Westerdam - Alaska: Westerdam Cruise Review by Twiceblessed
Overall Member Rating
Westerdam - Alaska
We traveled with a total of 11 family members to Alaska on the Westerdam for the July 30th cruise to celebrate my fathers 60th Birthday. There were 4 children in our group ages 3, 5, 7 and 10 and my mother was in a wheelchair having broken her foot 3 weeks prior to sailing. While my parents have cruised before on both Crystal and Princess, nobody else in the party had and HAL was a new experience for everyone. Over all we had a fantastic experience and would easily travel on HAL again.
We arrived on Thursday, the 27th to explore Seattle for a few days before the cruise. We stayed at the lovely Doubletree near the airport and enjoyed the hotel as well as its self serve laundry which we used twice to start our cruise with clean clothes. We took our girls 7 and 10 to the Space Needle, (great views), Science Center (one of the best in the country), Pikes Place (we bought little sculptures made from Mt. St. Helen ash, the girls loved that) and Pioneer More Square. The others in our party went to the Museum of flight instead of the Science center and enjoyed that experience.
Embarkation went smoothly. We got there by 11:00 am and were on the ship by 11:45. We had done the online registration and I am not sure how much quicker it went but things flowed well. My first thoughts about the ship were that ship was larger then I thought she would be. Crew members were greeting us and directing us all the way to the Lido. Soon we were eating at the Lido. The atmosphere was one of excitement. We bought 2 soda cards for $18 dollars and really only used one up. We found we didnt order soda at the dining room, only at the Lido and perhaps the bar. Our rooms were ready by 1: OOpm. Before heading to the room, we heard a park ranger speak in the Vista Lounge about Alaska and the gold rush. The talk was all right. The Vista lounge is beautiful but there are many seats which have blocked views due to pillars or the balcony hanging low. Sometimes this makes it more difficult for people in wheel chairs to fully see shows as my mother found out.
Our immediate family, (me, my husband and 2 children) had connecting cabins on the veranda deck room 5082 and 5084. It was fantastic having adjoining rooms. We left our doors open between the rooms the entire voyage as well and the balcony divider. It made our rooms seem a bit bigger and made the cabin experience very enjoyable. Each room had a different cabin steward which seemed odd since they were connecting rooms, but we enjoyed both Andy and Isrinalde (sp) as our stewards. They knew our names the moment they first saw us, were pleasant to speak with and really seemed to enjoy our children. They were both very warm and happy people who wanted to make sure our room experience was a positive one. They seemed to have ESP because whenever we were out of the room, they were there cleaning and arranging things. The cabins were very nice, lots of storage and had showers with tubs. Each night we were greeted with wonderful towel animals, my favorite being the orangutan swinging from a coat hanger.
This was our first cruise so I have nothing to compare it to. She is a lovely vessel with beautiful fresh flowers and art work. It was nice having elevators in the middle of the ship. Often the glass elevators traveled fastest. We never hit really choppy water and although my husband gets motion sick, he never felt he needed any medicine. The rich wood throughout the ship was very nice. It was always clean and never looked run down. People were always found cleaning. There were hand sanitizers by all elevators and throughout the ship.
We ate most lunches and breakfasts in the Lido. We tried the Vista for 1 lunch and 1 breakfast but preferred the service and ease upstairs. It was also much faster. On our third day our family discovered a wonderful server named Teguh who was just incredible. He made wonderful Indonesian paper animals for our children each time he saw them. Our girls could not wait to see their new friend each day; he was just a joy to be around . He quickly became the favorite crew member for all 11 of us. He would go out of his way to try to find us a seat in his station or to bring us whatever we needed. On salmon bake day outside by the pool, he even helped my youngest carry her try through the buffet line asking her what items she would enjoy so he could put them on her tray for her since it was to heavy to carry on her own. We have wonderful memories with Teguh.
The first night we ate dinner at the Pinnacle Grill. I have read many negative reviews about the restaurant but we all found our evening to be delightful. We enjoyed lovely food, the only place to find Flaming Baked Alaska on the ship as well as attentive service. We would have gone back for lunch or dinner but they were booked up. Our food in the Vista Dining room was terrific each night. It amazes me how well it was prepared considering how many people they had to serve. I highly recommend any of the fruit chilled soups. They were delicious. The service at our table ok. It seemed our head server was performing a "job" and we never really warmed up to him and nor he to us. We rarely saw him smile and things just seemed off at times. This was far from the norm of what all our other interactions with other staff were like so I just chalked it up to an anomaly. The head person for our area was much more friendly and he even was able to make sure my youngest daughter had a special roast beef sandwich made for her.
I went to 3 of the evening shows and found them pretty good. The last song and dance show was Hollywood themed and done very well. The number from Hair was a favorite. The crowd enjoyed each night I attended as did our family members. My sister enjoyed playing bingo and watching the Westerdam Star competition (like American Idol). We all participated in a ship building contest and my husband and kids really like trying to build a ship that would hold a 12 pack of soda. Ours was a beautiful creation which sailed very well without soda and promptly sank with. It was lots of fun!
