Just got back from our cruise to Alaska on the Westerdam. We have only been on one other cruise, a Carnival Inspiration cruise to the W. Caribbean, which was fine, but was not even close to the week we just had.
I will try and separate this into categories so it's easy to read. We took this cruise with our 10-month old son, his grandparents, and a couple friends. Wasn't going to rush on the review, but after reading one of someone who had a 'horrible' cruise, I thought I'd give a different perspective.
We are in our late 20's and VERY MUCH enjoyed this cruise!
Seattle--We flew in (got a good price on Delta.com) to Seattle on Friday to avoid any problems with flight delays. We got a great rate (about $50/night at the SeaTac Doubletree on priceline). Very nice hotel, delicious cookies, good view of Mt. Rainier on a clear day, and only about a 20 minute drive from downtown. Thrifty Car Rental is right across the street from the Doubletree and they offer free parking ($14/day at the hotel), plus you can drop your car off for no extra charge at Pier 48 and will shuttle you to your terminal for free. We had a great day Saturday exploring Pike Place Market, lunch at Ivar's, the Space Needle, and the Ballard Locks (all do-able in one day if you're up for it). Be ready to pay for parking (average $3/hour).
Booking--Booked through Vacations to Go, got a great rate on a late season sailing. Al was great and everything went smoothly. We booked two cabins, then our friends booked one and were able to get right next door to us. Very easy to work with and get information from.
Embarkation--Very easy. We had to drop off our rental car so we dropped everyone else and then I ran the car down to Thrifty, got a quick ride back. We checked in about 1:00 and the whole process took less than 30 minutes from checking the bags to stepping into our rooms.
Ship Info--The Westerdam, from the very first time we stepped on board, felt like we were at a first-class hotel. Everything was very clean and did not look worn out like the last ship we were on (Carnival's Inspiration) as the ship is only a couple years old. We stayed on the 7th floor port side in a balcony room. The room was spacious enough, bed was very comfortable, and the room stewards were very helpful in meeting all our requests. Our baby was booked in grandparent's room, but Matt was very quick to get a crib into our stateroom, had it set up, made with sheets and blankets that night.
The ship is big, and took a day or so to get the layout, but was very nice. I don't know about everyone else, but every time we came to port, we felt like we were on the nicest ship around. Lots of elevators, elevators on either side of ship are glass so you can see outside, very nice.
Activities--As we had a 10 month old, and grandma and grandpa are older, we didn't take advantage of all the activities on board. We did however, participate in some.
Lots of BINGO (announcements got kind of old after a couple days, they don't announce them in your stateroom but they are very loud in public areas.
Lectures from the Park Ranger and Naturalist at Glacier Bay were informative but we didn't stay long as it seemed like a goofy science teacher (no offense) making bad jokes.
The first art auction was a bit of a trainwreck. The assistant was very loud and seemingly obnoxious, and the girl who led the auction didn't seem very knowledgeable at first about a lot of the items. We very much enjoyed the auctions on the last trip as the auctioneer was very professional and passionate about the art. This time, the emotion seemed forced and a lot of reading off the computer. I say at first because we did end up purchasing a couple of items after lots of discussion with the auctioneer and assistant. They were actually very nice and helpful, kind of pushy, but that's their job, I guess. You know what you're getting into when you go to an art auction as far as that goes. Like I said, after some conversation the girls were very nice, just the first impression didn't do them right.
One activity we did participate in was the Walk for the Cure, a 5k walk around the 3rd deck (9 laps=3 miles). It was $15 and almost 12 of it went to the Komen foundation, the rest covered the T-shirt and bracelet. Very cool to see so many people walking for such a great cause.
The Westerdam Superstar competition was a bit of a joke, as the night we went the talent was questionable at best and the 'judges' were trying way too hard to mimic the American Idol judges. Other activities were competitions for "Dam Dollars" which you can use at the end of the week to buy T-shirts, hats, etc. Make sure you are there early if you want to compete. We went to one and since we weren't there before it started, they would not add us to the list. The kids and teen activities looked good even though we didn't use them.
Service--Exceptional in almost every way, I thought. Again from the moment we stepped onto the ship, everyone was so helpful. They helped grandma and grandpa find their room, and met all of our needs by the time we went to dinner. We had a different element as I mentioned with a 10-month old. I don't know if it was because of him or if everyone got the same great service, but all the crew we came in contact with bent over backward to accommodate us.
Matt our room steward was very nice and set up our room for us and the baby. He cleaned the room twice a day, made great animals and every time we saw him asked if we needed anything.
