Holland America MS Amsterdam – Disembarkation Day Pt. 2 – May 2015 – Vancouver

(Continued from Holland America Disembarkation Day, Pt. 1) … We docked up against the Canada Place dock.  Our spot was directly behind the MS Noordam. The previous night, we had filled out our Canadian customs forms, to simplify the process.  We propped our balcony door open and were watching the proceedings on the dock from our room. I was lying on the couch near the door, and relaxing.  The steward or someone else came to check the minibar (which we had emptied ourselves and subsequently re-filled prior to arrival.) We had also kept all of our bags under our own control for easier disembarkation.  We chose to self-disembark, so that would could leave at our leisure. Shortly after the ship arrived, we apparently were cleared by Canadian customs, and we left the ship.  With customs forms in hand, we queued up and walked through Canada Place.  At some point through the journey, we handed the customs forms to an agent, and that was the extent of our customs experience. Years prior, I had been to Vancouver for work, and my customs experiences were consistently MUCH different than it was this time.  We followed the path to leave the building, and were soon out in the sunny Vancouver weather.  After three days of nearly zero sun, the sun was a welcome addition to my day.  (the later days in Vancouver had no sunshine, so this was our only sunshine of our entire vacation)… This was the end of the ship portion of our trip.  Being our first Holland America ship, we learned a lot about the differences between Holland America and the other cruise lines we had been on.  In general, it was a great experience.  I would have hoped for better weather, but OBVIOUSLY that has nothing to do with the cruise line.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below.  Thanks for following along on our short adventure. FIN   Get our cruise posts to your inbox monthly! * indicates required Email Address *

Holland America MS Amsterdam – Disembarkation Day Pt. 1 – May 2015 – Vancouver

(Continued from Holland America msAmsterdam Day 3, Pt. 5) … For some unknown reason, I decided it would be a good idea to wake in the middle of the night.  When I did, I saw that we were cruising between islands and were probably just north of the Seattle area, so I hung out by myself on the balcony for a little while.  I also noticed at this time that we had at least a marginal cell phone signal from a US source, for the first time since leaving San Diego, so I checked my email (omg, that’s a lot of email).  I think that I probably went back to bed for a while, as it was still dark out, and I knew that I would need the sleep. It wasn’t much longer that we woke and started to watch off the balcony together at the Vancouver area coming into focus.  The previous night, we were told that we would be cruising under the Lion’s Gate Bridge into Vancouver.  We went to grab some food from the Lido Buffet, and then headed up to the upper decks to watch us go under the bridge and arrive into Vancouver. This was my first experience sailing under a bridge on a cruise ship.  It was pretty cool to see, as sometimes you do not realize how tall these bridges are.  The stacks cleared the bridge with a bunch of room to spare, but I imagine a taller ship would maybe have to time it with the tide to ensure clearance. As we got closer to “Canada Place”, where we were set to dock, we noticed that we were the last of three ships to dock there that day.  The Holland America msNoordam and the Star Princess were already docked and waiting for us to join them.   … (Continue to Disembarkation Day, Pt. 2 )   Get our cruise posts to your inbox monthly! * indicates required Email Address *

Holland America MS Amsterdam – Day 3 Pt. 5 – May 2015 – Sea Day

(Continued from Day 3, Pt. 4) … After the last dinner, it is always that sad time where you have to come to grips with the fact that this part of the journey is ending.  It is also time for that little bit of real life to start peeking its ugly head into your trip.  This “ugly head” took the form of doing laundry and packing clothes.  While we were waiting for the laundry loads to finish, the youngest of the teens and I took a journey to the Lido deck to swim and/or hit the hot tubs.  Because we were in the open ocean, the pool looked like a tiny wave pool, with waves breaking on both ends.  It looked like something that would be fun to try, until we came to the realization that the water was pretty icy.  Because of this, we opted to just hang out in the hot tub for a little while.  The youngling decided to take a dip in the pool.  He quickly decided that it was an ill-informed decision, and got back into the hot tub.  In the pool area and the aft deck pool area, there were plaid blankets for passenger use, so they could sit outside in the cooler weather and watch the world go by.  I thought this was a nice touch.  I have heard that they serve hot soup on the outside decks when you are doing the Alaska cruises, but I have no first hand knowledge of this. This final night between laundry, packing and swimming, we decided to order some room service and just hang out in the room and enjoy our evening.  We made a few adult beverages and watched the day end.  We flipped through the channels on the television and ended up watching the end of one of the movies that had been playing all day.  Not a very eventful evening, but relaxing nonetheless.  The room service steak sandwich was quite good, and we also ordered up a French Onion Soup and and order of cookies for the teens. Shortly after this, we decided to wrap it up for the evening and sent the teens back to their cabin for the night, telling them that they needed to get their things packed and ready for easy departure the next morning.   … (Continue to Disembarkation Day, Pt. 1)   Get our cruise posts to your inbox monthly! * indicates required Email Address *

