First of all, I'd like to thank fellow CC members for providing a ton of valuable information. I wouldn't have enjoyed my trip nearly as much without your help on this website. I hope my review can continue this tradition and help make someone's cruise as enjoyable as well.
Having said that, let's start from the beginning...
Our group : 3 young ladies in their 50s and 60s plus me in my 30s, all first-time cruisers
Weather : everybody hit the jackpot this week, almost no rain for the whole cruise.
Embarkation : arrived at Pier 91 in Seattle around 11:30am. There were maybe 6-7 baggage handlers from Princess helping their customers unload their luggage into carts. Nobody from HAL anywhere to be found at the same drop-off area. Were we too early ? Oh well, we had a small group so DIY is not a problem. Check-in was very organized and efficient as most people mentioned. We were on the ship in about 20-25 mins. The sea of people on the other side of the building for Princess looked mighty intimidating in comparison. Our room was already prepped for us (thumbs-up to housekeeping) so we were able to drop off our stuff before heading to the Lido for lunch.
Ship : exterior looked great. Obviously not brand new, but definitely well maintained. The black and white color scheme made it look like it's wearing a tux. Very classy compared to the all white paint job of the Golden Princess. Inside the Westerdam, signs of wear-and-tear were noticeable if you're looking, but hardly enough to be a bother. The fact that she is one of the more "green" ships is also a big plus. On the flip side, the library doubled as a cafe and was relocated right next to the Crow's Nest where some loud activities were often held. As a result, folks looking for a quiet place to read got screwed at times. This is probably a temporary arrangement as there is remodeling going on at certain parts of the ship.
Captain, PJ van Maurik : nice gentleman with a sense of humor. pointed out interesting scenery along the way. got our ship within 100 yards of the glacier. won the drag race against the Golden Princess on our way to Victoria just so we could dock first. Sir, I salute you.
Crew : wonderful, friendly, helpful. They made you feel like family and made the ship feel like home. About 95% of the time, we were greeted with a smile when we walked by. They handled the ship's cleaning, vacuuming, repairing, re-painting all day, everyday. Simply amazing.
Cruise Director, Jason Venner : agree with everyone else that he was a great host / comedian / dance instructor. He's incredibly talented for his job and he does it well.
DJ Brett : didn't go to his nightly dance parties but he's also good as an MC (ex : bingo).
Darlene & The HALCats : band rocked, singer was so-so.
Piano Man, Glenn-Michael : excellent with the piano & keyboard. Very experienced entertainer.
Violinist : average. played with the sheet music in front of her which made it seem like amateur hour.
Party Planner, Amber : really nice lady and clearly enjoys doing her job. we liked every activity that she hosted (culinary arts, making greeting cards, flower arrangements, towel animals)
Westerdam Singers & Dancers : a group of hard-working professionals who put on quite a show. Vegas-quality but just smaller in scale. Vista Lounge was packed for every performance so we had to go 15-20 minutes early for good seats. Rockin' Roadhouse was their best show.
Lifestylist, Clare : homegirl looked like she needed a vacation. saw her smile only once for the entire cruise. her tai-chi could use some work too.
Filipino Crew Show : for non-professional entertainers, they did pretty well. once they got over their nerves, they gave a very heartfelt show.
Vista Dining Room : exceptional. for most part, the food was seasoned just right, not overly salty/sweet like at most restaurants. we never had to wait for a table of our own or make reservations and usually were seated right by the window. service was stellar except for one breakfast when the omelet orders got backed up.
Formal nights : only attended the second of the two nights and only because they were serving lobster tail (not available in the Lido, I checked). i didn't bring a suit but they were nice enough to let me and other violators borrow a jacket, a nice gesture also previously mentioned by fellow cruisers.
Lido buffet : slightly better than the average buffet. it does get crowded sometimes (ex : first 2 days when crew does all the serving; lunch after everybody comes back on the ship at Ketchikan) but usually not too bad. Some folks just took their food back to their rooms to eat. Also agree that staff was not excessively pushy with alcohol/beverage sales. Salmon bakes by the pool were the best meals they cooked up. saw one waiter perform random magic tricks for diners.
Afternoon tea : highly satisfactory. i'm a sucker for fruit tarts and cream puffs and they had a mountain of those. we usually stayed until they kicked us out so they could setup for dinner, haha.
Glacier Bay National Park : I now understand why people said this day was the highlight of their trip. Words fail me, just go.
Comedian / Magician, Jeff Peterson and "Indy" : not bad. might be a bit boring for those who are used to seeing fancier tricks.
Jazz band : again, the band itself was pretty good, but the singer was no bueno. dude was a young caucasian who had a voice like a black woman, bizarre as that sounds. people got tired of his falsetto pretty quickly.
Pools and hot tubs : brought my swimming trunks but unfortunately didn't get to use it. saw a lot of folks enjoying themselves though. would've been awesome to relax in the jacuzzi with the spectacular scenery going by.
Room service : we only ordered tea several times and it takes them anywhere from 10 minutes to 1.5 hours to bring it. meh.
Disembarkation : again, smooth as everyone said. we opted for the last group (9:30am - 10am) because we were in zero hurry, which meant that we got to have one last breakfast in the Lido. True to their word, we were allowed to hang out anywhere on the ship until it was our time to leave. In fact, most of the crowd got off the ship so fast that our group was able to disembark about 10 minutes early. Whole process took even less time than embarkation.
Sooooooo as you can tell, my family and I had a good time. We felt we really got our money's worth and yes, we would sail with HAL again to other destinations. A big thanks to everyone on the Westerdam for making our first cruise so memorable.