The thermal spa area with the warm chairs and scented sauna was a favorite of mine as well as the hydro pool. I bought the $150.00 unlimited passes for both and was happy to have them though they sold day passes for $20 for each area. The thermal chairs were a great place to watch our approach into Glacier Bay. From the chair I saw orcas swimming. I also worked out Glacier Bay morning and saw more whales in the distance. It has a terrific view. The best times for me to workout were after breakfast. My husband had to wait for machines earlier.
My girls (7 and 10) loved Club Hal. In fact, when my youngest realized she was going to miss the last evening activity (a pj party and movie) due to our excursion in Victoria, she fell apart and started crying. My ten year old loved being able to check herself in and out of Club Hal while my 7 year old wished she were old enough. We told my oldest if she checked out early, she was only allowed to head to the room unless another location was arranged with us ahead of time. This worked out well for her. If she was bored or did not wish to participate in an activity, she could leave on her own. While she liked the scavenger hunts, she did not always want to do them so there were occasions when she did leave. They both participated in the talent show on the last day and did skits with each of their group. Their younger cousins also enjoyed Club Hal. Each night a paper would appear at our door which would tell about the next days Club Hal activities. The girls would rush through breakfast and dinner to get upstairs to have fun with their new friends.
A rainy day found us in Glacier Bay. It was cold but beautiful just the same. The port side of the ship had the longer views of the glaciers. Pea soup was served as was hot chocolate. I loved watching from deck 10 and our veranda. The crows nest had rangers and great views in warmth. I loved the display nature put on and could not believe the thunderous sound that would come before the ice would crash into the ocean. WOW!
In Juneau, the weather was very rainy and overcast. Thanks to the boards, we booked a terrific independent dog sledding tour with Coastal Helicopters for $100 less then the ship. We were worried our tour might be canceled but it was not. So glacier and sledding tours with the sip were canceled, they were at different glaciers then our glacier. It was a terrific trip, even in rain. We all got a chance to help steer the sled, even the kids. They were very safety oriented and aware of potential difficulties. After the sledding, we all got to hold 10 day old puppies. The helicopter ride itself was also a huge highlight. The entire trip was one our family will remember for a lifetime. After the sledding, we had planned on going to Mendenhall and Mt. Roberts Tramway but the tram was in the clouds and we were a bit tired. Instead we ate a wonderful lunch at the Twisted Fish and toured the town. We mostly shopped in locally owned shops, past the Red Dog Saloon.
In Sitka 10 of us took the morning Sea Otter cruise. It was another highlight for the family. My mother had done the same excursion 3 years ago but enjoyed this trip more. We saw Bald Eagles, seals, otters and Humpback whales. The whales were in a group of four and put on quite a display. The circled our boat and were magnificent to watch. The otters were very fun to watch as well. My husband to the Bike and Hike excursion and enjoyed himself as well. I had been worried if he would like it since an earlier review was not favorable, but he thought the trip was just what he was looking for, nothing difficult, but at a leisurely pace. The guide also spoke about the area. After meeting up at noon, we had lunch at a Mexican/Italian restaurant near St. Michaels Church, visited the church for free with our Sea Otter tickets and then walked to the Sitka Historical National Park. We loved the park. The rangers showed the girls wild berries they could pick and eat; we saw salmon swimming at the bridge and lots of interesting totem poles. There were even carvers making totems. The walk to the park was about 20 minutes.
It was a beautiful day in Ketchikan, not a drop of rain. We took the Saxman Village tour through the ship bright and early at 7:30am. During the last part of the village dancing they invite others to join in. My sister and daughter went up to the stage and were handed red capes with clan animals on them and then were encouraged to dance with the people from the village. My daughter thought that was very special. The totems were interesting and our guide was informative. The tour was nice but I would try a different one to Misty Fiords if I were in town again. Our big trip was dog sledding in Juneau so we planned Ketchikan for something within our remaining budget. We also found berries to pick near Saxman Village and near the bridge by the funicular by Cape Fox Lodge. The ride up to the lodge was easy; my mother in her wheel chair had no problem. We had coffee and tea in their coffee bar area of the lodge and met wonderful workers at the hotel desk who were very friendly and went out of their way to answer questions we had.
Dining times at the Vista Dining room were changed so the early dining people could catch excursions without rushing. We went on the excursion to Butchart Gardens. Since it was Saturday evening was had the opportunity to watch an incredible firework display which alone was worth the price of admission. It was close to dusk by the time were arrived at the gardens and with effort, we toured most of the park. It was truly spectacular. Afterward we found a spot in the grass and waited a ½ hour for the fireworks to begin. This was another great highlight from our trip. Not to be missed if you are traveling on Saturday evening to Victoria.
Our last morning went very well. We had our last breakfast in the Lido with our favorite crew member Teguh. The girls wrote him thank you notes for all his wonderful animals and characters he had made for them. Our group was not called until 9:00am so we were able to eat leisurely. When it was time to say goodbye to Teguh and the ship my littlest one went to hug him goodbye and just kept hugging him. It was a very sweet moment and summed my feelings too. I didnt want to leave our new friend or the beautiful ship either. While it was a very smooth disemarkment, it was not easy to leave the ship.
Would I travel on a HAL cruise again. Without Question! I am hooked! Less
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