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Sample Holland America Lines Amsterdam's suite life while enjoying tradition
Jack and Toni White with the contribution of Arturo P. Mazorra. Photos by Jack White (April 24th, 2001)
The Amsterdam personifies Holland America Cruise Line's total image. Tradition and quality are the heart and soul of this new ship. Some cruise lines change architects as new ships are designed.
Royal Caribbean International even retains several architects, each designing a different area of the same ship which does seem to work for them.
In keeping with HAL's adherence to continuity Frans Dingemans, the architect of the Amsterdam, designed the last eight HAL ships. He received guidelines from the company as to budget and tone and then injected his personality and ideas to create a unique function for each venue.
The Amsterdam is a glamorous, imposing counterpart to its' dignified sister ship, Rotterdam.
This liner was delivered by Fincantieri, Italy, last year and is ideally fitted for long cruises.
She is one of the fastest cruise ship, with a maximum speed of 24.5 knots and will sail for the first world cruise next year.
When Micky Arison asked Frans Dingemans what his view was of this ship, he told him that Amsterdam had to be a "mahogany ship".
Style and Great Class
So, rich mahogany is the primary material, along with marble and granite, all combined in impeccable style and great class.
The materials are costly and opulent. Many fabrics, carpets and art works are imported from Holland with most furnishings originating in Italy. Also, Dingemans was responsible for acquiring and placing on board 300 art pieces, with a budget of $2 million.
The Amsterdam is a sister ship of the flagship of the fleet, the Rotterdam delivered in 1997.
There are some differences between them: the aft swimming pool has been raised one deck to accommodate more suites. The number of suites has been increased from 36 on the Rotterdam to 50 on the Amsterdam.
Boarding the ship, we couldn't miss the three-deck atrium's focal point, the elaborate Astrolabe Clock. This huge clock with a carillon in its base displays a world clock, planetary clock and an astrological clock. The ship seems to revolve around the Astrolabe.
A steward showed us to our cabin. It wasn't large but had the luxury of a bathtub with an overhead shower. Two beds could join to become a big bed.
Many staterooms offer balconies with glass balustrades to provide an unobstructed view of sea and scenery. The well-appointed stateroom, decorated in muted tones, had a couch, table, dressing table, TV, hairdryer, and a large window.
The Amsterdam has 690 cabins, 70% outside and 25% with balconies. The deck layout is the same as in all Statendam and Rotterdam class of cruise ships: two decks of suites and balcony cabins in the upper decks of the superstructure, two decks of publics rooms, and all the standard cabins in the lower decks.
We explored the ship starting with the exclusive Navigation Deck. Two penthouses, each occupying 1,126 square feet including a verandah, are located here. This deck also houses 50 luxury suites, each with 563 square feet, including a balcony.
The Neptune Lounge is reserved solely for suite passengers. A concierge for these privileged staterooms handles tour reservations, dining reservations for the alternative dining room, and special requests.
Navigation Deck guests receive priority tender boarding passes, to eliminate waiting when arriving in ports. They also go ashore first when the cruise terminates.
Suite passengers have VIP use of the Neptune Lounge to relax, await tours and disembarking.
Similar to Celebrity Cruises which provides butlers for penthouse passengers, the Neptune Lounge serves gourmet coffees and "noshes" during the day. For star treatment hot and cold appetizers may be ordered to the cabin at no charge.
Other "perks" include , flowers on the first formal evening, and meal service in the stunning King's Room adjacent to the main dining room. Chic high tea will be delivered to the cabin. On a long cruise, the advantage of complimentary laundry and dry cleaning is a consideration. Passengers who feel herded like cattle on large ships should weigh the added cost against these special privileges.
If the budget is willing, a vacation is the time to be spoiled and pampered in the suite life.
The first buffet in the informal Lido restaurant was minimal; sandwiches, pasta, fruit salad, soup, and dessert. However, on longer cruises, we are assured the menu is diversified and outstanding. Royal blue is the predominant décor colour. Tablecloths delight the eye in colourful fruit patterns.
