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139 Holland America Seattle Cruise Reviews

First let me say that this was my very first cruise! I am 54 and my sisters finally convinced me to try cruising. Alaska was our destination which I have also never been to. They are avid long time cruisers and my expectations of this ... Read More
First let me say that this was my very first cruise! I am 54 and my sisters finally convinced me to try cruising. Alaska was our destination which I have also never been to. They are avid long time cruisers and my expectations of this trip were quite high based on their prior stories of their great cruises they had previously taken on other ships. This was also their first time on the Westerdam. The disappointment truly was regarding the quality of food, the lack of selections and the overall preperation of the food not being cooked as ordered. This encompased the Lido buffet, the Vista Dining room and the Italian restaurant Cannolinos. The Pinnacle Grill dinner was very good in all areas including service. That was only the first night at sea. We kept hoping that with each meal that something would be better but alas, it was not to be. In addition they did not serve any Alaskan King Crab! I had to come home to Florida to eat that meal! The service of our Stewards and the ladies in the Neptune Lounge was fantastic, the suite was lovely (so glad we got the larger suite) the scenery was wonderful but the food was not even average at best. Juneau was a nice town. We visited the Red Dog Saloon hoping to have a good dinner but it was just ok. Fun place to grab a drink though! Glacier Bay was absolutely beautiful! The John Hopkins glacier took my breath away! Sitka first what a great small town and the people were very friendly. Was able to purchase seafood and have it shipped back home for a very reasonable price at the Northern Pacific processing plant. You have to really look for the shoe box of a store by going in between the two buildings and the store will be almost all the way down to the entrance door at the end of the walkway. It is on the left side and although I do not know how to spell her name correctly we were greeted by Aralia who handled my sister and my orders splendidly! They even opened just for us on that Wednesday as they are only open on Friday and Saturday for a short period of time. Mark from the fur store called for us and got them to open it up just for us! If you get a chance stop in and say hi to him! I bought my husband a furry jock strap as a joke and after he modeled it for me our cats decided I bought the furry front and tail for them so much for that! :) I really liked Ketchikan. Jewelers galore but we found a nice shop called Exotic Gems and we all bought a beautiful ring from Rajah and his partners Sonny and a beautiful lady whose name I did not catch. They were very nice and sized my sisters ring in no time at all! They also have a store in Port Charlotte Fl that I will be visiting when they open up in October. All in all the cruise and staff were wonderful! Unfortunately due to the poor food choices and quality I do not think I will be able to cruise with them again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
We were on the Westerdam from May 9th through May 16th. First time with HAL and the to Alaska. We departed from Seattle. The weather was perfect, 65 degrees and no rain. We were onboard by 11:45am and went straight to our room. Room 4044, ... Read More
We were on the Westerdam from May 9th through May 16th. First time with HAL and the to Alaska. We departed from Seattle. The weather was perfect, 65 degrees and no rain. We were onboard by 11:45am and went straight to our room. Room 4044, it was the first time having a balcony and we were very excited to see what the room looked like. The room what the size we expected. A large very comfy king bed. Nice pillows and comforter/blanket. The view from our port side balcony was very nice and faced the marina in Elliott Bay (there is a live webcam if you're interested, just google Elliott Bay). The bathroom was another story. It was larger than what we had on Princess or Carnival, which was awesome. It had a tub instead of just a shower. Unfortunately, it was filthy. The room steward had failed to remove the previous guests toiletries. There were several long hairs in the tub and sink. Toothpaste marks on the glass shelves and thick dust on the sink counter. It was gross. The room steward came to introduce himself as we were leaving the room and we told him about the bathroom. He apologized and said it must have been overlooked. Assuming he'd clean it, we left for the Mariners lunch. Mariners lunch was very nice. We were seated with another couple at a table for 4. The other couple had one prior cruise with HAL. We were invited to this lunch because we'd cruised with Princess previously and were told we were considered 1 star Mariners. Lunch was very nice. My husband had fish tacos and I had a penne pasta dish. Both were very good. The service was excellent. After lunch we explored the ship a bit and then returned to our room to unpack prior to sail away. The bathroom still had not been cleaned. I thought it was because the room steward was busy with so many people boarding that he'd get around to cleaning soon. Surely he'd have it cleaned before we needed to get ready for dinner (early seating 5:30pm). Sail away was at 4pm. We chose to do sail away on the aft deck. Wine was available for purchase and it was wonderful to watch the Seattle coastline disappear. We'd prepared to be with cruisers older than we were, but were pleasantly surprised to see the age of the other passengers were from early 30's to 70's (we are in our early 50's). We'd feared we'd be some of the youngest, that was not the case. There were a few children, all well behaved. A nice mix. Upon returning to our room, the bathroom was just as we left it. Still dirty. At this point I knew it wouldn't be taken care of. Thank goodness I bought Clorox cleaning wipes. I brought them to help disinfect, but never imagined I'd be using them to clean our bathroom. After cleaning as best as I could we were able to get ready for dinner. The MDR, Vista Dining Room was very elegant. The tables and décor were lovely. Beautiful china, white linen table clothes, and fresh flowers on the table. We were seated at 5:30pm in the upper dining room. We waited for our tablemates prior to ordering, but when no one else arrived by 5:45pm, we ordered. The waiter and his assistant (Andrey and Pandu) were very professional and attentive. They knew the menu and were helpful with suggestions. There were several nice selections on the menu. We chose the prime rib with baked potato, Caesar salad, and onion soup. It was good, but the prime rib was a bit overcooked for me. I'd ordered medium rare and received medium. A couple of people at the table next to ours also received overcooked meat. When they asked their waiter about ordering medium rare they were told the prime rib was either rare or medium, that it was rare anyone was able to get medium rare. I thought that was odd. Everything else was good, but I really would have liked a medium rare prime rib. After dinner we walked around the deck a few times. We were tired from being up so early to fly into Seattle we ended up turning in for the night around 9pm. The next day enroute to Juneau was a sea day. The sea day was kind of boring. We woke and had breakfast in the MDR. Again, service was wonderful. There was a nice selection for breakfast. You could find just about anything you'd normally eat for breakfast. Eating in the MDR sure beat the crowded Lido. After breakfast we headed to the Lido deck and the aft. We always had our binoculars with us in the hopes of spotting wildlife. We were disappointed because we were able to see several Dall's porpoises from the aft port side early that morning. They looked like Orca whales, but much smaller and faster. So fast that they looked like a black and white bullet flying through the water. They were so fast that I could capture their images with my camera, only the splashing water as they moved through it. It was amazing! In the wake of ship, a bit far in the distance we were able to see one gray humped back whale then it disappeared. I'll summarize the ports and Glacier Bay: Juneau - lovely weather. No rain approx. 68 degrees. We did layer however because we had a whale watching/Mendenhall Glacier tour we booked through HAL. The tour was run by Gastineau Guiding Company (they are listed on TripAdvisor). We boarded a nice van and were taken to a trail that led us through a rainforest to Mendenhall Glacier. The rainforest was lovely. So green and the air was so fresh, clean, and crisp. I was able to get amazing pictures there of the forest and creek. The walk was an easy one, approx. 