The service in the Dining room was great as well. Sunyadi was our waiter and was very friendly and helpful. He was polite and helped everyone understand what each item on the menu was, and was happy to bring me 2 different entrees a couple of nights that I wanted them. Bambang was our head waiter, each night he brought our baby a bottle of milk on a silver platter, and spent time playing with him. He loved it,and of course so did we. Firman was the assistant waiter and he was on top of everything, filling drinks, bringing more bread, and clearing the table long before we could think about it.
The entire dining room/stateroom staff is Indonesian, and they all did an exceptional job. They well earned their tips and more. The staff in the Lido was also very good, most of the time. It got very backed up in there sometimes because there was a virus scare onboard and the staff handled all the food so germs could not spread (very thankful for that!) but it did cause the lines to be long. The Lido staff did a good job clearing tables and always offered to bring us a high chair and drinks for the baby.
The service on the Wdam made the entire trip great for us and would love to go back and enjoy the crew on the Westerdam again. Many of them had small children or babies at home, and we had a great time talking and sharing stories with them. Obviously, that they don't get many babies on this ship.
Shore Excursions--I'll break these down by port. Juneau--Did Capt. Larry's Whale Watching Tour. Friendly, experienced staff. Small ship-30 people, they found a lot of whales and got very close, one came within 10 yards of the boat! Obviously this experience could vary but we would book with them again
Sitka--Booked kayaking through the boat. Very friendly guides, told us a lot about the area and pointed out eagles, etc. In the kayak for about an hour, the rest of the time is spent in a small speedboat going out to the boathouse where they had cider and chowder for us. We had great, sunny weather. Could have been cold otherwise I guess, but we were warm while kayaking. Others in our group did the Sea Life Discovery cruise in the semi-submersible boat. Lots of underwater life and a touch tank for the little ones. Good for older folks and little kids.
Ketchikan--Lumberjack show. This was fun. Same kind of stuff you see on ESPN but they do a good job making it fun and unique to Alaska. Our little one even got a chair carved for him! Victoria--Didn't book any excursions. There is a 5 dollar bus roundtrip to downtown. Once there we booked a horseback carriage ride. If you book the one on the boat you ride with 30 other people. In town you can get a private ride for a portion of the price.
Stateroom--We had a balcony room which was well worth the cost! With the great weather we were able to go out quite a bit. We ate breakfast on our balcony several mornings, enjoying the view of the ports before getting off the boat. The room had a double closet (twice the space we had on other boat), bathroom with tub/shower, king size bed, loveseat, chair, table, and lots of storage under the bed which was helpful. Matt our room steward did a great job and took care of our extra needs with the baby. Again, can't say enough about the service.
Dining--Enjoyed almost everything thoroughly. The food in the Dining Room was very good. If the portions aren't enough for you, you can order more than one entree as I did twice. The staff is happy to bring you whatever you want. Lots of variety, different options each night, and if none of that appeals to you they had chicken or steak each night and a couple different salmon dishes most nights. I enjoyed trying different foods I wouldn't normally order, ate something different each night. Tried lots of different appetizers, and soups (lots of fruity soups served cold). Deserts were of course yummy. baked alaska each night and a couple different options. The food in the Lido was also very good.
There was a health scare early in the week so they took extra precautions to make sure no one spread their germs. The staff handled all the food and made sure there were very few common places for people to touch and get/spread sickness.
The food itself was great. Breakfast lines got long for the bistro as that is where they had unique dishes each morning (mango pancakes, some sort of fajita chicken dish, etc.) but there were short lines at the express where you could get eggs, meat, potatoes, etc. The pastries were my favorite. Very soft flaky and sweet, I couldn't get enough! Only one midnight buffet, the desert extravaganza. The chocolate fountain with strawberries was great, everything else so-so. It looked pretty but choices were weak.
Entertainment--Ship singers and dancers were OK. I didn't enjoy them as much as the older crowd. Although grandma and grandpa loved the music. THe illusionist was awesome and the comedian was very funny, despite a very rude person walking out and making a spectacle early in the performance. After the "Europe" singing show, I couldn't go back for another show with the singers/dancers. Just wasn't my thing. Much better entertainment than Carnival.
Disembarkation--Very easy. We got our ticket and time and got right off and on our bus to the airport. Cant wait to come back again!
Summary--Great trip. Weather was beautiful. Sunny all week and not too cold! Everyone told us how rare that was, from the park ranger to the people we met in the ports. The ship was beautiful, the service was great, again the Indonesian/Filipino crew was awesome, and we can't wait to go again.
Sorry, this review got rushed the last few categories, but I wanted to get this posted. Hope this helps you as you plan your vacation.