As our cruise began, we sat next to the Lido's huge windows, enjoying ice tea while watching small boats sail and motor by on the inland waterway.
The main dining room, La Fontaine, features an expansive, artistic, stained glass ceiling featuring flowers in shades of green, orange blue and yellow, with full lighting effects, and three side picture windows, with excellent sea views. The diner can expect typical cruise menus prepared in acceptable, if not exciting, fashion.
Holland America employs Indonesian servers, who are attentive to the needs of guests. If a passenger requests ice tea at one meal, it will probably appear at each meal after that.
Occasionally, patience may be needed when interacting with staff who may have limited English language ability.
Passengers will enjoy the alternative dining restaurant, The Odyssey, at either lunch or dinner, with no surcharge. Special, alternative venues on most ships are open only for dinner. Italian food is prepared in a separate galley to service what has been called "the most beautiful restaurant that floats."
Many cruise lines add a charge for alternative dining, but the Odyssey doesn't add an extra fee or tip. The menu includes a succulent veal chop, osso buco, and special pastas. The opulent décor and smooth service add to the overall dining experience.
Other Public Rooms
We admired the library, movie theater, children's facilities, and boutiques. The Crows Nest, at the top of the ship, with its' scenic wraparound view is a favorite gathering place. This space doubles in the night as the disco.
The showroom is predominantly charcoal grey and wine with some patterned banquettes. Light fixtures resemble inverted coolie hats. Around the room, female slave statues balance light fixtures above their heads. Two huge television screens on either side of stage ensure a good view of the show for everyone.
Since the ship holds about 1,380 passengers, the showroom seats about 700. We enjoyed headliner, Joy Behar, the funny lady of the View TV show. Passengers were quoting her lines for the rest of the trip Impressionist, Richard Simon from Sherman Oaks, California, the standard cruise ship revue, a juggler and late show comics rounded out the entertainment on our short cruise.
We hope cruise lines will eventually return to top headline entertainers on more than the occasional theme cruise.
However, cruise industry executives have indicated to us that they don't believe entertainment is a factor in passengers booking a particular cruise. Therefore, we can't expect changes in the near future.
In the past a majority of passengers on Holland America ships seemed to be senior citizens. However, friends who cruised on the Veendam recently, said the passengers appeared to span all age groups.
We met families with college kids and youngsters while traveling on the Westerdam, as well as newlyweds and fifty year weds.
It's evident that HAL has become more friendly with families, one of the market segments with strong growth.
The Amsterdam has a childrenšs play area and an Internet area for web surfers, two facilities that passengers donšt find on the sister ship Rotterdam, the answer to the drop of the average age of passengers.
The pace isn't frenetic, but the Amsterdam offers something to everyone; gambling, lectures, golf, art auctions, bingo, volleyball, a seven-terminal internet cafe, sun-bathing and dancing.
For many years Holland America has employed dance hosts on the longer cruises, but executives are now considering using gentleman hosts on some of the shorter cruises.
Since many solo women cruise, we believe hosts would add an excellent reason for them to choose Holland America ships.
Amsterdam passengers will usually find a dentist on board for emergencies. This is most unusual on cruise ships.
Medical doctors are always available to attend to passengers.
On the technical side, the Amsterdam presented many innovations: she was the first HAL ship to utilise the Azipod propulsion system.
Also, she was the first Italian built ship to use that system. In the case of the Amsterdam a 15.5 MW electric motor
is incorporated inside the propeller pod, that directly drives a fixed-pitch propeller.
She is powered by a diesel electric plant comprising five Sulzer engines with a power of 48,960 KW.
The Amsterdam was cruising Panama last winter. This summer, she will reposition to Europe for Mediterranean and Baltic cruise itineraries.
Later she will spend the fall in New England and Canada and then will resume her Panama Canal duties until her first round the world cruise in January 2002.
For further information: Holland America Lines