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1,103 Holland America Seattle Cruise Reviews

Arrived at Seatac on Fri. afternoon with reservations for Shuttle Express to our hotel. Had to wait an hour plus while their vans came and went, putting us into rush hour traffic when it was finally our turn. Would never use again - taxi ... Read More
Arrived at Seatac on Fri. afternoon with reservations for Shuttle Express to our hotel. Had to wait an hour plus while their vans came and went, putting us into rush hour traffic when it was finally our turn. Would never use again - taxi from pier back to airport was only $10 more so that little bit of savings not worth it. Pleasant night at the Quality Inn-Seattle Center a few blocks from Space Needle. Arranged for shuttle to pier next morning ($7/each), but another long wait. Although the sight of the giant embarkation warehouse and hundreds of people in zigzag lines was intimidating, it moved quicker than expected. We only had carry-on bags so opted to take our own luggage aboard. Easily found our cabin, unpacked, and went to buffet. It was probably the busiest we ever saw it, but food was good and able to share table with some interesting people. Our cabin was bigger than expected and very clean and nicely decorated. Tub with shower (liked the shampoo, etc. dispensers), plenty of space for toiletries. Comfortable bed with choice of pillows, nightstands on each side (lamps too low for reading in bed comfortably), sofa, chair and table (just right for room service tray), dresser with TV and ice holder on top, mini-bar beneath. Balcony had 2 chairs, an ottoman and small table. We were just around corner from elevators and stairs (never any noise problems) and one floor down from Lido deck (ice water, tea and coffee available 24/7) Our cabin stewards did a great job keeping our cabin clean and making sure ice bucket was filled. They place each day's activity list in your "mailbox" late in afternoon of the day before. We highlighted activities we didn't want to miss - like dress code, destination, shows, etc. We only went to dining room on the 2nd formal night because they were serving steak and lobster. It was very good, but wish the lobster had had drawn butter served with it. Frankly, we wouldn't drag those dressy clothes with again. You could get whatever they were serving delivered to your room by room service if you checked menu posted outside dining room door and called between 5 & 6PM. The food at buffet was always good, lots of selections, and dress casual. Disappointed that there were no crab legs on ship. There were plenty of activities to keep busy, lots of nooks and crannies to explore, and fun times at the outside bar on Lido deck. Captain was able to get us very close to glaciers in Glacier Bay, making an exciting day from whichever place you decided to observe. Booked all our excursions on HAL website - the ones we wanted were no more expensive there than on their own website. We were delighted with all of them - Taku Glacier Float Plane in Juneau, Grizzly Mt. 4X4 in Sitka, and Berring Sea Crab Fisherman's tour in Ketchikan (the highlight of our trip!) We didn't get off ship in Victoria, BC as Canadian officials held ship up for 2 hours before letting us dock. Probably somebody didn't fill out their customs form which you had to do even if you weren't going to get off ship. Captain did announce that anyone who had booked tours would get to take them. We chose to handle our own luggage for disembarkation (you have to fill out their form to do so). Had room service breakfast and was in line by 7AM and off ship by 7:30, quick and easy and no delays. All in all a wonderful trip that we'd highly recommend to anyone. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
From the moment we stepped on board until we departed, we knew we had made a great choice, I think attitude has a lot to do with ones experience. We had great attitudes. Our room was ready when we boarded. We booked a balcony suite and ... Read More
From the moment we stepped on board until we departed, we knew we had made a great choice, I think attitude has a lot to do with ones experience. We had great attitudes. Our room was ready when we boarded. We booked a balcony suite and loved it. Our cabin stewards greeted us by name and continued to be very attentive all week. I mentioned that I liked ice available all the time and we always had fresh ice in our bucket. We enjoyed the towel animals and the treats and information left on our bed nightly. Even in the hallways there was a friendly greeting from staff. The food was delicious especially considering the number of meals served each day. We had room service, we ate in the MDR, Lido, on deck Bar-b-que and the Pinnacle Grill. The service was great and in the MDR and the Pinnacle servers always addressed us by name. The Pinnacle was outstanding and well worth the up charge. We loved, loved, loved our balcony - especially while we were in Glacier Bay. The views are beautiful. The first morning, I woke about 4:30 a m and peeked out - the view was incredible. We spent a lot of time at sea on the balcony. We spent time in the crows nest and enjoyed drinks there each afternoon while watching the most amazing wrap around view. We went ashore at each port and booked excursions at two of the ports, Juneau and Ketchikan. We would have enjoyed more time in both of these ports. We enjoyed Sitka as well but thought the tendering process a bit unorganized. Our call in Victoria was brief because a large ship 'beat ' us into port and we had to wait for them to clear before we were allowed off the ship. This was not a big deal for us as we had not booked anything in Victoria. The only bad thing for us was leaving the ship. Not the process- which was hassle free- just the fact that it was all over. We have already booked a November cruise on HAL. I can't say enough nice things about HAL and Westerdam. Great staff- right size ship for us - good food. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
We have always been "Escape from Winter" warm water cruisers. Alaska finally moved to the top of our bucket vacation list. We were not disappointed at all. The weather for May was exceptional - cool, with plenty of sun, and very ... Read More
We have always been "Escape from Winter" warm water cruisers. Alaska finally moved to the top of our bucket vacation list. We were not disappointed at all. The weather for May was exceptional - cool, with plenty of sun, and very little rain. We usually use the ship's excursions for most of our ports. This was the 1st time that we used none of the ship's. We did some homework in advance, and had wonderful experiences in port. On our day in Juneau, we walked to the bus depot and took a city bus to a drop-off point on the edge of town and walked down a gravel road to a little par 3 - Mendenhall Golf Course. What a beautiful, memorable setting for a round of golf (don't have any expectations for the condition of the course and you won't be disappointed ).Visitors special includes 9 holes of golf with clubs, pull cart, balls and tees, and a certificate that says you golfed in Alaska, all for $30, what a deal!! We took a taxi back - we recommend this. We had the knowledgeable taxi driver let us off near the Russian Orthodox Church where we did some Geo Caching, some walking, and a ride up the Tram. Glacier Bay was SUPERRRRR!!!!!! Beautiful scenery, also sighted whales, seals, mountain goats, and a bear. Such a gorgeous day that a helicopter was sent out to shoot promotional video for HAL. Sitka: Our favorite whale/wildlife adventure yet. Gallant Adventures with Captain Paul Davis. Check out his website and book early, as his is a small boat. We saw humpback whales, Puffins, Eagles, a raft of Sea Otters, a 1000 lb sea lion, and great views at the island bird sanctuary, and of the volcano. We still had time to walk to the Totem park, ,do some Geo Caching and sightseeing in town, before catching a tender boat back to the ship. Ketchikan: We had no specific plans. We got off the ship and began walking, shopping, Geo Caching and sightseeing. There are gift shops galore for the cruise ship passengers - not too bad of prices either. We bought most of our take home souvenirs in Ketchikan. Victoria: Beautiful flowers and gardens that will WOW you. We went on a self-guided walking tour lasting about 3 hours (we got back in the dark with less than an hour to spare). Awesome, Awesome, Awesome !! Any of the short comings of the ship or the cruise were quickly forgotten on this Wonderful cruise!   Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
We took only the first segment, Seattle-Hong Kong, of the HAL Amsterdam Grand Cruise which departed Seattle September 21 2012, and debarked in Hong Kong Oct. 20. We flew Southwest airlines, Oakland>Seattle, and upon landing discovered ... Read More
We took only the first segment, Seattle-Hong Kong, of the HAL Amsterdam Grand Cruise which departed Seattle September 21 2012, and debarked in Hong Kong Oct. 20. We flew Southwest airlines, Oakland>Seattle, and upon landing discovered that one bag had been erroneously sent by Southwest to Los Angeles, where it was discovered on the L>A> bag carousel. Southwest apologized profusely, said the bag could not be returned prior to ship departure, and would be given to the HAL airport people when it arrived, which happened. Southwest gave me a check to buy the missing items that I could recall, and also had the taxi drop us off at the ship. Boarding was easy since everyone else was on the ship. Our cabin was as reserved, dining room table was as requested and our table mates from Canada were good company throughout the cruise. The ship was excellently maintained, clean and everything worked well: elevators, air conditioning, sound system, etc. We were told that the entire ship's staff on this Grand Cruise had been specifically selected and they were the finest HAL crew my wife and I had ever experienced: the waiters, stewards, supervisors, front desk staff, cruise director ( outstanding) , officers, hotel manager, etc. We had very few unusual requests, but all were met with a smile and done well. Food: The dining room menu was the best we ever experienced, with frequent offerings of prime rib, lobster, huge amounts of shrimp dishes, superb soups,salads, outstanding desserts. We were pleasantly surprised that the Lido Buffet was equally good, breakfast, lunch & dinner ( if we chose not to go to the dining room, especially on busy Port days). The food was always varied, appeared attractive, and the friendly servers explained unfamiliar dishes for us. Many dishes in the Lido were cooked right there, as the food in the pans was taken by diners. There were several excellent outdoor deck buffets, limited only by the number of deck electrical outlets for cooking. The dessert bar in the Lido always had a great variety, breakfast pastries were superb and varied, and the breads were also quite good. There was an Asian station in the buffet with different Asian dishes at lunch and dinner. There was a sushi station daily at lunch. There was also a Pizza and pasta station daily, which my wife ( pizza fan) says was excellent. The pool deck area had a hamburger and sausage and another pizza counter, all of which were freshly done throughout the day, but hard to compete with the great inside buffet. Food service: The dining room waiters were efficient, wee eager to substitute another entree if the chosen one was not what you thought it would be. The kitchen chefs provided items not on the menu if requested in advance ( escargot, some other items). The Lido staff rapidly cleared tables, provided ice water and coffee to the tables as needed, helped people carry plates to tables if needed. Entertainment: The showroom shows were varied. We saw the same HAL musical reviews we had seen on other voyages, since HAL keeps a costly show on stage for about 3 years. The singing and dancing was good, since the shows were familiar to the performers.On other nights,the guest singers, musicians, magicians, were good, generally better than on some other cruises. The movies shown in the Wajang theater were generally poor, films that might be shown on TV. but not in movie theaters. When we were in Japanese ports, HAL showed older Hollywood Japan-themed films from the l960's that although dated were appropriate for the location. There were several musicians who appeared in the top deck bar (Crow's Nest?)who were quite entertaining. Lectures and enlightenment: In addition to Barbara the port lecturer, the ship also had Mr. Salinger, a well travelled author, who provided much background information about Japan, China, Russia, and the the maritime industry. There was another lectuer wo is a Ph.D. naturalist who provided much information about marine life, Fish in particular, as well as other talks on nature. On board shopping: Miserable. Limited stock, inflated prices, little variety. Clerks were courteus & helpful, but limited to what management chose to put in the stores. Tailoring: A Chinese tailor boarded in Japan, measured men & women for shirts, suits,etc., which would be made while we were at sea and delivered in Singapore. We did not get anything. Ports: This cruise had a full time extremely experienced port lecturer, Barbara, who provided complete information about each Port before we reached it, so that we could use local transportation, walk to nearby scenic areas, and know what to look for on the tours and excursions. Library and computer area: The librarians were knowledgeable, helpful in finding a book, even if in the off-limits storage area. The computers were slow as they often are, but the computer technician was as helpful as possible considering the incredibly slow computers. Front desk: More knowledgeable, helpful, courteous than any staff we ever before experienced. Officers, cruise director: Outstandingly helpful, courteous, honest. Captain kept passengers informed as needed. Cruise Itinerary: The North Pacific was extremely rough, with huge swells, and much ship motion. A storm prevented us from reaching our first port, Kushiro in Northern Japan, and we sailed very close to the uninhabited Russian Kurile Islands, and into the Sea of Okhotsk before reaching first port of Hakodate.The Captain modified the actual course to avoid as much of the storms as possible. Excursions: We arranged, months earlier , to take private excursions in every port and cannot report on the Amsterdam Shore excursions. Piers: In every port, the ship docked as close as possible to the center of town: In Shanghai we were on the edge of the Bund, In Nagasaki downtown and one block from the tram station, in Yokohama ( for Tokyo) we were within a few blocks of a shopping center, and a local (that weekend) German Beer and Harvest Festival. Kobe was similar. In Hong Kong, we were at the Ocean Terminal, two blocks to the Star Ferry or Peninsula Hotel. Debarkation: efficient, easy. Our luggage was on the pier and we took a taxi to our hotel nearby, since our return flight was the next day. We took an airport bus ( about $10 USD each) from our hotel to the new Hong Kong airport, about 45 mins. drive. That bus picked up passengers at three hotels, put luggage down below , and unloaded us at out airline entry area. There are numerous luggage trolleys outside the entryway to carry bags to the ticket counters. This was the finest cruise we ever experienced, on any cruise line, and one which future cruises will be compared with. We think the underlying reason is that this was a 'Grand Cruise' which is more costly than regular HAL cruises, and well worth it. The Chef and kitchen staff produced great meals consistently, which proves that "it can be done." Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
This was our 2nd Alaska cruise but the first time we had ever sailed with HAL and while none of it was horrible it just wasn't anything special either. The food was ok in the Vista restaurant nicely prepared and served, the food ... Read More
