Holland America Amsterdam – Day 2 Pt. 6 – May 2015 – Sea Day

(Continued from Day 2, Pt. 5) … After dinner on Holland America msAmsterdam, we all wandered around together a little bit, and then the teens left us to our own devices.  We set off on another big exploration adventure.  During the night, we stopped by the theatre, where the performer, Natalie Toro was performing.  We walked into the upper level at some point between songs.  She was doing some banter between songs, and then started to sing.  We decided that this really was not what we were seeking, so we moved on to check out some of the other performances throughout the ship, and generally to see what else was going on.  The actual order of our stops has been changed to protect the innocent (or maybe.. just maybe… because my memory fails me).  During our journey, we went to the Explorer’s Lounge and heard some of the Adagio Duo, which consisted of a violin and a piano playing classical music.  The area was nice, and the music was lovely.  The Explorer’s Lounge is a nice sitting area, and there is also the Explorations Cafe on the port side, where there is a decent library for passengers.  Overall, a very nice place to quietly sit and pass the time on the sea days. We checked out the piano bar, and when we got there, the guitarist was just finishing up his set, and getting ready for the piano lounge entertainer to start up.  We watched both for a short time and moved on.  They were both entertaining.  We had spent lots of time in piano lounges before on cruises, and previously it had been one of our favorite places to have a few drinks and sing along.  Because this was a Holland America ship, it wasn’t quite as interactive as what we had become accustomed to, but it was still enjoyable.  I am a fan of live music of (almost) any type. During the night, we also stopped at Ocean Bar, where a group called “The Neptunes” were playing.  They were playing Jazz standards and it was an enjoyable place to spend a little time.  We listened there for a little while, and then headed back to the room to wind down for the night.  (and maybe have a few adult drinks)… tomorrow would be our last full day onboard.   … (Continue to Day 3, Pt. 1)                  

Holland America MS Amsterdam – Day 2 Part 5 – May 2015 – Sea Day

(Continued from Day 2, Pt. 4) … OK, OK, Dinner time arrived.  It happens to be one of my favorite times of the day.  If you do not believe me, just ask that pair of my pants that “shrunk in the dryer” while we were on holiday.  Must have been that self serve laundry on the ship… yeah… that’s the ticket. 😉 As mentioned in the previous post, we were seated at our table straightaway.  We were a party of five, seated at a table for six, and on this day, we noticed they had given us a little more “elbow room” by removing the extra chair.  A nice touch that I noticed, even though nothing was said about it.  The first thing I noticed about the dinner menu (actually checked earlier in the day at the entrance to the dining room) was that there was no lobster.  Not a big loss, because there were two other main dishes that caught my attention.  We ordered our starters, which were apparently the Caesar Salad, the French Onion Soup, and the “Crispy Crab Roll”, since I don’t recall having any of the other items on the starter menu, nor do I have photos.  We also ordered our main courses, and got ready to enjoy our Gala Night meal. After finishing the starters, the plates were removed, and very shortly thereafter, our main courses arrived.  We had all ordered some combination of the Alaskan King Crab Legs and the Beef and Veal Tenderloin with Jumbo Prawn.  Truth is, I think each of us ordered both.  We had been training for this moment our entire lives.  The tenderloin combo with jumbo prawn was honestly probably my favorite.  The crab legs were good, but there’s just something special about a nicely cooked tenderloin, and these were done nicely.. a perfect medium rare, in my case.  The jumbo prawn also did not disappoint.  That thing was massive… and tasty. With the main courses left in the wake of our foodfest, we set our sights on dessert. First up on the dessert offerings was the Macadamia Nut and Chocolate Chip Souffle.  Being a family of geeks, we had to bring Doctor Who’s Clara into the discussion, with her quest to make the perfect Souffle.  It was quite tasty, and Clara would have been proud.       Some of us also ordered the cheesecake.  It was a pretty yummy cheesecake, and was enjoyed as well.  Dinner and dessert had left us pretty full, but I still managed to order Cappuccinos and the “Hazel Eyes” cordial for the adults.  We had become quite a fan of their cappuccinos, and enjoyed them after dinners along with our desserts.  During the early part of dinner, an older gentleman from a nearby table came by to compliment our family, and make nice comments about how nice it was to see the teens well mannered and dressed nicely.  I thought this was quite nice, and set the tone for a nice dinner.  … (Continue to Day 2, Pt. …

