Travel bloggers Laurence and Jessica Norah of Finding the Universe and Independent Travel Cats cruised on a segment of the Grand Asia and Pacific Voyage. Below is an excerpt of their very comprehensive article that details every aspect of a Holland America Line cruise! Read on to see what awaits on one of our amazing Far East adventures.
Jess and I have done some cruising, notably the transatlantic crossing on the Queen Mary 2, from New York to Southampton – a voyage we also got married on. So our experiences of time spent on board large ships have been very positive.
When an invitation popped up from Holland America Line to come and experience a part of their Grand Asia and Pacific Voyage on the ms Amsterdam, specifically the segment around Japan, naturally we were keen to accept. Jess had never visited Japan, and I was excited for the photography opportunities, as well as to find out what a Holland America cruise experience was like.
In this post I’ll share with you all our thoughts on our experience cruising with Holland America Line so you can decide for yourself if this sort of trip might be for you.
The Amsterdam has a fully equipped spa and salon, which we were pleased to be able to take advantage of on our trip. Jess had a hair treatment, had her hair done for kimono gala night, and we also had a couples massage, which was an hour long treatment that we both enjoyed. The staff certainly knew what they were doing, and we were very happy with the services offered. There are a number of treatments available, everything from nails to hair to different massage therapies.
The primary entertainment venue on-board the ms Amsterdam is the Queen’s Lounge, a two-storey theatre which hosts a variety of shows. These vary from the house band and house dancers, through to guest performers who join the ship for short legs of the journey.
The ms Amsterdam also hosts local entertainers who come on board from the various ports the ship stops at. We saw a variety of interesting performers who came on board in Japan, including Geisha’s, Japanese drummers, and a performance artist who performed a variety of optical illusion based tricks. All of the performances we saw were very high quality, and we definitely recommend checking out the shows on board.
American’s Test Kitchen
One of the more interesting infotainment options on board is America’s Test Kitchen. This is a partnership with the US TV show, and you can actually watch live chefs on board perform demonstrations of how to create various dishes.
We watched sushi chef [and Culinary Council Member] Andy Matsuda create sushi and various fruit displays, and it was quite fun to watch someone so talented working in real time and sharing his secrets. So if you’re looking for some fun cooking ideas, this is definitely a show to attend.
The ms Amsterdam had two options [beyond included dining] for us to choose from, Canaletto and the Pinnacle Grill, both of which carry a small supplement, and are perfect for either celebrating a special occasion, or if you just fancy a change of scenery.
The first of these, Canaletto, is an upscale Italian restaurant, which celebrates the Italian concept of “spartire”, which means sharing. As such, when you order, you are given the choice as to whether you want to share the dish, or have it all to yourself.
We actually ate at Canaletto twice, once on our first night on board, and once on our last night on board. For some of the dishes we opted to share, and for others we didn’t. You still order the same number of dishes, all that varies is the presentation, and whether or not you split it. We really enjoyed the food here, which should be clear as we went twice.
The highlight of our dining experience on board though has to have been the night we spent at the Pinnacle Grill. This is a fine dining restaurant which, as the name suggests, focuses on grilled dishes. Taking its main inspiration from the American Northwest, dishes include a range of steak options, as well as fish dishes. They also have an excellent wine sommelier and wine selection, who will help you pick the perfect wine to go with your meal.
For the two speciality restaurants, reservations are essential to secure a spot. From time to time, the Pinnacle Grill will run themed evenings, and these invariably fill up well in advance, so if a themed evening tickles your fancy, do book it well in advance.
Obviously, you don’t come on a cruise just to spend time on the ship. Going ashore to explore the destinations that your cruise ship visits is a highlight of the experience. Naturally, we took advantage of the various stops that our ship made around Japan. For the voyage we were on, these stops included Yokohama (Tokyo), Osaka, Beppu, Hyuga and Kagoshima.
We took a total of four shore excursions during our week long cruise. These were to the old town of Tokyo, a tour of Kyoto, a visit to Yabakei Gorge near Beppu, and a shorter tour to the Nippo-Kaigan Quasi-National Park near Hyuga.
Tours are given different activity ratings so you know what you are getting into. Tours range from sightseeing bus tours through to snorkeling tours and even scenic flights, depending on location. There was a cool-sounding tea ceremony offered during our portion of the cruise, but that booked out before we could get on it.
Is A Holland America Cruise For You?
Overall, a cruise can be a really fun way to see the world, meet like-minded people, eat fantastic food, and do it all without having to pack and re-pack between hotels.
Combine the above with the stellar service we had on board from the truly fantastic staff, and we’d definitely recommend a voyage with Holland America. If you’re not sure about committing to one of their longer voyages, check out their website, where we’re sure you’ll find something to suit!
Laurence Norah and his wife Jessica Norah are the British-American travel blogging couple behind two of the world’s most popular travel blogs: photography & adventure focused Finding the Universe and the luxury couples travel blog Independent Travel Cats. Traveling full time since 2010, and with over a million followers, they love to help people achieve their travel dreams through well-written content and beautiful imagery. They are currently based in Edinburgh, Scotland.