This was our 2nd Alaska cruise but the first time we had ever sailed with HAL and while none of it was horrible it just wasn't anything special either. The food was ok in the Vista restaurant nicely prepared and served, the food in the Pinnacle was great excellent quality, taste and service, well worth the extra charge. The food in the Lido was just not good, mostly cold, not enough options and the hours of operation not very accommodating. The only station open through out the day was pizza and pasta and it never changed. The place is always a little trashy too, lots of table left with dishes too long, food on the floor not picked up just not well taken care of. The room steward was great but too often in other areas of the ship the service was spotty at best and downright sullen at times. The ship is older and definitely showing its age, chipped and cracked, needing paint little wobbles here and there, our door would not shut tight so we had to put up with a wind noise even after they "fixed" it. On the other hand the bed was the best we have ever had on any cruise and the bathroom while old and tacky was well laid out and had a great shower, too bad the tub didn't drain while you showered. The on board shops are very limited in selection and prices seemed high even for a cruise. The smoking area is not well ventilated so there is a very strong odor all around on that floor. The daily activities were very repetitive and not that interesting. The show lounge had some very good singers and dancers and they put on some nice shows, there were also 2 comics on the ship. They were not to my taste but I must say that everyone around me seemed to be loving them. The acts in the bars and other lounges were uniformly weak and not worth wasting your time. Two things that really bothered me the most is the ports of call and the time allotted to you in each of them. We spent all day in Tracy arm and then didn't see the glacier a real waste of time. We had a reasonable time in Juneau and Sitka but only about 4 hours in Ketchikan and then the biggest disappointment of all was getting into Victoria 3 hours late and having just about 2.5 hours to try to see one of the best walking and shopping cities in the world, and it was late at night. I found it very interesting that the NCL Pearl was still tied up at the dock when we left Ketchikan and yet was already tied up at the dock when we got to Victoria. I don't know whether they got lost or were trying to save on fuel. The second thing is kind of related to the first and that is that there are no comfortable chairs anywhere on this ship. Because of the itinerary we spent a lot of time on the ship, in fact I finished 3 books from the library, but could not find a chair or couch anywhere to sit more than an hour or so.I guess that is not entirely true, the ship has a nice small movie theater and the seats there were pretty good, they got a lot of use from the movie goers. Getting on and off the ship during the ports of call was very slow, but embarkation and disembarkation was handled very well, quick and smooth. If a friend asked me to recommend this cruise I would tell them all of the things to expect but probably still suggest they go if they got a great price. I think as long as you understood what this ship experience is you would be all right. Most of our cruises have been on Celebrity and they are just a better more polished experience. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
We just got back from the Sept 2-9, 2012 Oosterdam Alaska sailing from Seattle. It was the first 7-day cruise we had done in 10 years and seemed to have a much younger average passenger age than the 14-21 day cruises we've been doing ... Read More
We just got back from the Sept 2-9, 2012 Oosterdam Alaska sailing from Seattle. It was the first 7-day cruise we had done in 10 years and seemed to have a much younger average passenger age than the 14-21 day cruises we've been doing and lots of West Coasters that booked last-minute like us. We last sailed the O-dam in late October 2011 on a 21-day Hawaii/Mexican Riviera Collector's cruise. Captain Van der Loo and Deejay Brett were on that cruise and this one as well. I have very high regard for this captain as he made some critical decisions last year with a triple medical evac on the Hawaii cruise. Brett is highly energetic and lots of fun. He remembered us from last year and we enjoyed sailing with him again. I was happy to see the condition of the ship was better than last year, even though it had just emerged from dry-dock at that time, which you couldn't tell. While we were sailing then, much of the public areas got new carpet and our cabin carpet was cleaned on the cruise this year. I didn't notice shabby/dirty upholstery on this cruise, but the cocktail tables throughout the ship (particularly in the Crow's Nest) need to be replaced. We were satisfied with our cabin. We were in a nice quiet spot in the aft on deck 6 and had been upgraded several categories. The beds and bedding are still awesome - I always sleep so well on a cruise. It also seemed that the heating/cooling system in our room worked better than normal. Cabin stewards did a great job and kept everything stocked. No issues there. Food was a little uneven. My favorite lunch was a Salad Nicoise with salmon that had the best balsamic/olive oil dressing in the MDR. I also enjoyed the sushi in the Lido and soups were wonderful as always. I didn't eat any bread, but DH said it was good. The cupcakes at the Cupcake Tea were dry and tasted like they had been frozen, which was also the case last year on O-dam. My cheeseburger the first lunch in the MDR was charred beyond recognition and the bun was as hard as a rock. I will say the coffee seemed better than last year. I didn't mind it and the cappuchinos at dinner were good as well. I didn't have salmon at the salmon bake by the pool this time, although I ate a lot of salmon and seafood at dinner. Several people mentioned that the salmon at the bake was bland, but very fresh. Entertainment was only fair. We have seen all the production shows several times before, so didn't bother to attend those. They had two comedians - a very funny guy with a dummy (mannequin-american as he called it) and Julie Barr (did 2 G-rated & an X-rated comedy show). She reminded me of Lisa Lampenelli and was entertaining. Only had the "Marriage Game" & "Liar's Club" shows in the Queen's Lounge. Saw one movie in the theatre - "This Means War", which was enjoyable. They also showed "The Lorax", "Hunger Games" and several others. We are big trivia players and there was one main trivia game per day in the Crow's Nest, along with a music/movie trivia game at 6:00 pm in the Queen's Lounge most days. The Alaska weather was beautiful. Tracy Arm/Sawyer Glacier was overcast but not raining and we got pretty darn close to the glacier. It was so late in the season there wasn't much ice and didn't see a single seal. Last summer on the Amsterdam, we saw countless seals there on the ice (some even having babies). We saw some bald eagles and quite a few whales and dolphin enroute. Juneau was partly sunny and very mild. Enjoyed walking around the harbor and doing some shopping. DH went to Mendenhall Glacier and really it enjoyed it and the waterfall there. He also got to touch a live bald eagle some guy had in town - he loved that. Ketchekan was perfectly clear (blue skies!) and fascinating to see the salmon running. I had never seen that before and it was great! Only downside was the rotten fish smell that permeated the whole town from all the dead ones. Sitka was its usual scenic self and clear as well. We walked around town and up into some neighborhoods and did more shopping. Victoria was a bust. We got in late and only had a couple of hours in late evening to explore. There were shuttles to take people downtown in the dark, but we chose to stay on the ship. It is a real shame not to get a whole day in Victoria - it is a beautiful city with a gorgeous harbor and lots to do. Overall, I would rate this cruise a B+. It wasn't my favorite cruise (out of 13 so far), but it wasn't the worst either. For what we paid for it last-minute, I felt we got our money's worth and enjoyed a pleasant week's vacation. Still like Holland America as much as ever! Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
My fiance and I picked this cruise because the reviews suggested there would be few children and it was not a party ship. We're under 35, we just don't have any interest in night clubs or sharing a pool with lots of screaming ... Read More
My fiance and I picked this cruise because the reviews suggested there would be few children and it was not a party ship. We're under 35, we just don't have any interest in night clubs or sharing a pool with lots of screaming children. The Oosterdam lived up to that with much more. The room was big (we had a balcony) and our service was great. Our room steward figured out that I was using all the ice to make ice packs for my back injury and started keeping my ziploc bag filled with ice for me. I thought the food was pretty good, certainly better than Carnival's, but the Lido selection was pretty small. Our dining room steward remembered the types of tea we liked and he even found as at one of the afternoon teas and brought us our tea right away. Excellent service. However, on the one night we wanted to do open seating so that we could make it to a movie showing. This was a mistake. I'm pretty sure Burger King offers better service than the open seating in the Vista. The line was long, but there were tons of open tables. The service was insanely slow. It took us 2 hours to get through dinner and we skipped coffee/tea to finally escape. There were plenty of servers literally standing around not doing anything (our table was near their prep area and I could see them standing in there leaning against the counters doing nothing). We also spoke with a few other passengers who told us they weren't enjoying open seating either. The Tracy Arm was great and we got up pretty close to the glacier. Our ports were great and it was even nice and sunny for as well. I liked the ship, not too big, but with everything you need. I really liked the movie theater and the aft (no-kids) hot tubs. The crow's next and Library were really nice too. I would recommend this ship and itinerary highly. Just don't do open seating. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
Husband and I sailed from Seattle to Alaska Sept 16-23. Embarkation was very smooth and we were on board within 30 minutes of arriving at the port. When we boarded at noon we were told the rooms were ready so we went to our VA Deluxe ... Read More
Husband and I sailed from Seattle to Alaska Sept 16-23. Embarkation was very smooth and we were on board within 30 minutes of arriving at the port. When we boarded at noon we were told the rooms were ready so we went to our VA Deluxe Verandah room to leave our carry ons. We loved the room on the Navigation Deck on the back 1/4 of the ship on the Starboard side. The Lido back pool was near our room, but we never heard any noise. We went to the Vista Dining Room for lunch and met some nice people from Arizona. Muster Drill went smoothly. Time to leave Seattle! It was a very nice warm sunny day, as were all 7 days of the cruise! We had Sun, Mon and Tues as sea days, and they went by quickly. We choose to eat most of our meals in the dining room, and we had open seating. Yopi checked us in for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. We were able to sit at the same table several times. Food was great every meal! Have a hard time understanding the people who say the meals were terrible. We had reservations in Canaletto on Tues night as we were leaving Tracy Arm. Great food and scenery. We played bingo each session and I finally won the last session but the game I won had 6 other winners. We each got $60. I was also in the finals of the slot tournament, but didn't win. I got a T shirt for husband. We loved the shows and thought the singers and dancers did a great job. Didn't go to the comedy night. ON Wed we arrived at Juneau. We took a bus to the Mendenhall Glacier. I would encourage everyone to do this. We loved it. Much cheaper in port than booking excursions on ship. We had lunch at the Red Dog Saloon. It was definately a tourist trap. Food was alright but very expensive. Also went to the local quilt shop. Thursday was Sitka. We tendered in, found a coffee shop with WIFI, then the local quilt shop. Walked around town a bit and then headed back to the ship. Friday was Ketchikan. I found the quilt shop very close to where we left the ship. I was able to buy lots of Alaska Batik and got some in each shop. We loved the fact that HA has priests on each sailing. Fr Carl was lovely. Had a good sense of humor. We attended Mass each day and were happy about it. Saturday we arrived in Victoria about 8:45. We got off the ship but only went to the souvenir shops at the port. Decided that we didn't want to get left in Victoria. felt bad for those who had excursions booked. Disembarkation went as smooth as embarkation. Our time to leave was 9:10 but we walked down at 8:50 and they said all bags were in the terminal. We walked on and went through security and customs very rapidly. Our son-in-law was picking us up and he was there, we were loaded and out of the terminal area by 9:30. I have nothing negative to say about Holland America. We are talking about going next September also. Because the weather was so nice, we sat out on our verandah several days. We won't go again unless we have a verandah. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
We had a great time on this cruise. The weather was amazing for Alaska; so we feel lucky. Those looking to book in September should realize the weather can be constant rain this time of year; however the lack of crowds make this ... Read More
We had a great time on this cruise. The weather was amazing for Alaska; so we feel lucky. Those looking to book in September should realize the weather can be constant rain this time of year; however the lack of crowds make this worthwhile. Plus a lot of the gift shops are having closing sales! Now onto the review: The Ship: The Good: I've been on NCL before (the Dawn) and loved this ship. There is a lot of elevators; so the wait was not too bad. They layout was great too; plenty of public spaces to enjoy. We never really felt crowded except on the Lido at breakfast. You really did not feel like 1900 people were on board with you. The Crows nest is a great spot; and the Library on this deck is a nice bonus. I liked how the space flowed together. Also having a roof on the main pool that can close is a nice bonus; plus there's a lot of spaces for shade if you are getting too much sun. The Bad: Note that the pictures featured are of the spa; I also kinda missed having a large atrium. That being said Id rather have more public spaces to gather in than open space in the center of the ship. Also the screening room where they show movies is really small. The Service: The Good: The service was great; I never felt accosted by servers pushing drinks and camera people taking pictures. It was a great bonus to have DVD's available to borrow; and a large amount of books to be lent out of the library. The crew was friendly; and seemed willing to go the extra mile. We were both fighting colds we caught on the plane; and our cabin ninja keep us stocked up on tissues. I also noted they served food to you on the Lido on the first 2 days; in order to avoid spread of norovirus. Why doesnt everyone do this? It seemed like a great idea to me. The captain seemed great. I especially liked his safety briefing and his overview on when to be back on the ship. He really drove the point home; to the point that everyone made the boat! The Bad: Nothing really came to mind. Note that meals are relaxed and take at least 1 1/2 hours; but we really didnt mind. We thought of it as an experience; and not a rushed meal. We tried open seating and never had a problem. Entertainment: The Good: The comics were pretty good and the headline show called Stage and Screen was excellent. The Bad: The first show was pretty hokey; and we felt the shows on NCL were better. Also some of the evening entertainment was pretty low key. So if you are looking to party this is not the ship for you. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
As this was our first time sailing with HAL, didn't know what to expect as previous reviews I had read varied considerably, From the time we arrived at the pier in Seattle until we were onboard, it was totally hassle-free, the lines ... Read More