1 mile. We ended it at a viewing area across the water from Mendenhall Glacier. Mendenhall glacier is very pretty. We didn't get to walk up to the waterfall located next to it, but did get some nice pictures. There is a tour that takes you closer to Mendenhall. That tour allows people to walk very close to the glacier and right next to the waterfall located next to Mendenhall Glacier. After a few pics were off to whalewatching in Auke Bay. We boarded a small boat (there were only 14 in our party) and headed out to Auke Bay. The captains of the boats talk to each other and tell each other where whales have been spotted. Soon we were at a spot where a gray humped back whale had been spotted. Within 5 minutes we saw the whale surface. We saw his back twice, but he never came up to dive showing his tail. We hoped he would, but it didn't happen. Still got a few nice pics of his hump. Off we went to another area where a pod of transient Orca whales were seen chasing something. We soon saw 5-6 of the orcas either chasing something for feeding upon it. They surfaced several times, but never showing their tails. Our captain kept moving the boat, keeping up with the orcas as they swam. We ended up following them for a good hour. It was amazing to be able to see them as we were told it's pretty rare to see orcas in May. On our way back to the dock we stopped to see 5 sea lions on a buoy sunbathing. Also saw two adult eagles perched on a channel marker. I got some wonderful pictures of the sea lions and eagles. Our tour ran longer than the 3 hours it was supposed to, but we were so glad we were able to see the wildlife. Glacier Bay....again, perfect weather, approx. 54 degrees, no rain and sunny skies. Reid Glacier was nice. Margerie Glacier was beautiful. We were able to see her calve three times. They were tiny calves. Loved the beautiful color of the glacier with the hues of blue in it. So glad it was a sunny day. You could clearly see the glacier and the background mountains that feed Margerie Glacier. Got some wonderful pics. There was a wine and cheese party on the bow of the ship while viewing Margerie. Such a wonderful, serene atmosphere. John Hopkins Glacier was the best though, took my breath away. The pictures I was able to get could never show the actual beauty. I will surely get one of them enlarged for our home. The only regret I have about Glacier Bay is we didn't see any sea lions in the water and there wasn't as much ice in the water as I'd hoped. Since it was May we thought there'd be more, but there wasn't. We were told Alaska had a very mild winter and didn't get anything close to the normal snowfall they usually get. Sitka - Nice, quaint little port. Approx 68 degrees and no rain. No much to do and we weren't there for very long. I believe from 7am - 1pm. We were told HAL is one of the few, if only cruiseline that goes to Sitka. We wanted to see St. Michaels Cathedral which we did. Nice pics. We also took a tour booked through HAL for the raptor center and heritage center. The raptor center was interesting. Eagles, owls, and falcons who were injured or who could not return to life in the wild have a home there. The heritage center was interesting and we learned of the Tlingit people and some of their customs. Had lunch near St. Michaels at a place called the Agave (Mexican food). Food was not that good and way over priced. A burrito each, one order of rice and beans, iced tea, and a corona for $48.00 with tip. Ketchikan - We were there from 7am - 3:30pm. 68 degrees and no rain. Kind of overcast when we first arrived, but that burned off and it was sunny by late morning. This was a port for shopping. There are many tours offered, but we chose to see the port on foot. They have coupon books at the information center located near the dock and also in most of the shops. We shopped both at Creek Street and at the shops located near the dock. Saw Dolly's house in Creek Street and walked Married Man's Trial to the fish ladder. It was too early to see the salmon run, but I'm sure it's a sight to see later in the summer when they do run. There is a little shack right at the dock that serves clam chowder. It was delicious if you like clam chowder, get it here because it's better than what's offer on the ship. We returned to the ship around noon for lunch. This was the day they had the salmon bake held at the Lido Pool. There weren't too many people in line when the bake began (11:30am). There was Cesar salad, rolls, rice, steamed veggies, grilled salmon, mussels, and desert. The food plentiful and very good. Victoria - approx. 67 degrees and again, no rain. We were there from 6pm-midnight. Lovely little town. I really liked all the retirement condo's located across from the bay and where the ship docked. I could imagine myself retiring there with a view of the bay. Very nice, but I imagine quite expensive. We booked a tour through HAL for Butchart Gardens. We did have concerns about going to see the gardens at such a late hour, but once we arrived we found we'd been concerned for nothing. There was plenty of light left to see all of the gardens and boy were they beautiful. This is where I took the most pictures. The pictures don't show how beautiful these gardens are. We live in Salt Lake City and have a place called Red Butte Gardens. Butchart puts Red Butte to shame! Even my husband thought Butchart was amazing. Very relaxing as we strolled through the different gardens. It took us approximately 1 and a half hours to see it all. There is a nice gift shop with unusually gifts. I bought several gifts for myself along with a 2016 calendar. It will be a wonderful reminder of the gardens. Another nice surprise it that the dollar is worth a tiny bit more in Canada. The tour of Butchart was right up there or better than whale watching in Juneau. I highly recommend it! Seattle - we arrived at 7am to disembark. We weren't scheduled to disembark until 9:20am so we had plenty of time for breakfast in the MDR (service began at 6:30am). Service was wonderful. The breakfast menu had stayed the same during the cruise, so this last day, it was a bit boring, but the food was still good. In summary...this cruise to Alaska was all about the destination. We didn't care much for the sea days (2 of them) because we're not heavy drinkers and found the entertainment offered mediocre at best. For the first time in 3 cruises (not that we're overly experienced in cruising or anything) we found ourselves bored during the sea days. It felt like HAL really struggled to offer anything truly interesting to keep peoples interest on sea days. B.B. King Blues Club was good for one night, but to see it every night would be a bit much. The piano bar sing-alongs were ok, but felt like it was geared toward an older crowd. We saw a performance called "Soundstage" that was pretty good and Amy Abler, Piano Divalicious. She played piano very well, but the talking part of her show left something to be desired. Dancing with the Stars was hyped up to be much more than it really is. Others seem to enjoy it, but it wasn't for us. Presentations such as Anti-Aging Miracles, Improving Posture, Acupuncture Seminar-Chinese Herbal Secrets, Ribbon Weaving Napkin Rings, Art Auctions, and Social Bridge didn't interest us. We looked into the Spa, but it didn't look very organized and when we passed the hydro-pool it looked crowded and dirty. No thanks. Again, I stress we're not overly experienced cruisers. We knew this cruise was about the destination and the cost. However, we didn't expect the food to have so much hit and miss. One night I wasn't sure about what to order for dinner in the MDR. Nothing sounded good so the waiter suggested the "Chicken Cobbler" and said it was very good. I ended up ordering it and it turned out to be similar to a chicken pot pie without the bottom crust. I can laugh about it now, but what a disappointment at the time. Deserts in the Lido didn't have much taste. The service was very good and our waiter (Andrey) and his assistant (Pandu) were great (we tipped them extra on our last night), but they aren't responsible for the food. We were disappointed. Soggy pre-made sandwiches in the Lido. When you did eat in the Lido for lunch or dinner you were served one tiny piece of steak and practically beg for another tiny piece. It felt like rationing. I understand no one wants to waste food, but it wasn't even the size of one serving. Getting back to our stateroom bathroom which I had to clean myself when we first boarded. Our room steward avoided us the entire trip. We didn't tip him any additional money beyond the standard pre-cruise tip. Hopefully, he'll take the time to make sure the bathroom is clean for future guests. I'd much rather wait an hour for a room with a clean bathroom than to have to clean it myself. We loved Alaska. Seeing the wildlife was an experience we won't forget. We can now cross Alaska off our bucket list. We won't return to Alaska because we aren't wealthy and there is so much more in the world to see. We can't afford to duplicate trips. I would recommend Alaska to everyone to see at least one time in their lifetime. A cruise is a wonderful, affordable way to see it, but keep in mind it's about the destination and you'll be fine with most cruise lines. This was our first cruise on HAL and most likely our last. The service was good, except for the room steward. Food hit and miss, entertainment poor, and the Westerdam is in need of some loving care to get her back to what I'm sure she once was. We're already planning our next vacation. I'm thinking an all inclusive resort. I'm finished with cruises for a while. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
Overall, the cruise was great. We couldn't have asked for better weather. Our experience onboard was super. Food and service were both excellent however lines on the lido (eato) deck were quite long at times so you had to find that ... Read More
