Pre-Cruise: Flew in on Thursday afternoon and got to enjoy some truly amazing weather in Seattle along with some of Seattle's sites. We stayed at The Paramount, which was great. It was reasonably priced (given its location) and is close to all of Seattle's attractions downtown.
Embarkation: We pulled up to Pier 91, a porter helped us with our luggage and within 25 minutes we were boarding the ship.
Cabin: After taking advantage of some price drops, we ended up with a VH guarantee and were ultimately assigned to 5170, which is a standard verandah cabin. The cabin really was the perfect size.. I wouldn't have wanted anything much smaller. We also loved having the verandah, especially for sail away as the weather in Seattle was perfect. Our cabin steward was Cy (sp?), who introduced himself almost the minute we got to our cabin. The entire week he took very good care of us. He was always very energetic and happy to help with any request, and knew us by name almost immediately.
Food: This was the one area where I had some frustrations, but overall I was still really happy. We opted for As You Wish Dining, which we were generally happy with. The first night we went to dinner a little after 7pm and did have to wait about ten minutes to be seated; however, as the cruise went on we found that if we went either a little before or a little after 7 we could avoid the line. The food in the Main Dining Room was always very good.
We primarily ate our breakfasts and lunches in The Lido and while the food was very good for a buffet, we could NEVER find a table. It was extremely annoying. I can imagine that in nice weather people would eat out on the aft by the pool, but for most of the week this was not an option. This meant that on more than one occasion we brought our food back to our room. Also, while I generally didn't mind the Code Orange for the first 48 hours, is it really necessary to do it for glasses of water too? Given that the staff in the Lido had glasses of water and tea pre-poured, I would argue no.
The biggest let down of the entire cruise was the in room dining. On our first morning we decided to get breakfast to the room because we had a relatively early (10am) Roll Call. When the food arrived, everything was there but some of the items were sub-par. For example, we ordered scrambled eggs and found powdered eggs. On the night leaving Juneau, we ordered room service for dinner. After waiting about 45 minutes for the order, both of the entrees arrived cold. This was a real disappointment.
One night we did opt to dine at The Pinnacle Grill and I was blown away. This was the best meal I've ever had in my entire life. The food was delicious, and the service was excellent as well.
Entertainment and Activities: During the day, there were tons of options that appealed to me. I particularly enjoyed the activities in the Culinary Arts Center. Our CD, Jason (who is awesome), did a good job of promoting activities over the PA, but also mentioned that this was our vacation and many times said, "Do it all, or do none of it." I felt like he struck a great balance of encouraging participation, while letting people enjoy their cruise.
In the evenings, we tried out a number of different options. On the second night at sea we went to the main show and Capitan PJ's toast. I was really underwhelmed by the show. Its not that the performers aren't talented... they clearly are. And its not that HAL has invested enough in their sets.. they definitely have. It is that the performers kept doing the same thing over and over again. Every song seemed like it was the same thing. I ended up leaving half way through the performance. Other nights, we went to the Piano Bar or the Ocean Bar to see the jazz group. We enjoyed both of these venues.
Roll Call: We had our Roll Call on the first day at sea and had somewhere around 35 members drop by at some point. It was great to put names with faces. The Hotel Manager and the Beverage Manager both stopped by as did Jason, who kept us laughing the whole time. He mentioned that during the previous cruise, one feedback form had complained that the glaciers were dirty and that HAL should invest in cleaning them. I also learned that Jason is actually the most senior CD with HAL, and in fact sometime in the near future he will be leaving the Westerdam and will be replaced by DJ Armen.
General Comments on HAL & the Westerdam: Many previous reviews have said that the ship is showing some signs of her age, but I didn't really see this. While its clear this isn't a brand new ship, I felt that it was in good condition. There were a few very minor things that could use some attention (i.e. the curtains in our stateroom had come off the track and kept getting caught in the door), but it was clear to me that HAL has taken good care of the ship.
Also, one of my biggest concerns heading into the cruise was that I was going to be one of the youngest adults on the cruise... and I was right about that. I saw maybe 5 other 20-somethings on the cruise the whole time. It is clear that HAL is making an effort to have activities for this age range with their Generation Next activities, but I went to one of these and found that while the event was advertised as being for 18-25 year olds most of the people here were juniors/seniors in high school. I think these events would be better served by separating under 21 and over 21 age groups.