As this was our first time sailing with HAL, didn't know what to expect as previous reviews I had read varied considerably, From the time we arrived at the pier in Seattle until we were onboard, it was totally hassle-free, the lines moved freely and there were people to assist & direct all the way. When we did board we found we were able to go straight to our cabin, at 11.30am, which was a surprise considering the ship had only docked at 7.00am. Every staff member we met through the week were the friendliest, happiest and most efficient I have ever come across, nothing was any trouble! The food equalled any I have had although on our Alaska leg (we were doing back-to-back cruises) the variety in the Lido was a bit limited. (this changed on the next section of our cruise back to Australia). The meals in the Pinnacle Grill were outstanding and our wait staff great! We chose Open dining in the main dining room and always had fantastic service. The ship never appeared crowded even at peak times when people were going for dinner or shows. The shows we saw were first rate and the other activities were either very entertaining or informative. Loved the Crows Nest where we visited each day to have coffee from Explorations cafe, catch up with new friends, read or just look out at the ocean. Port days were well organised and it was easy leaving & returning to the ship, except one day when the line for disembarking was quite long. Our cabin was not large but certainly had enough space to hang & stow all our things for a 31 day cruise, even enough room under the bed to store our 4 big bags. The cabin was kept immaculate every day by our beautiful stewards, who also topped up fresh fruit & ice every day. We would sail again on Oosterdam & HAL in a heartbeat, it was a wonderful experience. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
As we were doing a back-to-back cruise, having just completed The Inside Passage to Alaska, we did not have to go through any of the usual embarkation process. We were able to just go ashore for several hours in Seattle and return to the ... Read More
As we were doing a back-to-back cruise, having just completed The Inside Passage to Alaska, we did not have to go through any of the usual embarkation process. We were able to just go ashore for several hours in Seattle and return to the ship at our leisure, as long as we were back in time for the safety boat drill. It was great already knowing our cabin stewards, who looked after our cabin on the first leg of our adventure, and they continued their amazing job of keeping us clean & tidy, filling the ice bucket, leaving the most innovative towel animals every night. We could not have asked for more! In the main dining room, where we ate most nights, we were impressed with the ever-changing, delicious menu and the attentive stewards and wine steward. We went to the Pinnacle Grill on 6 occasions, which were all made memorable by both the wonderful food and great service. I don't think I have had a better meal anywhere than my Pinnacle Grill meals. Lunch was usually eaten on the Lido deck, either from the various BBQ's on deck or from the Lido buffet which was much more varied than it had been on the 7 day Alaska cruise. Having 17 sea days, meant there was plenty of time to go to cooking demos, lectures, movies (complete with popcorn) or just hang out up in the Crows Nest with a good coffee from Explorations Cafe meeting new friends. The only thing I wasn't keen on, was breakfast in the Lido, as it was always pretty crowded and walking around with a plate of breakfast looking for a table did not suit me first thing in the morning. However there was an alternative, which suited us much better - breakfast in the main dining room! The nighttime entertainment was mostly of a high quality, the favorite being Adagio, an incredible duo, playing violin & piano, who performed every night in lounge. By the time we got to Sydney they were playing to a full house each night. The level of service on Oosterdam, from Captain down, was the best we have ever received and we would sail with HAL again in a heartbeat. The final thing was the disembarkation which was so expertly organised, from the time our colour was called we were on shore in Sydney in less than 20 minutes with assistance given with our numerous bags. Thank you. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
and looking forward to 100 more. We boarded THE OOSTERDAY on September 29, 2012 in Seattle with great ease, and no stress. Soon we entered our Deluxe Veranda Suite, and were immediately impressed. . .champaine, fresh flowers, nd a ... Read More
and looking forward to 100 more. We boarded THE OOSTERDAY on September 29, 2012 in Seattle with great ease, and no stress. Soon we entered our Deluxe Veranda Suite, and were immediately impressed. . .champaine, fresh flowers, nd a welcome from our two gracious cabin stewarts, Hus and Andrea! Closets and storage space were quite ample, beds were luxurious, piled with pillows, balcony was spacious! This cruise was a repeat of the one we made a year ago on THE ZAANDAM, and we enjoyed that one so much, we decided to repeat it this year. . .and we were not disappointed! The ship itself, the staff and crew, the exceptional food and entertainment were all superlative. . .of particular note was ADAGIO, a piano, violin duo who were absolutely magnificent. . .every evening they entertained in The Explorer Lounge, and their fans grew in number. They played one song after another, classic, light classic show tunes, songs of romance. . . we closed our eyes and were at peace! Everything about this ship was five star, the ports of call, the days at sea, the entrichment talks, the cruise director, The Pinacle Restaurant, The Vista Dining Room, The Neptune Lounge, with two beautiful and friendly concierges! the Lido, buffets around the pool. . . but above all the staff and the crew who catered to our every whim! We felt at home for 21 days of pure relaxation and delight, and indeed we were "at home!" and regretted to see our cruise end at Sydney. Since we were to meet friends in Sydney, we were about the last to disembark. . .our luggage was neatly waiting for us on a cart, we disembarked with the greatest of ease! We are hoping for the SAME CRUISE, SAME TIME NEXT YEAR WITH HOLLAND AMERICAN. . .perhaps a different DAM ship, but makes no difference. All are floating palaces! Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
I love Holland America. Embarkation - I rate this a C. Honestly, I felt they got us on the ship late, (12:00p) and it was really disorganized. No one knew the boarding was numbered and everyone rushed up to try and get in. The lady ... Read More
I love Holland America. Embarkation - I rate this a C. Honestly, I felt they got us on the ship late, (12:00p) and it was really disorganized. No one knew the boarding was numbered and everyone rushed up to try and get in. The lady who was organizing it was doing her best and keeping everyone informed, but it seemed like it could have been done a lot better. Once I was on the ship, I had the pool all to myself for the first hour, even after eating a quick lunch. The food in the Lido was great and the fruit was excellent. The music was pretty good and it was a good feeling to be in the pool on a beautiful Seattle sunny day. The emergency drill was easy, took about 20 minutes. the Casino didn't open till about midnight, Texas Hold em tounry started right after that. I didn't like the electronic style. I felt the breakfast pancakes were not very good, but the rest of the food was great. The Staff was amazing, I had open dining and sat with 7 other wonderful people. After dinner, did Kareokee in the Queens Lounge, then on to the piano bar for a few drinks. A double Rum and coke was 15 dollars and it seemed a bit watered down even though it seemed like he filled the whole glass full of rum. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
I went on this cruise with my mom. Embarkation was approximately 15 minutes. We were in stateroom 4092, which has a partial ocean view. We had a nice, ocean view out of half the window. We could hear the elevator ding when our tv ... Read More
I went on this cruise with my mom. Embarkation was approximately 15 minutes. We were in stateroom 4092, which has a partial ocean view. We had a nice, ocean view out of half the window. We could hear the elevator ding when our tv wasn't on, but that didn't bother me. Our room was always kept clean and the room stewards got us anything we requested. We had excursions at each port and not a lot time left over to explore the towns afterwards. We went whale watching, to the Raptor Center, on a sea otter excursion, and I went on a float plane ride. (I'll try to post a review about my excursions in the Alaska forum.) When we were on the ship, I went to a wine tasting, a mixology class, a photo class, and a towel animal class. I also went to see some shows. My mom even won a bracelet at one of the give-aways. My mom used the gym around 6:00 AM most days. She said there was sometimes a wait for the treadmills since they were allowed to be used for one hour at a time. My least favorite part about the Westerdam was the food. Some days a dish might taste really good and if you ordered it the next day, it would taste bad. Sometimes food would be over cooked and hard. I saw a few people send their food back during dinner. I also saw a lot of people piling food on their plates at the buffet, so I know everyone has a different idea about what they like. Overall, sailing on the Westerdam was a good time and I thought Alaska was beautiful. Of course, it probably helps that we had beautiful weather throughout our trip. We were told we could leave the ship at 8:00 AM and we walked out, grabbed our bags, presented our customs forms, and met our ride in about 15 minutes. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
I thoroughly enjoyed the cruise to Alaska on Holland and would recommend this ship to anyone. Embarkation was a breeze and my bags were in my room before I got there. I loved cruise director Jason and DJ Mario was great with Trivia and ... Read More
I thoroughly enjoyed the cruise to Alaska on Holland and would recommend this ship to anyone. Embarkation was a breeze and my bags were in my room before I got there. I loved cruise director Jason and DJ Mario was great with Trivia and the game shows. Jason and DJ Mario should consider a routine because they are funny together. Unfortunately we had some rough seas but Captain Hank took us through the inside passage - avoiding the worst of the swells. Sadly we had to skip Sitka but they offered us champagne. Frankly, I was just glad to avoid the 30 foot swells but that was very thoughtful of them. I give two thumbs up for the communcation we received from Captain Hank and Jason. I've never been so kept up to date and it was really appreciated. They seemed to understand exactly what the passangers wanted. The food was delicious, the staff was excellent, and the entertainment was pretty good. I didn't enjoy the comedian Derrick. I've heard every one of his jokes before. The magician was entertaining. The dancing shows were just ok. They can dance very well but the songs were a little boring for me. We very much enjoyed the scavenger hunt and I liked the casino. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
WESTERDAM: ALASKA VS. CARIBBEAN HAL delivered yet another consistent product, but with some distinct changes for the colder climate. After a dozen visits to St. Maartin and countless shopping days in Old San Juan, I headed to Seattle for a ... Read More
WESTERDAM: ALASKA VS. CARIBBEAN HAL delivered yet another consistent product, but with some distinct changes for the colder climate. After a dozen visits to St. Maartin and countless shopping days in Old San Juan, I headed to Seattle for a change of scenery. This was my fifth HAL cruise, but nearly twentieth overall. Here's my review of Westerdam's Alaskan Explorer Cruise with a comparison to HAL's sunnier itineraries. ALASKA IN SEPTEMBER While visiting Glacier Bay, one of the park rangers said, "I love Alaska in September. You get the best and worst weather in the same day." Although she was referencing the blue skies opening behind Marjorie Glacier, this statement easily described a week's worth of changes. The sea day after leaving Seattle was particularly turbulent. Our course took us west of the Queen Charlotte Islands, exposing us to unusually long period swells and the high winds to match. With a bit of imagination, I pretended we were 'rounding Cape Horn as we bounced past ghostly rock formations. The captain made a well-rehearsed announcement about the Pacific being a cup of cooling tea, and requested that the ladies save their high-heeled shoes for the second formal night. Given that only six or seven tables were occupied in the main dining room during my visit, most passengers must have dined on the green apples and bread slices being offered at the reservations podium. JUNEAU To the relief of most passengers, we entered calmer waters in the Chatham Strait at 4:00am. Don't sleep too late, or you'll miss the gorgeous scenery of the Stephens Passage beginning at 9:00am. Due to its warmth, the covered Lido Pool was a popular space for watching the green hills and flowing waterfalls. As we disembarked the ship, we were handed flyers promoting "Caribbean Gems," Diamond's International, and Del Sol. If it weren't for my heavy winter coat, I'd have thought I was back down south! Today's highlights included seeing a mother bear and her two cubs, a porcupine in a tree, and a pair of wild mink feasting on salmon left by a bear. I chose to hike independently at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. For those who enjoy a mild to moderate hike, I recommend the 3.5-mile East Glacier Trail and the shorter Trail of Time. These trails are partially lined with gravel, but require walking on stairs and uphill surfaces. Both trails offer a delightful escape from the hustle and bustle of the Visitor's Center and an excellent opportunity to view wildlife. Bus transfers to the Visitor Center can be purchased after disembarking the ship, as can a number of same-day sightseeing tours. GLACIER BAY CRUISING Glacier Bay was the highlight of the cruise. The pilot, four park rangers, and a Huna Tribe member embarked the ship at 6:00am near Bartlett Cove. The cruise to Marjorie Glacier took four hours, with an arrival time of 11:00am. Once there, we had spectacular blue skies and an uncommon view of Mount Fairweather, one of the world's highest coastal mountains at 4,671 metres (15,325 feet). Captain Henk Keijer positioned the ship so that each side had 30 minutes of viewing time at the glacier. The bow was open, as were the forward observation balconies on decks seven and eight. Dutch Pea Soup and unlimited hot chocolate were served outside on Deck 10 for those passengers watching the scenery aft of the Crow's Nest. Upon leaving the area, the captain announced we would attempt a full visit to the Johns Hopkins Glacier with an arrival time of 2:30pm. Thus, the entire ship piled into the Lido Restaurant. To avoid the disaster (and it was one), make a lunch reservation at the Pinnacle Grill for 1:00pm. You don't want to eat in the Lido on Glacier Bay day! For the second week in a row, Westerdam was able to make a close-up visit to the Johns Hopkins Glacier. According to a park ranger, September offers the best chance for this added bonus because the ice breaks at the end of August. Similar to before, the captain gave each side of the ship 30 minutes of viewing time before slowly retracing our path back to the park's entrance. We rendezvoused with Volendam before leaving Glacier Bay, which did not venture inside the Johns Hopkins Inlet. SITKA As our tender left Westerdam behind in the mist, I dreamed about the white sand beaches of Half Moon Cay. Although it rained nonstop today, I took to the streets with my umbrella to visit the Russian Orthodox Cemetery. It is located precariously on a hillside, and appears to be straight from a Steven King novel. This site was recommended by a Lonely Planet Travel Guide, and is not to be missed! It is a most curious place, and far more interesting than the storefronts in the center of town. Given Sitka's small size, however, you'll have plenty of time to