Recently I took a re-positioning Cruise from Seattle to Vancouver ( a great way to review different cruise lines and ports).
We sailed out of The Port of Seattle at approx. 4pm and arrived in Vancouver, B.C. at 7am. We sailed on the ms Amsterdam from HAL ( Holland America Line) and we splurged and got the Neptune Suite to see how the higher life lives – and it’s pretty darn sweet for a suite!
My goal on this trip was to review the cruise line, since I’ve only sailed with Carnival Cruises and Princess so far, and to also check out the Ports in both Vancouver and Seattle to see what the embarkation and debarkation process is like for tourists visiting our City and our sister City, Seattle. It’s also a great idea for a first time cruiser to get an idea of what the experience is like!
We took the Amtrak train from Vancouver to Seattle on a Sunday morning – it runs daily, but it is very early for those who are not morning peeps. The train leaves from Vancouver at 6:30am, so you have to be ‘all aboard’ and ready to go at approx 6:15am – I would advise getting to the station around 5:30 since it is a very popular way of travel between the two cities and can get quite busy. The day we traveled there was a game in Seattle so the train was entirely sold out.
It’s a lovely trip down and takes about 4 hours. The border crossing is fluid and easy and you can relax, drink a hot beverage ( or booze if you so desire) and have breakfast on the dining train. The views are fabulous! Once you cross the border you are treated to ocean side views and on a sunny day it is beautiful!
Once in Seattle we disembarked near the Stadium and Pioneer Square in Seattle. You would think that the walk to the Port would be quick and easy, but beware – depending on the Port your ship leaves out of, it can be quite the long journey if you are not prepared for it. The only line that sails out of the port near the City Centre and the Public Market is Norwegian Cruise Lines, since Seattle is its home port – most of the other cruise lines leave from Port 91 which is about a 15 km walk from the train station if you are planning on walking. It is a nice walk along the seawall on a sunny day, but it is assuredly a longer one. If you are not up for the physical exertion, a cab or bus might be a better option. The port, when you finally arrive, is lack luster and really not as nice as you would expect ( or hope for) when embarking on a luxury cruise ship. It’s far away from the City, and its a working port for all other types of ships and vessels and it doesn’t seem too well maintained. I wasn’t very impressed with the Port on the Seattle side. I found the HAL attendees livened up the atmosphere once we were inside the boarding building and checking in, but upon first glance it is pretty disappointing ( and again, hard to get to).
We boarded the ms Amsterdam at around 1pm and proceeded to our Stateroom which was on deck 7, the Navigation deck. We were in room 7040, a Neptune Suite. The Neptune suite was spacious, beautifully laid out, decadent and came with a complimentary bottle of champagne. The balcony was a site to behold with ample room, a table and four chairs and 2 fully reclining deck chairs. The room came with one King Size bed and another sofa bed which was Queen size and was all set up for us when we got our fold down service in the evening. There were all sorts of wonderful amenities in the room including binoculars and toiletries in the bathroom. There was a flat screen TV, magazines and a full bar available for use if desired. There were also lap blankets for sitting outside on your deck to view the scenery – which I have heard is spectacular on the Alaska cruises from Vancouver and Seattle.
One GREAT bonus of booking the Neptune Suite on HAL is that you have your own lounge on deck 7. The lounge is dedicated to Neptune suite cruisers only and offers up food, hot and cold beverages and a t.v and couches to relax on. It is a great place to relax and enjoy some food without being surrounded by all the other guests. Although, on a ship this size you don’t really notice everyone else as much. We utilized this lounge quite a bit for only a one night stay, so I can imagine it would be a fantastic add on for a longer cruise. To view a VIDEO of the Neptune Suite, click HERE.
