Westerdam Cruise Review by Cantorindahouse: Second time in Alaska; first cruise!
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Second time in Alaska; first cruise!
In 1984, my wife and I were in Anchorage. 1984 was Alaska's 25th year of Statehood and we were blessed to be there at that time. We promised we would be back but, we did not believe it would be thirty years later. We booked our first cruise through a cruise dedicated agent. We were at his mercy as far as cabin choice etc.. We were very lucky to have chosen the Holland America Westerdam. It is a wonderful ship with an excellent crew. Following is a synopsis of our wonderful voyage.
We flew into Sea/Tac and took a yellow cab to Pier # 91 with a stop on the way at Fred Myers Grocery for some Diet Coke since, carrying on soda is permissable.
Embarkation: We arrived around Noon. We had checked-in online which made for a very easy boarding. We headed to the Lido and had lunch. When we arrived back to our room, our luggage was already delivered. We met our cabin stewards and they emptied the mini bar fridge making room for our Diet Coke.
Our cabin, 5072, was More mid-ship and the cabin itself was perfect. I was apprehensive about sailing because I thought I would feel like I was in a gold fish bowl; which was an unfounded fear. I'm a wide body and there was plenty of room. The bed and pillows were very comfortable. We slept well but that may have to do with all the walking; which I will cover later in this review. In the future we will avoid Deck 5 (Verandah) mid-ship because of the life boats directly under the balcony. Our stewards' Ishlah & Agus did a commendable job.
We had Captain Scott and he kept the ship on an even keel. We did not have motion sickness at any time although on the first day, only, we took Bonine prophylactically. The ship is beautiful and the decor is more traditional to cruising than some of the more "modern" cruise ships. The full promenade deck gave us the feeling of how cruising must have been many years ago. The "front desk" which is located on Deck #1 was very helpful,and courteous to these first time cruisers. We had a problem with the a/c and Ricky Mau was quick to come to our cabin and use his "thermometer" and sure enough the a/c was malfunctioning. The problem was alleviated. The front desk, because of their perception our discomfort; sent down a dish of candy. There is a Catholic Mass aboard ship. The Presider was Fr. Michael Donahue. While attending an AA meeting in the Styvuesant meeting room my wife volunteered for me to Cantor the Mass; which of course I was honored to do. Fr. Donahue graduated from Merrimack College over thirty years ago. Oh; Merrimack College is three miles "up the road" from where we live. Small world,eh?
Food: The food in the MDR was very good with a very nice presentation. Service would be a B+ because at times it was extremely slow. We learned to order immediately when the waiter came back to take our drink order and that seemed to expedite the service. The servers were always polite.
We did enjoy the Lido for breakfast and lunch. We were early risers considering we fell asleep much earlier than at home; due to all the walking. The Lido would start to get "busy" around 8:00 AM even on short port days. I did take a "Learning about your camera" seminar and it was informative. I missed the photo editing class.
Juneau; Mendenhall Glacier was beautiful. We took the "Glacier Express" from the pier and our driver/guide a native Indian. He never did say which tribe. He was very patient, kind and he presented a very educational ride/tour on our half hour trip to the glacier. This is where the walking starts. Once off the bus we walked approximately 1/4 mile to and, obviously, from the visitor center. We took some pictures by the wall and started our sojourn to Nugget Falls. Our bus driver had mentioned it would be about, ah; a ten minute walk. That would be for Olympic walkers. For us; a good 25 minutes over a well groomed trail with lots of ups and downs. Remember, this is a round trip "stroll". Walking back, though painful, seemed faster. Please let me explain; we are active seniors with bad knees. We were able to make the 5:30 bus which was SRO. One passenger, Robert from Vancouver was seated and watched as people approached the bus. He noticed my wife hobbling behind and gave up his seat so she could sit down. Nice guy; eh! Robert was not the exception to the rule. We met so many, kind, considerate and just great people on this cruise; making the voyage that more delightful.
Glacier Bay: Not a shore excursion but should be mentioned as a "Port Of Call". Beautiful Margerie Glacier. Captain Scott made sure everyone had an excellent view by rotating the ship 360 degrees. We did witness some small calfing. Expected; the weather was cold and drizzling. We enjoyed Glacier Bay but next cruise north will include Hubbard Glacier. We also saw Lamplugh Glacier along the way.
Sitka; We did a wildlife tour with two other couples aboard a 27' Hewes Craft. I believe I am not allowed to mention the company. The captain is 37 years old, did wildlife research, and has the same name as the singer of the 1977 hit song; "I Go Crazy". I did post a review of this amazing whale watching/wilderness tour on a popular trip advising web site under the psuedonym; "Singer". We saw, and my wife was sprayed by a Humpback Whale while it's left eye stared at her. She was about 10 feet away. Yooowwwza!! We also were fortunate to see Grey Whales, Harbor Seals, Bald Eagles,Sea Lions, Sea Otters, and observe a Coastal Brown Bear foraging on the shoreline from approximately 20 yards out. While in Sitka we stopped at Ludwig's Chowder. Not to be confused with Ludwig's Bistro. Ludwig's Chowder is open for lunch and has the best Chowdahhhh!
Ketchikan: We "set sail" on the Ketchikan Duck Tours. Very informative and Alessha, our guide, was terrific. We toured the "First City In Alaska" which is an island. We then "plunged" into the sea and "sailed" Ketchikan Harbor. Interestingly, it is cheaper to rent a slip and live on a boat than it is to rent an apartment. Ketchikan has a warmer climate and less snow than New England although wind gusts in wintery Ketchikan can reach 90knts. Now that's some serious wind chill factor. We visited a couple of places in the city which, usually, meant climbing very steep hills. Did I mention walking before???
Butchart Gardens. Stunning!! Every flower imaginable which will grow in Saanich, B.C. was on display. Our tour guide was Bryce with CVS tours. We had him to and from. Nice guy with a wealth of knowledge about Victoria,B.C.. Spent about two hours at Butchart and, yup you guessed it; lots and lots of walking although, the gardens were very "mobility impaired" friendly. We had a special treat while walking around; Colin James Band was performing and was a perfect backdrop.Do not forget your Ibuprofen!! If you do, it is for sale at the Information Center.
Entertainment aboard ship: Too much "Dancing With The Stars" and not enough focus on production numbers.
'nuff said ! We had a marvelous, memorable, meandering and yes, mobility testing cruise but it was more than well worth it and do the exact same things again, except Burchart Gardens. We are not complaining about the walking but want people to know what to expect. We hope to make another Alaska cruise, hopefully aboard a Holland America ship.
Safe sailing folks! Less
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Cabin review: Westerdam 5072
Would not reserve a mid-ship room on the Verandah Deck (5) because of the lifeboats at our feet.