When starting to research cruiselines for my 55th birthday trip to Alaska, I went first to a trusted friend and travel agent for advice. She told me "Holland America does Alaska well....try them." I had been on Azamara, Princess and RC previously, but never HAL. So, I turned here to CC to research them. To be honest, some of the reviews on the Westerdam sort of concerned me, but in the end, I booked with them on the Westerdam, and I am happy to say that I was glad I did.
My 30-something daughter accompanied me on my birthday trip, and we both really enjoyed the ship and the ports. We laughed because she was probably only of about 10% of the ship in her age group, but she likes the pace we "older" crowd enjoy.....in bed early, up early, etc. etc., so it was never a problem for her. That being said, if you want a cruise with a lot of "action", this one is probably not your first choice. Clearly 2/3 of the ship was my age or older, but that was what I was looking for.
We started by flying to Seattle, staying at the Hampton near Sea-tac, and it was perfect. They even arranged a shuttle for us to the ship the next day for a really reasonable price...around 15.00 each. That worked out great...we were picked up on time and dropped right at the cruise port pronto.
We embarked, and the process was not too bad. About 45 minutes total. When we got to our room, our luggage was already there, so we unpacked and then went to the pool deck to enjoy a scrumptious burger at the grill and the drink of the day. That burger ended up being one of the best I have ever had, and the best for a casual quick lunch.
We got upgraded to a verandah room two weeks before the cruise for a nominal fee, which I was good with, and although many people suggested we wouldn't use our balcony much for an Alaskan cruise, we actually did...a lot. I was really happy that we did, especially the day we were in Glaciar Bay, when we could sit out on our private balcony, talk, drink wine, and enjoy the beautiful view without trying to elbow our way through the crowds for pictures.
Many people who reviewed the ship before we went, spoke about how worn it was, needed upgrading, etc. But, I have to say, I didn't see that at all. It was clean, beautifully decorated, and our room was always taken care of. I guess, to each his own, but I am pretty persnickety about cleanliness...and I just didn't ever see a problem there.
The meals in the main dining room were always exceptional. No disappointments there. The food on the Lido was basically cafeteria food. We only ate up there a few times, and it really was only to fill the belly quickly. I wouldn't eat there more than a few times when there was much better food to be had. We had breakfast delivered to our room every morning, and it was always on time, hot and very good. We loved eating in the privacy of our cabin in our pajamas. Quite a luxury for both of us. Our room stewards kept us in ice and fresh fruit every day too.....very well taken care of! We also ate in the Italian style restaurant one night for an extra 10.00 each...and it was really good, and a nice departure from the dining room. My birthday dinner in the Pinnacle Grill was the highlight of the week though. Beautifully grilled steaks, impeccable service, and they even brought me a delicious chocolate mousse cake for my birthday dessert. Delightful! Get your reservations in ahead of your cruise on the cruise line website...I heard people griping that it was difficult to get a reservation once on board. It was a memorable meal.
We loved the shows every night. Thought they were all very professionally done, and wonderful singers and dancers. The shows were mostly about an hour, with 3 times each evening. I liked that. We were able to have dinner and catch a show, then off to our room to drift off to sleep while reading in bed. Another luxury in our busy lives.
The ports were great. We did whale watching in Juneau and Sitka (booked both off of Trip Advisor....never through HAL). Saw humpbacks, a few Orcas off the ship, a grey whale, puffins, seals, sea otters and the like. Wonderful excursions and worth the money. Did some shopping in Ketchikan, the last port in Alaska, and glad we waited. Got all of our souvenirs there and they had a lot of choices.
I stayed an extra day in Seattle to explore when we returned while my daughter flew back to her home. I really enjoyed Pike Place Market and the Dale Chiluhly exhibit at the museum in Seattle. Glad I had that extra day. All in all, it was a wonderful 55th birthday celebration, and I am already thinking of booking a fall cruise on the Westerdam!