Our cruise began August 30, 2009. Since my sister lives near Seattle, we didn't use a hotel or shuttle service to get to pier 91 for embarkation.
EMBARKATION: We arrived around 11:30 am to pier 91. There were 2 ships boarding at the same time from pier 91. The westerdam and the Star Princess. We had heard horror stories about this process being a true nightmare. I found it to be completely easy and well organized. With the exception of the porter situation. The porters are assigned only one ship, so even though there were a lot of them, they seemed to be working mostly for princess. So we dragged our luggage about half way to the terminal, and then found a holland porter. After that, it was smooth sailing. We were onboard quickly and easily.
THE SHIP: After embarking, we found one of the nicest perks on Holland. A check point for all your carry on!! On the Lido deck they have a station to check your carry on luggage so you don't have to drag it around until your room is ready around 1 oclock! NICE! We began our cruise with lunch on the Lido. It was the average welcome aboard fare. Nothing to complain about or write home about. After lunch we explored the ship. We were disappointed in the actual state of the ship. It is 5 years old and in need of a through cleaning and repairs. Dirty/worn carpets in several places. Towels soaking up water and "wet floor" cones were on the floor continuously throughout the cruise by the lido buffet line. I must have tripped over those towels at least 3 times! Deck three is a teak deck with teak deck chairs. Those chairs are so nice! Be sure to sit and enjoy the view from them at least once during your cruise! This ship gives a couple different feelings. Sometimes I felt that I was on a modern ship, and other times I felt like I was on a ship from the titanic era. Very old school.
ENTERTAINMENT: If you are into lectures, watching movies, demonstrations etc. then this is your ship!! If you want games and contests. hooting and hollering do not go on the Westerdam (holland probably). Pretty dull!! But I found the showroom shows to be pretty good. The dancers were the average cruiseship dancers, but the comedy was a riot!! Julie Barr was the comedian and a guy immiataing Elton John. were both outstanding!! The guy with the puppets could be passed on. Not very good if you ask me. We found that the guest entertainers were used all week at different events and even appeared in each others shows. I really liked this because I felt like we got to know them better. Johnny Quinn was the CD, and I think although he was pleasant, he was in need of his vacation. He looked tired and wasn't very entertaining.
FOOD/DINING: I am not a foodie!! But I was traveling with my sister and BIL and he is a huge foodie. So here you will get opinions from both sides. I was fine with the food. I found the variety to be good on the lido deck and in the dining room. I always had to add salt and pepper to add some flavor, but it was OK. I didn't like the service of the food though. It was served on the lido in pretty small portions and I felt like asking for a little more was frowned on. But I didn't starve to death and so for me it was fine. I felt the food was being rationed to strickly. My BIL however was really disappointed in the food. He always said it was flavorless, and always cold (which it was). In the dining room, it was cookie cutter plates. In otherwords, if you wanted a baked potato instead of mashed, it couldn't be done. That steak had to come with mashed potatos because the plates were premade. The baked potato came later in a different bowl. The food was generally cold because of this process. Service in the dining room was slow at times and non existant others times.
GLACIER BAY: This was the day we were waiting for! The entire reason for booking this ship! And we wer not disappointed. This day was worth the entire price of the cruise. Amazing. And to have the park rangers onboard narrating and teaching us was simply perfect!! What an amazing day. We strongly recommend you do not try to see this from your balcony. The glaciers are on both sides of the ship and you will only see part of them. Go up to the bow of the ship and experience the views, the cold air, the sounds, the glaciers and the wildlife!
JUNEAU: We went into town and walked around a little. Then we went on an excursion of whale watching with orca enterprises. It was a private excursion. We were excited about this excursion. I was disappointed to say the least. The boats they have do not afford everyone a good view. Unless you sit inside the cabin and look through the windows. I did not go to alaska to whale watch so I could look at them through a window. I can do that at the local aquarium. We saw 4 humpback whales in 2 1/2 hours. All traveling together. We were told in Alaska the boats must stay 100 yards from the whales so unless the whale comes to you the views of them are pretty far away. I also thought we would see orcas, and they are not there. They are in the vancouver canada area. I was disappointed in this excursion and wouldn't do it again. I suggest you do a whale watching, salmon bake excursion instead. Our friends did the ships excursion for that and were totally thrilled with the days experiences.
SITKA/KETCHICAN: My BIL took the 8 hour fishing trip in Sitka and was very happy. Had a great day of fishing and caught several kinds of fish. He recommended the ships tour for others. My sister and I walked around the town in Sitka looking at the residential areas mostly. Sitka is a really beautiful place. Small but very beautiful. In Ketchikan we took a private tour to saxman totem park, city tour. There are tons of vendors on the docks to book your tour with. They will save you money for sure. Ketchikan is a place that this cruise ship does not spend enough time in. You really need at least a full day in Ketchikan.
VICTORIA: Well this is a place we arrived to at night. There is nothing around the docks to see or do. You will need to arrange transportation to town either from the ship or on the docks. We took a private limo tour of the city for free!! We got to talking to one of the limo drivers and he offered us a free city tour in his beautiful limo!! It was really nice and very comfy!! Again, this is a place you need at least a full day in.
DISEMBARKING: Everyone was assigned a time to go to the gangway. We went at our time of 9:15 and walked off the ship. Got our luggage without any problems and headed to the pick up area with the herds of other people. This is where it got a little crazy. Two ships disembarking at the same time into the same pick up area. We were lucky. We called my nephew who was waiting in the cell phone area and we were waiting for him when he got there 5 minutes later. The crowds were the only problem.
WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS SHIP, CRUISELINE, AND ITINERARY?: To some I would recommend Holland and to others I would not. Got kids?? Stay away from Holland I would say. Want ship sponsored partying? Stay away from Holland. Want a relaxing quiet cruise? Go on Holland. Want a cold, beautiful itinerary? Go to glacier bay! I did not find the service on Holland any better or worse than any carnival or royal cruise I have taken. Just because they wear white gloves at times, doesn't make the service any better, just prettier maybe. Personnally, I would travel on Holland again if there was not another cruiseline going to the same place at the same time as a Holland ship. I would not be loyal to Holland. Itinerary, price and who is going would determine which line I book with.