Westerdam - Alaska: Westerdam Cruise Review by nodumblond
Overall Member Rating
Westerdam - Alaska
Travel and Embarkation We had challenges with our airline changing our flight at the last minute, cutting it far too close for us in terms of allowing time to get to the pier. Thank goodness for Uptown Transit and the town car we reserved, who were waiting on our delayed plane and got us there in the nick of time. It was worth every penny we spent, which wasnt much more than the transfers offered by the cruise line. As it was about 2:30 by the time we arrived at the dock, there was no wait to check in, and with express documents in hand was at our cabin in about fifteen minutes.
Cabin: 7115 interior towards the aft. Nice use of space to allow for storage (three More closets, drawers under the beds, three plugs at the desk/vanity). The bed was very comfy, and the sheets were downy soft. Our cabin steward was so efficient that we never caught his name we only saw him in the hallways as we were to-ing and fro-ing! The position of the cabin is also conducive to quick hops to the Lido for meals nice, as the room really didnt have enough space to make use of room service, unless one wanted to eat on the bed. For us, this wasnt an issue at all; we wanted to be up on deck to see the views, anyway.
Public Spaces: Neat and clean, even after a post-port horde laid waste to the Lido. You had to look hard to find the usual wear and tear that one might expect. We found that the whirlpools were somewhat overrun with individuals who didnt know hot tub etiquette (move over and make room for new arrivals, dont step over folks if they dont know youre coming). Never used the pool; the covered one was designated family pool and tended to be used by the kids, while the aft pool was too cool given the season.
Meals: The food in the Vista Dining Room was the usual high-quality. The service was surprisingly inconsistent it took three days before our waiter remembered we had two diners who always drank iced tea, and sometimes it took forever to find the wine steward. However, it seemed after the first evening that the powers that be took notice of this; the second night, they were in the dining room ensuring that service was speedy and complete, and things improved with each evening though it never quite matched the incomparable staff we had on the Ryndam. It helped that we had two great tablemates!
Lido meals were equally palatable. The Terrace Grill, with fresh burgers and fries, was a big winner. A small quibble: the condiment dispensers (think a small spicket rather than a pump) was maddening taking far too long and not having enough, especially when one person was filling small paper cups for a family of sixs need for ketchup.
We didnt do the Pinnacle Grill, so I cant comment on that.
We should note that they were, thankfully!, enforcing the dress codes in the Lido and Vista. This is one of the reasons why we chose Holland America; I like seeing my fiancEe in a sport jacket once in a blue moon. In other words; bring a sport jacket and plan on using it, and dont you dare head from the pool to the Lido barefoot and wearing only a bathrobe. We witnessed more than one person who was taking issue with the maitred over not being allowed into the dining room on Informal nights without a jacket. People! Read your travel documents! This is not Carnival!
Spa: Only took advantage of the one day hydropool and thermal suite pass. The thermal suite is definitely worth $20 a day, just for the heated lounges if not the beautifully tiled and scented saunas; the hydropool, not so much, except as a way to avoid the crowds at the whirlpools. Unless you have your heart set on a day of expensive treatments, wait until the port days hit they had mini treatments that were much more easygoing on the wallet.
Entertainment: Julie Barr, the comic, was the funniest thing going. Definitely not for the kiddies. Saw the last ten minutes of one stage show and decided not to see the rest (HAL should really consider reinvesting some of the money they spend on lighting and staging into the actual show talent and content itself; to see a mambo sung by a girl in a 1780s masquerade outfit was just silly). The rest of the bar talent was unremarkable, except the piano bar guy, who was entirely too Vegas lounge lizard for us. As I adored the guy I saw on the Ryndam, I was very disappointed.
Ports: Glacier Bay was amazing, as always. We had decent though bracing weather and loved every wind-burned minute of it out on the bow (where we took residence for six hours).
Juneau featured our first really miserable day wet and cold and very overcast. We still had great luck with Captain Larry (who we absolutely recommend!!)s whale watching, catching over a half dozen flukes.
Sitka was another wet and overcast day we walked to the Raptor Center and through the historical park rather than take a shore excursion. A lovely little town.
Ketchikan/Victoria: we lump these together because we had far too little time at either port five hours at each. The paucity of time almost forces you to do a shore excursion; you simply dont have time to waste trying to get the lay of the land.
Note to HAL: if you have to do Victoria for maritime law reasons, just drop Ketchikan its not fair to either city to give them such short shrift.
Luckily for us, we found a company at the Ketchikan pier that did a morning Totem Bight tour; we didnt get their name, but their booth is at the end of the pier AWAY from the visitors center, and they also do a tour to Saxman. Rob (Rod?) gave a wonderfully narrated tour of the town on the way to and from the park a great time. Ketchikan is getting really overrun with Caribbean-type tourist shops at the port edge, but if you walk around, you can find some cool home-grown places.
Similarly, at Victoria, we hopped a pedicab with our new friend, Ian splurging on what became a three-hour private tour of the city. At $60 Canadian an hour, its not the cheapest thing you could do, but he stopped at every piece of flora and fauna my fiancEe wanted to photograph, and told us great things about the backstory of Victoria. He even pulled alongside a First Nation street carver, whereupon said fiancEe purchased a newly carved wooden fish that the artist nicely autographed for him. It was an absolutely amazing experience, and one we recommend most highly.
Disembarkation: iIs nice that we can wait in our staterooms. At least, I thought we could. Either we were wrong, or someone might want to let the cabin staff know; they were knocking on our door at 8 am to see if wed left yet. We dont begrudge them that they need to turn around the cabins as soon as possible but if we know were one of the last groups off (which we were), were not going to get up at the crack of dawn.
Because we were relatively late in the process, we werent confronted with an entire hall full of luggage to sort through. It was still something of a free for all, regardless; there MUST be a better way to organize this process, especially as our trip had a number of elderly passengers whose ability to maneuver around was questionable at best.
However, those caveats given, our departure was still relatively speedy and smooth, and we easily caught a cab to the airport for our flight home.
In short: The experience was still amazing, given a few little bobbles, and wed do it again in a heartbeat. I still prefer Holland America to anything else I've sailed, but may now try Princess or Celebrity just to see how they compare. Less
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