We are seniors with considerable cruising experience. We have been on Carnival, Princess, Celebrity and Holland America. In recent years we have had several trips on Holland America and are three star Mariners. Holland America seems to fit our preferences.
We flew to Seattle on Friday, June 14 and stayed two nights at a new Hampton Inn at the airport before boarding the Oosterdam on June 16. Embarkation was smooth except for a lack of porters at the pier. We had upgraded from a Verandah cabin to a Superior Suite (SY category) and were pleased to find the cabin with substantially more space than we have had on previous cruises. The cabin was ready for us; we had no problems with the cabin, everything worked and was in order for the entire week.
We did not take any of the ship's excursions. Mainly we walked around the small towns on our own. We particularly enjoyed the cable car up to Mt. Roberts in Juneau and the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Sitka.
The entertainment on the ship was fairly standard. We don't care for the singers and dancers and the loud music so skipped those shows. I enjoyed the ventriloquist and the magician, although my wife is less appreciative of those acts. We particularly enjoyed the Adagio duo and were in their small audience most nights. On most HA ships it's a string quartet but this time it was a piano-violin duo. Both were good musicians from Eastern Europe. I consider the computer classes provided on Holland America's ships to be a highlight of the trip. Rob, the techspert, was very good and explained some of Windows 8.
We had open seating. We would have preferred early fixed seating but the demand for it is such that you have to book early fixed many months in advance. HA doesn't seem to want to expand the supply of early dining places in response to the clear demand.
We accepted open seating and were seated at a table for four with one other couple each night. One night the maitre d' tried to put us at a table for 10 or 12;I declined and we were immediately put at a smaller table. Service was completely satisfactory every night. While the food was good, we did feel that the options were not very exciting. I made a decision on a main course but didn't feel that I was choosing one when I would have loved to have had three others. We had dinner one night in the Pinnacle Grill and it was excellent.
Breakfast was usually in the Lido featuring a custom made omelette; I love those!! Lunch was either in the Lido or the Dining Room and was fine.
I would not recommend this cruise for a first trip to Alaska. A first trip should include time on land. You cannot get a feel for the vastness of Alaska unless you spend time on land seeing sights such as Mt. McKinley and the train through Denali National Park. Also, Tracy Arm is not as spectacular as Glacier Bay. This cruise was fine for a second trip to see some of the towns with a chance to go to some truly great sights such as Mendenhall Glacier.
Overall, we enjoyed the cruise, although we preferred our previous experiences on the Noordam and Nieuw Amsterdam. However, Holland America remains our favorite line for a good balance between cost and quality.