My husband and I just returned from a 7 day Alaskan Cruise out of Seattle. We celebrated my birthday and it was our first cruise. Driving up to the port I was in awe of the size and beauty of the ship. Getting on the ship was a breeze! We are frequent flyers and the quick security and the ease of getting onto the ship was a dream come true. We even got to keep our shoes on! The Oosterdam allows wine and beer to be brought on board..so of course we had our carry ons packed with wine. I had envisioned myself sitting on the balcony of our suite sipping wine and ordering the free room service. The wine packages are a good deal as well. These can be served at your table (as the other wine your bring on must remain in the room unless you want to pay the corking fee of 13-18$)
WINE TIP: unless you are very familiar with the wine that you are ordering in the packages its not easy to tell if its such a good deal or not. It's certainly convenient but once we drank up the 3 bottles we paid for (we will get the larger packages next time for sure).. you are tempted to buy the single bottles of a wine you really liked. A single bottle cost us 54$ (same one we had paid 30$ for in the package)..but we got home and looked up the wine, we found that it was only sold for $9.95 on line! so I MAY take on board the wines I know I like.. say a 10$ wine, and pay the corking fee and still get it for less than the packages. Just a thought.
PORTS OF CALL: The balcony was usually too cold and windy to enjoy for more than a few minutes.. so bundle up! Watching the glaciers calve from our own balcony was well worth the price.. and a good reason to open up one of these boxes of wine we hauled on board. The views are amazing and especially the morning we pulled into Juneau.. waking up and seeing the town fogged wrapped was so beautiful..Ketchikan was gorgeous as was Sitka but Sitka was more of a cultural exploration and I was very disappointed to find NO Russian cuisine ( especially after it had been touted as having so much Russian influence). If you get a chance to see Sitka Tango the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Dog and his humans go over and buy their books..pat the dog meet, the kid.. We did a photography Land and Sea tour in Juneau and it was wonderful.. Jennifer was our guide and she taught me how to use my camera! That was well worth the cost of the Safari.. we saw whales and the Mendenhall Glacier and met some wonderful people along the way. TIP: you may want to save your excursions for Sitka as there's so much to do in Juneau and I feel I missed half the town because I had a 2:00 excursion. Sitka had less to offer me than the other towns did.. so that would have been a good port to go out and about. BUT you definitely want to see the Mendanhall Glacier in Juneau... and there's a GREAT bead shop in town if you're into crafts.
STAFF,TOILETS AND FORMAL WEAR:
The staff was always so courteous and prompt and the only glitches was for some reason our toilet would quit working every morning about 4 am and at first we took the blame as its like an airline toilet and maybe we didn't treat it properly, but after the 2nd and 3rd time in a row i refused to be the blame for its malfunction. Even though they fixed it right away, when we were pulling into Sitka they couldn't work on it until we docked so we had to go find public facilities to use. That was kind of a pain.
We also had ordered some formal wear to be delivered to our room.. I found this to be totally unnecessary. Even though my husband looked sharp in the tux he wore it only once. The skirt and shoes I ordered were uncomfortable and never fit right so I called it good by just wearing black jeans with my sequined tops and flip flops and it fit right it no problem. So NO you don't have to wear a tux and evening gown and I packed WAY too much stuff.
OTHER FUN STUFF: -The Microsoft classes were such a surprise.. my husband is a real techie but he learned a lot from the Techspert Anna Laura.. We took in 3 of her classes during the day at Sea on Monday and came away each time very pleased with her knowledge. -We had a couples Message the first day on board.. they kept telling us that we got it for a discount if we booked that day ( 20% off) but later we saw that the discount was even better the later into the cruise we went.. and the charged us twice for it ( by mistake I am sure) so always dbl check your bill in the end. -The Signature Shop has a half off sale mid way into the cruise but don't expect to see some of those nice glittery shirts.. its mostly the t shirts and some outer wear but we spent a lot of money there anyway. -I discovered the Crows nest way too late. The Observation Deck has some of the best seats for reading or just relaxing. I wish I had been a bit more adventurous right away but as it was i didn't really know my way around the ship until Wednesday. -The casino is great! slots are fairly loose and hubby won 200$ total on some penny slots. -You can get your Iphones to tether to you laptop in all the ports.. so yes you can catch up on your email and make cell phone calls home when you pull into a port. Just make sure your data roaming is OFF or you will get a nice HEFTY bill. Also the entire city of Sitka had free Internet!
OVERALL IMPRESSION: We are already planning our next cruise with HAL.. back up to Alaska perhaps at the beginning of the season next May so we can see the Glaciers at their best...and now I know my way around the ship and the the things I want to do again, the things i wont do again (like OVER eat.. I gained 4 pounds!).. we may upgrade from the Superior Suite we had to the Deluxe Suite as the Neptune Lounge is a great place for coffee. This time i want to take my parents.. i am sure they will do OK there and have a wonderful time! Getting off the ship and having our ride pick us up in Seattle was a nightmare.. give yourself at least an hour of wait time.