TWcrossroads.com managing editor Michael Nassaur and his wife,
Heather, sailed on a 10-day Panama Canal voyage aboard Holland
America's Amsterdam. His report follows:
PUERTO CALDERA, Costa Rica -- A new ship for any cruise line
brings with it high expectations for cutting-edge technology.
But when that ship's line has more than 127 years of sailing
history, there's a certain level of tradition it must live up to,
Holland America's Amsterdam blends both admirably.
The third vessel in HAL's history to carry the Amsterdam
moniker, this ship maintains the feel of a classic ocean liner,
with rich mahogany tones and shiny brass fixtures as far as the eye
The promenade is decked in teak and graced with rows of wooden
lounge chairs -- throwbacks to an earlier time.
But despite these nods to the past, Amsterdam is every bit a
modern cruise ship.
The first of HAL's new builds to feature an Azipod propulsion
system, Amsterdam can cut through the waves at a top speed of 24.5
knots -- more than enough power to reach faraway ports during its
scheduled 99-day world cruise in 2002.
But there are technological enhancements that don't involve
Amsterdam's Internet [email protected] features seven terminals with 24-hour
The fee for going on line is 75 cents per minute, and it's $3.95
for each e-mail sent using the ship's CruisE-mail account ($4.95
for a 15- to 20-second video e-mail). Passengers can avoid the
$3.95 charge by sending messages from Internet-based services like
America Online, Hotmail or Yahoo!
One caveat: The system doesn't allow users to connect to e-mail
servers employing secure socket layers (SSL) with an https://
designation. It automatically adds an http:// to any address
entered in the Web search box.
This could be a problem for a client expecting to access office
e-mail while away, since many companies employ SSL technology for
accessing e-mail from the Internet.
If clients must stay in touch with the office, advise them to
make arrangements to have e-mail forwarded to an Internet-based
An interesting on-board item is a scientific module installed as
part of HAL's participation in an oceanic monitoring program with
the International Seakeepers Society.
The module gathers information about ocean and weather
conditions and transmits the data to the National Oceanic and
The Amsterdam, however, is a bit more comfortable than your
average research vessel. Staterooms range from 182 square feet for
a large inside double to a whopping 1,126 square feet in each of
the ship's two penthouse suites.
We stayed in one of the 50 suites on board, and if not for the
view from the balcony, it would have been easy to think we were in
a luxury hotel on land.
Suites come equipped with a king-size bed, a sitting area with a
leather-upholstered sofa bed, a dressing area, a minibar, a TV and
VCR. The balcony is twice as big as those offered in the minisuites
one deck below.
Another suite feature is the Neptune Lounge, a room set aside
for suite passengers only.
The lounge offers concierge services; a big-screen TV;
magazines, newspapers and books; a well-stocked video library, and
a place to gather for coffee, cappuccino and snacks.
But when it's time for some real eating, the hot spots are the
Lido buffet, the La Fontaine dining room and the Odyssey
The Lido is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as an
To keep lines moving, the Lido is equipped with two service
stations separate from the main line. The stations offer
made-to-order omelettes in the morning. In the afternoon, one
station offers made-to-order deli sandwiches, while the other is
set up for a different selection each day, from an oriental
stir-fry to a curry bar.
A separate ice cream station scoops out frosty treats three
times during the day and evening. Out by the Lido pool at the
Terrace Grill, hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza and a taco bar are
available for those seeking a quick bite.
Dinnertime is when chef Robert Hendrix and his staff really
shine. Menus for the La Fontaine offer five appetizers, three
soups, two salads, five regular entrees, one vegetarian choice, and
if somehow the diner can't find anything appealing, there is always
a selection of two grilled items.
But with selections like broiled grouper steak, baked mahi mahi,
beef tenderloin chateaubriand, loin of lamb and parmesian crusted
turkey, there is little chance of that.
For something a little different, everyone should try the
Odyssey restaurant at least once during the cruise.
Reservations can be made for dinner on any night of the cruise.
The restaurant also is open for lunch during sea days.
Odyssey's three-course dinner offers a wide selection of Italian
specialties, including appetizers such as bruschetta, carpaccio and
calamari. Entree choices include veal scaloppine, grilled veal
chop, chicken rustico, pan-roasted lamb, filet mignon with mushroom
and red wine sauce and osso buco.
The assortment of desserts includes tiramisu, chocolate mousse,
hazelnut custard and a fabulous zabaione.
After all that food, however, some might find it tough to fit
into the formal night's clothes. But there is hope for those trying
to avoid returning home with more than fond memories.
Amsterdam offers a well-appointed gym with treadmills,
stationary bikes, weights and and its own aerobics area -- so no
more step classes by the pool at 6 a.m. For those seeking more
interactive options, there are volleyball and paddle tennis on the
For those seeking a slower pace, Amsterdam offers several
lounges and bars, including the Explorer's Lounge -- a feature on
every ship in the fleet, but each with its own flavor and
Amsterdam's version of this HAL hallmark is done in deep red and
metallic hues. While some might find the decor to be a bit dark,
overall the effect is a reflection of the warmth embodied in many
of the ship's design elements.
Previous Explorer's lounges on HAL ships are known to have one
central piece of art. Amsterdam's is no exception.
The piece here is a massive oil-on-aluminum painting by Peter J.
Sterkenberg titled "Ships in Front of 17th Century Amsterdam." The
painting depicts dozens of tall-masted vessels and evokes Holland's
strong sailing history.
Amsterdam's art gallery is located along the same corridor and
features Chinese artifacts and sculptures from the 15th, 16th and
It's not difficult to imagine some of Sterkenberg's ships
returning from the Far East with similar items.
But when it comes to art, not much on board can compare in sheer
size with the Astrolabe clock. The three-deck centerpiece of
Amsterdam's atrium has four different faces -- an astrolabe, a
world clock, a planetary clock and an astrological clock.
In many ways, the clock is symbolic of the Amsterdam. Both are
firmly planted in modern times, yet their many faces reflect the