My sister and I recently took a cruise to Alaska on Holland America's OOSTERDAM. Entire ship was chartered by Christian entertainer Michael W. Smith and he brought along pastor/author/speaker Max Lucado, award winning singer Natalie Grant, singer Matthew West, comedian Henry Cho, and others. That alone was worth the trip! Howver, my total experience was MAGNIFICENT!! I would go again in a heartbeat and so would my sister. Our shipmates were from all over the world,including all 50 states, Australia, Canada, South America, and Europe
The OOSTERDAM was beautiful and the only TINY complaint we had is that there is a shortage of outlets in the cabins. Since my sister has cruised previously, we prepared for that by bringing extra plug-in outlets with multiple ports. Otherwise, everything was wonderful. Staff, food, decor, were all top-notch and the beds, although small, were very comfortable. That was good because our 2nd day at sea was rough (10' waves and gale winds) and about 1/2 the passengers were sick, including me. I just stayed in my comfy bed and lovely cabin all day. I enjoyed Michael's programs in the Vista Lounge each night and the seats were very comfortable. Only complaint is the poles. Best to get there early to avoid sitting behind one. Otherwise, it's a very nice theater.
Inspiration Cruises put together this cruise and did a terrific job. My sister and I are widowed and we were seated with 8 other single women, all divorced, all in our general age group. We bonded the first night and spent a lot of time together. We plan to keep in touch and maybe take another cruise again- hopefully on the OOSTERDAM!
Alaska is so spectacular it's really hard to describe. It was a trip that was on my "bucket list" and I'm so,so glad I went. Glacier Bay was just awesome! I would definitely recommend some excursions, if you could possibly manage it.
In Juneau, we splurged and took a helicopter over the Juneau ice fields and saw several glaciers. We landed on one and walked around. AMAZING! However, you can also take a floatplane for less money and just fly over the glaciers. I'm sure that would be wonderful also. These are the only ways to really appreciate the enormity of the glaciers.
In Sitka, we walked a few blooks to a Native American cultural center and watched native dancers and got to speak with them. You can get the show times at the info booth at the dock in Sitka. Pay at the theater. (You have to take a tender from the ship). Cost was $8.00 each. Very nice experience. I also took a city tour by motorcoach followed by a trip to the Raptor center. That's a gorgeous facility/park where volunteers help injured raptors such as eagles, owls, falcons, etc. Weather was sunny and nice (a light sweater or windbreaker).
In Ketchican, I took a motorcoach to Auke Bay in the morning (about 20 mins from ship) where I picked up a catamaran/boat and went whale watching. Saw quite a few humpbacks and some of their calves. Saw 2 Orcas. WOW!! Very enjoyable.
That afternoon, my sister and I took a floatplane to the Misty Fiords National Monument. ABSOLUTELY BREATHTAKING! We landed on Rudyard Bay and got out for a few minutes. This is a "must see", as you will never understand the true beauty and magnificence of Alaska simply by walking around in town. You fly over mountains, valleys, lakes, streams, pass between sheer cliffs of trees, and see lovely waterfalls.
My sister and I are "talkers" so we met and spoke with quite a few Alaskans who gave us interesting information and insights.
I could go on and on, but just know that this was the BEST trip I ever went on- and I've traveled a lot! I thought Hawaii was the best, but I'd have to put Alaska above it.
We did spend a few hours in Victoria, BC which was very pretty. To pass time, we took a motorcoach tour of the city and then had "High Tea" at the exclusive Empress Hotel. It was enjoyable, but nothing special. Since I've been to many "high teas", I expected our server to spend more time with us and really serve. Instead, she put everything on the table and left us. She only came by at the end. Unless you take a "rickshaw" type vehicle or cab, into town, there's nothing to see by the pier. The area near the Empress hotel is really nice and not too far from the pier. There are lots of shops and restaurants. I think it's a bit too far to walk.
Alaska and ship weather- Bring a lined wind-breaker jacket with hood. It drizzles a lot in Alaska, but no need for an umbrella- it gets in the way. Long-sleeved clothes are best and maybe a sweater for under the jacket, as needed. For the glacier, I wore a long-sleeved shirt, 2 light sweaters, a wind-breaker, gloves and a hat, but I really didn't need those extras for anything else. No need for heavy coats or bulky sweaters. We brought way too many clothes, trying to be prepared for all kinds of weather. There are inside and outside pools and a hot-tub, so a bathing suit is appropriate.
I don't want to forget one person- I had a first-rate experience with one of the Holland American reps in the Shore Excursion dept. Her name was Anja. She and I emailed and spoke on the phone a few times. She had taken the same trip last year and was so helpful and honest. She even sent me lots of photos of her trip to help me decide. By following her advice, my trip was unforgettable!
Thankfully, we booked our excursions through Holland America because our trip to the glaciers ran very late due to weather postponments earlier in the day. We were late getting back to ship- my sister and I were the very last. However, the ship waited because we booked through them!
Some helpful information: I am a young "senior". I get VERY, VERY motion sick, but not on this trip (other than that stormy night). I took 2 Meclizine pills daily, starting the night BEFORE boarding. This is the same as Bonine. I also took 2 Ginger pills daily, and wore Sea Bands continuously. I don't know what did it, but something, or a combination, worked!! I wouldn't have believed it. I also suffer from acrophobia- fear of heights- and have 2 knee replacements. BUT, I overcame these disabilities in order to get the full experience of Alaska. If I can do it, anyone can!
I loved the OOSTERDAM and would definitely cruise on it again!
We spent the night before the cruise at the Silver Cloud Inn in in Seattle. Nice hotel with free breakfast in the morning. Used AAA rate. Spaceious room, comfy beds. After the cruise we took a 2 hour boat ride around the Lakes of Seattle. Enjoyed it. Stayed that night at Klimpton Vintage Park Hotel. Absolutely gorgeous boutique hotel. Used AAA rate. BEAUTIFUL room, lots of space and VERY, VERY comfortable beds with 900 thread sheets and down (I think) comforters. We had the double, double deluxe room. We hated to leave in the morning. They also have a wine reception in the lobby at 5 pm daily. While in Seattle, we ate at 3 recommended restaurants and loved all of them. I made my reservations for the first 2 over a month in advance! Wild Ginger; Pink Door Restaurant (homemade Italian food- yummy- and entertainment including a trapeze artist); Cutters (on the water adjoining Pike's Market).
Made advance reservations with AAA Airport Service (206-271-3761)to pick us up at SEATAC airport and take us to hotel before the cruise. Only cost $40. total door to door, plus tip. They use Lincoln town cars and were cheaper than taxis and better than getting to a shuttle and then riding around town dropping off other people. Very pleased with them. During brief stay in Seattle, we met a Yellow Cab driver who owned his own cab. Same rates as others (regulated by city), but very accommodating. He took me to Target on the way to the airport because I needed another suitcase! He got a very nice tip!! We arranged for him to pick us up when we went back to the airport- $32. plus tip. Mike- 206-618-9506
Hope this review was helpful!