Overall, the cruise was great. We couldn't have asked for better weather. Our experience onboard was super. Food and service were both excellent however lines on the lido (eato) deck were quite long at times so you had to find that window to minimize the wait time. The entertainment was fair with little geared toward the senior crowd except if you wanted to play bingo or attend sales pitches throughout the week that we avoided like the plague. we booked two excursions through HAL and both were busts. First we did the whale watching in Juneau and if you consider seeing a small portion of a humpback whale as whale watching then this would be for you. The windows on the whale watching boat were filthy and then with the spray on top of that it was impossible to take any pictures from below. I saw more whales on the ship in about a 45 minute period then I did on this excursion. I would suggest saving your money and bypass this expensive boat ride. Our second excursion was the all-you-can-eat-crab-fest in Ketchikan. The description in the HAL catalog left a little to ones imagination. The crab fest was excellent and the staff at the lodge went out of their way to make the experience an enjoyable one. The crab was plentiful and the drinks were complimentary (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic). We took a bus ride of about 30 minutes with part of that stuck in a construction zone. The float plane ride back to the ship was short and cramped. Very difficult to get any pictures. For the $238.00 I was expecting a little more bang for the buck. Should have waited until we got back to Seattle and had our crab dinner and a float plane ride around Seattle. I lived there for 12 years and several companies over great tours over Seattle and the San Juan Islands. Save you money. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
Some thing that was very nice was to have classes in Windows 8.1, but was not so nice was the computer room being located in the shopping area and the shopping announcer continually shouting into his microphone through out the lessons. ... Read More
Some thing that was very nice was to have classes in Windows 8.1, but was not so nice was the computer room being located in the shopping area and the shopping announcer continually shouting into his microphone through out the lessons. Someone needs to teach some common courtesy on that ship. Not sure they are smart enough to pay that much attention to detail on that ship. The second engine incident overheating occurred without much interruption during the cruise, we hope this sort of thing does not continue on the Westerdam. A visit to the Fortress of the Bears in Sitka is a must, has to be the first re-purposing of a wastewater treatment plant in the world. Food and service was passable in the Vista dining room, cafeteria like in the Lido, and not much personality on the part of the cabin stewards. Also not much help in Lido cafeteria finding a table or asking you if you need drinks or anything else. Trip had a good comedienne but he only appeared for one show despite being on board many days. Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
This was our 3rd cruise with Holland America and the 2nd time on the Oosterdam. Our previous experiences have been wonderful! But this time we felt let down. The activities seemed fewer, the food more limited and not as good, and the ... Read More
This was our 3rd cruise with Holland America and the 2nd time on the Oosterdam. Our previous experiences have been wonderful! But this time we felt let down. The activities seemed fewer, the food more limited and not as good, and the service somewhat lacking in the Vista dining room. We had chosen to sail with HAL based on previous cruises and had convinced friends to go with us due to the high quality of the experience. We felt let down and they made several comments about it wasn't all that special. Lest you think us complainers, we talked with a number of passengers and got the same message. As to the cruise itself, I absolutely loved Tracey Arm, the Mt Roberts Tram in Juneau and the Rainforest Zipline in Ketchikan. The evening programs were done wonderfully (except for the comic who almost put me to sleep). I was disappointed that they were still running the same acts as they did several years ago. Guess I didn't know they didn't change very often. Our room service and dining service were great, it was the breakfast service that was severely lacking. By the 3rd day, we abandoned the Vista dining room and retreated to the Lido deck -- not our first choice. In the end, we will probably use a different line for our next cruise. Too bad, we have fond memories of earlier Holland America cruises. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
Embarkation: Great Suite: Great First day at sea: Great Juneau: Great! Took the fly out fly sighing tour. Best tour ever. Then things went to h-e-double hockey sticks. A storm came in which cancelled our stop in Sitka so they moved ... Read More
Embarkation: Great Suite: Great First day at sea: Great Juneau: Great! Took the fly out fly sighing tour. Best tour ever. Then things went to h-e-double hockey sticks. A storm came in which cancelled our stop in Sitka so they moved our stop in Ketchikan up one day from Friday to Thursday. Thursday morning we were told because of the storm we now couldn't stop in Ketchikan either. So they locked down the ship (no one was allowed outside) and sailed around in the storm for two and a half days straight. Come to find out, the Golden Princess stopped in Ketchikan Friday with no problems and people had a great time! With nothing left to do we drank and ate all day because there was no entertainment. You'd think with two ports cancelled they would put some people to work providing entertainment for all the restless people: but they didn't. Although our port charges were credited back to our account and a discount on a future cruise was offered, there was no other attempt to compensate for missing out on 2 of the 4 ports of call. No shipboard credits or anything. I've been on Holland two times prior and must say the food in the dining room was not good. We ate most meals in the Pinnacle or Canaletto because of this. To finalize, after not taking a vacation for two years and missing two stops in Alaska, I can definitely say it was a disappointment. I realize they cannot control the weather but to find out another ship went to our port of call on the same day we were supposed to was unacceptable. And please, don't lock people up like animals with nothing for them to do...plan ahead for situations like this. Thanks, The End. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
We were on one of the last Alaska cruises of the season. Due to crazy weather conditions, our itinerary was changed and we missed one port - Sitka. Disappointing but trust that the captain knows best. They added a full day in Victoria, BC ... Read More
We were on one of the last Alaska cruises of the season. Due to crazy weather conditions, our itinerary was changed and we missed one port - Sitka. Disappointing but trust that the captain knows best. They added a full day in Victoria, BC so no complaints. I found my first Holland America cruise to be pretty lackluster. The ship is lovely but the entertainment on board is truly awful. The piano bar entertainer was the worst I've ever encountered. The singers in the "big shows" should learn to sing together and in the same key. I'd add a few consonants as well. I knew some of the songs they were singing and still couldn't understand the words. I felt like they were doing "cruise ship entertaining" which I find insulting. The HalCats sounded pretty good but they were not at all engaging. I didn't see / hear any of the classical musicians. The Dancing With The Stars final competition was poor. Only one of the "pros" knew how to ballroom dance. The show was poorly attended as well so I think the word is out that this is a bad idea. Casino was small and filled with the rudest smokers that I've ever encountered. I had two blow smoke directly toward me while I was at a slot machine. I much prefer NCL and their non-smoking areas in the casinos. Cabin was lovely and we were exceptionally well taken care of by our room stewards. Food was dull and salty. The Mexican buffet on the Terrace Grill was good but it had no change from day to day. Only ate in main dining room once because the meal took forever and it wasn't terribly exciting. They kept closing one of the drink areas in the buffet area so by the time you got your food and drink to the table, the food was cold. Service in the Lido buffet was sketchy. On the positive side - Alaska is gorgeous and we love watching the scenery from our balcony. Ports were great and despite the dull food and crappy entertainment, we had a great time. Hey, it's a cruise to Alaska, how bad can it really be? Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
Cindy: Hi! Welcome to my trip report of my Alaska cruise on HAL Westerdam. Readers: HAL Westerdam? Alaska? Cindy, you’re confused. You’re not going to Alaska until 2014. Cindy: Yes, HAL Alaska. Why the confusion friends? I had this ... Read More
