Our trip on the Westerdam was our first experience to take a cruise. We chose this adventure to celebrate our 30th anniversary. We chose Holland based on our friends' recommendations, reviews on the Internet, and the itinerary offered. It was a combination of who we are and these other influences which help us to match-up our personalities with the cruise line. It was and is a good match. We have already booked to take our second cruise with Holland, back to Alaska, on the Zuiderdam for a different itinerary.
I had concerns, first of all, regarding motion sickness. I am very, very sensitive in this regard, fighting dizziness my whole life. However, my fears were put to ease leaving the Port of Seattle. While my wife and I were unpacking our bags, I happened to notice on the TV in the room, there was a shot of the Space Needle getting smaller and smaller. I thought it might be a live shot from the back of the ship. "Huh. That would mean we are moving!" I looked out the veranda window to see landscape scrolling by. "We're Moving!" I raced outside to the balcony and watched us race the Norwegian up the sound. We had been moving at least 15 minutes before we were aware of it. Motion was not a factor in this trip for me. I only noticed it when we were out to open sea at night and it did not bother me in the least. Safe to say, my wife and I were immediately hooked on cruising from the moment we left Seattle.
A vacation for me is where I have to do very little. If someone can be hired to drive me. Good. If someone will cook, clean, and serve me, good. In other words, I want my only obligation to the vacation is to show up. Holland took care of us in every respect. Here's the lowdown on pampering:
Cabin: Clean, very comfortable beds, with adequate space for luggage. If you can afford a veranda, get one. We spent a lot of time out there.
Food: For the most part it was excellent. Out of the 30+ meals, it only had a couple of misses. For me, the duck was too rare, though good. For my Bride, the prime rib wasn't quite prime grade. The NY and the Fillet Mignon were as good as we have had anywhere. Salmon dishes were great. I had one appetizer that was raw salmon marinated in Vodka. Not bad, but, I prefer most of my meats at least medium. Still, an adventure.
The fruit soups are not to be missed.
You can order more than one appetizer, more than one dessert, more than one entree. But, if you're smart, you won't. Portions are satisfactory, not Costco-sized.
You can eat in the dining room for every meal rather than go to the Lido deck. It was my preference. However, we did eat several meals from the Lido and enjoyed their selections.
To conserve cash, we drank coffee and iced tea. No drinks of any kind, other than one latte.
Room service was speedy and hot. Fun, too. Tip the guys a few bucks. They deserve it.
Chocolate night was a miss for us. Lots of frosting. We bowed out and ate some M & M's. Your dining experience might be different.
The Waiters were friendly and attentive. They remember our names each evening and what are personal preferences were.
And, a little dinner advice: Folks, dinner is an event. Enjoy it, languish in it, and chew slowly. Slow the pace down and relax. You aren't going anywhere immediately, so savor every bite, look at the beautiful presentation of each meal, and enjoy each other's presence.
Entertainment: We listened to the Adagio Strings (string quartet) a couple of times. Other than that, we did not attend any shows. We watched the scenery go by more than anything.
Ports of Call: Glacier Bay is rugged and pristine. We saw four glaciers, the last and the most magnificent was Margie. Hung around for an hour. It just slowly melted, but never calved. However, the light changed on the glacier giving us new hues and shapes and figments to chat about. We will return to Glacier this summer.
Juneau is a land-locked town full of tourist shops. Take the old school bus for $12 pp round trip to Mendenhall Glacier. Spend at least 3-4 hours there and hike to the waterfall about a mile and a half away. Take your binoculars and look for hikers on the glacier. I spotted seven with my naked eye. My wife zoomed in with her camera and captured them. But, don't take your lunch. Eat before you go. There are bears and no food is allowed on the trail. The hike is doable even for AARP-aged souls like us. Again, we will revisit Mendenhall this coming summer. It is receding quickly, so the sooner the better.
Sitka - Visited the Russian church. It was okay, but nothing to see twice. You can do the whole town in a couple of hours. Not our most favorite port.
Ketchikan - If you can time your trip, go in late July - September for the salmon run. We got there too early. Hopefully, we will be there in time for fish, eagles, and hungry bears. It's quaint, historic, but without the wildlife, just another tourist attraction of shops.
Victoria - We had been to Victoria several times and decided to stay aboard. If you embark, you will have to take a cab or shuttle to downtown. It is definitely worth it, just for the view. Very European, very cool. If you have the time, spend 6-7 hours at the Royal Museum. One of the very best I have every seen. I've been to the one in Chicago, Seattle, Portland, and the Smithsonian, but for me Victoria is the best. But, that is just me.
For the night, head for the waterfront. Watch the musicians, fire jugglers, and singers. Lots of fun.
Time left? Go to Roger's chocolates and buy a couple of Ice Wine truffles. MM-mm.
Booking Advice: For trip insurance, try TripInsuranceStore.com. Talk to Steve. Do get it within one week of your intial deposit for best rates and coverage. Our most recent trip planned (apx. $3000) will only cost $156. Not bad, not bad.
AS life is a journey as much as it is a destination, don't minimize the "getting there" part of the cruise. It is meant to slow you down and offer time to reflect and relax. It is the best part of the cruise. No driving, no drive-thrus, no stoplights or honking horns. No phones, no appointments, no pollution, no noise. It is one of the most perfect places to be still and know what is good, what is perfect, and what is love.
Blessings on your cruise.