Holland America MS Amsterdam – Day 2 Pt. 4 – May 2015 – Sea Day

(Continued from Day 2, Pt. 3) …  After going back inside from the top deck, we stopped in at the Crow’s Nest, located near the top of the ship at the bow.  There is a DJ booth setup in there, as well as a place for the band to play.  We never ended up going up there for music, but were able to spend some quiet time in there, sheltered from the wind and cold, with a great view of the ocean in front of the ship.  We went there one other time during a quiet time, and I grabbed a specialty drink.  (I believe it was some variety of Manhattan).  It was a nice place to relax and enjoy. It was quickly approaching dinnertime, so we headed back to the room to gather everyone, and begin the process of primping.  Soon enough, we were ready to go eat yet again…. so we headed down to the Main Dining Room.  The MDR on this ship is the La Fontaine dining room.  After being on much larger ships, it was almost surprising to me that it wasn’t very large in comparison, and still never felt crowded.  Previous ships we had been on even had multiple MDRs, and were packed a little closer than this.  We headed to the upper level of the La Fontaine at just after 5:00, and were (as always) seated straightaway.  … (Continue to Day 2, Pt. 5)  

Holland America MS Amsterdam – Day 2 Pt. 3 – May 2015 – Sea Day

(Continued from Day 2, Pt. 2) … Day 2 was the formal night of the cruise, so in order to avoid the crowds, we wandered down to the self-service laundry to press many dress shirts.  With myself and three teen boys, that’s a lot of ironing, and I was concerned that the laundry rooms would be crowded closer to dinner time.  So, we headed down the hall to the self-service laundry on deck 6. The self service laundry had three washers and three dryers.  The cost for the washing machine was $2.00 USD, and the dryer was available for free.  The washing machine also had a button to press on the front panel that dispensed detergent directly into the machine, so there is no need to bring soap or to purchase soap onboard anywhere.  The washing machine accepts US quarters, which you can get from the front desk as needed. After completing the ironing, we took the shirts back to the cabin, and checked on the teens.  The oldest had decided to nap away most of the day, and the other two had just been hanging out, eating room service goodies and relaxing.  Since they had all three just gotten out of school for the summer just a few days before, they had no problem just hanging out, snacking, relaxing, and wandering when the mood struck them.  The youngest had decided prior to the trip that the room service chocolate cake was something that he was going to enjoy as often as possible.  It seems he may have met that goal, with at least one piece of room service cake each day, and random trips to the Lido Buffet to gather other snacks.  A note about the Lido Buffet… for the first 48 hours of a cruise, the crew will serve you everything on the buffet, in order to avoid the spread of the dreaded NORO.  This is intended to be used as a preventative measure only, so no need to panic if you get onboard and see this happening.  (If I have misunderstood this, please feel free to comment below and I will edit as needed). If you have been following along thus far, you won’t be terribly surprised to find out that we left the room after dropping off the shirts, and headed out to wander about some more.  We made the trip up to the bow of the ship to the top deck, and took a few photos and video… then decided it was cold and windy and that it was time to go elsewhere.  While we were up there, we spotted a coin mounted on the front of the structure on the bow, just behind the hand rail.  In the top photo, you can see the small black square on the left of the photo.  This area is above the Crow’s Nest… (Continue to Day 2, Pt. 4)  