Cindy: Hi! Welcome to my trip report of my Alaska cruise on HAL Westerdam. Readers: HAL Westerdam? Alaska? Cindy, you’re confused. You’re not going to Alaska until 2014. Cindy: Yes, HAL Alaska. Why the confusion friends? I had this vacation planned for well over a year. Readers: But… but…Cindy, you weren’t planning to go to Alaska until 2014. This year you were taking a 9-night Celebrity Millennium wine cruise down the Pacific Coast with an overnight in San Francisco. Cindy: You’re right! The only problem is that this uber-planner got thrown for a loop when the cruise I had been planning since April 2012 got cancelled three weeks before we were due to leave. Readers: How did you handle that, Cindy? You like to have everything set and researched well in advance of your departure date. What about your lists? Your research? Your maps? Your iPad filled with details? Cindy: Well, after I got over the shock, I got on the internet and on the phone, and 9 hours later I had pieced together Plan B…and that’s the subject of this trip report. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, and what this girl was gonna do was go on vacation! So…now that we’ve established what I’m going to be writing about, let me tell you a little bit more about our trip. Our cast of characters is me, my DH Jim, and my mom. At one time my aunt was going to be vacationing with us, but she decided to cancel (probably a good thing), and then my mom’s second roommate got sick and had to cancel (not a good thing). By the time the Millennium’s pod self-destructed and Celebrity announced she was going to the ship hospital, we were firmly set at three, and we all decided to go ahead with our vacation as long as we could make arrangements that fit fairly closely with the dates we were already scheduled to travel. You wouldn’t think finding another cruise within our dates would be that difficult, but much to my surprise it was. After many hours of juggling plane tickets, hotel reservations, and available space on ANY ship we settled on the Westerdam out of Seattle to Alaska on September 14th. A few more odds and ends, quickly research and book shore excursions, and we were ready to go. Of course there was the small matter of living in Texas and not having appropriate September in Alaska clothes. Nothing a little time on Zappo’s and a run over to REI couldn’t fix! Tuesday, September 10 – We left the house at about 6:00 as planned, and had absolutely no problems getting to the airport, parking, and checking in. I’ve NEVER had my passport checked as many times as it was for this flight to Vancouver. We had to show our passports: 1) to check in, 2) at the security line, 3) again before boarding started, and 4) getting on the plane. That was the first time I’ve seen everybody have to get up out of their seats in the waiting area and line up to show their passports, then return to their seats to await boarding. Once we boarded we were thrilled to find there were a lot of empty seats in Economy Plus. We had booked aisle seats across from each other, but we were able to have a set of three seats with an empty seat in the middle. The back part of economy was a lot more crowded, but even there some of the middle seats were empty. It was a fairly smooth and uneventful flight, and we got to the gate in Vancouver about 20 minutes early. We thought we had smooth sailing ahead, but… WOW! Immigration in Vancouver is a nightmare. We got in just after several jumbos from Asia, and the line was endless. Think Disney World on a holiday, without the entertainment in the line. Finally they opened a few more stations and then things started moving a little more quickly…all told immigration took about an hour from the time we got downstairs and got in line to the time we walked up to a podium. Our Hertz rental car was fine…we paid more to get a bigger car (Camry) and it’s a good thing we did, or we would have been in deep doo doo when we added my mom and her luggage to the mix. The drive to Whistler was uneventful – very scenic, and the weather was beautiful. The Pinnacle Hotel in Whistler was a little disappointing. We really liked the location slightly away from the main village, but our room was tiny and nothing special. I didn’t realize that wanting a room without a hot tub in the middle of it would mean we literally had no place to sit and an air conditioner that was only about 6 inches from the bed. I have no idea how someone would stay there for any length of time with ski stuff and heavy clothes. We walked around for a while, and went to Quattro right at the hotel for dinner. It was great, and the $75 voucher that came with our room didn’t hurt! We both had salads, Jim had the Spaghetti Quattro, and I had a delicious Cornish Game Hen. Dessert was out of the question…we could barely keep our eyes open. I think we were asleep before 9:30! September 11 -- Wednesday was a wonderful day! We started out walking over to the village and found a cute place for breakfast with outside seating. It felt SO good to sit outside in a sweatshirt in September! We had a nice breakfast that probably was about the going rate for Whistler but seemed very expensive to us. Speaking of cost, we thought everything in Whistler was very expensive. On Tuesday night we went to the grocery store to pick up some water and creamer, and the guy in front of us bought one pack of cigarettes…for $13.50! :o I know cigarettes are expensive everyplace, but I don’t think they’re $13.50! Thank goodness we don’t smoke – we couldn’t afford it! After breakfast we went to pick up some sunscreen (about the same price as cigarettes), and got our Peak-to-Peak lift tickets. They were also pricy, but worth every penny. It was spectacular! We took the chair lift all the way to the top of Whistler, then the Peak-to-Peak gondola over to Blackcomb. It really was an incredible ride and is an engineering marvel. I was shocked at the amount of snow. We might have stayed longer, but all the lifts except the Whistler Peak chair were closed, so many of the walking paths and trails weren’t available. We ended up heading back down around 2:00 so we could rest a while before dinner. At 4:30 we headed over to the Plaza Gallery to meet our Whistler Tasting Tour. There were only six of us – a couple from our cancelled cruise, a couple from Tennessee, and us. We started with a beer flight (meh) and went from there to Elements Urban Tapas where we had salmon on risotto (yum). Next up was Hy’s Steakhouse which was actually something of a disappointment. We had Ahi Tuna which was quite tasty, but the sirloin tips were very “Stoufferish”. From there we went to Kipraki for lamb, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for fudge and candied apple slices, and finally to the Fire Rock Lounge at the Westin for cheese and Icewine. All in all it was a pleasant evening with good company, but I didn’t think the food was spectacular…it was OK, but I’m not sure I would rush to order most of it again. The wines were the same…most were decent, but I’m not sure I would go out of my way to find any of them again. September 12 -- Our goal Thursday was to leave around 8:00, and we did a pretty good job…we pulled out of the garage at 8:05. Since we were picking my mom up at the airport we wanted to allow plenty of time, and we weren’t sure how long it would take us to get to the airport with stops, nor did we know how long it would take her to get through immigration. As it ended up, our timing couldn’t have been any better. I don’t think she waited more than 5 minutes for us! We decided on lunch outside in Vancouver to take advantage of the beautiful day. We ended up at Cardero’s and enjoyed everything we had. After lunch we walked along the Sea Wall down to Canada Place, then headed to the train station. In hindsight, that was a big mistake. We didn’t really know where we were going or how long it would take, and we got to the station WAY too early. Now, if you’ve been to the train station in Vancouver you’ll understand how very little there was to do, There’s nothing of interest at the station, we had already turned in our rental car when we arrived, and we couldn’t check our luggage until after we went through customs and immigration…at 4:30. We thought the train was comfortable and while it was light it was also very scenic, but once it got dark we just wanted to get to Seattle. The train had to stop a couple times for other traffic, so we didn’t get in until about 10:30, and to the hotel at 11;15. We were all pretty cranky by the time we arrived, and glad to be done with a very long day. As much as we were disappointed with the hotel in Whistler, I loved the Hotel Vintage Park in Seattle. Our room was probably no bigger, but it was oh-so-much nicer. I loved the location and the service. The room finishes were lovely, and I would probably have stolen the bed if I thought I could figure out how to get it home! September 13 -- Friday Jim and I did our Savor Seattle Pike Place Market tour and it was fabulous! Our guide (Nick) was outstanding, and the tour was both informative and entertaining. We tasted everything from doughnuts to blackened salt to crab cakes, and enjoyed the stories our guide told along the way. After our tour we went up to Seattle Center to the Chihuly Gardens and Exhibit, but we never made it up the Space Needle since it was cloudy all day. In the evening we went to the hotel wine tasting…a really nice touch where a local wine maker pours several different varietals from their vineyard. After happy hour we went to dinner at Tulio (attached to the hotel). I thought it was very good, and the $100 worth of vouchers we had for booking through AAA certainly helped with the bill! None of us were up very late…it was a clear case of head hitting the pillow and falling asleep at the same time! September 14 -- I woke up typically early on Saturday, as I always do when I have a ship to catch. By this time I was very ready to get on the ship if for no other reason than I couldn’t stand living out of my suitcase any longer. Breakfast was back at Tulio…good but WAY too much food! We had arranged transportation to the ship through the hotel, and I thought it was a good deal. Our Town Car was $10 per person, and the only problem was our luggage BARELY fit…if we had one more person or bag we would have been out of luck. Even arriving before 11 we were in boarding group 5, so I wouldn’t have wanted to arrive much later. After boarding we called and made dinner reservations, and headed down to the dining room for the Mariner’s Lunch. More on this later, but had I known