shop and spook yourself in one of North America's most unusual graveyards. Had it not been so cold and rainy I would have loved to visit the Sitka National Historic Park. It was too cold so I retreated to the hot tubs at the Lido Pool. KETCHIKAN We brought Sitka's dreary weather with us to Ketchikan. Creek Street is not to be missed, and in September affords its visitors many end-of-season sales. For an interesting panorama of the city, take the Married Men's Trail to the Cape Fox Lodge (the entrance is a steep set of stairs on Creek Street). Depending on your weather, you will see the ship waiting patiently in the harbor surrounded by gorgeous mountains. However, all I saw was fog: white fog, dense fog, thickening fog, rolling fog.... I decided to send postcards with somewhat clearer views of the city before returning to the ship. SEA DAY & VICTORIA We cruised the sheltered waters of the Hecate Strait on the journey south to Victoria. While Westerdam hugged the shoreline all the way down, rumor has it that Golden Princess is required to sail further out to sea for environmental reasons. In any case, she could be seen from a distance for the entire day. I was unsure what to do about dinner tonight because the ship was scheduled to dock in Victoria at 5:30pm. To enjoy as much time ashore as possible, I ate at the Alaskan Salmon Cookout by the pool. While the decorations and ice carvings looked inviting, the food cooled quickly in the wind. I recommend eating ashore in one of Victoria's many charming restaurants; the inner harbor is simply stunning at night. REGIONAL ALASKAN CUISINE The fare offered on this cruise varied from HAL's Caribbean sailings. Notably missing were the Pepper Pot Soup, Grilled Mahi-Mahi, Spiced Rack of Pork, and Steamed Black Mussels. The menus in the Vista Dining Room were very heavy on salmon (a good thing) and pasta dishes (bizarre). While the food was consistent, something was missing from the experience. I think it was the informality of Alaska, the rain boots seen in the dining room, and the earlier dining times (5:30pm and 7:30pm). The first formal night that was essentially cancelled due to weather and the dinnertime arrival into Victoria also played a part in my slight disappointment. The Pinnacle Grill was extraordinary as always, and surprisingly never looked full. I am tempted to book the Pinnacle for five of seven nights next cruise, visiting the dining room only on formal nights. The experience is so worth it. ENTERTAINMENT & PROGRAMMING The entertainment offerings on this sailing included two full production shows (Grand Tour and Stage & Screen), with an additional show featuring only the singers: Aaron Neely, Katie Kern, Josh Campbell, and Brianne Hodoly. The HAL Cats featured two excellent vocalists: Brian Bateman and Erika Toler. Piano Man Stryker was very good as well, although Piano Man Jimmy from the Eurodam is still my favorite. The headliner entertainment was industry standard, and included the magic of Jeff Peterson, his dog Indy, and the comedy of Dan Bennett. Cruise Director Jason Venner made all of the entertainment enjoyable with his refreshingly refined sense of humor. WARM WEATHER COMPARISONS Despite the Alaska stereotype, the passenger complement on this cruise was younger than my previous HAL cruises in the Caribbean. However, passengers retired much earlier due to the 7:00am port arrivals and more demanding shore excursions. The ship also felt more crowded because no one used the open decks. Even though all of the cruising staples were readily available, I missed the sunshine and warmth found in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. It would have been nice to sit on the balcony and walk outside on the Promenade Deck! To conclude, I'm very satisfied with my first Alaskan cruise and can't wait to sail with HAL a sixth time! An Alaskan cruise is different, and it's supposed to be. After a few more healthy doses of sunshine in the Caribbean, I'd like to try a one-way cruise between Vancouver and Anchorage to pick up Tracy Arm, Skagway, and Hubbard Glacier. Holland America has an excellent product, and I urge everyone to try at least one Alaskan cruise! Thanks for reading! I'm happy to answer questions on the Cruise Critic thread titled: Westerdam Photo Review: Alaska vs. Caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
We booked this cruise ten days before departure as a spur of the moment decision. I retired in February and we did back to back cruises on the Dawn Princess around New Zealand and then around Australia. We started cruising in 2003 with a ... Read More
We booked this cruise ten days before departure as a spur of the moment decision. I retired in February and we did back to back cruises on the Dawn Princess around New Zealand and then around Australia. We started cruising in 2003 with a two day coastal cruise on the Dawn Princess from Vancouver to San Francisco and absolutely loved it. By the time we decided to do an Alaskan cruise, the Princess cruises out of both Seattle and Vancouver, BC were completely sold out. Fortunately, our TA was able to book a guaranteed verandah stateroom on the Westerdam. Five days before sail away, our TA called and told us Holland American would upgrade us to a Superior Verandah Suite for a little more than the per day cost of the original fare. So amazingly, we ended up with a SY category Verandah Suite on the port side of deck 6. Our son drove us down to the Cruise Terminal at Pier 91 in Elliot Bay. We arrived at the terminal at noon which was the rush hour peak boarding time. The Pier 91 Cruise Terminal while plain and very industrial looking, has a very efficient layout. The time from stepping out of our son's car to stepping into our stateroom was only 45 minutes. Our two suitcases arrived at our stateroom 10 minutes later - well done Holland American. The safety briefing was different that what we were use to on Princess in that it was conducted at our life boat muster station outside on the promenade deck instead in a assigned interior lounge space. Thankfully, it wasn't raining as the life boats are not covered by ship's structure. The Captain gave a clear and complete safety briefing on the ship's exterior loudspeakers followed by crew members demonstrating how to put on the life vest. It really is quite crowded with all the passengers on the promenade deck at their muster stations. However, I see the value of having the passengers actually go to their life boat stations. Sail away weather was beautiful as we left Elliot Bay for the Strait of Juan de Fuca and our passage outside of Vancouver Island to Juneau. We really enjoyed sail away from the Crow's Nest just above the bridge on Deck 10. The floor to ceiling windows wrap around the sides and front of the ship giving a 180 degree view which is great for viewing the Alaskan scenery. There is also a small cafe in the space serving coffee and pastries. A large storm in the Pacific Ocean changed our original itinerary. Captain Keijer took the ship inside of Queen Charlottle Islands and followed the inside passage to Juneau to avoid the high seas and wind of the storm. Sitka was dropped as a port of call since it is located on the unportected ocean side of Baranot Island. As a result we went from our day of scenic cruising of Glacier Bay to Ketchikan bypassing Sitka. From Ketchikan after sea day we arrived in Victoria, BC in the morning instead of 6:00 PM as originally scheduled. Overall, my wife and I really enjoyed the Westerdam and the Holland American cruise experience. The service, quality of entertainment, cleanliness of the ship, and dining are excellent and equivalent to what we have experienced on Princess. Here is a summary of the differences: Stateroom - The bed was far more comfortable than beds on Princess. Our stateroom lighting was marginally adequate, dim in comparison to a Princess stateroom. We liked having a hinged door to the verandah instead of a sliding door. Public Spaces - With the exception of dining rooms and the forward theater the public venues are smaller especially the Atrium. The Atrium on the Westerdam is like a dark cave. On Princess ships, the Atrium is large and functions as a town center. Dining - The three stations on each side of the Lido dining room make self service much less of a hassle than the single large station on each side of the Princess Horizon Court buffet. Here are a few of the differences that we really liked on the Westerdam: The free brewed coffee which is so much better than the undrinkable reconstituted coffee from syrup on Princess. Free fresh squeezed orange juice in the Lido Buffet. The daily New York Time four page news summary available in Explorer Cafe. The custom order sandwich and pasta bars in the Lido Buffet. Here are a few things we did not like on the Westerdam: Background music in the Vista and Lido dining rooms. Dimly lit Photo Gallery which nearly requires a flashlight to find your pictures. The lack pictures of the ships senior officers and hotel management in the atrium. We do not do cruise ship's excursions so I can not comment on that. We did enjoy each of the port of calls and overall really liked the Holland American cruise experience. Would we do another Holland American cruise? Yes we would. In fact, we have booked the Oosterdam cruise from Seattle to Sydney, Australia in September, 2013. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
Background: My husband and I are early 40s from California. This was our 2nd cruise. Our first cruise was to the Mexican Riviera on Carnival in an ocean-view cabin. This was our 1st time on HAL and we booked a Deluxe Verandah Suite ... Read More
Background: My husband and I are early 40s from California. This was our 2nd cruise. Our first cruise was to the Mexican Riviera on Carnival in an ocean-view cabin. This was our 1st time on HAL and we booked a Deluxe Verandah Suite SB8147 on the Navigation deck, which is on the back corner of the ship with the wrap around balcony. This was also my first time to Alaska. My husband has sailed Alaska many times, as he served on a USCG cutter that patrolled Alaskan waters and the Bering Sea. Hotel Info: We stayed in a suite at the Holiday Inn on Dexter Ave in Seattle for one night pre-cruise. It was very clean and the bed was very comfortable. We had a nice view of the city skyscrapers at night. We ate next door at the Emerald Cafe, which had excellent food at reasonable prices. After the cruise, we stayed 1 night at the Crowne Plaza on 6th Ave. They upgraded us to a suite on the 34th floor, which is key card access only. The view of the city skyscrapers, the Space Needle, and Puget Sound was fantastic! We watched the most spectacular sunset we've ever seen right from our hotel window! The room itself was not what I would call a suite by Crowne Plaza/ Holiday Inn standards (and we're premier members so stay frequently). It was one room with a bathrrom, not a suite. The bathroom was particularly small compared to most of the chains bathrooms. But the room was very clean and comfortable. However, we were literally right next to a conference room and we were awoken by applause several times after midnight. That was kind of annoying, but I would stay in that room again for the view! We also ordered dinner from room service. The food was very good but very high priced. Embarkation at Pier 91 was a breeze. We arrived around 11:45am and there was 1 person in front of us to check bags, maybe 5 people ahead of us going through security. There were maybe 20 people in line for check in and sign and sail cards. We went to the suite line and there was no one in line so we walked right through. Our cabin was ready so we went straight there to drop our carry on bags. It took maybe 20 minutes from the time we got off the shuttle at the pier to when we opened our cabin door. Our Stateroom: SB8147 was a fantastic cabin! There was plenty of room to move around. From photos, I had been a little concerned about space between the foot of the bed and the coffee table. I'm quite night blind and I was afraid if there wasn't enough space, I might trip over the coffee table. There was plenty of room though. We had more then enough closet space and drawer space, with more hangars then we needed...and I hung everything. The vanity area is very nice. Between the counter space in the vanity and the double sink bathroom, I had more space then I needed for all my girly make-up, lotions n potions, and hair appliances etc. There is a blow-dryer provided, but it doesn't have much power. If you have hard to dry hair, it will take awhile. There were also a couple of cabinets in the bathroom. This bathroom has a whirlpool tub/shower combo and a separate shower stall. The shower stall was very small and tight so we just used the shower over the tub. We didn't use the tub for a bath, but the shower worked great. There were binoculars and an umbrella in the room for our use. We had pre-ordered a bottle of vodka and Kahlua for "at sea" delivery and it was in our cabin waiting when we arrived, as well as a small bouquet of fresh flowers and a bottle of Complimentary Pol Clement and some water. The mini fridg was fully stocked with a nice selection of sodas, alcohol, and water. The fruit bowl was empty, but had a little card you checked off what kind of fruit you wanted. We filled it out and left it for our room steward and when we returned, our fruit bowl was full, and was refilled every day. The balcony was absolutely amazing! I would say at least 5x bigger, probably more, than the standard size balcony. There was a round table with 4 chairs, 2 armed chairs with coffee table and foot stools, and 2 chaise lounges. All looked in excellent repair, with the very minor exception of a couple of cushion that were a little faded. Inconsequential! The ship: We found the Westerdam do be a beautiful ship in excellent shape. She was very tastefully decorated. I had kind of expected some of the decor to be tacky looking from the photos I had seen. The color combinations in photos (like bright smiley face yellow and deep purple) appeared a little too bold for my taste. However, when you're on the ship, with the proper lighting, it looks very nice. She was also very clean. We didn't use the pools or hot tubs as we were in Alaska, but they appeared clean and in good repair. I really loved the size of this ship. It felt big enough that there was lots to explore, but it never felt crowded and the only lines we saw were when we were waiting to go in to port, and those moved quickly once we were allowed off. The Lido had a few lines, but there were usually only a few people ahead of us and they moved quickly. We did often have to search around for a table in the Lido to eat. There were a lot of people that were just sitting there for hours watching the Alaskan scenery, but not eating. Then in the lounges, there were usually plenty of empty seating right by the windows. It would have been nice if people were a little more conscious about the dining tables being used for dining. We found if we grabbed some flatware from the Lido buffet, we could always find a table by the Lido pool. It was Alaska, so the pool area was mostly empty. Dining: We found the food good for the most part, but not spectacular. BREAKFAST - we mostly had room service. The food was good, and timing was great. The night before, we filled out the card with the time frame we wanted - our choices were in 30 minute frames like "7 to 7:30" or 7:30 to 8". It was usually delivered on the earlier side of our selection. We went to the Pinnacle one morning (open to suite guests only), and we just missed it. They stop seating people at 8:45 am, which seemed ridiculously early on a sea day for people on vacation. But Oh well. I think we just grabbed something in the Lido. LUNCH: were mostly in port or inthe Lido DINNER: we tried the different venues. We ate once in the Pinnacle Grill on our 1st formal night. The food was good, but neither of us were wowed. The service was definitely upscale, but I don't think the food was any better then the other venues. We ate 2x in the MDR, on our 1st night and on our 2nd formal night. Service was great, even on the 1st night. Again, the food was good but not great. Some items were bland and I used a lot of salt trying to draw some flavor out. Otherwise, steaks were cooked to order and food was well-prepared. Most