Very Satisfied with our first 7-Day Cruise!
Sorry this has no particular order, but I thank those who reviewed before me and wanted to contribute.
We really enjoyed our cruise on the Westerdam. You have to realize that it is an Alaska cruise and what the clientÃ¨le will be... i.e. a mix of old people and families... not too many young 21+ people, but we still had a great time. Next time, we are going to try and do a Caribbean cruise with a minimum age to try and avoid the children. But that's just because we're in our late 20's/mid 30's without kids. For example, it was totally impossible to get in the hot tub... that would have been nice, but it closed at 10. And sitting anywhere near the pool got you splashed and listening to "Marco Polo" for hours on end.
The buffet was great, but after we discovered the Vista dining room we never went back. The food was absolutely incredible there. We had open seating... some classier people I think had reserved times and tables, but honestly we enjoyed the More
flexibility to go whenever we wanted to, and never waited very long in line. I never dreamed the food would be this good, and you could order as much as you wanted.
Tons of activities. You'll miss more things that you'll want to that you think. Not that we partook, but they even had LGBT gatherings, so in that sense I was pleasantly surprised at the progressiveness.
Our Captain got us so close to the glacier in Glacier bay... the whole ship shook when the massive chunks of ice broke off and crashed into the water. What a very cool experience.
We had the tiniest inboard room, but it honestly didn't matter. I don't think it would have been much better to pay for an upgrade. It was easy to get to the outdoor deck.
My grandfather unfortunately had to spend a night in the infirmary with some heart problems. Fortunately, he was ok. They were not supposed to be open, but stayed with him, took x-rays, and did lots of tests on him... the bill was an amazingly-low $1,200 which can be reimbursed with his insurance. We thought the bill was going to be substantially more than that...
I think a big reason we had such a great time was because we didn't have a speck of rain on any day, even for our excursions. Not something you can plan for, we just got really really lucky.
It was nice to get away and be off the grid completely for a week.
It was good enough that we'll be looking at Holland America Line first for our next cruise. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this from Era Helicopters. I am not a complainer by nature, but these people just don't seem to care at all about customer service and how much money you've just spent with them.
The helicopter ride was cool and the dogs were cool to meet. But, it was very rushed, quickly over, and impersonable. I could not help but feel like we were in "tourist harvest" mode. A week later and I am still not convinced it was worth anywhere close to the $1,000+ we paid for the two of us. And, we didn't book through the ship.
Our big problem was that they ended up separating my fiancee and I on the helicopter ride over. We saw the note that they could separate groups for weight purposes... but a party of two normal weighted people? That is not a group. Part of the $1K is to do the trip together. When we expressed our concern, the goofy kids they have working the counter as the face of their company just laughed at us. When I asked to speak to the person in charge, they basically told us to suck it up.
If it was my company, we'd re-focus on customer service, give a sincere apology and maybe offer some credit to the gift shop. What happened to good customer service and treating each customer with importance and respect???
The rest of Juneau was, frankly, filled with high-pressure salesman selling overpriced junk. Just browsing, they would ask you what your price range was, etc. I don't like that, it would be much better to just have good prices in the first place. The prices could not come close to competing with those on the ship in the duty free store, which is where we ended up making most of our purchases (Victoria was a notable exception).
We ate at The Flight Deck and were met with crappy service like we were wasting the bar tender's time, even though our three meals were close to $100. The food was pretty good though, we got the crab boils (goof) and fried salmon (mediocre). The onion rings were amazing though... when asked what they were seasoned with, "I don't know, that's how they come in the bag."
Very disappointed overall with Juneau. We felt that it was a total and complete tourist trap. I am happy that we spent no money other than our excursion and our meal.
We chose to independently book through Baranoff on their "Fish and Dine" excursion. This was really a great time for the short period we were in Ketchikan. It is a small skiff that accommodated three of us privately in our skiff, but had several of them for everyone.
We went fishing for Rock Fish 200 feet down after a 30 minute or so skiff ride, caught two large ones and a small one, as well as a two-foot shark that we humanely threw back.
Then we went to their very well constructed base camp, in a pristine location, where they filleted and cooked our catch... making sure that we ate just our catch if that is important to you.
On the way back, we saw a harbor seal sunning on a rock, as well as three Eagles. We threw our fish carcasses and watched the Eagles swoop in.
All in all this one is highly recommended... we were treated very well and really enjoyed ourselves in the perfect weather.
This was the absolute pinnacle of our trip.
We booked with Captain Jim Seeland in Sitka Sound Tours, independently, based upon a review from this site. We did his Wildlife Tour, but he will customize your tour for whatever you're looking for.
It was a private tour with just our family for $130 per person on his boat. We saw humpback whales, sea otters, sea lions, Eagles, Puffins, and tons of other birds. He even met us early so we'd have a little extra time.
We had such an amazing time with this... you need to look him up if you'll be in Sitka. My mom and grandparents did the touristy whale watch in Juneau and they said this blew it out of the water. I wish I could post pictures.
Sitka was a quaint town that was a nice change of pace from Juneau, and renewed somewhat our faith in humanity. We ate at a local restaurant and had great food and service.
We chose not to do an excursion in Victoria, so we just walked around a bit and ended up coming back to the ship a little early. It was 6pm-12 midnight in port. We found a very unique Jade carvings store that gave a 25% US military discount. Weird, right?
A very nice, clean city but with a hefty 12% sales tax, which they explained pays to keep their streets clean. Overall, we felt this would be a great place to spend a weekend.