what a headache dinner reservations would be I would have reserved two nights when I made the initial phone call. As it ended up, dinner reservations were a HUGE hassle all week, and the attitude of the reservations person left me with a really poor impression about their customer service on-board…I’ll talk more about that at the end. The rest of the day was smooth and uneventful…just the way I like it! My suitcases were all waiting when we returned from lunch, so I was able to get unpacked and settled in before muster. Everybody showed up on time for muster, and we were off pretty quickly after that. Just before we sailed away the sun broke through and we were treated to a beautiful sailaway from Seattle. We started what would be our evening routine – meeting for drinks at one of the very empty bars about 45 minutes before dinner, and then eating at 6:30. We were seated at Table 198 with a delightful and efficient team of waiters and wine steward. It took a lot of effort, but we managed to be seated at the same table each evening. September 15-At Sea – This was a beautiful, slightly chilly day that had a lot of people remarking about how much the ship was moving, but I didn’t think it was bad at all. We ate both breakfast and lunch in the Vista Dining Room, and I noticed how slow and poor service was. That was a theme all week at both breakfast and lunch. There weren’t nearly enough people serving, and it could be painfully slow at times. One morning they even had to bring staff down from the Lido to help serve, but breakfast still took well over an hour. I guess it was a good thing it was a day when I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be! We all went our separate ways for part of the day. Mom went to a cooking demonstration, I took some Windows 8 classes, and Jim went (I think) to some Alaska talks. Jim and I also went to our Meet & Mingle…what a sad little event. Only one other passenger showed up! On Sunday, the captain announced we were to have a pretty major itinerary change. Due to a forecasted major storm, we would be skipping Sitka on Wednesday, moving Ketchikan from Thursday to Wednesday, and (hopefully) spending the whole day and evening Friday in Victoria instead of the scheduled hours of 6:00 p.m.-Midnight. I quickly got on the internet and sent an e-mail to the Bering Sea people with our new date and time, and I also was able to reschedule the tour I originally had scheduled for Victoria before the Millennium cruise was cancelled. With shore excursions rescheduled, I was all set, but I was beginning to think someone was trying to tell me I shouldn’t cruise in September! September 16-Juneau – We arrived on schedule at 1:00, to partly cloudy skies. It wasn’t too cold and it wasn’t raining, so I thought it was just great for Alaska in September! We had booked a tour with Juneau Whale Watch on-line, and it was kind of a mixed bag. The whale-watch part was excellent and the boat was very comfortable, but I didn’t think their organization was very good AT ALL and we definitely got short-changed on the Mendenhall part of the tour. We didn’t get to the glacier until about 5:15, and we were told the latest bus we could get back to the ship was at 6:00. We really didn’t have any time to walk around or go to the visitor’s center. Jim and I were both shocked at how much the glacier has receded since we were there in 2000. September 17-Glacier Bay – We woke to – you guessed it – fog, low clouds, and drizzle. That didn’t stop me from taking hundreds of pictures or freezing my tail off out on the balcony for hours! Even with the clouds and the mist, the glaciers were still beautiful, just in a very different way than they are when the sun is shining and you can see the mountains behind them. Jim appointed himself the announcer of the impending calvings. He would listen for the crack, and sure enough, there would be a little baby iceberg born. This went on for quite some time, and as we were starting to sail away from Margerie Glacier Jim went inside to get his gloves…right after he went in, of course, we had a bigger calving that brought oohs and aahs from our side of the ship! We also went down to Johns Hopkins glacier, and it was in that arm that we saw what the park rangers referred to as the “Termination Event.” It was snowing up at the higher elevations, and that to them meant the termination of Summer and the beginning of their long Winter. September 18-Ketchikan – We had a fantastic time today on the “Bering Sea Crab Fishing Tour!” I have had this tour bookmarked on my computer for several years just waiting until I got back to Alaska. It didn’t disappoint. Yes, parts of it are “staged,” but the fishermen and the gear they use are authentic, and I may never have another opportunity to see eagles that close again. I thought the tour was very well done, appropriate for all ages, and well worth the money. Interestingly enough, we had booked this tour on the internet, but most of the people booked through the ship…for $25 more per person. We didn’t have a whole lot of time when we returned, but we did go shopping for our one “special” souvenir. We like to buy one nice piece from a local artisan when we travel, and we chose a hand carved whale mounted on a block of crystal. We went to Le Cirque for dinner and enjoyed an exceptional meal. Jim and I both had perfect Chateaubriand, and mom had the Lamb. Mom didn’t think the lamb was too good, but other than that we enjoyed everything we had. The butternut squash soup was dreamy, and I will be scouring the internet for the recipe. I could have made a meal out of just that soup! Remember I told you on Sunday the captain changed our itinerary to eliminate Sitka because expected bad weather and high winds would have made tendering impossible, and he wanted to try to get us south of the impending storm? As it happened, it was absolutely the right decision. I wouldn’t question a safety decision made by the captain anyway, but he did an incredible job of trying to stay ahead of what turned out to be a pretty major storm. That was reinforced at 1:30 Thursday morning when we were literally shaken awake by the incredible winds. The apparent wind speed was 60+ mph, and even on the leeward side of the ship our balcony on deck 8 was getting covered in spray. We were awake until about 4:00! It was too rough to sleep. Every time we would doze off there would be a huge lurch and we’d be awake again. Thank goodness we don’t suffer from motion sickness! September 19-At Sea/Inside Passage – You would think today was the month of March, because it came in like a lion and went out like a lamb! It was very windy all morning and through lunch (the Mariner’s Brunch) until we got to the northern tip of Vancouver Island. The captain did all he could all day to keep us out of the worst winds and in calm waters, but he was also conscious of trying to make sure we were able to make Victoria. It wasn’t until pretty late in the afternoon that he announced we would make it to and through Seymour Straits in time for a morning arrival in Victoria. I know other ships weren’t as fortunate, or maybe their captain wasn’t as proactive as ours…the Star Princess was also trying to get to Canada on an altered itinerary, but they missed their window of opportunity and ended up cruising in long, slow circles all day Friday while we played in Victoria. In a way, the itinerary change was a bonus, because we wouldn’t have gotten to do the Canadian Inside Passage without it…we would have sailed around the outside of the island and just made a 6 hour (PVSA) call in Canada. Not only was it calm and scenic in the afternoon, we were treated to about 30 minutes of a school of porpoises swimming alongside the ship! September 20-Victoria, BC – Victoria was to have been a port of call on my cancelled cruise, but we didn’t have any plans to do anything off the Westerdam because our original port hours were terrible…6:00 p.m. until Midnight. As soon as I learned we would be in all day I contacted my tour provider, Victoria’s London Taxi, and fortunately they were able to fit us in. We had all been to Victoria before and wanted to do something different, so we visited Beacon Hill Park, Goldstream Provincial Park, Esquimalt Lagoon, and Hatley Castle. It was a really pleasant day! After our tour we went back to the ship and ate in the Lido for the first and only time all week, and just hung out and relaxed the rest of the day. September 21-Seattle and Home – What an easy disembarkation! I really need to send the Galveston people to Seattle (and Ft. Lauderdale) to see how disembarkation should run. We had cruise line transfers to the airport, and much to our surprise we were extremely early for our 11:55 flight. I did have an incident with TSA…we had received a corkscrew as a gift on our tasting tour in Whistler. Somehow it had wound up in my carry-on instead of a suitcase, and honestly I had forgotten about it. TSA couldn’t find it, and they ended up completely unpacking my carry-on to get to it. I got yelled at because I tried to help them unpack my camera lenses (gently), and I was practically in tears looking at my carefully packed stuff seemingly spread out all over Seattle airport. One guy was really nice and understanding, but when he called for back-up the second guy was a jerk…he accused me of trying to hide the corkscrew. Sorry, I made an honest mistake…no need to be nasty about it. The trip home was uneventful but also very uncomfortable. Why is United using small, old planes with no entertainment on 4+ hour flights? Ah, if only I could eliminate the “getting there” part of travel! Overall Impressions -- the good, the bad, and the ugly: The Good – our wait staff at table 198 at Open Seating was delightful, personable, and efficient. As slow and impersonal as our service on the Noordam was, our service on the Westerdam at dinner was just the opposite. Our wine steward, Anthony, was awesome…again a complete 180 from our experience on the Noordam. We learned from each other and shared our love of wine all week. I appreciated (for now) being able to take 5 bottles of wine aboard for the three of us. We had no problem paying the corkage and loved discussing our selections with Anthony each evening. The food was consistently good. We ate almost all our meals in the dining room, and thought the quality and presentation were quite nice. The Bering Sea Crab Fisherman’s Tour was outstanding! We booked privately and saved about $25 per person, but most people on our tour booked through the ship. Our cabin, 8059, was fine. I admit to being somewhat spoiled…this was the first time in a long time we’ve had a cabin that didn’t come with extra perks, and I missed them. Still, that’s not the fault of the room, it’s the fault of the person who made the reservations and didn’t want to spring for the cost of a Neptune suite! Our cabin steward was efficient, and I thought he did a good job, especially when you consider he and his partner had 30 cabins! The ship was very clean, and most things seemed to be working properly. I did see a couple public restrooms that seemed to be “closed for cleaning” quite a bit, but we didn’t have any problems in our cabin, and I couldn’t tell you if the A/C worked properly because for the most part we needed heat, not air conditioning! I liked the little touches for Alaska…the plaid wool blankets for our balcony, the hot pea soup, the free hot chocolate refill with the purchase of an insulated mug, and the special menu choices that appeared to be just for Alaska sailings. There was plenty to do during the day. I took advantage of the Microsoft classes because I just got a new computer with Windows 8 and I’m struggling with it. My mom went to cooking classes, played cards, and hung out in the Explorations Café working on the jigsaw puzzle. Jim attended a couple lectures that he enjoyed. The Bad – we were worried about the weather going to Alaska this late in the season, and as it played out we were partially right to worry. Our captain was really on the ball with the weather and made sure he did everything possible to have our vacation be as good as it could be despite the weather changes. The smoke in the casino was incredibly thick. One night I was in there for only about 15 minutes and I smelled like I had just smoked a carton of cigarettes. I guess it’s a good thing that the slot machines were stingy and I was losing my money quickly. I paid close attention since there’s been so much smoking talk on Cruise Critic recently. Although I smelled it out on my balcony a couple times, it certainly wasn’t anything that had an impact on my cruise, however the casino was just awful. Our cabin location wasn’t good for noise. As much as the cabin itself was fine, I would probably never take a guarantee again, because I’m not willing to be underneath a tile floor where they are dragging chairs and rolling carts at all hours of the day and night. Again, my fault and not HAL’s, but lesson learned…a guarantee means you have to be willing to accept a bad outcome as well as a good outcome. I thought the evening entertainment was poor. We literally couldn’t find things to do after dinner other than the casino. There really wasn’t anything going on before dinner either. Most nights we would be the only people (other than staff) in the Pinnacle Bar. We did attend a couple shows, which were OK but one of the female lead singers was just awful, and she really ruined the shows. There was a noticeable absence of entertainment in other venues…I’ve never seen lounges on a ship as empty as those on the Westerdam. We did go play trivia one night, but as soon as it ended everybody scattered and the ship was once again deserted. That’s why we ended up in the casino most nights. Dare I say it? We were bored in the evenings. I wouldn’t have minded as much if this was a port intensive itinerary with early morning port calls, but since it wasn’t it would have been nice to have a few places to listen to live music both before and after dinner. It was kind of sad to walk past deserted lounge after deserted lounge and see the bartenders standing there looking bored. The Ugly -- I dislike things that don’t make sense, or policies that are arbitrary. We had a $250 drink card, because I really liked the convenience when we were on the Noordam. The card worked much the same way on the Westerdam, except sometimes we could purchase something with it and sometimes we couldn’t. We got in the habit of going to the Pinnacle Bar each night before dinner. One night we could use the card for the special promotional wine, and the next night we couldn’t because they said the card couldn’t be used for specials. That made no sense to me. Zero. Zip. Nada. Everything about the service in the dining room at breakfast and lunch was painfully slow. From the lengthy seating process with people lined up to give their cabin number, to the taking of orders, to the delivery of the food, meals in the dining room were kind of an ordeal. On the day we were in Glacier Bay, I finally had to get up and leave after 90 minutes or I would have missed Johns Hopkins Glacier completely. Everybody at the table was still patiently waiting for their entrée plates to be cleared. I understand that all cruise lines have cut back in the service area, but I just couldn’t get over how slow it was. Port times were way too short. Juneau was 9 hours, but we didn’t get in until 1:00 so only about 6 hours of our stop was in daylight. We were only in Ketchikan for 6 hours, and we were originally scheduled to arrive in Victoria at 6:00 p.m. Had we made it to Sitka, all aboard would have been at 2:30 for a 3:00 departure. While I enjoy days on a ship, when I’m doing an itinerary with interesting ports I’d like enough time to tour AND poke around a little bit before or after. The REAL ugly to me, and the thing that almost ruined my trip was open seating dining. We didn’t have a lot of choice when we booked so late, but I also knew my mom couldn’t do late dinner and I thought anytime would work well for us. It ended up OK, but I really had to beg and plead to get reservations. The whole system just puzzled me. I was told I could only make a reservation for 5:15 or 8:30…neither of which was acceptable to us, or I could stand in line. The reason? They only allow 2% of the tables to be reserved. Why on Earth would they only allow a handful of tables to be reserved? Every night the dining room was more empty than full, and the line stretched down the hall with people waiting to be seated. It just made no sense to me! I was actually told one day that if I didn’t like the times offered and didn’t want to stand in line we should just eat in the Lido! I was NOT happy! Honestly, if I thought there was a chance I would spend every evening standing in line or eating in the Lido, I wouldn’t book a cruise. The only reason my week didn’t end up like that was because I was mercilessly persistent…I think they finally took my reservation just to get me off the phone. All in all, we had a good trip, with some memorable moments and some disappointments. I think in part we were still wishing we were on a different ship and doing the itinerary we had been planning for so long. Sadly, I wouldn’t say it was our best cruise, and I probably won’t be in a hurry to book another Holland America unless it’s for an unusual, port-intensive itinerary. We loved our Noordam cruise last year and expected to like the Westerdam just as much, but “something” was missing this time for us.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
I had high hopes for the Westerdam and HAL. I have previously sailed with Celebrity and Disney and I was hoping that HAL wouldn't disappoint. Sadly, I was mistaken. The only thing that I could confidently say was awesome, was this ... Read More
I had high hopes for the Westerdam and HAL. I have previously sailed with Celebrity and Disney and I was hoping that HAL wouldn't disappoint. Sadly, I was mistaken. The only thing that I could confidently say was awesome, was this ship's itinerary. The ports of call were fantastic, breath taking, and beautiful. Take advantage of the port of calls. We booked all of our excursions with local groups not through HAL. HAL offered the same excursion to Majorie Glacier in Juneau and it double what we paid for using the local merchants. In Sitka, book Gallant Adventures with Paul, and you will not be disappointed. No need to get off the boat in Victoria to visit the gardens. It is dark by the time you dock. My group of 5 booked the largest inside staterooms. They were comfortable, clean, and quiet. Danny, our room steward, was awesome and very quick with any requests. Westerdam, and I am assuming HAL in general, seems to cater to the older generations. The entire ship was "dead" quiet by 11 pm and any activities after then was hard to find. We ended up having cocktails and sharing stories on Phillipino Independence day with the crew outside on the Lido deck for several nights. The food was o.k. to survive on but not enjoyable. Maybe since the majority of the passengers were 75+ and have desensitized taste buds HAL believed to make the food tasteless. Good idea to save money on spices? The dining experience at Pinnacle Grill was horrible. Plain and simple. The