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esmo

Nieuw Amsterdam RT Vancouver Review

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The thing about this cruise – don’t go to a charity auction, don’t drink that last glass of cheap chardonnay and don’t sit in the front. Do that and you will end up on an Alaska cruise that is no bargain!  Well, that is exactly what I did and that’s how we found ourselves on the Nieuw Amsterdam August 17-23 round trip cruise from Vancouver. Our long-suffering and exemplary TA helped me book our cabin, 8125 – Navigator Deck, aft (ish) category VE. (More about the cabin later) and as a side note because this was a “gift certificate” booking she did not get her usual commission. Cheap shot Holland America. After much back and forth we decided to fly into Vancouver from Portland a day in advance and stay at the cruise hotel with HA transfers from airport to hotel and hotel to cruise terminal. We were booked into the Westin Four Seasons for the night of the 16th.

Normally speaking I am an extremely organized person, famous for my spreadsheets and lists, but everything about this cruise was abnormal for us. Our son visited just prior to our cruise and took over my packing room until just two days prior to our departure, which really threw me for a loop. I usually start packing a week or so in advance with a detailed list, but not this time. That’s why I plead not guilty (or insanity) for the number of suitcases we took.  So, here’s the summary.

 

Holland America – Nieuw Amsterdam

RT from Vancouver

Stateroom Category VE – Deck 8

Precruise stay -JW Mariott (was supposed to be the Four Seasons)

Cruiseline transfers

Tracy Arm Excursion through HA

Skagway – Dyea Dave – independent booking

Ketchikan – no plans.

 

Oh - about us - Kim and Kathy ages 72 and 63 (I was the trophy bride - ha!). We have 7 cruises under our belts and this would be our third to Alaska. We mostly cruise Princess but this will be our second on Holland America.

 

Departure/Vancouver BC

We left the house by 8:00 a.m. to drive to our son’s where we would park the car and he would take us to the airport in plenty of time for our 11:30 flight on Horizon/Alaska. Obviously I have too many bags, what was I thinking! We were unable to check-in for the flight the night before so up to the ticket counter we rolled with all our bags. They checked us out and in and yeah! all the bags made the weight limit. For the first time ever we had a drug sniffing dog at security so two by two we marched to pass it, but the line moved swiftly and before long  I was debating the “hey, we’re on vacation” Bloody Mary but opted to be a good girl and have a mocha instead. We finally meandered down to the Horizon gates in the A terminal and before long we were boarding, where once again they checked our passports, apparently there have been incidents of passport/id switching after security, so things were tight. This is when I got my first glimpse of the Horizon Air prop jet. Holy Mary, Mother of God I should have had a Bloody Mary and left the rosary in my purse! Thank God it was a short flight. The line for Immigration in Vancouver was like a line at Disneyland and of course we had a problem with the kiosk, but a very nice young man took pity on the old people and helped us through. We retrieved our bags and joined another queue to exit. Finally, we found the cruise counter where after some consultation they decided to put us in a cab and send us to the JW Marriott, but I’d planned it all for the Westin restaurant for dinner and a nearby grocery store for snacks and wine. Oh well, go with the flow. Another nice young woman took us in hand and we joined yet another line to get a taxi. We chatted with a couple from Wisconsin who were taking their first cruise on the Royal Princess (you do meet the nicest people cruising)  and then finally it was our turn for a cab. Taxi drivers have me stomping on the backseat brakes but we make it in very little time and in one piece, always a good thing. Our first impression of the Marriott is very nice staff who were extremely helpful. We have yet to meet a cranky person, maybe it has to do with being Canadian? I of course noticed the bar off the lobby, surely it is 5:00 somewhere. We dropped our bags in the room and I am fading, the chocolate scone from PDX has long worn off. So down to the bar for a charcuterie plate and wine. Rejuvenated we head off to find Urban Fare (very much like New Seasons at home). We walk about 4 blocks and there it is, we were able to find waters and Gatorades but no wine. Another helpful person pointed us in the direction of a liquor store which was luckily on the way back to the hotel and we were able to get our two bottles for the cabin. We trek back with our bags and up to the room, which by the by was very luxe (at least by our standards- we could have hosted a party in the shower). I take a short unintended nap and them because Kim wants to see the 6th floor outdoor garden area we head up there. It is very pretty and makes me think about changing the landscaping in our yard, Kim is not amused and tries to distract me with wine. The weather has been overcast and somewhat threatening but warmish and we have a nice view of the stadium/arena and some of the skyline. A glass of wine and I am fading again and all plans for an anniversary dinner out fall by the wayside. We opt for Salt and Honey downstairs for a burger, which was really good. Then back up to the room where I manage dig through the bags for clothes for morning and I fade out for the final time. Tomorrow we’re off for Alaska!

