We traveled on the Oosterdam for its last cruise to Alaska in September 2008. This was our 3rd cruise and our 3rd cruise line. It was a wonderful experience, and I would not hesitate to book another trip on this ship. We arrived at Dock 30 in Seattle at 11:00 AM. We pre-registered online earlier in the week, which made the embarkation process simple and quick. Luggage porters welcomed us as soon as our taxi pulled up (in the rain) and helped to quickly move our luggage from the taxi to a covered walkway and into the embarkation building. We were on the ship within 15 minutes and were directed to the Lido deck for lunch and a relaxing view of the Seattle as the ship gathered its passengers. Ship maps were abundant at every elevator, and it was easy to find the rooms and activities we were looking for. We had an interior stateroom that was a bargain at $750 per person (2 of us), and our room steward treated us like we were in a much more expensive suite. He unobtrusively checked our room about 3 times a day and replaced towels and tidied the area whenever we were out for a while. We signed up for the early dining time of 5:45 and had asked for a table for 2 when we made reservations. Holland America arranged for both. The dining steward was helpful and cheerful, his assistant remembered our likes and dislikes, and the wine steward was friendly and quick to offer choices when we asked for them. We could have used the new open dining plan, but we liked getting to know the dining attendants that were in charge of our table.
The shore excursions were great parts of the trip. We took a helicopter ride over Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, landed on the glacier to explore it, and were treated to a ride through Tongass National Park. The pilot narrated the trip with informative details. In Sitka, we went on a (separate) boat ride around the Sitka Bay and saw otters playing, a brown bear foraging for salmon, humpback whales too numerous to count, and several bald eagles. The boat pilot explained that the sunny day at the end of September was unusually wonderful, and the animals were easy to see on the clear day. Ketchikan's shore excursion was a horse-drawn trolley ride around the town. Since we were near the end of the salmon season, the stops at the local streams to see the salmon were most interesting. We got a good picture of life in Ketchikan with those tour guides. Victoria was our last stop, and i wish we had more time there. We went on a tour of the town, but we arrived at 6:00 PM and only stayed until 11:00 PM, so time was limited. We returned to the ship at dark, but the tour guides were friendly and helpful.
Holland America planned for disembarkation better than any cruise line we have been on. The day before the end of the cruise, we were given a letter with our disembarkation time. We could stay in our rooms until that time or enjoy breakfast on the Lido Deck, while we waited to disembark. Once we disembarked (exactly at the time listed on our letter), our luggage was easy to find and taxis were immediately ready to take us to our hotel, since we could not fly home until the next day. I appreciated the 9:30 AM disembarkation time. Since the ship knew we were staying in Seattle for an extra day, they did not hurry us off the ship as other cruise lines do.
Our Seattle hotel, the Westin, had our room ready when we arrived about 10 AM on Saturday after leaving the Oosterdam. Often hotel rooms are not ready until nearly 3 PM, but the Westin was ready for the folks from the cruises disembarking from the ships. My only negative, which wasn't a big complaint, was the spa services. I paid top dollar for nail "fills," and the nails began to chip soon afterwards. I am not sure if it was the nail products the nail tech was using or her technique. I was disappointed in that minor experience.