wait staff forgot most of the order, and were to preoccupied with getting the officers table cleaned, set, and wine glasses polished. Then they came to our table. After waiting 25 minutes for two crab cakes the size of a half dollar to come out of the kitchen, the staff placed the cakes 10 feet from the table on a buffet cart. Forgotten, alone, and getting colder, the crew neglected the food and hurried over to the officers to make sure their wine was filled. My party walked out and the Pinnacle Grill was clearly HAL's method of giving a donation to the company. What a waste. On a good note, bring as much wine as possible on board. It was a great way to enjoy the days, scenery, and save some money. The entertainment was hit or miss. The illusionist and comedian were awesome!!! Great job! The casino was quiet and Alaina was a great dealer. Someone please let the HAL Cats and the singer off the boat and drive away as fast as possible. Yet again, maybe this is HAL's way of saving money. Hire crappy singers to a boat full of hearing aid users. They can't hear it! Man, what a clever business plan. Overall, Alaska made this trip. I will never go on HAL again. Maybe I will change my mind when I am much older and instead of putting a family member's name down on my emergency contact forms, I'll put the local undertaker. Seems to fit the average age of the passengers. We even had a "Rescue 911" emergency code called on our floor. Not everyday you see an AED machine, stretchers, and every piece of medical equipment run down the hallway. Poor guy had to get taken off the boat and flown to Anchorage. I wonder if this is what happens to repeat customers of HAL... good thing I won't find out...   Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
After 20 cruises, I should know better. But booking late led to taking a cabin on a lower deck than usual, and, boy, did we pay for it! Cabin 4051 should NOT be sold as a wheelchair accessible category VD cabin. Here are some reasons: ... Read More
After 20 cruises, I should know better. But booking late led to taking a cabin on a lower deck than usual, and, boy, did we pay for it! Cabin 4051 should NOT be sold as a wheelchair accessible category VD cabin. Here are some reasons: 1-There was barely enough room for a travel-sized wheelchair to pass by the bottom of the bed. 2-It was extremely difficult for a wheelchair user to climb the ramp, cross the door jamb and go down the ramp onto the balcony, even with great assistance and the door held open. It was very dangerous to come down the ramp on the balcony side and need to immediately turn sharply to the left while on the ramp (or hit the railing). 3-The television is too small and too far away for a wheelchair user (unless the wheelchair is at an angle on the ramp toward the balcony). 4-There is insufficient space at the bathroom sink. 5-The lighting in the cabin was very poor. 6-There was no seating area in the cabin, as was described for VD cabins. Other points regarding accessibility: 1-Despite requesting wheelchair accessible transfers, and filling out multiple forms, the staff at the transfer location at the airport were totally unprepared for the need for a lift. 2-If you need wheelchair assistance boarding the ship, be prepared! There is no help entering the terminal or using the elevator, or going through security, or checking in. And then there was a 30 minute wait for assistance just to get onboard. (Between the airport delay and the boarding delay, our 9:30am arrival at the airport transfer site got us onboard the ship at about 1:30pm - so no Mariner lunch). 3-In Juneau, ORCA runs a wheelchair accessible transfer vehicle for whale watching. Their people were very helpful pushing the wheelchair up & down a VERY steep ramp at the pier. But once on the boat, there was no ability to get upstairs to the forward viewing area. General comments: 1-Don't waste your money on the Le Cerq dining experience -- the food was terrible! The food in the dining room was better, as was the service. 2-There is a tiny cooler (not really a refrigerator) in the cabin. Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
We Boarded June 2, in Seattle after 2 lovely days at the Grand Hyatt in Seattle. We splurged and got the Penthouse suite 7045. Was met by Arnold the concierge he showed us to our room , explained what he knew then left. I called the ... Read More
We Boarded June 2, in Seattle after 2 lovely days at the Grand Hyatt in Seattle. We splurged and got the Penthouse suite 7045. Was met by Arnold the concierge he showed us to our room , explained what he knew then left. I called the Neptune lounge (for suite guests ) later and asked if we could have some hors d'oeuvres in the room and he said do you want to come get them.......no I don't, anyway that's how it pretty much went with Arnold, he tried but if he or his partner Ice got involved it got messed up, they tried so hard to be yes men they did not listen to what you were asking and it never worked out. Neptune lounge is really a joke, They make it sound so nice , but the same canapés for 7 days?? We actually got sick of them, same cookies, same everything good heavens they didn't even change the cheese!! We jokingly played a game naming them by the third day, there were only 5 so was not hard!The Dining steward and wait staff was excellent, no problem there, the whole staff was good, everyone spoke English smiled. Dinner was ok, nothing to rave about. though the shrimp was always undercooked and being and Alaskan cruise you think we might have had better fish. Do not ask for ice this seems to be a major problem my gosh it takes an act of congress to get ice. Any time we ordered through the Neptune Lounge it was a mess and took forever, be it ice food ,anything. The captain supposedly invited us to the meet and great ....captain did not show. It was very very rough for 2 nights, not their problem, but the last day which was Saturday, we still had a full day, when we left the room in the morning, they cleared out our fruit basket, emptied our fridge, left the food we had purchased to eat when we came back on board after Vitoria and left it all on the counter. It was like get off we have new people coming on tomorrow. Everything was shut down, they really did not care about you the last day, they considered Friday the final dinner night with the baked Alaska, no bars were open no entertainment, no shows no nothing, basically you are paying for 7 says and getting 6 so buyer beware. Then, since our food had gone bad, we called the so called 24 hour room service and was told (again we were in the penthouse) that they just could not accommodate us or we would be waiting several hours.I pay for the extras, they are not on this ship what a shame because it is a beautiful ship with a great staff. Ice and Arnold need more training as the front desk was very good but when he demanded we come to a 1130 am cocktail party that was the last straw . We had a beautiful room and did not feel the need to leave it all the time when we felt guilty is was the same thing, no captain no ships offices just other cruisers and a free cocktail, big deal..Improve the food provide the service you advertise . I think I am done with HA. Also the scheduling is ridiculous, 3 ships at the same time little ports and only 4 hours to see it, 9000 people all at once, who planned this???? The shop stewards were so pressed,bars bombarded restaurants full to the brim it was just a mess. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
This was our first experience cruising on Holland America. This was a roundtrip cruise to Alaska out of Seattle. We took this cruise because we wanted to go to the port of Sitka. We had cruised 11 times in the past on a different cruise ... Read More
This was our first experience cruising on Holland America. This was a roundtrip cruise to Alaska out of Seattle. We took this cruise because we wanted to go to the port of Sitka. We had cruised 11 times in the past on a different cruise line. I had also worked for one of the cruise lines in Alaska one year. We traveled to Seattle by Amtrak and arrived only a couple hours before we needed to board the ship. Holland America did a great job of getting us through the boarding process. My wife is handicapped and they did everything they could to expedite our boarding so my wife would not have to stand around for a long time. We did get a photo background dropped on us during the boarding process but that was no big deal. We got to our room 8010 a veranda and were very pleased with the room. Our luggage showed up within 5 minutes of our getting to our room and we got to meet our room steward at that time. At this point things were very positive for our first experience on Holland America. We headed to the Lido to get something to eat and here is where things started to go down hill. The Lido has a very confusing layout. It is broken down into different sections but no clear designation of how you should get into line to get anything. They do make many hot items behind the counters and put them on an extremely hot plate that they hand to you. They will give you paper towel to try to hold onto the plates. They employees dishing food spend a lot of time talking with each other instead of paying attention to the passengers. We then took a walk around the ship to find things we may like. The whole layout of the ship is confusing. You can figure things out but not easily. One floor to go from one end of the ship to the other you will walk through the majority of gift shops. On the Westerdam the sales people will hound you to come in and buy something or