We then toured the ship and investigated all the services it offered. The ms Amsterdam is a smaller ship, so it is more intimate AND less crowded than some of the bigger ships that sail these days. We really enjoyed how low key it was compared to some of the bigger ships we have been on. Dinner is either assigned times: 5:30pm or 9:00pm or you can choose ‘my time’ dining where you can go when you like. You must reserve a table though when you are opting for my time dining. We reserved our dinner early, right at 5:30 pm and it was delicious and offered up a variety of options with impeccable service. Most cruise ships are expert at making the dining experience a good one, and this ship was no different. We enjoyed dinner immensely and were able to dine right by a window to enjoy a leisurely 2 hour dinner. As with most ships, there is also the option to dine in the specialty restaurants to get an even better experience and more gourmet food options. The specialty restaurants usually do have a fee attached to them, so be sure to know what that is before booking. Typically they are between $35-50 per person, depending on the cruise line and the specialty restaurant.
After dinner involved some more wandering and the exploration of the ship. For a smaller ship, it does not feel like it. It has two pools, one aft and one mid ship and 2 whirlpools. The pool and whirlpool mid ship are under a retractable roof that opens when it is a warm sunny day, and closes when it is cooler so you can always be assured the pool will be open and available. There are a number of comfortable bars on board as well as the more casual ‘buffet style’ offered up for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The library and games room on this ship was HUGE compared to others I have seen and offered up a great selection of books to read and board games and puzzles. The atrium, or mid ship was relaxed, a nice atmosphere and a great place to just sit and people watch. Overall, I found this smaller ship to be really well designed and quite comfortable. I also enjoyed the lower key vibe and less people in my space. The bigger ships can get quite overcrowded and loud at times.
AROUND THE SHIP
Then we were off for an earlier bed time since 7am comes quickly. We found the journey very smooth and slept well, the bed was comfortable and the room was quiet. If you are a night owl, there is plenty of entertainment available for you and lots of deck space available to have a quiet romantic evening! Just look at this Sunset view! Sunsets are always particularly amazing when onboard a ship, they are one of my favourite things about cruising, aside from Sunrise!
Around 6:30 am we crossed under the Lions Gate Bridge, that is always a wonderful experience on a big ship, even on this smaller ship it seemed like the funnels were only inches from the bridge. Once under the bridge we maneuvered into the Port of Vancouver.
PORT OF VANCOUVER
The Port of Vancouver ( Port Vancouver) is one of the more beautiful ports in the world, and I can see why when experiencing it as a tourist would. Easing into port is quite the spectacle with the sails of Canada Place and the City gleaming behind it. The embarkation area is massive and well organized. You exit into an area where you can catch cabs, tour buses and all other sorts of transportation. You can also exit on foot and come out right up on the viewing platform that runs the perimeter of Canada Place and be right beside your ship. From this location the City is right next to you with Gastown and Downtown and Stanley Park easily accessible by foot. As a tourist, this is a very well organized Port and one that is conveniently placed, and also very beautiful. As a guest to the City, a first impression would be a high one. I give the Port of Vancouver 5 stars for presentation, accessibility and efficiency.
HAL home ports in Vancouver and I can see why. As a luxury line it is driven to provide luxury experiences to its guests and the Vancouver Port as an Award Winning Cruise Terminal, certainly delivers. HAL offers cruises to Alaska in the cruise season which is usually from May – October. Our ship, the ms Amsterdam was heading off for 54 day cruise down south as it’s Alaska itinerary had come to an end and it was transitioning to the winter months in the warmer climates.
I really enjoyed this one night cruise and am sold on purchasing a cruise to Alaska with this cruise line. They cater to more of a low key, luxury clientele and the ship size really keeps the experience more intimate and relaxing. Spending the extra money on a Neptune Suite is well worth it, but they likely sell out fast since there is only one deck of them. This ship also has a Pinnacle Suite which is massive and very good for families traveling together.
I’m also very proud of the Port of Vancouver and how they have created a pleasurable and efficient experience for travelers to our city. The location of the port and the ease of use of the Port is one of the best I have experienced, and I have been to a number of American ports and ports abroad in the Caribbean and Mexico. Planning a cruise out of this port is a good plan indeed. You can stay in the City in any number of hotels and practically walk to the cruise ship terminal. And, if I was to choose a port to leave from if I was a tourist abroad, either Seattle or Vancouver, I think Vancouver boasts the better choice overall for sure – I can certainly see why it is an award winner.
For a one night experience, it certainly was a wonderful one! Now I’m off to book my next cruise!
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