of the desserts were rather bland and disappointing. The cakes all seemed to have a weird wet consistency that we didn't like at all. The chocolate volcano cake with ice cream in the Pinnacle was very good though, and they served a chocolate mousse ganache in the MDR on the 2nd formal night that was to die for. It was very small though lol I should have ordered more lol The ice cream bar in the Lido was always excellent! The DESSERT EXTRAVAGANZA was on our 5th night. It was a beautiful display, but disappointing to the palate and not worth standing in lines. We each tried 4 or 5 different desserts and only took a small bite of each, leaving the rest. The taste just wasn't worth the extra calories. However, the Neptune Lounge always had snacks and treats that were pretty good. We enjoyed the coffee, both from room service and in the Neptune Lounge. I don't think we got any in the Lido, so can't comment there. We didn't do a whole lot of activities on board so can't really comment on that. We had such an amazing balcony with fabulous weather for the scenic Alaskan cruising that we spent most of our time relaxing there. Service: was fantastic everywhere on the ship. Our room stewards were fantastic. Our room was always kept neat and clean. The laundry service was fantastic. Our first night, we had some pre-cruise laundry, but there were no laundry bags in our room. We left them in a pile on the floor and stopped by the Neptune Lounge on our way to dinner and asked for some to be sent to our room. When we returned to our room, no laundry bags...and no laundry. We never saw laundry bags all week, but each day we left our dirty clothes in a little pile and the laundry fairy visited while we were out and the pile disappeared. They were always returned early the next day cleaned, pressed, and folded neatly. Loved it! We often passed our room stewards in the hallways and they were always smiling and friendly! The whole crew was always smiling and friendly. We used the Neptune Lounge a few times. They greeted us by name the first time we entered and were always happy to see us. The service was great and they always had tasty snacks and cookies and chocolates available. Service in the bars and lounges was great. They were friendly and service was prompt. We're not big drinkers, so we really appreciated that once we said no thanks, they didn't keep bothering us. But if we changed our minds, they were right there. **if you're a chocolate lover, try a Frosty Minty Chocolate Buzz. Tastes like a Starbucks minty mocha frappuccino, but definitely packs a punch. I was buzzing off of one, and I'm not usually such a light weight lol I could have drank those all day lol Entertainment: was kind of hit or miss for us. We really enjoyed the magician and the juggler. Both were very impressive and funny! We enjoyed the cruise director Jason and the DJ Mario. They work very well together and were very entertaining. We enjoyed watching the karaoke contest - there were some great singers in the competition! and we really enjoyed the Battle of the Sexes, the Love and Marriage Game, and Trivia. We did not care for the singing/dancing shows. The music is pre-recorded and we believe lip-synced. They really need to update their music selection. To us, it felt on the level with a high school production and was rather corny. We suffered through the first show, but the 2nd, we deliberately sat towards the back of the balcony so we could make a quick escape if it was bad. We left early. We were also disappointed by the lack of live entertainment. It seemed like the ship shut down between 9 and 10pm. Several times we walked around looking for entertainment and the lounges that were scheduled to have live music were empty. We kept wondering where everyone was. Maybe they were all down in the Casino, Nightclub, Sports Bar, or Piano Bar. The cigarette smoke was pretty thick in those areas and I have asthma so we stayed away from that area. I was disappointed that HAL didn't have more going on in non-smoking areas. If you're looking for a hopping nightlife, it was not on our cruise lol Our ports and excursions were fantastic! Glacier Bay was a day of scenic cruising and was absolutely spectacular! It was the BEST day of our cruise and I highly recommend it. It was a beautiful sunny day and we saw both Margerie Glacier and Johns Hopkins. We saw several great calvings at Margerie, but Johns Hopkins was truly spectacular! It calved so much, with 2 separate areas bigger then the ship giving away, sending out waves that were big enough to rock our whole ship. It was incredible! Disembarkation was a breeze. HAL allows you to stay in your cabin until you disembark. We had room service for breakfast and had a nice leisurely morning one last time on our balcony. It was another beautiful sunny day, but we were so sad to be leaving. All in all, we had an amazing time! We loved the Westerdam and her crew. Food and entertainment could improve some, esp evening entertainment, but we still had an amazing trip. I would sail the Westerdam again in a heartbeat and I highly recommend her! Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
My wife and I had done the Alaska cruise twice before and decided to take a fourteen day cruise to relax and enjoy both Alaska and Holland America. What a disappointing experience. First of all the weather was not good. We realize this ... Read More
My wife and I had done the Alaska cruise twice before and decided to take a fourteen day cruise to relax and enjoy both Alaska and Holland America. What a disappointing experience. First of all the weather was not good. We realize this is not HAL's fault but future cruisers should realize that late August and September are not the best dates to go to Alaska, cool wet weather. We have sailed on HAL twice before, once to the Med. and once to Alaska. This experience on HAL was eye opening and we will have to reconsider if we want to go with HAL again. The service and service people (Wait staff, room service staff and crew wonderful as usual). The ship is showing its age, worn, dirty, old and smelly. They worked on the ship at sea and during every port stop, smelly paint, poor air quality, blocked stairs, very inconvenient. False alarm fire, very rough cruise, ship seemed to always rolling. This had never happened before on any ship, even the small Azamara ships. Food servie during fixed seating in main dining room was great. Breakfast in Lido was fine. Lunch and dinner in Lido was terrible. Food preparation, good selection, food quality was just poor in Lido for lunch and dinner. Ship had a gastro intestinal problem that took over a week to clear up. Very difficult for both passengers and crew. I am sure that food prep and presentation during lunch and dinner in Lido contributed to this problem. Food off of the line was not hot enough, held and served at low tempertures which can lead to gastro problems. This was pointed out to the crew with no response. Cleaning was a problem, checked into our cabin and found a 'pill' on the floor. Gave it to the desk and was assured this would never happen. How can you clean and leave a pill on the middle of the floor. Air quality throughout the ship was poor. Our cabin had no ventilation, no fresh air. Lead to both headaches and nasal problems. Complained to the desk with no results. Noise level in cabin was very high. Joggers on third deck every morning at five was wonderful. Complained to front desk with no results. Smoking on board is a problem. Could not use Crows Nest, smoke smell everywhere. Went to Lido aft, lots of smoke. Smoking is allowed on all open decks. Very few smokers but inconvenienced everyone. Can't HAL limit smoking. Ships entertainment, singers and dancers just very amateur, saw two shows, not worth the effort. In general it seems HAL is beginning to fail in its promise of high quality cruising. Comparing HAL to previous cruises and to other cruise lines, they are going down hill and we will have a high level of hesitation before we book on HAL again. The Filipino crew and Indonesian crew are great, they are the only thing that makes cruising HAL worthwhile. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
Embarkation- Boarding was quick and simple. We arrived at 1:20pm and were in our cabin by 1:50pm. Our cabin steward introduced himself shortly after arrival. The lifeboat drill at 4pm required everyone to stand together besides their ... Read More
Embarkation- Boarding was quick and simple. We arrived at 1:20pm and were in our cabin by 1:50pm. Our cabin steward introduced himself shortly after arrival. The lifeboat drill at 4pm required everyone to stand together besides their appointed lifeboat in order by height. A BBQ was available poolside from 1pm until 8pm. The Ship- I felt the Amsterdam was in good shape. The crew was always painting, washing the deck, or doing routine maintenance, but usually at the least opportune time. For instance, I would think they could schedule another time to vacuum the hallway other than 8 in the morning on a sea day. For some reason, we were late to half the ports, even when we left on time the previous day or even following a sea day. There was an outbreak of Norovirus the first week, (which we later found out effected many of the crew down below). This may have led to the disorganization that prevailed in the public areas. Perhaps some of the Ship's Crew were doing different jobs than usual. During the outbreak, the hot tubs, library, and self-service laundry were closed, but surprisingly the computers in the Explorations Cafe were still available even though the keyboards get touched by multiple passengers. (Of course the internet generates revenue whereas the others didn't). Perhaps the stabilizers weren't working, but this ship rolled more than any Cruise I've ever been on (including through Drake's Passage). This was true even in calm water. The Crewmembers were nice and attentive in all the public areas. Funny story: In the Lido buffet, Crewmember Renny replied to my query about the meat on the cutting board (it was duck) with, "It's Quack Quack" Oddly for a company that prides itself on its experience in Alaska, the maps in the Explorer booklet available in the cabin were often wrong. For example, in Sitka, it showed the Sheldon Jackson Museum on Capitol Hill and in Ketchikan the road on Creek street was listed on the wrong side of the creek. In Kodiak, the Kodiak Brewing Company was listed on the other side of town from where it was really located. (It's between McDonald's and the intersection with E. Rezanof Dr.) I would recommend instead using the free maps from the local tourist office almost always available as you exit the Ship. The Food- Not impressed. The food was consistently bland, under-seasoned, and the meat was almost always dry. This was the same in both the Main Dining Room and Lido Buffett. I hesitate to call the Lido a "buffet". Even after the Norovirus passed, only two stations were self-serve; (desserts and parfaits/ breads). Everything else was served or cooked to order. This may provide personalized service but it created long lines waiting for entrees since the cooks were incapable of multitasking, making the "Lido Cafeteria" almost as long a dining experience as the MDR. During the first week it was so frustrating to get food we always used room service for breakfast on port days. On a positive note, Room Service was always prompt and arrived within minutes of the time range requested. (6:00-6:30, 6:30-7:00, etc.) The MDR is only open for a limited time most days 8:00am-9:00am for breakfast and 12:00pm-1:00pm for lunch. Also, at dinner one side of the Lido buffet was set aside for the ships officers and staff, so finding a table was hard with only half the usual tables available. Between 8pm when the Lido Buffet closes and 10:30pm when they offer a late snack, there is nothing available to eat. If you have a late port day, get back early or eat something in town. The free Ice Cream in the Lido was extremely popular but there was only a limited supply each day. Once they run out of your flavor, you're out of luck. This included the soft-serve even though it only requires refilling the machine. The Terrace Grill poolside had excellent Burgers and also had Pizza, Hot Dogs, and on most days a Taco Bar. Considering this was a 14-day Alaska trip, it was somewhat surprising that there was never any Alaskan Crab served during the Cruise. Cabin- Our cabin was 3410 on the port side. We liked the location which was close to the aft on the Lower Promenade deck. This made it easy to walk outside to the stern or use the outdoor Walkaround on the Lower Promenade. On the other hand, the Lower Promenade deck was hosed down every morning between 6:30am-7:00am which made walking in the morning difficult due to the wet deck and puddles. This also meant I woke up at the same time every morning when they hosed down the outside window of our cabin. The Cabin Stewards were nice but twice our cabin was not made up after a long day ashore. Even after we called the front desk, nothing was done until after we returned from dinner at 8pm. We had the 5:45pm seating and also waited numerous times as we returned from dinner for the Cabin Steward to finish the turn-down service. One thing about HAL that I appreciated was the towel animal each night. This seems to be a vanishing art form on other Cruise lines. Entertainment- The Queens Lounge had the usual mix of condensed Broadway-type shows and individual performers such as Magicians and comedians. There is a large selection of DVD's which are available for checkout to watch on the in-room TV. A list of the DVD's is available in the cabin. The Ship's library was larger than most and allowed all but the travel books to be checked out for the duration of the Cruise. Guest Chef Laura Slama had interesting cooking demos in the Culinary Arts Center. We went to several movies in the Wajang Theater. Get there early because there was only enough popcorn for the first dozen people every night. Ports- Ketchikan- We were docked at Berth 4. A free city shuttle bus was available into town, but it was also walkable. The bus started at Berth 4 and makes two other stops in town before ending at the Totem Heritage Center and returns the same way. Keep in mind the Creek street stop is before crossing the bridge. There was also a Wal-Mart shuttle bus that departed from the Berth 4 that runs every 15 minutes if you left anything at home or want some snacks. Juneau- The ship was docked one block from the Red Dog Saloon downtown. We first took the MGT bus ($16RT) to the Mendenhall Glacier. Once we returned to town we took the Mt. Roberts Tramway and used a Buy-one-get-one-free coupon from the Alaska Tour Saver book. It was a typical Juneau overcast and rainy day so the views weren't that great from the top. There isn't much to do up there so we didn't stay long. We then did the Zip line at Alaska Canopy Adventures before shopping along Franklin St. Since it was a late departure, we freshened up on the ship and then crossed the street to the Red Dog Saloon around 8pm. That afternoon the place was packed but in the evening hardly anyone was there. Slightly less touristy and more authentic is the Alaskan Hotel and Bar a little further down Franklin Street. Icy Straight Point- A Humpback Whale was feeding just offshore between the Old Cannery mini-Mall and the town of Hoonah all day. Several of the first Tenders ashore had to stop as the Whale was feeding directly between the ship and the dock. A matter of personal choice, but we preferred the Juneau Zip line with 10 different zips versus the lengthy but only 90-second-long Zip line here. There are shuttles into town from the Cannery or a sidewalk along the water that also leads into town. There were many small curio shops in Hoonah and we spotted two Bald Eagles in different nests on the walk into town. Anchorage- We've been to Anchorage many times before so we rented a car from Thrifty on Spenard rd. Anchorage City Shuttles picked us up by the ship and dropped off at the Egan Center which is downtown on 5th Ave. between E and F Streets. The Thrifty shuttle bus also picked us up at the Egan Center. We drove north to the Alaska State Fair in Palmer, then on to the Matanuska Glacier, and finally back to Anchorage and a visit to Earthquake Park. Homer- We docked at