My husband and I recently returned from our first Alaska cruise aboard the HAL Westerdam. First of all, we are frequent Oceania cruisers and we wanted to try something not as "pricey". We have no kids and really enjoy the cruise experience.
We booked our own travel into Seattle as we previously lived in the area and our embarkation process was quite simple and hassle free. We left on time and there was a very festive embarkation party on the Lido aft deck and pool area.
Our first disappointment came when we booked dinner in the Pinnacle Grill on the first nite, I was aghast that we had to pay $25 a person to enjoy an upscale dinner. My hubby had the lamb and I had shrimp, both good, not great, his bread pudding over the top, my cheesecake, very tasteless.
Our first breakfast in the Lido grill was just the beginning of tasteless and mediocre food. The lines were long as all food had to be served by the staff for the first 48 hours due to health concerns. Very difficult finding tables to sit.
We decided to have lunch in the MDR-took an hour to get our food and they forgot my husband's entree, it took 10 more minutes and there were no apologies.
The following morning we went to the MDR for breakfast, 90 minutes to get our food and it was all cold, the woman next to me got up and left after discussing the poor services with one of the wait staff. The staff on both occasions made no attempts to fill water, tea or keep us updated on our order status. Needless to say we never went back for any other meals-even dinner.
Our room was fabulous, we upgraded from room 5143 to 8099 for $149/pp and we were glad we did, large bathroom with 2 sinks, full bathtub with jacuzzi and shower. Large veranda,though too cold and wet to enjoy.
Our first port was 43 hours into the cruise, we booked this through a private web site (same price as the cruise excursion but there was a wait list for this)-Juneau-did a whale watching tour out of Auck Bay about 3 hours, then a trip to Mendenhall glacier, only 1 hours there and not nearly enough time. The video in the visitor lounge worth the $3/pp. Then onto a salmon bake which happened to be one of the best meals of the trip. Back to port about 7:30pm and we had 60-90minutes to explore the city which was very nice.
We then went on to Glacier Bay, the narration by the park rangers started about 9am and was quite informative. The weather cooperated and Captain PJ did a marvelous job giving us 360 degrees of viewing. The Marjorie glacier didn't disappoint and we saw quite a few spectacular episodes of the glacier calving.
We then had about 30 more hours of sea time before porting in Sitka, a quaint town with lots of history, it was cold and wet with a high of 46, brrr. We did a nature walk with a visit to the rapture center and historic walking tour. Our guide was very informative and we had a small group which was nice. Had lunch at a little cafe in town and then back on the ship.
Onto Ketchican, more cold and rain, another walking tour but not enough time in the town itself. Creek street with the old brothels well worth the walk, just a few blocks from the port.
Another 30 hours on the ship and then onto Victoria, pulled in 6:30pm, walked into Victoria-30 minute walk-had dinner and then had about 1 hour before the town "shut down". It was 9pm and the ship was in dock until midnite. Once again the weather cooperated and there was no rain.
Back into Seattle the next morning, we chose the 9:30am independent travel departure, very smooth, only about 10 minutes from leaving the ship, to get our luggage, go through "customs" and get to the taxi line, where the cab drivers got in a fight when trying to put us in the cab. We actually got out of the cab and insisted on another cab because of our cab drivers rude behavior. we pre-booked a nite at the Hilton in Seattle so we spent the day walking and revisiting our favorite areas in the downtown area.
I guess we are warm weather cruisers, I read 5 novels while we were gone. It was difficult to enjoy the inclosed pool area as it was quite humid there and very noisy with all the kids. They were plenty of things to do while "at sea". Another of our disappointments was that smoking was allowed in the sports bar area (the only place inside where smoking is allowed). We spent alot of time in the 10th floor Crow's next/cafe area, they have a nice library. The final show with the Broadway tunes was very entertaining, the only show we attended. Our cabin stewards were very good and professional
All in all I had high expectations for the cruise and I will say I was very disappointed with the HAL dining experience and since we were on the ship for about 5 days with no other options on eating this cruise left us with a "sour" taste in our mouths. I don't believe we will give HAL another chance.