The Ship: The Amsterdam is the newest Holland America Lines (HAL) ship and is the twin sister to the Rotterdam V. This was her 12th voyage. Everything was new and bright. We selected a cabin with a private balcony located on the Verandah Deck (deck 6) and it was one deck down to the main dining room and the show lounge and two up to the buffet room (the Lido restaurant) and outdoors pool. Our favorite bar was the Crow's Nest with its hot hors d'oeures and panorama view looking out over the bow of the ship. One evening, we select the alternative dining room of La Fontaine with its Italian cuisine it was nice and quiet with good service. As usual the cabin steward did a fine job as he was rarely seen and always kept the cabin clean with fresh towels and plenty of ice. The dining room personnel were, also, very attentive. The lounge shows were OK as we had seen better on other HAL cruises.
The Ports: Fort Lauderdale HAL flew us on Delta a day early as we live on the west coast. The flight was from Los Angeles to Miami and then to Fort Lauderdale. Takeoff from Miami was delayed due to mechanical problems; we thought that we would have to spend the night in Miami but they were able to resolve the problem in a couple of hours. The HAL hotel was nice but dinner the first evening as on us; however, the hotel provided a full breakfast the following morning. We had previously learned that passengers were offered a non-complementary airboat ride in the Everglades, in the morning, before the ship would sail. The hotel-located HAL rep wasn't interest in arranging this ride. Thank heavens that the hotel staff was more interested in customer service and arranged the interesting ride. The airboat bus dropped us off that the ship and our luggage was waiting for us in our cabin. The boarding of the ship was very slow and HAL did not have its express check-in service for its repeat passengers.
Half Moon Cay, Bahamas This is HAL's private island and we selected the nature walk that was mildly interesting and ocean kayaking. The two-person Caribbean kayaks are flat and totally different than the Alaska ones. The beaches were nice and it was nice to see a Caribbean island without a McDonald's sign. Travel to and from the ship was by boat.
U.S. Virgin Islands We docked at St. Thomas and took a small boat over to St. John's to go snubing this is the same as scubing except the air tank is located floating above you on a small raft and you are attached to the tank by your own 20-foot air hose. It was wonderful to see all the colorful fish, touch the sea creatures, etc.
Netherlands Antilles We docked at Willemstad, a most colorful town with all of its buildings and houses painted different colors. We took submerged boat ride similar to a glass-bottom boat except you look out the side windows to see the fish. You and the windows are about seven-foot under water.
Panama Canal Arrived early morning and the trip takes all day. This was a repeat as we had gone through the Canal about five years ago with HAL on the New Amsterdam a much smaller ship. When we approached the last locks (the one nearest the Pacific Ocean), the wind began blowing from the south and the stern of the ship begin to move towards the shore before the lock. At this time, the ship is under the command of a local canal pilot, who apparently maneuvered the ship away from the shore and the large rocks. The ship's starboard propeller hit the rock and was so damaged that it was unusable. We left the Canal with only one propeller.
Costa Rica - Due to this damage, the ship bypassed Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica, a natural bay noted for its flora and fauna, and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. We initially stopped at Puntarenas, Costa Rica, to determine the extent of damaged to the propeller. This port is a cargo ship port and has no tourist facilities. Later that night, the ship moved to Puerto Caldera and HAL provided a nice all-day tour of a coffee plantation located in San Jose. The cruise ended here. We flew home on United with a stop at Guatemala City where we were not permitted to leave the aircraft.
Overall: We enjoyed the cruise and would sail again with HAL. Interesting in 1995, when we went through the Canal before, our ship, also, skipped the Golfo Dulce, because of a delay in canal due to removing a sick passenger and our entrance into the Canal being delayed by a large cargo ship. Another significant different between the two Canal cruises was the first cruise had an onboard speaker who provided four interesting talks regarding the Canal and the countries of Central America on the days when we were at sea.