the Deep Water dock on the opposite side of the Marina from the Spit. School Busses shuttled passengers to the Spit and dropped off right next to the Salty Dog Saloon. There was also a free van that shuttled between the ship and a downtown Gift Shop. After hitting the souvenir shops on the Spit, we took the free shuttle to town and walked to the Two Sisters bakery (best Scone I've ever had!) We then made the obligatory stop at the Time Bandit store. We just missed Johnathon Hillstrand who had left in his new truck right before we arrived. His mother was happy to pose for pictures for several other shoppers. Kodiak- Our excursion on Harvey Flying Service was cancelled apparently due to bad weather, although other Bear viewing flights were able to go. So instead, we walked into town along Shelikof St. and rented a car at Budget. Following the suggestions from the folks at Budget on possible Bear viewing sites we drove to the end of Bushkin Beach Rd. We followed the river to the beach but didn't see any Bears (but did see lots of tracks!). We then drove to the Coast Guard base, Fort Abercrombie, and toured a little bit of the Island. For fans of the Deadliest Catch, the Time Bandit was in dry dock across the bridge at St. Herman's Harbor, and the Cornelia Marie was moored there as well. Hubbard Glacier- Captain Mercer brought the ship very close to the Glacier despite the high winds and rain. He turned the ship both ways so everyone got a great view. This was truly an amazing place. The forward observation deck on the bow was opened for Passengers as was the outside deck below the bridge. We were once again late arriving so the 3:00pm Pea Soup was served around the Lido pool deck instead of outside. Sitka- This is a tender port. We walked from the tender dock under the bridge along Harbor Dr., turned right on Lincoln St., and followed that to Sitka National Park. The Salmon were running and it was quite a sight watching thousands of Salmon squeezed together slowly making their way upstream. Victoria- We docked at berth A. I booked Orca Spirit Adventures independently ($95 online vs. HAL excursion rate of $129) Orca Spirit has free shuttle pickup, which was good because we were late again as usual. We saw a family of transient Orca's just 30 minutes after leaving port. The boat followed them until the Race Rocks lighthouse and the Sea Lions ensconced there. Orca Adventures is located next to Fisherman's Wharf, and is halfway between the ship's dock and town. Victoria was a nice town to walk around and have dinner, (All-aboard was at 10:30pm) and do some last-day souvenir shopping. Departure We chose a late departure 9:00am-9:30am and used Shuttle Express to the Airport. Departure was quick and painless even with some extremely long but fast moving lines at Customs.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
This was our thirteenth Alaska cruise and our second with Holland America. Our first was on the old Rotterdam. We have also been there on four other lines. This was our second 14 day cruise that took in ports in outside in southeast ... Read More
This was our thirteenth Alaska cruise and our second with Holland America. Our first was on the old Rotterdam. We have also been there on four other lines. This was our second 14 day cruise that took in ports in outside in southeast Alaska. We flew from San Francisco to Seattle on Virgin America, leaving SFO at 8:45 AM and arriving at SEA at 10:45 am. When we arrived at the baggage area, we were greeted by a Holland America representative who said she had been looking for us. She indicated that we should go to the other end of the baggage area where a bus would be ready in a few minutes. We waited there for about 20 minutes and were then on our way. The trip to the ship took about 30 to 40 minutes with commentary from the driver the whole way. When we arrived at the pier, we left our luggage on the bus and were processed though check in immediately. Our cabin was ready and we dropped our bags and went to the main dining room where they had lunch for past passengers. They also had the lido restaurant open for people not using the main dining room. CABIN Although neither of us is handicapped, we took a handicap room (# 2555) because it was available. These rooms are generally about twice the size of an ordinary room and have very large bathrooms with large showers. They cost the same as any other inside room, but are like having a suite. The room had a king size bed with about four feet of space to the wall on each side. I thought the bed was very comfortable, but my wife did not agree. There was a couch, table and two chairs plus about 9 feet of closet space. Night stands on each side of the bed had two drawers. Additional drawers were in the vanity, but there were not enough drawers for two people. The closets had to shelves to make up for the lack of drawers. The cabin was well located on deck two close to the forward elevators, but we were not bothered by any noise from them. We were only a short distance from the exit door usually used for disembarking at various ports. The main showroom was just two floors above us. It was very convenient to get to this room or the observation lounge on the top deck of the ship. It was a little farther to walk to the main dining room at the other end of the ship. The front desk was just two decks above us. SHIP The Amsterdam is a nice size at 62,735 tons and one never felt crowded with a guest capacity of 1368 public rooms are comfortable and easy to find. Everything about the ship has been very well maintained and maintenance was constant during the cruise. One must look very closely to find any signs of wear or damage. Seats always seemed to be available in the showrooms. It was seldom necessary for anyone to stand during a performance. There was a problem with gastro/intestinal illness and they restricted the use of certain items onboard like salt and pepper shakers or any other item that might be handled by several people. They also shut down the self-service laundries for several days because of this illness. However, they reduced the price of the ship's laundry by 50% during the time they were closed. We had a couple of bags done at $10.00 per bag and were happy to pay that amount. DINING We had anytime dining in the main dining room. We usually went for dinner between 5 and 6:30 PM. Never did we experience any problem getting a table as soon as we arrived. We usually shared a table with any guests arriving at the same time we did. The service was always excellent in the dining room. On only one occasion was it necessary to wait a long time for our food. That was at breakfast one day. There always seemed to be plenty of waiters available. The lower floor of the main dining room was used for anytime dining and many tables were empty at each meal. The service in the Lido Restaurant was not as good as in the main dining room. There were often lines that moved slowly even though the servers were moving as fast as they could. We felt that this was due to the fact that people were not using the main dining room as much as they usually do. Free tables were sometimes hard to find at all meals. NOTE! There seems to be a shift away from formal dress on formal nights. We were surprised to see this on a Holland America ship. HA has always had a reputation for being more formal than most other cruise lines. We observed many more people using the lido restaurant on formal nights and wearing the same clothes that were worn during the day. We even found ourselves doing it on two of the 4 formal nights during the cruise. We just did not feel up to wearing formal clothes four times during one cruise. We used room service on a few occasions. We found them to be prompt and the food well prepared. I had scrambled eggs one day that were far superior to those in the dining room or the lido restaurant. SHOWS We like to go to the shows in the evening, but prefer the single entertainer acts rather than the production shows. Unfortunately 6 of the 14 nights were production shows. We did not attend any of them, but we heard negative comments from guests that saw the shows. Some said they stopped going because the performers appeared so amateur. There were two comedians, one juggler, one ventriloquist, one singer and one that did impressions. The impressionist was excellent and one comedian and the juggler were very good. The others seemed to be struggling to keep an audience. One night they had a movie. Two crew shows were done at 11 PM on different nights, but we were in bed hours before they started. PORTS We were surprised that Holland America made no attempt to let passengers know about the availability of free busses at ports to shuttle people into the town centers. We used them at Ketchikan, Anchorage and Kodiak and found out about them by reading other Cruise Critic reviews of past cruises or just asking HA employees when we got to the docks. We found no notices in the Explorer newsletter distributed to our cabin daily. We have visited Alaska during all the summer months when ships are cruising there and have always had comfortable weather. This trip was the first time the weather has been cold and windy. We were not encouraged to stay in the towns much more than a few hours before we wanted to return to the comfort of the ship. In Ketchikan we took the free shuttle bus from the dock through the downtown area and up the hill to the fish hatchery where we got off and walked back down Married Man's Trail to Creek Street. We enjoy watching the spawning salmon work their way up the falls above town, but there were very few fish in the creek during this visit. We always enjoy visiting Ketchikan and used to spend time at various stores that sold locally made art objects of various kinds, but now the city is full of jewelry stores run by companies from the Caribbean area and a walk through downtown has become boring. What a shame! The weather was very good when we entered Tracy Arm. We went all the way to the glacier before turning around. We have been in Tracy Arm several times, but this was only the second time we have seen the glacier. After leaving Tracy Arm, we anchored just south of Juneau for the night and pulled into town around 7 am. It was drizzly and chilly. In Juneau, we went to the library that is right next to where the ship docks. There we used one of their computers to email home. Many of the ship's crew and passengers have found out about this facility and were also in line to use the computers. This is also a good place to buy a used book at a $.25 each. Downtown Juneau, like Ketchikan, is also overrun with jewelry and T-shirt shops. There are a few places that still sell locally made items, but they are hard to find. We visited a few and found our way back to the ship for lunch onboard. At Icy Strait, we took a walk down the beach and through the woods on a loop trip that ends near the finish of the Zip Line run. This is a beautiful walk on a good day. There was no rain and we found the walk very enjoyable even though we have done it before. We spent some time in the shops at the converted cannery before returning to the ship. On past stops here, we have seen a lot of whale activity around and close to the ship but not on this trip. Other passengers said they had seen whales near the ship earlier in the day, but we missed them. This is one of the best places on this cruise to see whales from shore or the ship. At Anchorage, we took the free shuttle into town and were dropped off at the Egan Center. We walked around the corner to the visitor center where we got on the trolley for a tour of Anchorage ($15.00 per person for 1 hour tour). The driver did a great job showing us her city and providing some history of the various areas we visited. Much of what she told us had to do with the earthquake that hit Alaska in the 1960s. She was a teacher that had just retired after 30 years at a local school and really spoke with enthusiasm about the area. The tour was well worth the cost. After the tour, we walked several blocks to find a restaurant that had been recommended by ship personnel. When we got there, the line was out the door and we were told the wait for a table would be about an hour. We ended up looking through a few antique and souvenir shops and returned to the ship for a late lunch followed by a movie in the ship's theatre. At Homer, the ships docks out near the end of the Homer Spit. The dock is on a side road about a half mile from the shops along the spit. A free shuttle was provided to take people from the ship to the shops. We got off the shuttle and walked to the end of the spit to see if anyone was catching fish there. This is a favorite place for locals to fish for flounder and other fish that frequent the gravelly area near the spit's end. Only a few people were there and they were not having much luck. The weather turned cold and rainy just as we approached and everyone decided to call it a day and try again some other day. We walked back to the shop area and visited every place that was open, then took the shuttle back to the ship. There was another shuttle that went into town and cost $15.00, but other Cruise Critic reviews stated that it did not stop at any place of interest and was overprices for the service provided, so we decided against it. We have been to Homer before and have seen about all that it has to offer. The best was to see the town is by rental car and making up your own tour. At Kodiak, we took the free shuttle into town and were dropped off at the Chamber of Commerce at the intersection of Center Street and Marine Way. Only one bus was taking people into town and it took about half an hour or more to make a round trip. We waited for at least 20 minutes to get the bus to town. After arrival in town, we walked about three blocks to the Alutiig Museum. It is a small but very interesting historical exhibit. It is well worth the $5.00 admission charge. After leaving the museum, we walked across the street to the Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church to take a few pictures, and then walked two a block back to the National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center at 402 Center Street. There were several interesting displays here and an interesting movie was shown upstairs. We noticed a long line waiting for the shuttle bus and decided to get into line so we would not be late returning to the ship by 2:30. The wait was almost an hour while the bus made two round trips to the ship before taking us. They could have used two busses. There was a thick fog hanging over Yakutat Bay when we arrived on our way to Hubbard Glacier. Not much could be seen until we were almost all the way up to the face of the glacier. It was raining heavily and a very cold wind was blowing. Thank goodness that this ship has a good observation room above the bridge. It was packed with people that did not want to spend the morning out in the rain and wind on deck. We all strained to see seals on the ice flows, but did not get quite close enough to view them with binoculars. The glacier did calve a couple of time to the delight of the folks onboard. The morning we arrived in Sitka, I came down with the gastric/intestinal problem that had plagued the ship and was restricted to my room for 24 hours. Sitka is always the highpoint of any Alaska cruise that includes this port and I was very sad to miss it. We had planned to purchase day tickets and take the local bus to all the places visited by the bus lines. We especially wanted to visit the Fortress of the Bears and National Historical Park, which we had not seen since our first visit in 1987. My wife was able to go to town long enough to replenish some locally made items that she had bought there on our last visit. I did sneak up on deck long enough to take a number of pictures of the beautiful island all around this gorgeous harbor. On the last sea day going south to Victoria, I spent much of my time on deck looking for whale activity. Not much was seen until the afternoon when we were passing the northern tip of Vancouver Island and the sea came alive with dozens of pods of Humpback whales on the starboard side of the ship. We had a great time watching them for over an hour. Every few minutes the ship would pass another group and some even approached the ship. Victoria was its usual beautiful self. We picked up a map from one of the docents near the ship and followed the recommended route from the dock to the downtown area. It is a very pretty walk through the residential street with many pretty homes along the way. Downtown, we took the tour of the Parliament building, something we have not done since our first visit in 1987. We were pleasantly surprised to find the wonderful restaurant in the basement of the Parliament building and had a late lunch there. The Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich was fantastic and the first I have had since our visit to eastern Canada 20 years ago. It was just as good as the one I had then. If you find yourself in downtown Victoria, don't pass up the opportunity to have lunch in this very nice restaurant. SUMMARY The cruise would have been more enjoyable if the weather had been better, but that is the way it is in Alaska. We have had very good weather on most of the 13 cruises we have taken to Alaska, so can't complain about one that did not go our way. At least it did not rain that bad in the few ports where it was wet. The service in all areas of the ship was very good and the crew did everything they could to make the cruise comfortable and enjoyable for the guests. The food in the restaurants was bland and not up the standard of Holland America as we remember them from past cruises on this line. The single act entertainment has definitely gone downhill and should be reviewed by management. More information about port and shuttle busses should be included in the Explorer newsletter. Overall there was nothing about this cruise that would set it apart from similar cruises on other lines. It will probably be a while before we take another Holland America cruise. I can only give it an overall rating of average. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
