We had our first cruise 2 years ago on the Emerald Princess and thoroughly enjoyed a 10 day Caribbean Medley. This Alaskan cruise was organized as a surprise Christmas present from my husband, as Alaska had been on my wish list for 30 years. He chose Holland America primarily as it had a Culinary Arts program on board. This, coupled with a good price and full day in Glacier Bay made the Westerdam the ship of choice. Initially a Superior Veranda was booked for ourselves and our daughter, but a couple of weeks before departure we were offered an upgrade to a Deluxe at a very good price, so took advantage of the offer as this was really our trip of a lifetime. Two days before sailing, we flew into Seattle and stayed at the Fairmont Olympic, for yet another memorable part of the vacation. This hotel is very beautiful, service was superb, and we enjoyed our stay here and also walking around Seattle, especially enjoying Pike's Market early morning and watching all the fish and flowers being set up for sale. Finally, the big day was here and we set off by taxi to the port where embarkation was so organized that we didn't even have time to complete their forms before being in line for boarding. Should also add how friendly the port staff were, certainly putting you in the holiday mood.
We had pre ordered soda and beverage cards via Holland America directly, and aside from the savings in so doing, we also found it a good way of keeping tabs of our expenses as it was prepaid.
We chose anytime dining which worked out well with either no wait times or 5 minutes tops. We didn't eat at the Pinnacle except for breakfast, nor Canaletto, but enjoyed dinners in The Main Dining Room or the Lido. The latter had the advantage of same food as MDR but you could mix your side dishes and there were additional foods if you so chose. The service was good in both. Should also add that I tried out the Indonesian food in the Lido, which was really nice.
The cabin itself was very spacious for the 3 of us and had more storage space and hanging room than we could make use of. The veranda was large with 2 relaxing chairs with footstools, and a table with 4 chairs and plenty of room to move around. The layout of the ship was pleasant as was the decor. We found the primarily Indonesian staff to be very helpful and pleasant and usually had a smile on their faces.
The Neptune was a pleasant perk of booking Deluxe and we found Jean Paul to be friendly, always knew your name and was helpful when you needed his services--and the snack style food was often a welcome change from lining up elsewhere.
Throughout the cruise, we enjoyed the various cooking demonstrations and also did a hands on cooking class, which was enjoyable to participate in, let alone could eat our meal afterwards in the Pinnacle with a glass of champagne, courtesy of Chef Michael.
We got to Juneau, where we had booked a whale watching and wildlife quest excursion. This was booked via Holland America as we liked the fact that if you are delayed for any reason and have booked the tour through them, you get to the next port of call at their expense, not your own. The whale watching was very enjoyable despite the rain, and great excitement was experienced by us all as we spotted some whales, sea otters, sea lions and a bald eagle. A very worthwhile trip and well worth the price. We walked around Juneau for a while after the whale watching, then returned to the ship for our journey to Glacier Bay, which for me, was to be the highlight of the trip. Enroute an unexpected bonus came in the form of 6 or 7 whales appearing close enough to the ship, in open waters. What a treat that was! Throughout Glacier Bay, the scenery was beautiful, and even though we live in the Canadian Rockies, the splendor and majesty of Glacier Bay was unparalleled. Loved every second of it and although most passengers went on deck, I enjoyed the serenity of it all from my veranda. Binoculars were an added plus for having booked a Deluxe, and these were to be a bonus as we saw a grizzly bear on the beach, too far off for the naked eye, but excellent sightings with the binoculars. Was very appreciative that the ship turned gently so that passengers on all sides could enjoy the beauty of the glaciers and watch and hear them calve and more than enjoyed the fact that we spent so long here, just being able to enjoy the natural wonder of it all. This alone was well worth the price of the fares.
Our stay in Sitka, for us, was a waste and would have preferred time spent elsewhere. However, others may disagree. In Ketchikan, we did an early morning Misty Fjords float plane excursion. The rain held off for most of the time and certainly didn't spoil our enjoyment. Again, this was well worth the cost and the beauty of the National Park seen from the plane was just wonderful. We also enjoyed a visit to Thomas Kinkade's gallery when walking around the town afterwards. Victoria was last on our places to see. We caught the shuttle bus from the ship to downtown and enjoyed a walk around the quay area and The Empress. As of midnight, we were headed for Seattle. Due to excellent team work, we were off the Westerdam, through customs, in a taxi, dropped off our bags at the Olympic once more, and were having a coffee in a nearby Starbucks all within 30 minutes of disembarking.
Jason, the cruise director had given a very inspiring and amusing as well as informative chat the afternoon before the end of the cruise. This certainly helped with the disembarkation going so smoothly. He was realistic to state that Holland America strives for excellence and perfection, but that nothing is perfect. This was in regard to the upcoming completion of guest surveys. Sure, there were a couple of minor glitches or thoughts that we felt would help improve things on board, but that in no way detracts from the enjoyment we had on the cruise. We very much appreciated everyone's hard work in making this cruise so enjoyable. They worked hard to give us a memorable Indonesian evening which the crew put on after a day long shift-- wonderful entertainment. The chefs put on a barbecue evening as well as a chocolate extravaganza evening. Many ways of showing that they care about their guests.
The survey we completed with our ideas and thoughts on ways that some things could be improved upon, not in a negative fashion but constructive feedback without which any cruise line would stagnate. In striving for perfection and reading their guests comments, Holland America are well on the way to obtaining their goal. Great cruise. Thanks Holland America.