Westerdam Cruise Review by dath: What I didn't know about cruising
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What I didn't know about cruising
Purchasing the cruise- did it all online just follow the clicks and pay what you can when you can as long as paid in full by designated date. Didn't need to leave home or call anyone! Too bad they won't give you the travel agent percentage as a discount when you book yourself, but I understand the reasons.
ID - for Alaska, Enhanced Drivers License is simple and cheap if you live in a state that has them, and you don't want to pay the cost of a passport. (If you get stuck in Canada, you will not be able to fly back on EDL! But rail, car, or sea is fine.)
Luggage / Boarding - Took six large suitcases and four carry ons ... Just fine - Were met by shuttle in parking lot at Seattle - they load the luggage and take you to the terminal, there a porter will take all checked luggage and you walk through some check points and then the gang way! (There is a little health form that takes a minute or two to fill out - (get it ahead of time if you can.) There is a little bit More of line but it moves quickly!
Cruising - Wander, participate, sit, eat, lots to do, just watch the restaurant times, because even the lido buffet has to change food from meal to meal so there will be some down time with limited offerings. Shows were great, Piano bar, Queens Lounge, Crows Nest, and other places have musicians and entertainment all evening. Sometimes you have to miss one thing to see another, but the Bar musicians can be seen pretty much every night.
Ports - Get off, or not. Get off, then on, then off as much as you like. Even eight hours in port is short if you want to do a lot, but I preferred to debark later and embark early to avoid lines. Buy an excursion through HAL and they will even hold the boat if it is late. Save money and hire a cab or buy a tour at the dockside vendors can be a lot cheaper. Best to figure out what you want to see before you even cruise, otherwise you will waste valuable cruise time trying to find something you like. Pretty much a ton of stuff to do like museums and shopping require no vehicle. Alaskan towns are little and squeezed against mountains, so if you can walk a mile or two, you can see a lot. Seemed like Ketchikan had the best prices. (Find the coupon book at the cruise terminal before boarding!)
Glaciers/ Weather - Just a beautiful cruise in the national park. Find a place to see what you like, inside or outside. Can be cold and wet, but we had sun in every port, and just a bit overcast in Glacier bay. I hear that record is rare. Waiting for HAL to send a "Perfect Cruising Weather Adjustment Claim" - No just joking. Wanted to do this cruise again, but doubt it could ever be so perfect.
Disembark - Worried about this with all the luggage we had - no need. You will get a time and color - Attach the colored tags to luggage and put in hallway the night before. When your time comes, show up at the gangplank and scan off one last time, walk into the terminal, find your row of luggage by the colored tags, and have a porter load them into the parking lot shuttle. Check yourself through customs (quick) then ride the shuttle to your car, transfer luggage and go home. Really simple and efficient. No line or crowd. If you flew in you can have your luggage all go direct so you don't see it until home airport, for a small charge.
Medical - Wife had to see doctor for insect in eye that cause infection - very professional, well equipped, done with prescription in hand in about 30min. Cost $95 not including medicine. You pay, seek reimbursement from your own medical insurance company if you have one.
Cost/Value - This is a pretty personal and subjective topic, but I am a cheapskate, or stated differently, never had a lot of money to throw around. This was the most expensive vacation I have ever taken by far, and door to door I spent about $3500.00 for my wife and I for a seven day vacation. (That includes some gifts and specialty coffees, sodas, and a bit of alcohol.) I stayed in a veranda stateroom on deck 5 near the center of the ship. (Forward and aft are a bit cheaper). The room was quiet and for a long time we thought there were no guests beside us because I never heard any noise. About the only sounds I heard were a few "noisy walkers" in the hallway, and an occasional door shut. I was really surprised at this compared to most hotel stays I have had. I ate whatever I wanted and if you want two desserts they will give it to you. Anything I needed they tried to accommodate. I have heard that some lines push drinks, or have sales "hawkers". This was never the case on HAL. (Although some of the activities that I didn't do might have been "product oriented?) Most cruisers were retirement age, and this suited me just fine. Some younger people and some kids, but other lines probably have more Kid activities. I did not encounter any drunks or disorderly people, I think that is for other cruise lines with a party reputation. The service staff is friendly and your room is cleaned twice or more a day. Tipping is built into the cost, and although I did provide several cash tips, there was never a pressure to do so, in fact just the opposite. I think if you consider the cost of three great meals a day, entertainment every day, travel costs of fuel and distance traveled, the ability to have a veranda view of 7 days of Pacific ocean, Alaskan towns, Canadian towns, and coastline, it was a fair deal. If you are willing to stay in a room with little or no view I think it would cost about half of what we paid, so in this regard it has to be one of the greatest travel bargains there is. Will I do it again? - Probably. Less
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Cabin review: VA
I expected small storage, but we had six large suitcases and did not even use all the space available. Balcony was really nice but for two people only. Super quiet, hardly ever heard any noise from anywhere, and we were very close to stairs and elevators. Loved in room safe, Flat screen tv with HDMI input for looking at pictures from camera, DVD player, all of it was really great.