My wife and I cruised on the MS Westerdam embarking from Seattle on Sunday, June 29 and returning there Sunday July 6. On Saturday June 28, we flew from DFW to Seattle on a forgettable AA flight which took off nearly 4 hours late due to 3 different problems needing attention (no captain, then no working toilets, and then no running water). After arriving in Seattle in the late afternoon (instead of noon), things went much smoother. Having purchased in advance an overnight hotel stay in Seattle, a Grayline took us to the Sheraton Hotel downtown. The hotel was very nice and comfortable, as we had a 16th floor room (well above any downtown traffic noise). Though hotels are famous for high food prices, this was a bit "over the top": $17 for a small chef salad and $21 for an eggs and bacon breakfast (WITHOUT tax or tip). HINT: Go for a pastry and beverage at one of the numerous Starbucks in the area.
Sunday morning, we visited the Space Needle (part of our hotel package), and enjoyed it immensely. The views from the top were amazing. Though we were a little pressed for time, we stopped by the famous Pike Street Market (home of the "low flying fish"), and had a lot of fun. Later that afternoon, we took a Grayline to the ship terminal to board the Westerdam.
Having filled out necessary information in advance online, we breezed through check-in in a matter of minutes (much faster than on our previous three cruises with Carnival and Royal Caribbean). Once aboard the ship, we went right to our room on the Upper Verandah deck. The room was very comfortable with a flat-screen TV, fresh fruit, a nice bathroom with a REAL (though small) tub, and one of the most comfortable beds my wife and I ever slept on. In addition to the plentiful closet storage, there was ample space under the bed to store our large suitcases (very nice!). We went out on our balcony with its very comfortable furniture to get our first breath of "fresh sea air" (even if we were still in dock). Unfortunately, the couple to the balcony on the right were both smoking, while the couple to our left balcony were talking loudly. Unfortunately, this became a recurring theme throughout the cruise, depriving my wife and myself of much private non-polluting time on our balcony. Our "smoking" couple even chose to smoke (and throw bread overboard to the Arctic terns) while we were in Glacier Bay (two actions SPECIFICALLY forbidden in that environmentally fragile area)! Meanwhile, other people were rather impolite about "saving" seats in both the Lido Restaurant (buffet) and in the Vista Lounge. In the Lounge, one lady was trying to save an entire ROW 5 minutes before showtime, even though virtually no other seats were available for those already there. One of the latecomers actually climbed over several rows of seats to reach his "saved" seat, and then started talking loudly when the show began! (What's up with THAT?)
Very briefly, I would like to review various aspects of the cruise not covered:
1) Dining-Very Good. The wait staff in the formal dining room were efficient, knowledgeable, friendly, and had an incredible knack for remembering people's likes/ dislikes. The Lido Restaurant (buffet) was excellent (generally better than those encountered on Carnival and Royal Caribbean).
2) Room Stewards: Superb!
3) Shows (Vista Lounge): Generally entertaining. Technical problems (sound, lighting, etc.) occurred on a couple of occasions.
4) Shore Excursions: Among the BEST we've had. I highly recommend the Sled Dog and Mushers" Camp in Juneau and the Otter Quest and Raptor Center in Sitka. We were NOT that thrilled with Victoria (B.C.) by Horsedrawn Trolley, because the horses were SO slow. An easy pace is one thing, but we were being passed by all casual pedestrians, depriving us of seeing much of the town. One rather bothersome event occurred in Ketchikan, where the Westerdam left port at 12:53 PM (supported by the ship's own log) instead of 1:00 as it was supposed to. As a result, several passengers who were literally STEPS away from the ship were left behind and (we assume) had to provide their own transportation to the next port (Victoria).
5) Disembarkation: GREAT! This was, by far, the fastest and most organized disembarkation we've been a part of. Other lines need to copy HAL's "silent disembarkation" procedure.
Overall, my wife and I LOVED this cruise and highly recommend it to all. Perhaps if you are not surrounded by rude, loud, selfish people, you'll love it even MORE!