Just returned from an eight day cruise to Alaska on the Westerdam which combined the beauty of nature and the comfort of a quality cruise liner. My friend and I have combined several cruise vacations together since we both are single and enjoy the ease and flexibility of a cruise. I've sailed on NCL before, this was the first HAL cruise. Overall I'd give this an A for natural beauty, comfortable quarters and great friendly crew. The food, on board activity and entertainment I would give a c+.
Departure: Due to a mistake in communication between the travel agent and HAL when we booked the cruise our air fare from Palm Springs turned into a flight from LAX which meant a drive into LA and additional parking fees, and a 7:30 AM flight plus an increase of $150.00 fee for changing the return flight. Once we left LA, things went very smoothly.
We arrived in Seattle and found a HAL agent and dropped our luggage, boarded a bus and made it to the pier in twenty minutes. We were through the check in with the pre booked boarding doc and on board in fifteen minutes. Headed for the Lido deck and a decent lunch on the fan tail (which turned out to be one of my favorite places to sit) and enjoy the open air and sunny blue sky as we ate.
Our stateroom was ready as promised at 1:15 PM and was a winner in terms of comfort, quality and presentation. The veranda was wonderful with comfortable seating. Plenty of space for clothes and storage. We walked the ship and went up top for our departure. The trip started rather boring once out of the Seattle harbor, but sitting out on the veranda with a glass of wine was great. The first night and next day was basically reading and eating, not much to do for us since gambling and shopping is not my thing.
The minute we arrived at Glacier Bay the cruise became what I had wanted to see for many years. Blue sky, calm waters, whale sightings, eagles flying past, blue ice which managed to cave exactly on time as we pulled up to the glacier. The Captain pulled the ship so close you felt the "crack" and witnessed the ice calving in high definition. What a perfect day The nature guide on board was both interesting and informative with history and background on both glaciers and native history and stories. Make sure you go out to the bow or the small outside deck on six to view the glaciers.
We booked several excursions on the Internet and several on board. In Juneau we did the float and white water trip which was fun and easy with a great outdoor feeling. Followed that up with a Whale watching trip with ORCA Enterprises which was full of Orca and Humpback whale sightings, one where we could have reached out and touched a forty foot humpback who seemed intent on coming on board the boat and greeting us personally. Sea lions and Bald Eagles added to the beauty of distant glaciers and fjords on both sides of the channel. A perfect day.
In Sitka and Ketchican we did a easy trip around the towns, including a trip to Totem Bite state park which gave us an interesting insight to native life and history. In Sitka we saw the town with the Native Tour with wonderful native guide full of great stories. Victoria is a beautiful town and do go to see Buchard Gardens, it's one of the most beautiful gardens I've seen anywhere in the world. Had a great dinner on the water with a friend from Victoria, just too short a stay.
Departure in Seattle the next morning was very easy and I'd recommend paying sixteen dollars for the direct to flight luggage pickup the night before. The transfer was quick and easy.
Overall I was blown away by the beauty of Alaska, and impressed by the quality of the ship, crew, stateroom. The latter on board elements just the cream on the desert that is Alaska. Seeing this view of Alaska is worth every penny for the trip for a first time. Definitely makes you want to see more.
We ate in both the Lido dining room and Main dinning room. Both were average to good, for dinner. Breakfast in the Lido is the way to start the day.
One of the reasons we kept going back to the Lido was the staff, especially Yuli from Java... this was his second week on board, and he was so nice, funny and greeted us with a great smile as he worked very hard to make everything perfect and we had everything we needed. The same was true of our cabin steward, who was not only friendly and so attentive to every need, but made the cutest animals which showed up every night on the beds. Overall the entire staff was attentive, gracious, helpful and downright friendly.
The shows and entertainment and shopping as I said were not my thing, so can't really say much about them. A bit commercial as was the shopping in the ports of call.
All and all a great trip and experience.