Have you ever been on a cruise before? For some newbie cruisers the thought of spending long periods of time between stops might be discouraging. Although, it is very true that on cruises you will spend some time at sea, the idea that this period would be slow and boring is very far from the reality! This was absolutely the case with the array of onboard activities on my Holland America Line cruise on the MS AMSTERDAM.
The HAL cruise ships have a host of activities and amenities that will put some of the best hotels, and even destinations to shame. Plus, being on a cruise has several advantages, like:
- It’s a cost effective way to see a bunch of destinations in one go.
- You do not have to do as much travel planning. That’s left to someone else.
- No matter how many locations you visit, you get to spend the night in the same bed and room. No packing, unpacking, repacking or lugging suitcases around!
Holland America Cruise on the MS AMSTERDAM
Holland America Line invited me on a two-week segment of their 80-Day Grand Voyage that takes you to Australia and the Far East, including five ports in Japan and 10 days making thrilling stops in China, South Korea, Vietnam and even a short stint on one of the most mystical islands on the planet: Komodo Island where you will get to see Komodo dragons (you should check out their upcoming Grand Voyages!).
During my time time onboard, there were quite a few sea days. But, believe it when I say that on the MS AMSTERDAM these days will fly by in the blink of an eye. That is mostly because there is so much to do and enjoy while onboard the cruise ship. While the destinations are spectacular, to say the least, the things to do onboard Holland America’s Cruise Liner MS AMSTERDAM can be just as fun.
1. ✦ Eat at Every Restaurant
Sometimes cruise food doesn’t have the best reputation. But, your expectations will be exceeded time and time again on the HAL ship. I was impressed! I was treated to some of the most mouthwatering cuisines you could ever possibly think of or come across on your travels. The dining experience on the cruise ship is in keeping with the high-standards set by the cruise liner itself. There are a wide array of dining options onboard including:
- La Fontaine Dining Room
- Pinnacle Grill
- Lido Market
- Dive-In (burgers!)
The main restaurants onboard are: The Lido Market which has a casual buffet-style dining setting on deck 7, the other one is the La Fontaine Dining Room which is a high-class table-service restaurant on deck 3 and 4. There is the fast food eatery ‘Dive-In’ that serves up a mean burger or hot dog as well as a delectable Mexican themed buffet (perfect for when you are lounging by the pool).
If, however, you are in the mood for some fancy flame grilled steak, then you should head out to the Pinnacle Grill where they mainly focus on American Northwest dishes as well as fish options. They will help you celebrate any special occasions in style or maybe just create the perfect atmosphere for romantic dining. We had an amazing dinner there for my friend Cacinda’s (from Points and Travel) birthday.
If you are feeling a little Italian, then the upscale restaurant ‘Canaletto’ is the perfect choice. Here, they are all about the traditional Italian eating concept of “spartire” which is all about sharing. Once you order, you can choose to share the dishes with others or have it all to yourself. Either way, the experience and taste are not things that you will soon forget.
I ate at all the restaurants—at least once.
2. ✦ See a Show at the Queen’s Lounge
The Queen’s Lounge is the primary entertainment venue onboard the MS AMSTERDAM. It is a two story theatre which is home to a wide variety of shows including classically trained violinists, comedians, house dancers as well as guest performers from various ports such Japanese Geishas and professional optical illusionists.
There is something for everyone here and a grand show every evening. It is well worth a visit while you are onboard.
3. ✦ Go to the Spa
As most of your days will probably be spent out on the deck sunbathing, it is a welcome blessing that the MS AMSTERDAM has a world-class spa on-board. The ‘Greenhouse Spa & Salon and Fitness Center’ prides itself in being able to help you relax, rejuvenate and leave feeling like a brand new person. They have renowned spa rituals that will pamper your skin; facial treatments that will make you glow; massage treatments that will untie every knot and even hair treatments that will have you looking glamorous for the evening shows at the Queen’s Lounge.
After months of travel, I was in desperate need of a cut and color. And they did a FANTASTIC job.
4. ✦ Watch a Cooking Show at the America Test Kitchen
If you want to spend some time learning how to cook some of the delicious dishes onboard or even from top chefs around the world, you can easily do so at ‘America’s Test Kitchen‘. There are lessons, live cooking demonstrations and hands-on workshops that will show you how to quickly whip up a beautiful meal using the most user-friendly recipes. I learned how to make some tasty olive tapenade bruschetta!
The foolproof techniques taught here will make a chef out of you in no time.
5. ✦ Partake in Happy Hour
Who doesn’t love a good happy hour? Happy Hour was every day from 4pm-5pm in the Crow’s Nest and in the Ocean Bar with the buy one get one for $2 option. On quite a few nights there was a Happy Hour from 9pm-10pm in the Crow’s Nest as well.
Wind the day down with a selection of interesting drinks made by specialty bartenders who are more than willing to show off their skills for you.
6. ✦ Take an Art Class
Would you like to learn how to sketch or paint using water colors? You can do so every morning on-board the MS AMSTERDAM. I took a morning class and tried my hand at portrait sketching. Admittedly, I’m still in need of some lessons before I can open my own art gallery but the basics are in there.
There are many other classes too. For instance, you can also learn how to edit, properly display and share your vacation images and videos through the ‘Digital Workshop’.
7. ✦ Play at the Casino
There is a reason why Vegas is one of the most popular cities on the planet: you can become an overnight millionaire there! Well, the MS AMSTERDAM has a miniature Vegas onboard as the Casino has everything you might need from table games to slot machines.
Why not try your luck every now and again during your stay?
8. ✦ See a Movie (and Eat Popcorn!)
You will probably have the time to watch a few movies during your days at sea. There were daily showings on the big screen at Wojang Theatre, and they serve popcorn. The setting is perfectly comfortable and the movie selections are varied in style and taste.
But if you would rather watch something of your own choosing, then you can easily pick something up from the extensively well stocked onboard DVD library and watch it in your own room.
9. ✦ Take a Fitness Class
Yes, you will still need to exercise even though you are on a cruise. You will need to burn off all those calories from dinner. If you want to learn the most effective and efficient ways to stay fit, then you can take a fitness class at the professionally staffed fitness center.
You also have basketball, Volleyball and swimming pools on-board if that is more your speed. But if you’d rather be outdoors, then walk the full length on the outside of deck 3 where 3 ½ laps equals a mile (I did this every morning!). Or you can take a water aerobics class at the pool.
The choices are numerous and all as effective as they are enjoyable.
10. ✦ Go Shopping for a Souvenir
Of course you have to go shopping!! The MS AMSTERDAM offers you the opportunity to enjoy tax and duty-free shopping in various shops featuring fine jewelry, watches, designer fragrances, cosmetics, distinctive gifts, premium liquor and stylish Holland America Line apparel.
I walked away with a sparkly faux diamond ring to wear on my next cruise.
And there’s more….
11. ✧ Play a Game of Chess
12. ✦ Do a Jigsaw Puzzle
13. ✦ Go for a Swim
14. ✧ Sing Along at a Piano Bar
15. ✦ Get Room Service
From specialty dining to fitness and cooking lessons, duty free shopping, endless entertainment options and a well-mannered and professionally trained crew to help you along the entire way, taking a cruise onboard Holland America Line’s MS AMSTERDAM is a memorable experience.
Disclosure: My travel on the MS AMSTERDAM was courtesy of Holland America Line. All opinions my own.
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