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Bruce Faitsch

Age: 58

Occupation:Teacher

Number of Cruises: First Cruise

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Amsterdam

Sailing Date: June 29th, 2002

Itinerary: Alaska - Juneau - Sitka - Ketchikan - Victoria

This was our very first cruise. We embarked in Seattle, and found that the boarding process was helped by numerous HAL employees. We dropped off the luggage very quickly with almost no wait, then went through the boarding process. We had to go up one flight and the escalators were the fastest we have ever seen; an elderly gentleman in front of us actually fell on one and tumbled down the moving stairs upside down. The escalator was quickly stopped by an attendant and he appeared unhurt. We passed through customs in about 15 minutes (one stop scheduled was Victoria B.C.)and after another ten minute wait we boarded the ship.

Our cabin was quite spacious even though we had booked a "run of the ship" outside cabin. The bags arrived promptly, but I had to make a couple of calls to locate the formal wear rental that I had ordered. That snag was probably because we were not assigned a cabin number until just a few days before the cruise. We left the cabin to tour the ship, and when we returned to dress for dinner the tux was laid out on the bed for me.

The ship was beautiful. It was spotlessly clean, and after we became used to it everything is laid out logically. Our cabin was forward on the main deck, but we found that it was easy to get anywhere on the ship quickly.

We had reserved the early seating for dinner, and when we arrived for dinner about 6 PM there were no lines at all and we were quickly seated. The lack of lines, which continued all week, was a plus in my book. We waited in line only twice the whole week: for the high tea one afternoon (which was only for one hour so everyone queued up at the same time, and the chocolate extravaganza one night. We couldn't have had a better table. We had four other companions for dinner, who were delightful people and great fun to be with, and the table was next to the stern windows which were a two story wall of glass with a spectacular view. The dining service was outstanding - as good as we have ever experienced, and that includes dining in top NYC restaurants. The wine steward had preordered wines ready when you arrived at the table, and unfinished bottles were saved for subsequent evenings, and were at the table when you arrived. Wine selections available included commonly available selections, mostly California and Australia, so bring your own if you want a fine vintage or grand cru. The quality of the food was fine but not outstanding. I would compare it to a good hotel dining room. There were sufficient choices to please everyone at our table. Russian caviar was available one evening - it was excellent - and prime rib, lobster tail and rack of lamb were served on various nights - all were excellent. HAL's premium restaurant (The Odyssey) was Italian, and you could go there one evening during the cruise without additional charge. We were very disappointed with that restaurant. The service was extremely slow the night we attended - we waited 15 minutes to order drinks and 45 minutes before the starter arrived. The maitre d’ apologized and offered a split of wine to placate us - and it was a low quality wine with a screw cap! I ordered Osso Buco, which had a mediocre sauce, and it was still firm, not tender. I was very disappointed, because the food in the main dining room was much better; in fact I had better dishes in the Lido (cafeteria style restaurant).

The ship sailed from Seattle on Saturday and was scheduled to go to Juneau after a day at sea on the Pacific. Unfortunately, we had 12 foot seas on Sunday and many people were seasick - including me and a number of the staff. The pills given out were of some help, but they did not work completely for me.

Our cabin steward couldn’t have been better. When we left for breakfast the room was made up when we returned. After dinner, when we returned to the cabin the covers were turned down.

The land tours were OK, but very pricey. We are from New England where you can take a 5 hour whale watch tour for $20 to 25. The same thing when purchased from HAL was $109 each. We found Sitka and Ketchikan to be delightful small towns with lots of opportunity for shopping. In Juneau everyone seemed to head for the Red Dog Saloon, which of course tried to mimic the gold rush days. We did enjoy the Mendenhall glacier tour in this town, and it was more reasonably priced.

Our cruise was in late June-early July. We had several days of rain, and the temperature was consistently in the low 50's. If you want sun go to the Caribbean. Finally, we found the disembarking process to be a bit slow - it took over a hour and a half before it was our turn.

In summary, HAL has outstanding service, good food and entertainment and a spotlessly clean ship. Would we sail with them again? Definitely yes!

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