Holland America Westerdam 8-30-09 / 9-6-09
Long. If you are going on the Westerdam, or if you are a devotee of HAL, read at your own risk.
Flew to Seattle on Saturday to prevent United Airlines from having any opportunity to screw up the vacation with flights (free with credit card points) from Albany NY. They didn't,and we saw some of Seattle.
Sunday to the pier at Noon, on board by 12:20, Lido restaurant for lunch, and to the cabin at 1:15. Generic floor plan, enough space in room to swing a mouse and good storage space. Balcony just right. Ship scheduled to depart at 4, actually left dock at 3:50. Do not be late. Lifeboat drill different, they called out cabin numbers and names, so speak up. Women and children to the front, they will go into the lifeboats first. Apparently those people who are always late didn't come on this cruise because it was over quickly.
Time for a cocktail on the balcony. We got a 4 category upgrade for the price paid. Mini bar stocked in room, used the Coke and water from it. The tap water looked like ginger ale and tasted like ugh! People next to us talked and talked and talked very loudly, all the time we were outside on the balcony until the ship left the dock. She had a million questions and he had a million answers. I never knew I knew so little about everything. Pleas, a little quiet, it is so nice out there when it is quiet. Never saw or heard them again on the entire cruise. Same with the people on the other side of us, never saw or heard them.
First evening traveling to the Pacific, very foggy. Fog horn blasting away, beautiful sound, time for a toddy every time it blew..
A card was left in the cabin - 'a gift card', saying that 'A Guest' has left a gift for you, a dinner for 2 in the Pinnacle Grill. Only thing was, I paid for that extra cost dining experience. It was not a gift. Tacky. Bags at cabin by 4:30, unpack, realized I did not pack a sports coat. Dang. I like to look good for dinner. Suit will have to do. A cocktail to ease the pain. As it turned out, this was not much of a dress-up cruise.
Dinner at 8. Smart casual. I saw one man with a coat on and one (me) with a tie. Two older gentlemen wore their ball caps to dinner. Smart Causal does not mean jogging suits, and ball caps gents. Food ok. Table mates were a couple from Texas. Other 4 seats empty (3 more showed up Mon).
Monday trivia. Prize was3 DVD rentals from the ship. Cheap. Did not win. Cruising all day, beautiful weather, long ocean swells, ship is a roller. Wife was semi-seasick all day. If she doesn't get better tomorrow, over she goes.
Glacier Bay. A perfect day. Really. Dead calm, temperature, just perfect. If you have been there, or are going to go, you will not have the perfect day we had. Too bad for you.
Tuesday trivia. Prize was tour and tram tickets in Juneau. Worth almost $200.00. Did not win again.
Juneau. Another perfect day. Apparently this is the only place in the world to buy diamonds, Tanzanite, and Amalite. This is direct from the 'Shopping Consultant", lance. Trust me. Juneau, trinket shop, jewelry shop, trinket shop, jewelry shop, and on and on. Five ships in port. Crowded.
Sitka. Perfect day, ho hum. Saw a seal throwing fish around in the water, not eating, looked like it was just having fun.
Ketchikan. Rainy morning.
Vancouver. Perfect night.
Not too many activities that were not extra cost (spa). Talked to some people who voiced the same opinion. On board is very slow paced if you don't shop, buy pictures, buy art, go to the spa, or gamble (see, it's spend money). Guess the cost of the Picasso drawing and win it. Pablo must have done thousands of drawings for the cruise industry.
Trivia. Met a nice couple ( he the only person I have ever met in my life who has a pair of shoes just to play ping pong in, and he is pretty good at it), came in second. Played with them a total of four times, came in second three times and first once. Got a luggage tag for first. Really poor prizes except for the tour tickets. The four of us were pretty good at trivia, we were pretty loud, and on any other cruise, the guy who ran trivia (the cruise director) would remember us (played every day), but not Johnny.
Breakfast every day in the Lido. Just like at Golden Corral.
Lido. HAL, you missed on this. The worst design of a buffet experience I have ever seen on a ship or ashore. Horrible seating arrangement. On a ship of almost 2000, when all but 7 eat at the buffet for lunch, there needs to be seating for some of the masses. And the flow of the food stations. An adventure every time. Please thing these things out before you nail the boards in place. And please find a better place to put the dirty dishes, not on the ledge in plain sight. Tables always had crumbs on them.
Still haven't seen our cabin steward, although the room is kept neat and tidy by him/them. First cruise I have been on where he did not stop by and introduce himself. I would like ice in the bucket in he afternoon. By three o'clock, there is only water remaining.
Missed the Captain's welcome Aboard Gala. Held in the showroom, saw it on the CD we bought, didn't miss much.
I expected this cruise to be more upscale, but that was a pipe dream. People seemed to dress down way more than they dressed up, men in particular (fancy day laborers dress code mostly) . No sense of elegant anywhere, not even formal nights in the dining room. I know that Holland America was the classy cruise in the past, but I guess the market has changed. The food in the dining room was good, not gourmet, the food in the Pinnacle was a disappointment, the food in the Lido for lunch was very repetitious and got old after day 3. Ate the beef dish at dinner most nights, although if one likes Salmon, there were two dishes every night.
Farewell dinner on Thursday for a Sunday end of cruise? Filet Mignon and lobster. A little piece of beef which by no stretch of imagination could be called Filet Mignon. Never. And no drawn butter with the lobster? Geez.
The ship is not a particularly pretty ship. Very boxy looking on the outside, not attractive at all. Not real pleasing color combination s on the inside (the wife calls it Aztec, I say muted day-glow), and layout is, lets say different. Worst visual impression of all the ships I have sailed on. Some burnt out decorative light bulbs throughout the ship, ceiling lights in the Queens bar were 75% not working, some broken/missing pieces of tile in the Lido restaurant., some missing plastic covers in elevators, some not so clean spots, especially in corners. One men's room near the Ocean bar that Was 'of odor'. Cutting back of the maintenance of the ship is evident, and a 5 years since build, she is getting a bit long in the tooth. Needs a refit and an injection of life.
Drink prices at the bars are getting to be outrageous, especially when they pour duty free booze, not going to pay 20 bucks for a photo, but the shop prices for logo stuff wasn't too bad. Did not buy diamonds, Tanzanite, or any watches on the ship. Specialty coffee is reasonable, but should be included in the cost of the cruise, but they gotta make a penny, right. Got a mocha from Explorations day one, lid was not on, mocha all over me. McDonalds has better.
Crew was very friendly, lots of 'is this your first cruise" and where are you from. Answer, Vermont. Some blank stares on this one.
21 tournament in the casino was fun, with a great lady dealer. 500 for first, nobody else got anything. On day 2 found the comfortable bar with bartender William Lee. It had that 'feel'.
I am not a huge fan of cheap. I don't like the 'Hotel Service Charge' (tips) deal. I think that it limits the amount of service provided because the recipients know that they will get the tip. However I know that there are a lot of people who would not tip if it was not automatically added onto the room account.
Why don't they ban smoking throughout the ship?
Purell smell everywhere on the ship. Hand sanitizers all over.
Disembarkation form given out on Sunday, the day we boarded. Weird.
Saw two shows, both Julie Barr. Funny
Charge a little more and bring back the luxury to cruising.
Alaskan scenery is worth the trip
Off the ship by 8:30 Sunday. Painless.
I can now say I have sailed on Holland America. Just like I have been on RCI and NCL.