Holland America MS Amsterdam – Day 3 Pt. 4 – May 2015 – Sea Day

(Continued from Day 3, Pt. 3) … Before getting ready for dinner, we explored a little more and snapped photos and videos of the ship for future use.  Video is a new thing for us, so it was a learning process for sure.  I learned a lot about what NOT to do, and got a few OK shots.  I am still trying to pull together what I got to post later… One of the first things I learned was that my GoPro camera is great for outdoors in the sun, and great for action shots… but not so great for cloudy, indoors, and “ship tour” type videos.  Oh well, live and learn. Before dinner, we also gathered our laundry such that we could complete it in the evening after dinner.  As mentioned before, it is much easier to walk down the hall than it is to trek across town to do laundry.   OK, OK .. enough about real-life junk like laundry.  Let’s talk about dinner on the seas.  We gathered the family and headed down to dinner in the Main Dining Room.  This was to be our last dinner on the ship before disembarkation the next day. For starters, we decided on Shrimp Cocktail and the Goat Cheesecake with Red Onion Jam.  Both were quite tasty, and a nice start to the final dinner.  The adults are fans of goat cheese, so it was nice to be able to try a savory cheesecake made from goat cheese.  The shrimp cocktail was very good as well.  The teens love anything shrimp-related, so it was a hit with them. Naturally, our main courses were next, and we had chosen the Szechaun Chicken, Rustic Home-Made Lasagna , and the Boston Lager Strip Loin Steak.  Honestly, although it wasn’t “Bad” per se, the Boston Lager Strip Loin was nothing notable.  It was a little tough, and the flavor was less than magical… Now, that being said… the bar HAD been set pretty high at this point.  Overall, I would say that the meal on this last night was not up to the standards that had been set thus far, but was still at least decent.  None of the three meals this last evening were a problem, nor “Bad”… After finishing up our mains, our desserts were ordered.  We had chosen the Vanilla Napoleon, Chocolate Tres Leches Cake, and a Cheese Plate.  We actually ordered the cheese plate each night, but did not get photos of it for some reason.  What a great way to try different cheeses with committing too much to the process.  With dinner completed… it was laundry time (after a relaxing drink or two after dinner.) … (Continue to Day 3, Pt. 5) Get our cruise posts to your inbox monthly! * indicates required Email Address *    

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

(Continued from Day 3, Pt. 2) …  After the Mongolian Barbeque, we set off to go get a few photos of the “Wajang Theater”  This is where they show movies several times a day, as well as carrying on culinary demonstrations.  The movie screen drops down in front of the cooking demo area (which is quite a nice cooking demo area).  During our cruise, they showed “Taken 3”, “Macfarland, USA” , and “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb”.  These movies would also play the next day on repeat on your television in your room.  It turned out that this was a good way to wind down at night sometimes.  We had hoped to go to the movies in the theater, but never ended up making it.  We were probably too busy foraging for our next snack or meal.   Before our cruise, since we were traveling with teenagers, we had looked for information about this theater, but had found nothing.  We had also hoped to find at least some sort of idea of what movies were playing in there.  We were unable to find such info, so hopefully someone can find this, and know what types of films were playing there, as well as what the venue looks like. Another nice thing that was available was the ability to “rent” a movie on DVD for your cabin, which had a DVD player already connected to your television.  You could either go to the front desk to borrow the film, or you could call up the front desk and have it delivered.  The teens ordered a few “rentals” to watch, and went to the front desk to check them out.  This turned out to be a nice thing to have, since the activity options for them were limited to some extent.  There was a pretty decent selection of DVDs available, and a book in the cabin that had the movies listed. Not as much because we were hungry (we weren’t… surprisingly)… but we had looked forward to tea time while onboard.  So, we went down to the main dining room to go to tea time.  We got there near the end, and got a table where we could sit and sip tea while eating tiny snack cakes and sandwiches.  There was a nice variety of mostly cakes and such.  I had two little sandwiches, and the kids leaned more toward the cakes (surprise!). Along with the snacks, as one may expect, they had a good selection of teas to choose from.  We sat and chatted and had a few little snacks… generally having a pleasant time together. After leaving tea time, I imagine we wandered around just waiting for our next meal… or at least that’s probably what it seems like while reading this review.  (Note to self:  since this review thing is something I plan on doing again… I maybe should take notes of what I do during the day) 🙂  . … (Continue to Day 3, Pt. 4)  