Holland America MS Amsterdam – Day 2 Pt. 2 – May 2015 – Sea Day

(Continued from Day 2, Pt. 1) … After breakfast, the teens went back to their cabin, and we went back to ours to gather our things for the day.  We gathered up the GoPro camera to take with us to document the areas on the ship, as it seemed that when we booked the trip, there were very few photos and videos available of the MS Amsterdam.  I suspect this is because of the general demographic of the ship, which is notably older than the crowd on many other cruise lines, in conjunction with the fact that the Amsterdam is often used for the World Cruises. We strolled around the ship and took photos and video of the public areas as possible.  The weather was cold, damp, and windy so swimming was not much of an option.  At some point, we made our way up the lido pool area, where the teens were alternating between playing on the giant chess board, and playing ping pong.  Because we had heard so much about the Dive In at the Terrace Grill, we ordered a few things for the teens and ourselves.  We arrived there shortly after they opened, and placed our order.  Frankly I was still full from breakfast, but I had to give it a shot anyway.  When you order, they give you a vibrating pager thing to alert you when your order is ready.  After a few minutes, the order was ready and we picked it up and took it back to our table near the giant chess board. The fried onions that were served on some of the items were quite tasty, and it would be worth checking to see if you can just get a side of those to nibble on with your order.  The dogs and burger were good, but not as magical as they looked.  The cheese sauce that we ordered on them was not terribly “cheesy”.  By now, you may have noticed that this review involves a lot of food.  I love to cook, and I love to eat… so food plays a (maybe too) large part of my life.  That, and the weather was not as remarkable as we maybe would have preferred… but a good time was still had by all. There were a few spots on the aft of the ship that I had heard referred to online as being nice, quiet places to hang out so we went and checked them out as well.  Deck 2 and deck 3 had little semi-enclosed areas where you could look out on the sea and the foam stretching to the horizon from the engines.  Both decks, but especially deck 2 were noisy from mechanical sounds, but not overbearing.  There were nice deck chairs sitting out there as well, and several times we spotted people sitting there reading and enjoying the lack of crowds.  Since this was at the aft of the ship, it was sheltered from the cold wind…. (Continue to Day 2, Pt. 3)

Holland America MS Amsterdam – Day 2 Pt. 1 – May 2015 – Sea Day

(Continued from Embarkation Day Pt. 4)…  Day two started much like any other non-port cruise day.  We woke up precisely at the crack of “whenever we feel like it”.  Shortly thereafter, the door hanger order from the previous night arrived from room service.  This order arrived exactly at the requested time and consisted of coffee, a bagel, and possibly juice.  This was intended to be less of a pre-breakfast breakfast, and more of a “get some coffee in me, such that I can be civilized”. We started getting ready and went across the hallway to begin the process of gathering the teens for breakfast.  This, of course, involved one of them complaining that he had to shower first the last few days.  Such are the problems of the first world.  The shower in our cabin was free, so we offered it to one of the teens so we could be ready that much sooner. After everyone was ready, we took the journey to the main dining room.  This journey involved walking a few yards to the staircase, going down two flights, and being greeted by the dining staff.  We were seated straightaway and given the menus to go over.  Let me start by saying that breakfast was not one of their shining moments on the trip.  We ordered a “Full” English Breakfast, a Japanese Breakfast, a Southwest Omelet, an Eggs Benedict, and a Stack of Pancakes.  Along with my Eggs Benedict, I ordered a side of Hash Browns and Corned Beef Hash.  The Eggs Benedict was good and is almost certain to be ordered by me on every cruise… Unless I order it once and it’s rubbish (I am talking to you, MSC Divina.)…  The Hash Browns and Corned Beef hash came out on a full-sized plate and were decent… but the corned beef hash was a small ice cream scoop-sized serving and the serving of hash browns was two hash brown nuggets, similar to Burger King.  Now, before you think I am complaining, it is more of just a funny observation… See for yourself in the photo. The Japanese Breakfast was precisely how I would have thought it would be, and the youngest teen thought it was quite good. The Stack of Pancakes was just that… a stack of pancakes.  It was ordered with a side of hash browns and bacon, and the middle teen enjoyed it. Note the ironic use of quotes around “FULL” in the “FULL” English Breakfast.  When the “FULL” English Breakfast arrived (OK , that’s enough ironic quotes) it was far from full.  One of the staples of the English Breakfast is the English Banger Sausage and grilled half tomato (as described on the menu).  It came with neither of those things, and when we asked, we were told that they were “out of banger sausages” (the next few days at the lido buffet showed this NOT to be the case, as they had plenty there).  Again, I am not a complainer, so don’t construe any of this as being a complaint, …