 

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Great start. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of your review.

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Vancouver Embarkation and Sailaway

 

We were up early, it wasn’t a particularly good night for either of us, pre-cruise jitters most likely. We headed downstairs for breakfast and then met with the Holland America rep. Once again another very friendly person. We have both been struck by how nice people are here. Is it a Canadian thing? We gathered up our 4 bags (what did I pack?!) plus the shopping bag with our wine, water etc. this bag proved to be a PITA. Checkout was seamless and down we went to the parking garage. There was a bit of a wait and finally in another cab for the blessedly short ride to the terminal. Why do we always get the Mario Andretti wanna- bes! We dropped off our bags with the very pleasant and helpful teamster and off we went to wend our way through the terminal. I noted the time as 11:15 as we joined the once again Disneyland like queue for check-in. The line moved right along and soon we had our room cards and off to security, with a brief stop to adjust the PITA shopping bag of water and wine, why did I think that was a good idea? Another line for security but it moved along at a good pace. We got diverted to avoid the kiosks for immigration which was good, those machines really don’t like me. A brief Stop at the alcohol table where we got our two bottles free and paid the $18 corkage on the 3rd. We barely got seated and boarding began at 12:30, so a little over an hour from drop off to board. An announcement was made that cabins would not be ready until 12:45 so we wheeled our carry-ons and the PITA bag up to the Lido and miraculously found a table by the Dive In just as it opened and a waiter took our order, a Beer for Kim and Hello Vacation! a Gin & Tonic for me. As promised cabins were ready at 12:45 so we soon head down one deck to 8.

 

This cabin would prove a mixed blessing. It was convenient to the Lido for morning coffee and the Lido bar and was in a fairly stable location. However, it was also directly under a crew area for the Lido so could be a bit noisy in the wee hours of the night. We adjusted after the first night and it didn’t prove to be a significant problem for us. I do have to say the cabin seemed small and a bit tight. We spent the week sidestepping each other to get past the end of the bed and to the closets and bathroom. It had small balcony but completely covered with room for two chairs and small table.

 

I unpacked our carry-ons and we decided to get something to eat. We didn’t want much, as we had early dining at 5:30 so opted for a hot dog from the Dive-in. When we checked back two more bags had shown up (what did I pack?!). Tee our steward stopped by to introduce himself. He seemed very nice but we did have a difficult time understanding him. We let him know other than ice twice a day and not to bother with towel animals we should be easy to manage. I unpacked and stowed the two bags and the last and biggest showed up. We managed to get everything stowed, with some double and triple hanging and by that time it was close to the time for the muster drill so we just hung out and watched the loading, which is always fascinating to us. Muster went smoothly and by 4:30 we were back in the cabin and decided the sun was far enough over the yardarm it was time have a glass of wine and enjoy the lovely sail away. In short order it was time to change for dinner, we didn’t make too much of an effort but did change from jeans and I added some jewelry and called it good.. As I said, we had 5:30 traditional to better handle Kim’s food allergies We were assigned Table 313 for two on the upper level of the dining room. Our waiter was Mandee and assistant waiter Andi. They were already aware of Kim’s allergies which was an improvement over our Westerdam cruise where we were left to fend for ourselves. The assistant matrie’d, Mario also stopped by to check. This team along, with our wine steward Evelyn, were the absolute stars of the cruise for us. I ordered the prosciutto starter and Kim had the french onion soup, I had the short rib stroganoff and Kim the turkey scallopine with root vegetables, both were very good and the service was excellent. Dessert was the creme brûlée for me and butterscotch sundae for Kim. Note-if you are looking for food porn pictures or detailed descriptions of what we ate, this isn’t a review for you. The food was good but with few exceptions not memorable. No complaints, after all I didn’t have to prepare it and Kim didn’t have to do the dishes.

 

We decided to have an after dinner drink in the Crows Nest, it was very quiet up there at that time so we were able to find a couple of chairs by the front windows. The sun had broken through the clouds so it was a very pleasant way to end the evening. By that time the last two days had caught up with us and we were early to bed.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Sea Day-Gala Night

 

