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dave.s

Nieuw Amsterdam August 31 Alaska Cruise Notes

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My wife and I sailed on the August 31 Nieuw Amsterdam Alaska cruise, roundtrip from Vancouver with visits to Tracy Arm Inlet/Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, and Ketchikan. I'm not writing a full review, but I wanted to share some notes and impressions from the cruise.

 

This was not our first Alaska cruise. My wife and I took one on Princess in 2002, and I did two previous Alaska cruises in the 90's, one on Celebrity and the other on RCCL. I've been on many cruises but only once on HAL, and that was almost 25 years ago. It was the first time on HAL for my wife.

 

EMBARKATION

 

We took a taxi to Canada Place from our hotel, arriving around 11:00. The taxi waited in a long line in the parking garage to drop us off -- we should have left the taxi outside and walked.

 

Embarkation was very quick and organized, with lots of staff directing people. We were able to board and go to our stateroom immediately after checking in and clearing Customs, so we were in our room before noon. The MDR was open for lunch from 12:00-1:30, so we ate there. Our luggage was delivered to our cabin around 2:00.

 

CABIN

 

We were in an aft-facing verandah cabin, #5191. The cabin was nice, with plenty of storage, a decent size bathroom with a tub/shower and handheld showerhead. Some of the space for hanging items was short, but I discovered you could fold the shelves up to make more space. Our cabin steward Jalu ("Lu") was very good. The balcony had two chairs with separate foot rests and a small table.

 

The TV didn't appear to work correctly at first, but that's because you have to watch the entire safety presentation (just a few minutes) before you can access the menu. There was a limited selection of live TV, but we only watched the news once in a while to keep tabs on Hurricane Dorian (we live in FL).

 

DINING

 

Prior to the cruise, I made reservations in three of the specialty restaurants, Canaletto (first night), Pinnacle Grill (mid week), and Tamarind (last night). Once on board, we decided to try Tamarind on the second night. We had our other dinners and lunches in the MDR. Pinnacle and Tamarind were very good (Tamarind was better the first time), Canaletto was good but not great, and the MDR was pretty good. On Gala Nights people were not as dressed up as I've seen on other cruises.

 

We had breakfast delivered to room each morning (including the last morning, which most cruise lines don't do). There's a limited selection of hot and cold items. A couple of mornings the order wasn't quite right, and a couple of times breakfast came either early or late, but overall it was fine. As with every other cruise line I've been on, there's an order tag you can hang outside your door before you go to bed.

 

ENTERTAINMENT

 

By far the best entertainment was the band at B.B. King's Blues Club, and we enjoyed that almost every night. We sat at the bar and got to know the bartenders (Jeffrey, Alan, and Luis).

 

One night we listened to the dual piano players. They were good, and drew big crowds, but they didn't really play off each other like we've seen at other dueling piano shows. We were planning to listen to them a second time, but there were no seats available so went to B.B. King's instead.

 

The only Mainstage shows we saw were the illusionist Leon Etienne and comedian Lamont Ferguson (two different shows). They were both good (the illusionist was better). My wife "volunteered" at Leon's show. They did a combined show the last night but we didn't go. Unlike some other ships we've been on, you didn't really have to get to the theater too early -- there were plenty of open seats up front even when the shows started. Bar service in the theater was more limited than what we've experienced elsewhere, and non-existent once the show started.

 

The Orange Party was held at B.B. King's one night. Most people did not wear orange. The only differences between that night and other nights at the club were that the cruise director and some other crew members were dancing, the bartenders were wearing orange hats, and they were serving snacks.

 

INTERNET AND WIFI

 

I purchased the Premium Internet package before the cruise, which you can use on multiple devices but only one at a time. The service was pretty slow and unreliable, definitely not worth the money.

 

I also signed up for AT&T's  30-day Cruise Plan, which gave me 50 minutes of voice and unlimited text on the ship's cellular (no data). They have a more expensive plan that provides some data and unlimited voice. One of the reasons I did this is because we spent a few days in Vancouver before the cruise, and I could use the Cruise Plan there (Canada is not included in my home wireless area).

 

The HAL Navigator mobile app was useful. You don't need to buy an internet plan to connect to the ship's WiFi, and you can view the schedule of events, restaurant menus. and make dinner reservations (for specialty restaurants). You can also send messages other people who have the app (I didn't try that). If you do buy an internet plan, you can use the app to connect.

 

I use NordVPN whenever I'm on a public WiFi network, and I limited success getting it to work with the ship's internet. The Navigator app doesn't work correctly when you're connected to a VPN.

 

SHORE EXCURSIONS AND PORTS

 

The only shore excursion I purchased from HAL (before the cruise) was the Tracy Arm Inlet tour. The ship passes through Tracy Arm Inlet on the way to Juneau, so you board the tour boat directly from the ship in the morning, and then board the ship directly from the tour boat that afternoon in Juneau. Overall we enjoyed the tour and are glad we did it, though it was expensive. We were supposed to meet at 8:15 in the theater and leave at 8:30 -- we didn't actually start leaving the ship until 9:15 (we could have used the extra sleep :-).

