We booked this cruise in a deluxe veranda suite last year with the intent of taking our adult son and his wife with us to Alaska. This June due to family health problems, they decided that they could not go. Instead of canceling, our TA suggested that we take a Superior suite (SZ) guarantee. HAL allowed us to keep our hotel room and transfers, perks that came with the deluxe suite, and 10 days before sailing, upgraded us to another deluxe suite aft corner on the wake. It was a marvelous and exciting surprise.
We had booked air from Tulsa to Seattle and lo and behold, were upgraded in Dallas to first class, another good omen. More exciting than "hot nuts", and a great lunch, was the sight of Mt. Ranier poking her head above the clouds about 10 minutes out of Seattle. The GrayLine airporter HAL uses for transfers in Seattle was a disaster. Landing at 1:45, we almost missed our reserved car to the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train,due to confusion and pick-up delays.
The Fairmont Olympic was very gracious in speeding our registration and helped us meet our car on time at 5:30. The dinner train was fun, but we were too tired to enjoy it due to the long travel time and frustration of the transfer process. The Fairmont worked well with HAL and had everything planned to a science to facilitate luggage loading and checkout the next morning. The HAL rep was great. We told him of of frustration and also that we were sending our luggage on the bus, but that we were taking a cab to the pier. It was one of our better decisions as we were at the pier at 11:15, and on the ship by 11:35.
HAL's embarkation process was flawless as usual. Having been on the smaller S and R class HAL ships, and loving them, we were apprehensive about the size of the Westerdam and it's ambiance as a HAL ship. It was very unfounded. We felt very much at home. The Westerdam has a definite "WOW" factor. Launched in 2004,She even still has the new ship smell.
We went to our regular place on the Lido for some lunch and eagerly waited for the "cabins are ready" call to see our beautiful aft suite with the humungous wrap-around veranda.
The Cabin 5186: Deck 5 aft port corner. Entrance is from a small side hall and faces the door to the dressing room. The bed faces starboard, has locking night tables and a bank of 4 closets that backs to the wall of the dressing room which has another bank of 4 mirrored closets. There are many cabinets and a desk area from the end of the couch, under the windows, and on the other side of the veranda door that includes another desk area. The suite is smaller than the suites on the S and R class ships but you can only tell from the reduced space between the foot of the bed and the sofa bed which is a single in the aft suites. Storage is phenomenal but there's an absence of adequate drawer space. There was the customary bottle of champagne from the captain and invitations to suite events. The bathroom was wonderful. with separate shower stall and full sized whirlpool tub, double sink, and 2 mirrored medicine cabinets. While we explored this new Vista ship our luggage arrived.
Life boat drill, then sailaway from our customary place in the Crow's Nest which has better viewing since they eliminated the center dividing bar on the panoramic windows. Several on the HAL board mentioned the hor hors d'oeuvres had been eliminated but we had the on this last Alaska trip of the season.
The Cruise: Service was top notch with 3 exceptions. The Lido bar staff fudged on our request for regular coke and returned our drinks with the same diet coke. They were not busy as it was the last night and many pax were on shore in Victoria. The Pinnacle (alternate for charge restaurant) staff was inept and inattentive. The baked potatoes were undercooked, my steak was not prepared to my request, the Bernaise sauce was "off" tasted spoiled, and the my DH's au gratin were cold and postage stamp size.
The kitchen gave our concierge a hard time about our request for hors d'oeuvres for a suite party for 2pm, saying they could serve until 5 and that there would be an extra charge for over 8 guests. We decided to forego the party, and at 3:30 on Saturday they showed up with the food anyway.
Everything else was great. We enjoyed our favorite watering hole, the ocean Bar,but it felt strange to look out on the promenade deck and see walkers while sitting there.
The Food in the dining room was excellent, menus great with many different seafood choices, especially salmon. The salmon grill on deck was very well organized and the food was great. DR service was timely and food hot and cold when it should be. The only complaint was on the last formal night the wine steward tried to sell $35 wine tasting tickets, that bothered me.
Shore excursion in Juneau, Glacier, whale watching, and Salmon bake was very well organized and worth every penny. Glacier Bay viewing was spectacular and the naturalist's narration was very well done. We had a better view from our veranda than they had in the Crow's Nest. Apart from the rain which cancelled many tours in Ketchikan, it was a fabulous trip.
The shops are good sized but have the same HAL sales except that the logo merchandise never went on sale. We skipped the casino, the shows, and the art IPOD tour due to how much we do in 7 port-intensive days with my minor mobility problem. The dining room and show lounge are both named Vista so many people kept going in the wrong direction. We got turned around once or twice too.
The cruise had many first-timers so public rooms were not too full. Many complained of rough seas but we didn't notice any and had expected the as it was our first time in the Pacific.
Debarkation was an absolutely painless process. Laid back, without crowds, and easily-found luggage. We really liked this ship, the officers, especially the Captain Peter Harris, and the Crew were wonderful. This was one of our best HAL experiences. My DH says the Westerdam has the best Laundry services of all the HAL ships. I highly recommend this ship.