Sailed Holland America for the first time on my first trip to Alaska. I did my research so I knew that the ship wasn't going to be a Party All Night Ship, which was fine by me. I wanted to spend as much time exploring Alaska as possible and a good night's sleep was always on my agenda. One of the things I loved the most about HAL, and the reason I would only sail with them in Alaska, was their attention to Alaska. From the daily lectures to the food selections to the cooking classes, they had a constant focus on where we were and I learned a lot about the land I was visiting.
The embarkation process was incredibly smooth and the cabins were ready when we boarded the ship. My luggage arrived almost the same time I did. The cabins are the largest I have seen on a cruise line and the staff certainly exceeded my expectations. I had a balcony stateroom which came in handy for the amount of whales we sailed by every day. The bathroom was typical, but the bathtub was a nice bonus if only for space.
I am a vegetarian and wasn't expecting much in terms of food. I will comment that they do an excellent job of indicating their vegetarian options but the variety needs a little creativity. Vegetarians don't necessarily love eggplant or pasta and vegetables at every meal and that was the bulk of the choices. I will say that the food was cooked well and tasted quite good. My only real complaint is that the sandwich guy in the Lido restaurant used the same gloves to grab meat and make veggie sandwiches. I stopped eating there after the first day. I ate at the Pinacle Grill twice and highly recommend it.
The stops were great. In Juneau I took a helicopter to a glacier where we could hike. It was one of the most amazing experiences I have had. There are no words to describe the beauty. Upon my return, I took the Mt Roberts Tramway and hiked around up there for a few hours. I do also recommend picking up some Glacier Smoothie Soap from a tiny little shop right off the ship- fabulous product.
Glacier Bay was the next day and something everyone should do in their lives. It is rare to see such unspoiled land. We got a nice surprise when we stopped the ship to watch a brown bear and four wolves hanging out on shore enjoying some salmon, a rare grouping in nature. I loved that the bow of the ship was open for us to get close to the water. I believe I was outside from 6:30 am until 3:00 pm when I finally went to the afternoon tea to warm up. The guides we took on when we entered Glacier Bay were so informative and truly passionate about what they do. They added so much to our day.
Next stop was Sitka, my favorite of them all. It was so refreshing to visit a town that isn't owned by the cruise ships and you can stop in the shops and meet the owners/residents. I can't wait to visit Sitka again. I took the Rainforest Hike on this stop and wish it had been hours longer. I wouldn't recommend it for anyone that can't hike at a moderate speed as you would slow down your fellow hikers. Our guide was fun and educational. I made many new friends on this trip. We even had a bear growling nearby.
Then we headed to Ketchikan. This was more of a town you expect to see on a cruise tour. It had all of the required shops that are owned by the cruise lines. I started the day on a Floatplane trip to the Misty Fjords. It was a beautiful trip and well worth the time and money. I wasn't interested in any of the shops so I found an internet cafe for a hour or so and then got back on the ship. A great bonus in the balcony staterooms are the wool blankets. I bundled up under one and watched the sea otters follow us out to sea.
Last stop was Victoria. I didn't bother getting off the ship at this stop, simply because I didn't feel like dealing with transportation to the town. Instead, I went to the lounge to watch a movie.
We arrived in Seattle on time and debarkation was incredibly simple and well organized.
Overall, I was extremely pleased with my trip on the Westerdam. It was exactly what I wanted for an Alaska Excursion.