Both security and check in were accomplished quickly and efficiently. We were able to board at 11:30 and our rooms were ready by then. We dropped our bags and headed out for lunch. Unfortunately the Mariners' lunch was over in the ... Read More
Both security and check in were accomplished quickly and efficiently. We were able to board at 11:30 and our rooms were ready by then. We dropped our bags and headed out for lunch. Unfortunately the Mariners' lunch was over in the dining room and it was being used for some visiting travel agents but the Lido was open and not crowded. The first 48 hours our food was served to us in the Lido. This was managed quite well and we never encountered any lines or any problems, neither then nor once we were able to serve ourselves. The mandatory safety drill went off without a hitch. We waited until about 5:20 pm before we left because some people were delayed boarding. They must have had HAL flights. Our sail away was smooth and the sun was shining in Seattle. The sun then went away and did not reappear until we were leaving Tracy Arm. The fog followed us every morning, however. We had mostly cool, cloudy weather for the whole trip, luckily no rain except for a brief shower in Homer. The crew is as friendly as HAL crews always are. Our stateroom attendants (1841, Dolphin Deck) are Aris and Tedi and they are doing a great job, although I do believe they have more staterooms than normal. Just one of the cutbacks. The Cruise Critic meet and greet was well attended and we have seen each other around the ship and in port. It was great fun meeting the people that have been conversing on the roll call. The Cruise Director, Michael Harvey, a Canadian from Saskatchewan, was there for most of the time. The Hotel Manager, Henk Mensink, came by briefly, as well as another officer. The question posed to the Hotel Manager was why HAL was dropping the 14 day cruises and the honest answer from him was that it was financial -- the 7 day cruises earn them more money. I hope they arrange the 7 day cruises so that some of the ports visited on the 14 day cruise continue to be on the itinerary. This was my first time arranging a meet and greet and I was very satisfied with what Holland America did to accommodate us. I hope to be able to arrange more meet and greets on other cruises with HAL. Entertainment: Amsterdam Singers and Dancers -- Day 2, Dancing Under the Stars was well done. The Neptunes -- Jazz trio, not bad. Piano Bar -- Roy Kassel Kat and the HALcats -- not bad Jeff Tracta -- comedy, singing and impressions, OK Guitarist -- Inbar We did not go to most shows, just a matter of choice, but we did listen to all the performers at one time or another. Filipino crew show was well done as was the Indonesian crew show. Food : always subjective. We were very happy with the choices -- good variety. The presentation is also excellent. The wine steward has appeared every night and even though we didn't order wine, he was quite friendly and kept appearing (Erwin). The new vegetarian menu which HAL emailed about has not started yet but there were enough choices on the current vegetarian menu and the daily menu to satisfy my BIL. We had ordered a bottle of whisky as an indulgance and it was in our stateroom when we arrived. And yes, the bottles are one liter sizes and actually an excellent value for Canadians considering our booze prices at home. Formal nights were Day 1 Sea Day, Day 5 Icy Strait Point, Day 9 Kodiak, Day 12 Sea Day. The rest were smart casual. Day 11, Sitka, was the International Dinner. The menu was interesting but we ate in the Pinnacle Grill that night to celebrate DH's birthday. Our waiters in the dining room were very attentive and remembered our desires after the first night. They had olive oil for dipping waiting for my BIL and water,no ice, for my SIL. We bought no ship excursions so I cannot comment on any of them. In Juneau we took the Blue Bus out to the Mendenhall and that worked well for us. It is $16 round trip per person and we boarded and disembarked right at the ship. All the rest of the ports we simply walked around and visited various sites in town. Wifi -- Free wifi with purchase at Ketchikan Charter boats right out front of the ship. Fairly fast and the coffee wasn't bad. Free at the Juneau Public Library, after 11 am. It was slow once more people showed up to use it but it served my purposes well. I wrote my blog page every night and only posted when I was able to access free or reasonably priced wifi. Wifi at the Starbucks near the Egan Center was very fast for the price of a coffee. Wifi at McDonalds in Kodiak would have been good if they had not been down. McDonalds is easy to find, about 1.5 miles from the ship on level ground. Sitka had free wifi all over town, courtesy of Radio Shack but the best place for access was in the library since it was also warm. Next time I will purchase an internet package. I did all my blog pages offline and would not have needed too many minutes just to post them even at the slow speed on the ship. General -- We enjoyed Icy Strait Point immensely. The display in the old cannery was well done, the shops had some unique Made in Alaska gifts and the people were very friendly. If you come here in the next couple of weeks, make sure you check out the native carving project. It is taking place in the grey metal building across the street from the Presbyterian church and the town shuttle drop and pick up area. It is not well marked but very worthwhile looking for. The carvers are working on a screen, house poles and totem poles for the tribal house to be placed at the entrance to Glacier Bay. The screen is pretty much finished and the house poles are being worked on. You can check out the website, too, on Facebook. Search for Glacier Bay National Park Tribal House project. The presentation was well thought out and very informative and when it was finished, the two carvers and a tour guide did the dance that will be used when the house screen is dedicated at Glacier Bay. My least favorite port was Kodiak -- this would be a port for a tour. The ship is in on a Sunday and not much is doing. We did visit the Russian Orthodox church. Kodiak did have a free shuttle into town, on a school bus, but I am not sure were the drop and pick up points were. The Mariners' Lunch was done in stages. My SIL and BIL who are two star mariners went for 11 am on the 22nd and we, who are one star, were invited for 1 pm on the same day, (last sea day). We enjoyed ourselves and met 3 other couples who were also having a great cruise. The Yum Yum man has been available every night after dinner. In fact, if you dine on Deck 4 and Victor is the Yum Yum man, say hi to him from Madame Eva!! He will love it. He has taken us under his wing at breakfast and knows, not only our names, but also what we eat and drink. As another cost cutting measure, the port pages that have been traditionally passed out at the gangway or left in the room each evening have been consolidated into an Explorer book that is in each cabin. The front page lists the ports and the dress for each evening and then each port has at least one page devoted to it. I actually like this much better since you can plan ahead a port or two. I am sure this saves them a lot of paper and ink. We did get a page for Icy Strait, but I think they must have had some stock left for that since it was the only port where we got a separate page. This is a win for all, as far as I am concerned. On the second last day, one section of the ship had problems with the toilets -- some pipes in the bowels (pardon the pun) of the ship started leaking. Captain Mercer acknowledge the issue in his noon message, explained what was going on and approximately when the staff expected the issue to be resolved. This was a bold move and from what I could tell, well received. Always better to know than to guess. Those cabins that were affected for several hours were sent a bottle of wine for their troubles. I nice gesture, I thought. In general, though, there were no issues with toilets or with air conditioning or heat, which we actually needed more than air!! Alaska after all!! We had an excellent cruise as did my SIL and BIL and those of our meet and greet that I met around the ship. I am already looking forward to the next time I can be on a Holland America ship. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
This was our 8th cruise but our first on Holland America, and for the most part, it was fabulous. The Amsterdam is a smaller ship than we are accustomed to, but it was not crowded at all, and the level of service was much higher than ... Read More
This was our 8th cruise but our first on Holland America, and for the most part, it was fabulous. The Amsterdam is a smaller ship than we are accustomed to, but it was not crowded at all, and the level of service was much higher than expected. We flew into Seattle the day before, stayed at a hotel near the airport and took the light rail for $2.75 each into the city (Westlake station)where we found a cab which for $10 took us to Pier 91. Boarding was painless. We were in our stateroom by 11:30. Lunch was served on Lido deck and was very good. When we got back to our room, our luggage was there. The ship is very clean and well maintained with the exception of the plumbing. Our toilet did not function intermittently for the better part of two days, and we had to plan to use public facilities on Decks 3, 5, or Lido, even early morning or late at night. We complained to guest relations and got a cold brush off. Captain Mercer offered an apology on August 22 in an intercom announcement, and some guests, including friends of ours, received a letter of apology and a bottle of wine in recompense. We did not receive anything, and frankly, this exacerbated the "bad smell" associated with the issue. We have since sent a letter to Holland Guest Relations. Please keep in mind that this is a relatively tiny issue, and we love the ship, the staff and the cruise. Overall, food was excellent. We did late seating diner in the Dining Room every evening. Food and service were wonderful. I am on a gluten free diet, and all my meals were given special attention to assure my needs were met. I thought the soups were unusually imaginative and delicious. And by chance, we were assigned really great table mates who became our friends. Lobster was on the menu twice, and these folks know how to do lobster. Also, I ordered wine by the glass a few times, and it was always very good. We did some lunches in the dining room and some on the Lido with good results. We tried breakfast in our room once, and it was fine with eggs over easy, bacon, juice, etc. The omelet station on Lido was super with custom omelets to suit any taste. And the dining room breakfast was extra special but took longer. I loved the German made fine china and real silver plate flatware used in the dining room. We did not use the Pinnacle Restaurant but heard very positive reviews from other guests. Since we ate late for diner, we sometimes stopped by the fast food grill for an excellent hamburger with the trimmings and fries that were extra good. There is an Italian restaurant on board at no extra charge, but we ran out of time before we could try it. One night, there was a dessert extravaganza. We looked at this feast for the eyes but did not eat. Entertainment was very good and there was a wide variety. Main evening shows included typical musical reviews, a magician, voice imitator, ventriloquist, and passenger talent. We enjoyed them all. There was live music in many areas. A Hungarian trio performed classical, and there was a folk singer I particularly liked, as well a the piano man, and a band. The swimming pools were warm and deep. We tried shuffle board too. The Cruise: Ketchikan is touristy, but we like it. We took a city bus to Totem Bight State Park many miles north of the town. There were displays of totem poles and a reconstructed lodge and a rocky beach. After an hour or so, we caught the return bus. The bus was full of fellow cruisers from other ships and some locals. We learned a lot. In town, we walked the streets and visited shops, saw a log rolling , salmon streams, and took advantage of coupons for bargain hoodies and caps at Tongass Trading Co. Tracy Arm is one of the most beautiful places I have been. We saw two bears on the shore and enjoyed the fantastic scenery on the way to the Sawyer Glacier. In front of the glacier on the floating ice were hundreds of seals. The glacier was beautiful and blue and cold. The captain opened the front deck for viewing, and the staff dished out bowls of Dutch pea soup to help keep us warm. Juneau is the state capital and survives on the business of Government. We caught a tour bus to the Mendenhall Glacier. Wonderful trip and beautiful glacier, you should be sure to stop at the Forestry Visitor Center and take a walk to the waterfall. Also, it is a good place to observe bears, although we just missed them. Back in town, we walked to the Russian Orthodox Church and bought a Christmas ornament icon of St Nicholas at the gift shop staffed by the priest and his small children. The state Capitol building is an old office building left over from the territorial administration, but we took the official tour and gained an understanding of Alaskans' view of government. You can get free WIFI at the library or even from the ship if it is tied up near the library. Hoonah was fascinating. It is real Alaska. A village of 800 people, we walked into town, stopped in the store and marveled at the high prices for food items, talked with the locals, walked the Orthodox Cemetery, and sat at the pier where we watched a humpback whale play in the harbor. I got terrific photos of the whale showing us bubble net fishing techniques. There was another whale giving a show at the cannery pier (or maybe it was the same whale). We saw dozens of whales in Icy Straight, mostly in the form of "There she blows." Anchorage is a big city. On the advice of friends who live there, we rented a car and drove north for three hours through Wasilla, Willow and to Talkeetna, which is a prime view point for Mt. McKinley. Talkeetna is a cute little town, and the river there is a good place to walk, but the mountain itself was covered by clouds. We took pictures of where it would have been and took off south. We ate lunch at Cubbies Grocery store to get a local taste. Then we stopped at a farmers market in Willow meeting locals, including a woman who told us