ms Amsterdam

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Holland America Line

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The ms Amsterdam was built at the prestigious Fincantieri shipyard in Venice, Italy; she is the third ship to proudly sail with the name of the capital of the Netherlands. The Netherlands was a legendary naval power during the great voyages of discovery and exploration of the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries, establishing colonies in the far corners of the world and bringing the riches of exotic lands to Europe. With incredible works of art, the Holland America Amsterdam exudes this sense of maritime history and Renaissance style throughout. Honestly, I sometimes wondered if this was a museum or a ship.

Public spaces on the ms Amsterdam are accented with original works of art and fine antiques—a multi-million dollar collection. Its polished brass gleams and sweeping mahogany stairways evoke the graciousness and elegance of a bygone era. The centerpiece of the elegant Atrium Lounge is a magnificent antique celestial and astronomical clock accented with gold.

The walls of the Holland America Amsterdam are also graced by the paintings by celebrated maritime artist Stephen Card. A native of Bermuda, he is also an accomplished sailor and spent time as the Queen's Harbormaster in Hamilton, Bermuda. Throughout the ship are original Art Deco works and pieces that graced the public spaces of the stately ocean liner Nieuw Amsterdam (at the time the largest ship ever built in the Netherlands) when she was launched in 1938. The Upper Promenade Deck (deck 5), which contains shops and boutiques, the casino, and several dining spots, is also the Art Gallery, boasting Ming Dynasty period pieces from China. There are occasional events onboard, and one is an art auction in the gallery celebrated with complimentary champagne.

The Sports Bar of the ms Amsterdam is also on the Upper Promenade Deck, and if you love sports, it's an excellent place to pass the time. Here we could watch the Formula One Grand Prix races and the cyclists' triumphant ride down the Champs-Élysées at the end of the Tour de France. The bar has display cases with baseballs autographed by Joe DiMaggio and hockey pucks signed by Wayne Gretzky.

The ms Amsterdam itself is quite new, launched in 2000. She was renovated in 2005, with many updates to the technological equipment, including the ship's Explorations Cafe internet stations and wireless hotspots for those traveling with laptops, which make it easy for to share pictures of your vacation while the cruise ship is still out at sea. The ms Amsterdam is also relatively small and intimate for such a luxurious liner. There are pockets of deck space where you can park yourself on days at sea and almost feel like you're on your own private yacht. The state rooms on the Verandah deck in particular are large and spacious. And there is nothing like sitting on your own private verandah as the majesty of Hubbard Glacier passes slowly by.

As if simply being on such a luxurious ship weren't enough pampering for me, I also visited the Greenhouse Spa and Salon. Even in the pristine wilderness of Alaska, a woman wants to look and feel beautiful. After a day out on the ocean and exploring island coastlines on wildlife tours in Sitka, the massage was particularly welcome. While the evening dress code is almost always smart-casual in the dining rooms, the Holland America Amsterdam has an average of one formal night per week of cruising. The suggested attire on these evenings for women is cocktail wear, and having the nails and hair done for this evening is a treat. While many men choose to wear a tuxedo or suit on these evenings, a more casual tie and jacket is fine for gentlemen. There is also a fitness center with beautiful panoramic views. This meant that on at sea cruising days, we could watch the beauties of Alaska float by as we got in a little exercise.

There is much more to enjoy on the ms Amsterdam, including beautiful swimming pools and places reserved both for younger children and teenagers. The Club HAL is for children aged 3-17. It is brightly colored with playground-type equipment, age-appropriate books and a reading area, and educational toys. The Club HAL Gameroom is also colorful and filled with state-of-the-art game consoles. The Loft is for teens, with lounge and socializing areas, big-screen televisions, and computer stations. And the Oasis is above decks—a tropical paradise with a lagoon-style pool, hammocks, and an outdoor cafe. Our children are long grown, but we definitely appreciated that young passengers had their own places to be that were inviting enough to keep them happy.

An entire demonstration kitchen is open for cooking lessons and tasting events, and there are plenty of places to stop for a snack. We liked the Explorations Café coffeehouse environment for catching up on our e-mail. The Holland America Amsterdam is a great cruise ship for those who like the casino and nightclub action as well as those who want a more intimate cruising experience, as this flagship carries only 1,380 passengers.

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