Holland America MS Amsterdam – Embarkation Day Pt. 4 – May 2015 – San Diego

(Continued from Embarkation Day Pt. 3) … We gathered for dinner and headed down to the main dining room at about 5pm. The journey to the dining room was very short, since our room was one floor above, and it turns out that our assigned table was directly below our room. We were assigned a table on deck 5 and a dining time of 5:30. Initially I had requested anytime dining, but this was not how it worked out. Since the five of us were assigned a table for six, and there were no port days, it turns out that assigned dining worked well, and we enjoyed our table.   Our starters included the Duck Pate Brioche, Chilled Strawberry Bisque, French Onion Soup, Classic Caesar Salad, and the Cheese Tortellini and Chicken Soup. Apparently we were hungry again, since we tried so many different things. That is definitely one of my favorite things about cruising, is trying many different things, without worrying too much about not liking them (while still not being wasteful). The Caesar Salad and French Onion Soup were available every day, and it’s quite possible that they made an appearance at our table each night. (text continues below photos) It seems that our main course choices were much simpler, as we only ordered the Prime Rib of Beef au Jus, and a Grilled Salmon with Ginger-Cilantro Pesto. Both of these items were very good, and the Prime Rib was a decent cut which came out the way we ordered it. Day one dinner was definitely a great start to the journey… and we had not yet even had our dessert. I never eat dessert in real life, but when I am on a cruise, I tend to go ahead and indulge. We ordered Crème Brûlée, Chocolate Mille Feuille, and Cookies and Cream Ice Cream.. along with a pair of Cappuccinos for the Adults. The rest of the evening was spent wandering about some more, and checking out the venues in the ship. The Queen’s Lounge Theatre featured a comedian named Johnny Cardinale. We stopped in for a short time on the upper level of the theatre, and then left to explore some more. After checking out some of the live music onboard, we headed back to the room, checking in with the teens, and turned in for the night after a drink or two. (Continue to Day 2, Pt. 1 – Sea Day)

Holland America MS Amsterdam – Embarkation Day Pt. 3 – May 2015 – San Diego

(Continued from Embarkation Day Pt. 2) … Dessert came, which was a Vanilla Frozen Yogurt and an Earl Grey Pot de Crème. These were both a hit with the teens. They enjoyed their desserts, even though I was rushing them. I promised them that between the buffet, dinners, and the room service, this would definitely not be their last dessert of the three days… Heck, not even their last dessert of the lunch hour if they’d like… It’s vacation. We headed off to the muster drill and arrived at our station with a little time to spare. We were checked in and listened as they told us the siren patterns that should guide us to the station if necessary. Honestly, I have to admit that I have no idea what series of siren or horn blasts indicates what we should be doing, in spite of the fact that I was not looking at and discussing the spa menu like the people next to us.   After muster, DW and I headed on another journey throughout the ship, checking out all the areas while they were quiet and empty. At the same time, the teens headed up to the tennis court and basketball area, as well as to check out “The Loft” which is the teen area onboard the ship. The Loft has several XBOX stations, and a few scheduled events for the teens. As it turns out, both of these adventures for the teens were a no-go. The temperature and wind throughout the trip prohibited them from playing tennis, and the XBOX game that the middle teen (14 y.o boy) attempted to play required an update, which required the Xbox to have Internet… which it did not.   The ships we had sailed previously were much larger than the MS Amsterdam, so it didn’t take nearly as long to explore as we had experienced on other ships. One wonderful side effect of this is that the ship NEVER felt crowded or busy, with the exception of breakfast at the buffet sometimes, and the Mongolian BBQ on the last full day. It was a great opportunity to relax and enjoy some quiet time with the kiddos.   Next on the agenda was sail away on the aft deck. DW and I went and staked out a spot in the middle of the Lido deck where the flag is located at the aft. We ordered a pair of Rum Punch drinks to enjoy during sail away, and sipped those.  Using a Gorillapod, I attached the GoPro securely to the rail, and started a time lapse video of the San Diego harbor as we sailed away.   A Gorillapod (check it out here, they’re awesome!) is a nifty little adjustable tripod that will grip things and hold your camera in position on a rail or a fence, or can be used as a small tripod that can adapt to uneven surfaces. Not to mention it looks like something from War of the Worlds.  Until we arrived …