Sunday was a sea day as we headed North through the Inside Passage. It was a trifle bouncy, not bad but I didn't really have my sea legs yet so while not exactly queasy I wasn't at 100%. We wandered the ship, which is lovely and seemed to be in good condition. We did attend the Exe lecture on the Iditarod which was a combination of narration/commentary by a Exe cruise staff person and a video tape interview with a musher. Well done and very interesting. There didn't seem to be much of interest to us in the What and When, which was the pattern for the week. It seemed to me to be dominated by "jewelry events" and spa demonstrations, not our deal at all. Kim did find a HA shirt in to buy and we lazed about. It was a Gala night so we donned our duds, headed to the Ocean Bar for a pre-dinner drink and then to dinner. A word on Gala night, if there was a dress code it wasn't enforced, at least at the early seating. I did not see any tuxes, and Kim was one of the few men in a jacket and tie. I even saw some jeans/sneakers/non-collared shirts. FWIW - doesn't bother us, my work is business casual with the emphasis on casual and Kim is retired to we like the chance to spiff up a bit. Dinner was good, Kim had the stuffed shells and I had the mushroom risotto. Madee, Andi and Mario gave us excellent service and we enjoyed our meal. Another early night as tomorrow would bring our Tracy Arm Excursion. Something we were looking forward to with great anticipation.

Edited by esmo

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Tracy Arm/Juneau

 

As is typical we were up very early and headed up to the Lido for breakfast shortly after 7.I had long wanted to do the Tracy Arm Excursion, but for one reason or another it never happened. I was determined to experience it this time.  Our meeting time for the was 8:15 but I wanted to be early to try and secure a good seat on the boat. NOTE: if you want to be first on, sit on the far starboard side of the theater near the lower exit. Though we arrived by 7:45 and the meeting time was 8:15, actual boarding was not until 9:00. This was an Allen Marine tour so we were somewhat familiar with the cabin style and were able to secure a spot next to the window on the port side. There was seating in the main cabin, some on the upper deck, thought I think that was a cold proposition and room to stand up there. It was windy and cold but we had clear skies. Almost off the bat Captain Dan spotted a pod of Orcas, which we watched for a time. Megan the naturalist explained the difference between a resident and transient pod, which was quite interesting. We also saw a black bear along the way. The scenery was breathtaking, very reminiscent of our trip up Misty Fjords out of Ketchikan. After about 2 1/2 hours we arrived at North Sawyer glacier. Spectacular does not even begin to describe the experience. While not as large as Marjorie Glacier in Glacier Bay, it was awe inspiring. The colors were amazing. We also saw beautiful ice floes. On the way back we saw a gray whale, which is rare. Meagan speculated it was a young whale that had wandered into the fjord. We arrived back at the ship in Juneau at a little before 4:00 which made for a long day. Following our usual pattern we went to happy hour in the Ocean Bar and then to dinner at 5:30. It was open seating on the lower level only. I can’t remember what either of us had, which says like most of our meals so far it wasn’t memorable. Another early night as we were both tired from a long day and we had another early morning in Skagway.

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Skagway - Klondike Highway/Emerald Lake Tour

 

I had researched several excursions for Skagway but nothing really appealed until I remembered reading about Dyea Dave on Cruise Critic. I emailed them and received a friendly reply and we were booked for the Emerald Lake tour, meet on the dock at 7:45 am. As is the usual case with us were were up very early, just as the NA was tying up to the dock. And moored at the main dock what should be there but the Golden Princess, our first ship and the reason we had caught the cruising bug. Breakfast in the Lido again and then we gathered our things in my trusty backpack and we were off to the dock. Found the Dyea Dave tour bus and who was the driver but none other than Dyea Dave himself! We were in for a treat. He is a real original and we had a great day. I am glad we sat behind him as we were able to really hear all he had to say, which he don’t think was the case for those farther back. He wasn’t very good about using the sound system, tending to remember to key the mike halfway through whatever he had to say. I loved being on a smaller tour as he pulled over whenever it struck a fancy for pictures. No real wildlife spotted, other than some mountain goats up high but a lot of history. Dave recommended a small restaurant in Carcross for lunch. Very good homemade soup and Snickerdoodle cookie. We wandered around Carcross, walked down to Bennett Lake and then to a new little market center developed by the local tribes. I bought some earrings and by that time it was time to take off again. Stopped at Carcross Desert which was an unexpected sight and then on to Emerald Lake, quite lovely. Then it was time to head back to meet the train in Fraser as six of the 12 on the bus had tickets to return to Skagway by train. Dave dropped us by request in Skagway and we walked to the only grocery store in town to get Kim some Gatorade and then back to the ship. I called Mom and sent some texts but resolutely did not check the news. We had just enough time to do a fast change for dinner and hit the last of happy hour in the Ocean Bar. We stopped by to see our embarkation photos, which again typically good of Kim and me looking like the before shot in a make-over show. Somehow we got talked into the photo package and a sitting at 5:00 tonight where they promised a good picture of me. We’ll see. Dinner was Salmon for me and the Spice roasted chicken for Kim. I think maybe cheesecake for both of us for dessert but don’t hold me to that. The food has been OK but definitely not memorable. Another early night.

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Skagway Harbor

 

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