We have both cruised with several other cruise lines, but this was only our second cruise together, both on Holland America. We had really enjoyed our prior cruise on Oosterdam in 2008 and booked another cruise on a sister ship, the Westerdam, for her seven day cruise to southeast Alaska beginning on September 13.
We are both in our early 60's and we prefer a cruise with mostly adults. My wife is a foodie and really enjoys good food (I'll eat anything), so a ship with a reputation for serving good food was important to us. I'm 6'4", so finding a ship with a bed close to king size was also important. We are avid ballroom dancers, and it was important to us to be on a ship with plenty of opportunity to dance. While certainly not important to most cruisers, I'm a Navy retiree and enjoy being on a ship which looks and feels like a ship, rather than a floating hotel. The Holland America ships seem to satisfy more of our wants than other cruise lines, so we booked the Westerdam.
We live in Louisiana and flew to Seattle on Friday evening. We stayed at the Olympic Fairmont in downtown Seattle and found it to be a very nice place to stay. We spent Saturday wandering around downtown Seattle and taking a ferry ride to Bainbridge Island. We ate at one of the seafood restaurants on the waterfront and found it to be much better than the average tourist restaurant.
Embarkation: We spent Sunday morning again wandering around downtown Seattle, but finally hailed a taxi for the trip to the cruise line pier around 11:30. We over packed as usual, but someone met our taxi at the pier and took charge of our luggage and got it to the right place since it timely showed up in our room. Embarkation was a breeze and we were soon aboard the Westerdam. Rating: 5+
Room: The SS cabin (and the SY cabin on the Oosterdam) had more room than we needed. The bed was two singles, pushed together to create a bed almost king sized. The bed was comfortable and had plenty of room for us. The bathroom with its double vanity was very nice for a cruise ship. The only issue in the room was that the shower in the tub did not work, but the shower in the separate shower stall worked find, although the shower head was a bit low for me. The verandah was nice and offered a great view. For the price we paid, the cabin was as nice as it could be. Rating: 5+
Room Stewards: Absolutely perfect. The room was spic and span when we got there and every time we returned to it. Rating: 5+
Vista Dining Room: My wife, the foodie, thought the food was terrific in the Vista dining room. She thought the selection was outstanding and the taste very good. She was not as complimentary, however, of the pastries as she felt that they were a bit tasteless. Service in the dining room was impeccable. We chose dine as you wish as we had on Oosterdam and it worked out well again. We sat with different interesting people each night and only had one experience which was less than pleasant. Rating: 5
Breakfast: We ordered breakfast through room service each morning. Room service breakfasts were good, but not great, but they always arrived at the promised time with lots of coffee. Rating: 4
Lido Buffet: The lack of trays in the Lido, which has been criticized in a number of reviews on this site, was a problem. It is difficult to carry two plates and a drink easily. Further, the Lido was often crowded with a wait for a table, even for a table for two. For these reasons, we avoided the Lido for meals. Rating: 3
Music and Dancing: The Neptunes played in the Ocean Lounge for a few hours each night, and we danced all we wanted to dance to their music. The Neptunes have a wonderful sound and they played our requests. They could not have been better or more receptive to our requests. The Ocean Lounge is small and would have been crowded with more than two or three couples dancing at a time, but, fortunately, there were only a couple of dancers aboard and we usually found ourselves the only couple on the dance floor. We hope that HAL will consider finding a larger venue for ballroom dancing on its ships. We danced some in the Queen's Lounge, which was much larger, to Charlie and the Halcats which was more of a boogie band. Rating: 5+
Entertainment: We had found the Broadway style shows on Oosterdam lacking and only went to the first Broadway style show on Westerdam, although we went back to hear the comedian Julie Barr, who was very funny, and the Elton John impersonator who was not so good. We had enjoyed the Karaoke championship on Oosterdam and would have enjoyed the one on Westerday except that one of the Judges went way too far with regard to his version of ogling one of the contestants - actually from a prone position under her while she was standing - sound vulgar? It was. We're far from being prudes (have you ever heard of a Navy man who was a prude?), but this guy went beyond the limits of decency. We visited with the guest singer and her husband the next day, and they were extremely offended by the guy's behavior. I hope that guy was disciplined in some way by HAL. (Please note that the karaoke judge in question was not the cruise director, Jason, who was a class act in every way.) Rating: 2
Scenic Cruising: The scenery in Glacier Bay and the waterways to the ports is spectacular and is alone worth the cost of the cruise. The waters of Glacier Bay were smooth as glass and a gorgeous blue green, surrounded by the walls of the fjords leading to snow capped mountains. Glacier Bay is easily the most breathtaking sight I've experienced. I had the pleasure of viewing part of Glacier Bay from the bridge, courtesy of an invitation from the Captain. Rating: 5+
Ports: The ports (Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan, Alaska) are scenic when viewed on the ship's approach. However, when there, these towns are not particularly interesting. The waterfront in Juneau could be any cruise port with shops hawking jewelry, furs, etc. Rating: 3
Excursions: I initially resisted my wife's request to take the float plane trip to Taku Lodge because of its cost which was the highest of any of the HAL excursions on this cruise. But, as always, she won, and we took the trip, and I'm happy that we did. The scenery from the float plane was dramatic. One cannot get a sense of the size and beauty of the glaciers from the surface, but you do from the air. The scenery at Taku Lodge was also beautiful and dramatic. This excursion, though expensive, is more than worth the cost. We also took a bus tour of Victoria; however, the ship was late in mooring in Victoria, and most of the tour was after dark when little could be seen. We would have been better off to have taken a taxi to the downtown area. The Taku Lodge excursion gets a 5+ rating.
Crew: We were a bit surprised, but with exceptions of the Vista dining room staff and our room stewards, the crew was not as friendly and enthusiastic as we found on Oosterdam last year. We wondered if maybe this crew was tired and due for some rest. This is not to say that there were problems because there were not, but the crew was not as enthusiastic as on the O last year. Rating: 4
Smoking: Why, oh why, in the year 2009 does HAL allow smoking on its ships? On the casino deck, one cannot get from one end of the ship to the other without going through the casino and being exposed to smoke from cigarettes. We were disappointed to learn that smoking is permitted on verandas and that some passengers smoke in their rooms despite the rule and that the crew simply ignores it. That, for us, is significant down check for HAL. Rating: F-
Summary: Wonderful cruise - we will be back on HAL soon - maybe not next year since HAL does not offer the itinerary we want, but we will be back soon. Rating: 5