 

We did two other excursions with local operations in Skagway and Juneau.

 

Skagway and Juneau have become incredibly touristy since our last visit, with many blocks of nothing but jewelry stores and other typical tourist traps. Ketchikan had a bit more character, and the tourism was more integrated and not as in your face as the other ports.

 

Glacier Bay was awesome. We spent quite a bit of time there, and they brought a naturalist on board to narrate.

 

DISEMBARKATION

 

We chose one of the early disembarkation groups (but not self-disembarkation) that was supposed to disembark around 8:30. Our flight from Vancouver was at around 12:30. We heard our group called a few minutes after 8:00, but we weren't quite ready to leave. When we arrived at the disembarkation point on the ship at around 8:20, we were told we were mistaken, and our group hadn't been called yet (other passengers verified that they also heard our group being called).

 

Once they called our group (again), we got off the ship, claimed our bags, and cleared customs pretty quickly. There was no wait for taxi, and the ride to the airport was uneventful. The lines at the airport were short, and we were at our gate an hour or less after we disembarked.

 

There was only one other ship disembarking, the Golden Princess, so that's probably why it went quickly.

 

CONCLUSION

 

We were happy overall with HAL and the cruise, and we definitely try HAL again. We did both get sick (colds or flu) a few days into the cruise, but this didn't appear to be a widespread problem, and we were still able to enjoy our trip.

 

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We were on this cruise also and dave.s's experience is very similar to ours.

 

Tracy Arm boat tour was great, and we also did the train ride to Bennett Lake in Skagway (Bennett Lake was beautiful!)

 

Glacier Bay was great also, but Margerie Glacier felt a bit anticlimactic after seeing South Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm. I thought Sawyer Glacier was prettier.

DSC_2707.thumb.JPG.42a2bd8190b21de0d9f09e24da4027f4.JPG

South Sawyer Glacier

 

DSC_3090.thumb.JPG.026d08a7587bfc119b2c1ade527bd71f.JPG

Margerie Glacier

 

For me, the best entertainment was Lincoln Center Stage, but I enjoyed Leon Etienne's show as well.

 

I also got sick (cold) toward the end of the cruise and missed Ketchikan.

 

This was our second HAL cruise, and there was one unwelcome change that I noticed. I'm pretty sure that the special in-room breakfast items (smoked salmon benedict, steak and eggs, etc.) were free for suite passengers on our last cruise in 2018, but they were not free this time. At first, I thought we got the non-suite menu by mistake, but the menu said SIG/NEP/PIN/CLUB O, so it was the correct menu. So it looks like the only free item suite passengers get now is just mimosa (which we don't drink).

DSC_3005.thumb.JPG.769ac978c301bfa1b714fd5fa9450fe3.JPG

Definitely not a big deal, but slightly annoying. Oh, and we had our breakfast in Pinnacle Grill when we didn't do room service. It was wonderful!

 

Overall, we had a GREAT time and can't wait for our next cruises, Pacific Coastal on Koningsdam in 2020 and another Alaska cruise on Oosterdam in 2021.

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OP

 

Thank you for taking the time to write your review.  Glad you enjoyed your Alaskan cruise.  I agree with you -- too many jewelry shops in the ports compared to years ago.

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11 hours ago, crunchii said:

We were on this cruise also and dave.s's experience is very similar to ours.

 

Tracy Arm boat tour was great, and we also did the train ride to Bennett Lake in Skagway (Bennett Lake was beautiful!)

 

Glacier Bay was great also, but Margerie Glacier felt a bit anticlimactic after seeing South Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm. I thought Sawyer Glacier was prettier.

DSC_2707.thumb.JPG.42a2bd8190b21de0d9f09e24da4027f4.JPG

South Sawyer Glacier

 

DSC_3090.thumb.JPG.026d08a7587bfc119b2c1ade527bd71f.JPG

Margerie Glacier

 

For me, the best entertainment was Lincoln Center Stage, but I enjoyed Leon Etienne's show as well.

 

I also got sick (cold) toward the end of the cruise and missed Ketchikan.

 

This was our second HAL cruise, and there was one unwelcome change that I noticed. I'm pretty sure that the special in-room breakfast items (smoked salmon benedict, steak and eggs, etc.) were free for suite passengers on our last cruise in 2018, but they were not free this time. At first, I thought we got the non-suite menu by mistake, but the menu said SIG/NEP/PIN/CLUB O, so it was the correct menu. So it looks like the only free item suite passengers get now is just mimosa (which we don't drink).

DSC_3005.thumb.JPG.769ac978c301bfa1b714fd5fa9450fe3.JPG

Definitely not a big deal, but slightly annoying. Oh, and we had our breakfast in Pinnacle Grill when we didn't do room service. It was wonderful!

 

Overall, we had a GREAT time and can't wait for our next cruises, Pacific Coastal on Koningsdam in 2020 and another Alaska cruise on Oosterdam in 2021.

 

How odd. We were on Oosterdam the Sept. 1 sailing to Alaska in a Neptune suite and there was no surcharge for those room service breakfast items...

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