendly greeting from the Holland-America checking staff, so our third HAL experience started well.

Boarding commenced around 45 minutes later, and we were directed to the Lido restaurant as our cabin was still being cleaned. I found out later that approximately 400 passengers had disembarked in LA, with a similar number joining the ship for the three nights to Vancouver.

We’d previously cruised on Holland-America’s Volendam, which is of a very similar size and layout to the Amsterdam, so we felt right at home. There was the usual friendly greeting from every crewmember we came across – this pattern was repeated throughout the cruise.

We were permitted into our cabin by 1pm, with our luggage arriving by 1.30. We retired for a quick nap at that point, as it had been a VERY long time since leaving home in Australia.

The three day cruise was the perfect jetlag antidote. With a very comfortable and quiet cabin, attentive and friendly service, great food and smooth seas, how could anyone go wrong? It was very evident that the Amsterdam is a happy ship, with a great rapport between the crew members.

Our cabin steward was unobtrusive and efficient, and the cabin itself had much to recommend it. Flat-screen TV with DVD player, a very comfortable bed, plenty of wardrobe and cupboard space, writing desk with chair, and a two-seat couch. Bathrobes and our own monogrammed stationery were unexpected touches. The bathroom had a shower/bath with spa, though we didn’t use the spa feature during the voyage. A flickering light bulb was promptly repaired without our having to ask for it to be done.

The balcony was a feature we enjoyed very much – the views as we left San Pedro at 6pm were spectacular, as were the views in Vancouver on arrival. It was also nice to be able to step out onto the balcony for some fresh air at any time.

The food on board was very good. Lots of fresh fruit and salads, plenty of seafood, always an excellent variety to suit all tastes. We had breakfast and lunch in the Lido each day, with dinner in the main dining room. I can’t recall us being disappointed in any item we ate. One noticeable change since our last HAL cruise was the absence of a wine steward in the main dining room. Drinks waiters now circulate amongst the tables. While there was nothing at all wrong with the service, that little touch of class was missed.

Overall the level of service was good. More demanding travelers than ourselves may have wanted more attention, but we were happy. I get the feeling that, like so many companies, HAL is reducing staff numbers in order to cut costs (read: in order to maximize profits). There didn’t seem quite the same number of service staff on board, notable especially in the bar areas. Once again, if you didn’t mind waiting a couple of minutes, this wasn’t a problem.

Generally speaking we’re pretty self-sufficient travelers, so it’s a rare occasion when we need to speak to the front office. The last time this happened was on our first and only cruise with NCL, and the experience was less than inspiring. I’m happy to report that my two brief questions to the front office staff on Amsterdam were answered promptly, cheerfully, and most of all accurately.

Disembarkation in Vancouver seemed to go very smoothly. As we had our own arrangements, we were among the last of the passengers off the ship, and we cleared customs quickly.

One final point: the Amsterdam was sailing that afternoon to Seattle, which was also our destination. The one-night voyage was being sold as a “party cruise” – we’d tried to book on that cruise in order to stay on board to Seattle, where we then planned to spend a night prior to joining HAL’s Oosterdam to Alaska. However, because of the “Jones Act” (which I have to confess I’d never heard of), we were unable to do this, and had to travel from Vancouver to Seattle by coach. Every cloud really does have a silver lining, as we wound up spending two nights in Seattle rather than one, and had a blast!




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