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

(Continued from Day 3, Pt. 1) …  After our trip to the front desk for quarters, we made our daily pilgrimage to the entrance of the Main Dining Room, to gaze upon the holy relic known as the “Daily Menu”… I will save the dinner menu for the dinner post, but here’s the lunch menu….   But…. and that’s a big but…. in spite of the glorious offerings that were on the menu, we found out that they were setting up a Mongolian BBQ in the Lido Pool area.  If you’ve never had a Mongolian-Style BBQ, it goes a little like this…. You select raw meats and seafoods (if you wish), as well as veggies, rice, and noodles… Then you take it to someone who will cook it for you right then and there, while you wait.  Guaranteed fresh and hot, as well as entertaining.  The oldest of the teens decided to join me on my Mongolian adventure, while the other two went with my wife to the Lido Buffet.  We queued up for the Mongolian BBQ, and shortly thereafter learned that there were two lines, one starting fore, and one aft… We moved from the aft line to the fore line.  The line was still rather long and honestly, poorly managed… but the promised land lay just ahead.  After arriving at the raw food station, we piled our bowls high with fresh ingredients… which we now carried to another line… the cooking station line. The lovely young lady cooked my goodies perfectly, and seasoned them as I wished (sweet and very spicy).  There was a decent variety of sauces available for the dish, some of which would be exotic to someone who had never set foot in an Asian market (i.e. fish sauce, and sambal oelek).  After being cooked up, my meal looked like this: I had chosen clams, squid, mussels, shrimp, beef, and lots of yummy veggies.  This was stir-fried for me and although the wait (which I have to say was the ONLY line I stood in for the entire 3 days – another difference from other ships we have been on) was quite long, it was WELL worth it.  I would do it again, without a doubt.  I would likely show earlier and get a better spot, but other than that… I would not change a thing. … (Continue to Day 3, Pt. 3)

Holland America MS Amsterdam – Day 3 Pt. 1 – May 2015 – Sea Day

(Continued from Day 2, Pt. 6) … Good morning, Sunshine!  It’s day 3.  We awoke once again at the crack of “whenever”, and greeted the room service delivery (once again, just in time).  The pre-ordered breakfast was similar to the previous day, and was mostly all about the coffee and juice to start the day.  We let the teens know that this morning, they could do as they please for breakfast, but we were planning a trip to the Lido Buffet.  After getting ourselves past the coffee-less zombie stage of our day, we headed up to the buffet (conveniently two flights of stairs away), and chose our breakfast.  As is often the case, I chose Eggs Benedict… not much of a surprise there… It’s my vacation go-to brekkie.  One thing that we found pretty impressive is that all of the tables in the Lido Buffet had REAL orchids on them.  My wife commented that we are unable to keep even ONE alive, much less a ship-load of them. After consuming the Eggs Benedict, I decided that the perfect accompaniment to those eggs would be more eggs…. So, I returned to the buffet line and ordered another Eggs Benedict plate.  Nothing says “Good Morning” like coffee and Eggs Benedict.  Shortly after finishing our breakfast, we ran into the teens as they lumbered up to the Lido Buffet as well.  We wandered toward the front of the ship to get a few photos of the main theatre, The Queen’s Lounge, while there was no one in there.  Again, since it is a smaller ship than we are used to, it was funny for us to see how small it was in comparison.  Nevertheless, it is a very nice theatre, with great seating, and nice bright colors. Because our vacation was going to last beyond the disembarkation, we chose to do a few loads of laundry while still on the ship, as we figured it would be easier than finding a laundrette somewhere in Vancouver, especially since we hadn’t rented a car for our trip.  Lugging dirty clothes down the hallway was a much easier proposition than doing so in a big town.  Because of this, we cruised up the the front desk to request quarters for later that evening, since we were already out and about.  … (Continue to Day 3, Pt. 2)

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)