We had the pleasure of visiting Alaska for 20 days, June 5th to June 24th. Included was the one week land tour with HAL - Fairbanks to Seward, and cruising on The Oosterdam - Seward to Vancouver. Let me say that the land tour was outstanding although the Westmark Hotel in Anchorage was far below average compared to the hotels in Fairbanks, Denali, and Alyeska. The day long trip on The Mt. McKinley Explorer was worth the whole cost of the trip!! The other primary highlight was our time in Alyeska and naturally Denali too.
We arrived by bus at Seward, were very quickly, and I do mean quickly, processed in, given cabin "key" and were onboard and in our room in no time. We were in cabin # 5168, balcony, port side, aft which is where we always like to be, location wise. Cabin was in great shape, plenty of closet and drawer space and our room stewards were outstanding, as always. We had plenty of time to grab some early lunch in the lido and disembarked and spent the whole afternoon exploring Seward. Nice little downtown area and a free shuttle to drop you off and pick up at different places around town. When we came back to the ship we noted a long line for people just arriving, but it also was moving quickly. Went to the muster drill, and then just explored the ship since we had anytime dining, which we like. I must tell you, after reading some negative reviews about this ship, we found The Oosterdam to be lovely, well maintained, well run, friendly crew and staff. We saw a little carpet wear on some of the steps but we also saw carpeting on these same steps being replaced during the cruise. We've been on a few cruises (29 to be exact, on 4 different lines) and The Oosterdam certainly meet our expectations.
We ate all our breakfasts in the cabin, always delivered on time and nice and warm. We usually ate a small lunch in the lido which was always crowded at normal meal times, but we just "went with the flow" and had no problems. For dinner, anytime dining worked great for us. We were always asked if we wanted to sit with others or by ourselves and our fellow passengers, who we often sat with, were delightful. All the meals we ordered were very good, served hot with only an occasional delay in service, which didn't bother us at all. We're too cheap to eat in the speciality restaurants, so cannot address them. We were, as mentioned, very pleased with all the meals we ate in the MDR and the service.
The evening productions shows were good although Northern Lights was much better than the Country/Rock show. The comedian and illusionist were both outstanding. We know that HAL is not known for late night partying and this cruise is somewhat itinerary intense, so we like most everyone else usually turned in around 2230 hrs! :)
Glacier Bay cruising was outstanding and it was wonderful to be able to go in and out on the balcony. We actually enjoyed the stop at Haines and explored the TINY town before taking two tours with HAL. In Juneau we took a private tour to Mendenhall Glacier and whale watching. I knew that we HAD to walk down to the waterfall and back at Mendenhall and the HAL tours didn't seem to leave enough time for this. Our tour (Dolphin Jet Boat Tours) allowed us 90 minutes at Mendenhall, which was prefect. Whale watching with only 12 others was also great. We loved Ketchikan, and had beautiful sunshine almost all day too. One must walk over to Dolly House and the old red light district (now all shops) just for the beauty of the area and to see all the artists painting it. In the late afternoon we took the HAL Bering Sea Crab Tour. This tour is absolutely phenomenal. I cannot say enough good things about it and if you want pictures of bald eagles too, take this tour!!
We were very pleased with The Oosterdam and salute all the crew member and staff on this beautiful and well operated vessel. :)