Having sailed on several Holland America ships previously (Prinsendam, Ryndam & Veendam), the Westerdam is the largest of the HAL ships I've sailed on thus far. Crew unfailingly pleasant and helpful, cabin stewards very attentive and somehow managed to keep everything "ship shape" despite the large number of cabins they had to oversee. Noticeable on this voyage was the "nickel and diming": breakfast cappucino and dinner espresso in dining room now offered with extra charge, formerly offered at no charge; option now offered to purchase water with meals; at Mariner's Brunch refill on champagne not offered; port/city maps and overview now in a booklet not convenient to take ashore for quick consultation.
I blocked out/didn't listen to the heavy sell of onboard shopping, port shopping, art auctions, shore excursions, etc. Linda provided several good lectures about Alaska, its history and geology and good port advice. I took one HAL shore excursion (Juneau) and was pleased with the option for getting to the Mendenhall Glacier, plus two other sites. Ship furnishings and finishes have a worn air. Given the time of year, many multi-generational families traveling and appeared to be enjoying the various options on board.
The Lido food was well presented with a large variety of options, however, i only dined in the Lido a couple of times finding the passenger jostling and grabbing to not be very relaxing. Main dining room very accommodating when I requested a table by myself at breakfast. Main dining room had a variety of menu choices, food nicely presented and very good. Wait staff very pleasant, professional and attentive. I dined in the Pinnacle Grill one evening and that was a pleasure although the menu is the same on each ship. It would be great if each Pinnacle Grill chef could offer a "special dish" on each voyage tailored to local ingredients or local cuisine. The Le Cirque theme on "special" nights is a bit tired.
The US park rangers who came aboard during our day cruising Glacier Bay really added to the experience.
Ketchikan is a shoppers paradise so if you are not interested in shopping, a shore excursion might be the best bet. Check the board in the welcome center for the number of ships expected that day and hours slated for arrival. We arrived at 8am while two other large ships were slated to arrive at 10am.
I headed over to Creek Street and took the finicular to the Cape Fox Lodge and enjoyed a latte while chatting with the local barrista.
Generally, the "made is Alaska" items cost much more than the made in China tourist momentos, decide where you want to put your money!
For a first time in Sitka, i was pleased with the experience of walking over to the Sitka National Historical Park and taking a couple of walks guided by rangers, the totem pole guided walk was particularly interesting. An added bonus -- the salmon were running and thick in the creek as we walked in the park.
The Sheldon Jackson museum was hosting a native artist demonstration, an added bonus to the treasures on display in the museum. The Russian cathedral was interesting and well worth a visit and i enjoyed strolling through the town. One person commented to that because of her Russian heritage, she was particularly interested in Sitka and HAL is one of the only cruise lines stopping in Sitka.
What a lovely city and harbor! I was lucky at this port in that i had the great pleasure to meet friends, and to watch one perform in Merry Wives of Windsor, a production of the
Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival performed in Natsamaht, The Gathering Place,at Camosun College. If you've never been Butchart Gardens, they are well worth a visit. Tea at the Empress is memorable. The Royal BC Museum is another "must do" stop while in Victoria.