We just got back from the Sept 2-9, 2012 Oosterdam Alaska sailing from Seattle. It was the first 7-day cruise we had done in 10 years and seemed to have a much younger average passenger age than the 14-21 day cruises we've been doing and lots of West Coasters that booked last-minute like us.
We last sailed the O-dam in late October 2011 on a 21-day Hawaii/Mexican Riviera Collector's cruise. Captain Van der Loo and Deejay Brett were on that cruise and this one as well. I have very high regard for this captain as he made some critical decisions last year with a triple medical evac on the Hawaii cruise. Brett is highly energetic and lots of fun. He remembered us from last year and we enjoyed sailing with him again.
I was happy to see the condition of the ship was better than last year, even though it had just emerged from dry-dock at that time, which you couldn't tell. While we were sailing then, much of the public areas got new carpet and our cabin carpet was cleaned on the cruise this year. I didn't notice shabby/dirty upholstery on this cruise, but the cocktail tables throughout the ship (particularly in the Crow's Nest) need to be replaced.
We were satisfied with our cabin. We were in a nice quiet spot in the aft on deck 6 and had been upgraded several categories. The beds and bedding are still awesome - I always sleep so well on a cruise. It also seemed that the heating/cooling system in our room worked better than normal. Cabin stewards did a great job and kept everything stocked. No issues there.
Food was a little uneven. My favorite lunch was a Salad Nicoise with salmon that had the best balsamic/olive oil dressing in the MDR. I also enjoyed the sushi in the Lido and soups were wonderful as always. I didn't eat any bread, but DH said it was good. The cupcakes at the Cupcake Tea were dry and tasted like they had been frozen, which was also the case last year on O-dam. My cheeseburger the first lunch in the MDR was charred beyond recognition and the bun was as hard as a rock. I will say the coffee seemed better than last year. I didn't mind it and the cappuchinos at dinner were good as well. I didn't have salmon at the salmon bake by the pool this time, although I ate a lot of salmon and seafood at dinner. Several people mentioned that the salmon at the bake was bland, but very fresh.
Entertainment was only fair. We have seen all the production shows several times before, so didn't bother to attend those. They had two comedians - a very funny guy with a dummy (mannequin-american as he called it) and Julie Barr (did 2 G-rated & an X-rated comedy show). She reminded me of Lisa Lampenelli and was entertaining. Only had the "Marriage Game" & "Liar's Club" shows in the Queen's Lounge.
Saw one movie in the theatre - "This Means War", which was enjoyable. They also showed "The Lorax", "Hunger Games" and several others. We are big trivia players and there was one main trivia game per day in the Crow's Nest, along with a music/movie trivia game at 6:00 pm in the Queen's Lounge most days.
The Alaska weather was beautiful. Tracy Arm/Sawyer Glacier was overcast but not raining and we got pretty darn close to the glacier. It was so late in the season there wasn't much ice and didn't see a single seal. Last summer on the Amsterdam, we saw countless seals there on the ice (some even having babies). We saw some bald eagles and quite a few whales and dolphin enroute.
Juneau was partly sunny and very mild. Enjoyed walking around the harbor and doing some shopping. DH went to Mendenhall Glacier and really it enjoyed it and the waterfall there. He also got to touch a live bald eagle some guy had in town - he loved that.
Ketchekan was perfectly clear (blue skies!) and fascinating to see the salmon running. I had never seen that before and it was great! Only downside was the rotten fish smell that permeated the whole town from all the dead ones.
Sitka was its usual scenic self and clear as well. We walked around town and up into some neighborhoods and did more shopping.
Victoria was a bust. We got in late and only had a couple of hours in late evening to explore. There were shuttles to take people downtown in the dark, but we chose to stay on the ship. It is a real shame not to get a whole day in Victoria - it is a beautiful city with a gorgeous harbor and lots to do.
Overall, I would rate this cruise a B+. It wasn't my favorite cruise (out of 13 so far), but it wasn't the worst either. For what we paid for it last-minute, I felt we got our money's worth and enjoyed a pleasant week's vacation. Still like Holland America as much as ever!