I recently took an Alaskan cruise with my extended family. 6 adults and 3 children (3-9 years old).
We were all on the Navigation deck, almost right next to each other.
I will try and break this down a bit. Keep in mind I did this cruise as a way to see Alaska. I considered the ship to be simply a floating hotel to get me to where I was going.
Alaska as a destination: Wonderful! Absolutely beautiful even in the rain (of which there was very little). Would go again in a heartbeat. Wish I could have stayed longer.
Westerdam: And old style boat. Very much and older crowd. Kids did not like it much, nothing to do. Two pools, but no slides, etc. Too cold to really use the outdoor one anyway. I knew that going in, but didn't know it was quite so boring. Basketball court was actually pretty cool, but everyone was there, so it was crowded. Kids, stay away. Even the ping pong tables looked like they were stored in a garage for decades. Man, spend a couple of dollars and get new paddles! This isn't a prison!
Rooms: All on Navigation deck. Smaller than I expected, but very close to stairwell and very quiet and comfortable bed. Movies can be rented for free and that helped the kids a bit. Balcony was awesome even though the furniture looked ratty. This cruise was all about the view, so the balcony is a MUST. Not too cold or windy either, I must say.
Holland America: What can I say? They were 100% polite in every way. When I argued about a charge, it was taken care of right away. In fact, the only real problem I had was when we disembarked in Seattle and they wouldn't let me off the boat and said I had to go to the main office, but wouldn't say why. Turns out I had $3 left on my account they wanted to pay me! I knew I had it and I figured it wasn't worth sitting in line to take care of. I wish they would have let me off the boat. Took 30 min to get my $3! But at least it shows they are honest.
Crew: Works very hard, did a very good job. Dinners in the Vista dining room were very busy and they were understaffed as the service was poor. This is not the fault of the workers who were never at rest. It is the fault of HA for under staffing the area. We left a very hefty tip (a couple of hundred) for our room stewards because they were excellent to me and my family. They remembered all our names from day 1 and they were open to answer questions about their life on the boat (which I found to be fascinating). I made a comment that I hated having to go to the Lido buffet at night just to carry 4 glasses of water back to the room in case I got thirsty (they are very small glasses). It was a flight of stairs and at the other end of the ship. He suggested I call room service. I said no way, even if it is free, would I call room service just for water. He said absolutely no problem, we are happy to do it. That makes him my #1 favorite employee of HA! I did it every night forward and they always seemed happy to do it. I used room service for breakfast as well a couple of times, but the room is really too small to enjoy it that way. Best for just some juice and milk to get you ready to go to breakfast!
Food: Lido buffet is maybe 1 step above Hometown Buffet, which to me means it is graded a C (HB should not remain open as far as I am concerned). Nothing was excellent about it except maybe the iced tea and ice cream (and eggs benedict). But, what can you expect on a floating hotel? Vista dining was a bit better, but not by much. I would grade it a B. There were a couple of dishes that I was very happy with, but overall I left a bit disappointed. I didn't know what to expect since I never cruised before, but I was hoping for better. I have heard that food is the best on HA, but if that is the case, I am in trouble. Wife felt the same way. She loves to watch food network and such and had high hopes on the cruise. It broke my heart to see the disappointment in here eyes after the first dinner. Son loved the pastas. Best thing was breakfast, Eggs Benedict with salmon and crab meat....yum! Wish I could order them for lunch. Reminds me of an old joke, I got good news and bad news. Bad news is that all we have to eat is junk, good news is that we have plenty of it. As a side note: The final barbeque I thought was pretty good, but everyone else in the family gave it a thumbs down. Can't go wrong with fruit either, always fresh and good. It was the "Bistro" section that was the biggest let down.
Ports: The reason we came. Food is not going to bring us down, it is used as fuel to keep us going. In Juneau we did the helicopter to the glacier tour. Perfect. Well worth the money. Glacier Bay is among the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Sitka did the wildlife tour and saw tons of things. Ketchikan did the fishing trip and landed my limit! Victoria didn't have much time but went to the museum next to the Parliment building and they had a bunch of totem poles which I found to be super cool. Wish we had more time at each port.
Entertainment: Casino was nice, won some money, the magician and comedian were OK, but the dancers, etc. was simply not designed for my age group. Didn't do much else in that regard. Again, this is a retirement type cruise ship.
So, would I do it again? Yes, I would go to Alaska, and Yes I would cruise again and Yes I would do Holland America again, but not this way. Next time I go to Alaska I need to do it on my own so I don't feel rushed. Next time I cruise will be on another line that is suited for the kids (Disney perhaps). Next time I take Holland America will be in 30+ years when I retire!
I highly recommend however, for people to go no matter which line takes you, Alaska is excellent!