she had seen a Bigfoot in the area. (In Alaska this was perfectly believable). The Salvation Army store in Wasilla was worth the stop. The people there knew Sarah Palin and her family and had some good deals on Alaskan souvenirs. On the drive back we saw a serious traffic accident and Alaska State Troopers in action. We got back to Anchorage in time to stroll around downtown before returning to the ship. On the cruise to Homer, I got up for sunrise and had the good fortune to see a couple of the active volcanoes in the area, the symmetrical cone of Redoubt and the tower of Iliamna. Homer itself is a drinking town with a fishing problem as they say. We spent $15 each for the bus pass to see the sights. We had fun at Ulmer's store, stopped at a rummage sale and a garage sale to talk to the folks there. We went to the museum, which is fine, and walked a nature trail to the beach. On the spit, I found a charter boat that promised four hours of Halibut fishing for $95. This is a fraction of the price of the ship excursion, but we had run out of time. So, next time, I will call ahead. Kodiak is a very special place and not at all what we expected. It is an emerald island. We shared a rental car with friends and drove south on the limited roads. We hoped to see bears, but none appeared. On the way, we passed some scattered buildings and a few cattle ranches with pastures dotted with cottonwood trees that reminded us of Kansas. Near the end there is a coal black beach called Surfers Beach where we saw cars with surf boards but no one in the water. Most strange was the Kodiak Launch Site, an abandoned ballistic missile base that made for some eerie photos. Back in town, we went to the Russian Church. Following a day a sea, we saw Hubbard glacier. It is like a living thing, advancing, big and noisy. The ice is unbelievably blue and cold. There seemed to be constant calving activity, and we spent many hours mesmerized watching it. You have to see it to understand. Sitka is a fishing town. It is the site of the Baranof Castle where Alaska was transferred to America. We recommend a trip to the Fortress of the Bear, a worthwhile organization that saves orphaned bear cubs, and you will see bears. After hearing bad reviews on the seafood restaurants, we tried Agave Mexican where were served by authentic Alaskan Natives with decent food. St Michael's Orthodox Church gift shop is the place to buy a St. Michael's Christmas ornament. Also, the Lutheran Church is great for use of the restroom and a sale on homemade salmonberry jelly. We picked up some last minute gifts for relatives at the Ben Franklin Store and tendered back to the ship. Victoria is a place we love having visited it twice before. Most of our time was spent at Buchart Gardens and the harbor area. Nice place. Overall,it was a terrific cruise, and despite the plumbing issues, we would not hesitate to sail on Holland again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
It appeared as though there were different centers of activity or business that operate almost autonomously. I say that because of the tremendous difference in quality that I noticed. Some things were great; others were deplorable. I ... Read More
It appeared as though there were different centers of activity or business that operate almost autonomously. I say that because of the tremendous difference in quality that I noticed. Some things were great; others were deplorable. I certainly feel that HAL should make money from their passengers; but their passengers should also have an enjoyable experience. On our last cruise, some of the business centers focused solely on making money and ignored our experience. In other cases service was impeccable. For example, check-in was flawless, fast and smooth. Room service, the same. Dining in the Italian restaurant was a pleasure, as was the buffet. But the food in the main dining room was just so-so at best, and the much-touted high-end La Cirque (extra charge) had great food but terrible service. We sat with empty plates on our table for 20 minutes, missed the show as a result, and complained to the manager who apologised but didn't do anything about it. He said he was short-staffed, but that was a revenue-generating decision to pack as many people in as possible who were paying extra fees (over $150 a couple). We paid for an upgrade from a balcony cabin to a luxury suite, but the furniture in our "luxury suite" was broken and stained (we had them remove some of it). In fairness, the beds were the most comfortable of any on any ship I have been on. But maintenance was deplorable. The ship is showing lack of attention. The owners seem to be milking it without putting back what is needed to keep it up. I would rate some of the elements of our cruise an A+, the excursions we chose also an A+, the ship itself a C- mostly due to maintenance, service and food issues. Most of the staff were helpful and friendly beyond normal expectation. A few were stupid and intrusive. One was downright ugly. Worse experience was in the health spa: we signed up for the hydro spa, a gigantic hi-tech hot tub, for a charge of $195 for the entire cruise. They claimed it was 100 degrees but it was actually much hotter. Many people complained but they insisted their equipment measured it correctly. Well, we have a spa at home set at 100 and we know the difference. We both have high blood pressure and cannot take very hot water. This was at least 105. They refused to check with a manual thermometer or refund our fee. A second spa incident: they called to reschedule my wife's massage because they were overbooked. We refused to do it because they wanted to schedule it very early. The next morning she was not feeling well and cancelled the massage, knowing there was a waiting list, but they refused a refund. So we wound up paying for things we never used. They will attempt to squeeze every dollar they can from you, often without regard for your experience. While some things were great, some were just so-so, and some really sucked. If we had avoided the spa entirely, and eaten more in the Italian restaurant and buffet, we would have been much happier with this cruise. Regarding the views and the excursions, only one word: spectacular!! Well maybe two: unbelievable!! The voyage down Tracy Arm was worth the price of the cruise all by itself. But that separates Nature from the ship. What we saw of Nature was just wonderful: the fjords, glaciers, the whales, eagles, etc. And the ship got us there comfortably and safely. So kudos to the captain and crew. That's why I title this "some good, some really bad." Perhaps a different ship on the same itinerary would have been better. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
Our trip began with an hour wait for our airport shuttle despite their advertised claim of usually no more than a twenty minute wait. We will accept their excuse of a road closure causing the delay but it is frustrating to see over six ... Read More
Our trip began with an hour wait for our airport shuttle despite their advertised claim of usually no more than a twenty minute wait. We will accept their excuse of a road closure causing the delay but it is frustrating to see over six vans pull out while you are waiting for yours. Our driver was very nice and informative. However, I would recommend other means of transportation if your time is limited. We stayed at the Travelodge at the Space Needle. The room while a little worn was very clean and that mattered most to me. The staff were friendly and helpful, the breakfast was very good, the location was excellent, and there was a shuttle to the pier for $7 per person that arrived on time! I would stay there again. We ate dinner at the Space Needle. We were seated promptly. The view was spectacular and the service was very good. Our meals were also fine but I had higher expectations given the prices. Our grandson's volcanic ice sundae was a big hit and every table should order one. The white chocolate macadamia bread pudding was a big disappointment- much too dry- do not order. All in all, it was a very pleasant dining experience. If cost is a factor, I would do lunch. Our embarkation went very smoothly and we had access to our rooms immediately. We dropped off our carry ons and had an excellent Mariner members' lunch at the Vista Dining room. Then everyone split up to do their own exploring of the ship. Our luggage was in our rooms early so we could unpack before dinner. We had adjoining cabins with our son's family. The steward opened the closure between the two balconies. The rooms had plenty of storage for the three of us including a drawer under the bed. While the rooms were nice, they are due for renovation. The sofas in both cabin were torn and their mattresses were very poor. Ours looked like a 900 pound gorilla slept in it and was unusable so our daughter slept in the loft above our bed. We changed our position and slept with heads at the opposite side so we wouldn't bump our heads on the loft and our excellent cabin steward made it up that way each morning. Our grandson's mattress was almost as bad, maybe a 500 lb.gorilla had slept there. My daughter-in-law said he slept on the very edge of the mattress. His brother slept in the loft. The loft was comfortable. Our cabin location was excellent. It was a quiet location but not far from the forward elevators. I would book this room again if there were just two of us. If renovated, I would book it as a quad. The rest of the ship was beautiful and well cared for. Most importantly, everything was clean and many precautions were taken to avoid illnesses. Like past HAL cruises, the service everywhere was outstanding. The food in the Vista Dining Lounge was excellent with many choices. Our grandson preferred the Lido where he could get pizza. He spent dinner time with the family but ate very little. I think he probably went to the Lido afterwards for pizza and ice cream. We only ate at the Lido once for lunch and once for snacks. When we missed our regular dinner time due to an excursion, we went to the Lido which had the same menu as the Vista but went back to the Vista's second floor for Anytime Dining because the Lido was just too crowded and noisy. We did eat at the Pinnacle.While the service and setting were lovely, the harsh,loud music from the lounge across the way was very disturbing. Between their songs, you could faintly hear romantic piano music from the other side of the dining room. Unfortunately, that was only for about 30 seconds. Because we had read such great reviews of the Pinnacle, we were disappointed in the menu and the food. I guess our expectations were too high. The food was very good but not necessarily better than the food in the Vista Dining Lounge. The weather on our cruise was terrific. This made our days at sea very enjoyable. The Captain and his crew did a great job,especially at Tracy Arms. Everyone had a great time at our ports of call. In Juneau, our son and grandson did a private glacier climb and had a wonderful time. Be aware,you must be in excellent condition to do this. The two hour hike out was a killer after the hike in and the climb on the glacier. Our daughter did the helicopter/dog sled tour with a private co. with three initials starting with E. She made this reservation on the Internet and would recommend this tour. Its cost was about $60 less than the cruise lines. My daughter and grandson booked the land/dogsled tour with HAL. She said while my grandson loved the dogs, she thought the guide spoke much too long, there wasn't enough time to interact with the puppies, and the ride was way too short. She thought the tour was overpriced. Since my husband and I had already done the helicopter tour on another cruise (my very favorite tour), we took the white bus shuttle (vendor is outside of the dock) up to the glacier visitor center and walked around. Later, we met with our daughter and went shopping. Our daughter-in-law and grandson took another HAL tour which she said was much better. Sitka is a beautiful little city. In Sitka, my son rented a private boat for wildlife viewing. The whole family went except for my daughter and me. We walked through Sitka instead. Later, she and my 13 yr. old grandson went Kayaking (HAL tour) and had a good time but she said it was strenuous. The others went to view the totem park to the right of the ship and then did some shopping to the left of the ship. We all wish we would have had less time in Sitka and more time in Ketchikan. In Ketchikan, most of the family went on a private fishing boat with Salty Seas with Josh as the Captain. They had a great time and got lots of salmon which they had processed and sent home. My daughter and I did HAL's Lumberjack and Bight Totem Park tour. It was fun and very informative. Ed,our driver and tour guide was very knowledgeable and shared many interesting facts with our group. I would recommend this tour. The only negative thing was that we had no time to shop and Ketchikan is the place where you want to shop. It is also the place where you better keep an eye on the clock as three people missed our ship. That is why I always booked a ship's excursion if the time is tight. They don't leave without you when you are on a ship's excursion. Our family's private fishing boat got back at 11:30 which allowed an extra hour in case something delayed them. Our last stop was Victoria. Because our ship was delayed leaving Ketchikan (I think they waited some time for the missing passengers who I heard were seen running down the dock loaded down with shopping bags) and because of heavy fog, we did not arrive in Victoria Until 8;30 and disembarked around 8:50. All shore excursions were cancelled and they had free shuttles to take us to town and back. Victoria is a beautiful city and charming at night. However, beware of shops that take US dollars. The one shop we went to and I don't remember the name of the shop, rounded out the cost for the purchase. For example, my purchase was $9.99 but the total with tax and exchange fees was $11.14. I was giving her the exact amount. She said she didn't accept coins so the amount was $12 which I paid. The lady after me gave her four $20 bills for a $72 purchase. The cashier told her she had to charge her $75 because she didn't have change and gave her $5. Remember, I had just given her two $1 bills. Just check before you pay. Maybe the other shops did not do this. I did not buy anything else in Victoria. We had room service the next morning which arrived promptly and disembarkation was very easy. We carried our own luggage off since our son's family's flight was early. My son used the ship's $19 per person luggage service which also included boarding passes. I had hired Metropolis Car Service (206-755-8363) to take our group to the airport. They were very prompt, the van was clean and comfortable, the driver was very professional, and the rate was great. I would highly recommend them. I forgot to mention the HAL's kids club. My 13 year old grandson loved the Loft and had a blast. Our 11 year old thought his group was too young. I do agree that the developmental span is inappropriate. Third graders have much different interests than six and seven graders. There is a different maturity level as well. We convinced him to give it a try but he came back disgruntled because the female counselor "talked down to us and they did little kid's activities." He did hook up with some friend who he met playing ping pong and they loafed together the entire trip enjoying ping pong,the giant chess board,and the hot tub and pool. They had a great time together. At one of the boy's father's urging, they went back to the HAL's Club for an evening activity. They again were upset because the female counselor had made fun of them and "ridiculed" them. They said the male counselor was nice but they didn't want to go back. Maybe HAL should consider making the age group 7-9 and 10-12 with the female working with the younger group and the male with the older group. I should also mention the excellent cooking classes, the great Microsoft sponsored computer photography classes with John Roberts, and the wonderful on board religious services. Super job, Holland America!! What a wonderful cruise our family had!!! Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
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