participate in all types of give aways. I felt like I was in a carnival midway being hounded by the carnies. I found the crew, other then sales people, to be polite if you could get their attention, however they did not seem interested in doing their job. They seemed happier to just talk with each other instead of taking care of the passenger. For me the décor was to dark and depressing. There were a few spots with lighter colors but not many. The furniture was very pretty to look at but very uncomfortable to sit in. I found very few comfortable places to sit in comfort. There are very few activities onboard this ship and most the places you could get something to drink open late in the day. I do not drink but I had problems finding someplace just to get a soda. We had traditional main dining. We were seated at a table for 6. Every night our wait staff would forget to bring someone their food or would bring someone the wrong food. They were very apologetic but you would figure after messing up one night you would check your orders the rest of the week but no every night a mistake was made. Our room steward also had to be told of things that were not done or right. In fact when we got in the room there was a few things left behind from the past passengers. Again they were very apologetic. One thing I did not like was the fact that exterior windows were very dirty and it was not just from sea water. I have been on many cruises and even worked on cruise ships and these were the dirtiest I had ever seen. The photo shop was another big disappointment. We only buy the boarding picture because we like the picture with the name of the ship and sailing date. We were told by a couple of the sales people that we could not buy the single picture. We were told we had to buy a large package of $100 or more. On the last night I approached the manager and he told us we could have bought the single picture anytime we wanted. He did not seem happy that his staff was misleading passengers so they could sell a big picture package. Now I know some of this seems petty but believe me there were many more small problems that all added up. We never felt comfortable or good on the ship. It was the first time we could not wait to get off a ship. We did meet some nice people on the ship and we were in Alaska so the trip was not a total disaster, however I would never want to cruise on the Westerdam again. I know others like it and I am glad they do it is just not a good fit for us and it was very disappointing. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
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
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
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
This was our 3rd HAL cruise in the Deluxe Verandah Suite category, last two were on the Ryndam. However it has been 7 years since our last cruise and this time we were very dissappointed. Very doubtful we will cruise HAL again. On our ... Read More
This was our 3rd HAL cruise in the Deluxe Verandah Suite category, last two were on the Ryndam. However it has been 7 years since our last cruise and this time we were very dissappointed. Very doubtful we will cruise HAL again. On our last cruises we rated the main dining room food and service a 9 out of 10. On this cruise the food was about a 3 and the service a 5. We were traveling with 4 other people. On multiple occasions medium rare steaks and prime rib came out well done. Medium steaks came out extra rare. On the night with filet mignon and lobster, the filet was about 1/2" thick. No restuarant would stay in business (except maybe Golden Corral Buffet)with food like this. A duck breast dinner was 4 slices about 1/8" thick and 2" round. Rack of lamb dinner consisted of 2 pieces. OK for an appetiser, not a dinner! On the 2nd day of the crusie and after the dissapointing first night meal, we tried to make reservations for the Pinnacle Grill ($25/person additional cost). After less than 24 hours into the cruise, Pinnacle Grill was sold out every night except the last night while in port in Victoria. Seems that many others had figured out they needed to go to Pinnacle Grill for decent food. We did go that last night and I ordered a Porterhouse steak which as large, at least normal restaurant size. I'd rate food and service at Pinnacle Grill an 8 out of 10. Still had to flag down a waiter to refill water and after asking for a second cup of coffee, a 5 minute wait. ENTERTAINMENT: On our last cruises, the Crows Nest was night club and lounge. It is now library and lounge where there was a solo guitarist. A waster of this large space. Throughout one day Country Line Dancing was promoted in the Northern nights lounge. This is tiny and could not accommodate anywhere near the number of people that were coming to this after the 8 PM show in the Vista lounge. Exactly the same thing happened with what was suppose to be Beatles/60's entertainment in the Piano Bar. Imagine 250 people trying to get into a lounge set up for about 70. Why in the world were these not held in a much larger space such as the Crows Nest (move the library to a smaller space). SHOWS: This was the bright spot. Entertainment in the Vista Lounge was much better than previous cruises. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
My husband and I recently returned from our first Alaska cruise aboard the HAL Westerdam. First of all, we are frequent Oceania cruisers and we wanted to try something not as "pricey". We have no kids and really enjoy the cruise ... Read More
My husband and I recently returned from our first Alaska cruise aboard the HAL Westerdam. First of all, we are frequent Oceania cruisers and we wanted to try something not as "pricey". We have no kids and really enjoy the cruise experience. We booked our own travel into Seattle as we previously lived in the area and our embarkation process was quite simple and hassle free. We left on time and there was a very festive embarkation party on the Lido aft deck and pool area. Our first disappointment came when we booked dinner in the Pinnacle Grill on the first nite, I was aghast that we had to pay $25 a person to enjoy an upscale dinner. My hubby had the lamb and I had shrimp, both good, not great, his bread pudding over the top, my cheesecake, very tasteless. Our first breakfast in the Lido grill was just the beginning of tasteless and mediocre food. The lines were long as all food had to be served by the staff for the first 48 hours due to health concerns. Very difficult finding tables to sit. We decided to have lunch in the MDR-took an hour to get our food and they forgot my husband's entree, it took 10 more minutes and there were no apologies. The following morning we went to the MDR for breakfast, 90 minutes to get our food and it was all cold, the woman next to me got up and left after discussing the poor services with one of the wait staff. The staff on both occasions made no attempts to fill water, tea or keep us updated on our order status. Needless to say we never went back for any other meals-even dinner. Our room was fabulous, we upgraded from room 5143 to 8099 for $149/pp and we were glad we did, large bathroom with 2 sinks, full bathtub with jacuzzi and shower. Large veranda,though too cold and wet to enjoy. Our first port was 43 hours into the cruise, we booked this through a private web site (same price as the cruise excursion but there was a wait list for this)-Juneau-did a whale watching tour out of Auck Bay about 3 hours, then a trip to Mendenhall glacier, only 1 hours there and not nearly enough time. The video in the visitor lounge worth the $3/pp. Then onto a salmon bake which happened to be one of the best meals of the trip. Back to port about 7:30pm and we had 60-90minutes to explore the city which was very nice. We then went on to Glacier Bay, the narration by the park rangers started about 9am and was quite informative. The weather cooperated and Captain PJ did a marvelous job giving us 360 degrees of viewing. The Marjorie glacier didn't disappoint and we saw quite a few spectacular episodes of the glacier calving. We then had about 30 more hours of sea time before porting in Sitka, a quaint town with lots of history, it was cold and wet with a high of 46, brrr. We did a nature walk with a visit to the rapture center and historic walking tour. Our guide was very informative and we had a small group which was nice. Had lunch at a little cafe in town and then back on the ship. Onto Ketchican, more cold and rain, another walking tour but not enough time in the town itself. Creek street with the old brothels well worth the walk, just a few blocks from the port. Another 30 hours on the ship and then onto Victoria, pulled in 6:30pm, walked into Victoria-30 minute walk-had dinner and then had about 1 hour before the town "shut down". It was 9pm and the ship was in dock until midnite. Once again the weather cooperated and there was no rain. Back into Seattle the next morning, we chose the 9:30am independent travel departure, very smooth, only about 10 minutes from leaving the ship, to get our luggage, go through "customs" and get to the taxi line, where the cab drivers got in a fight when trying to put us in the cab. We actually got out of the cab and insisted on another cab because of our cab drivers rude behavior. we pre-booked a nite at the Hilton in Seattle so we spent the day walking and revisiting our favorite areas in the downtown area. I guess we are warm weather cruisers, I read 5 novels while we were gone. It was difficult to enjoy the inclosed pool area as it was quite humid there and very noisy with all the kids. They were plenty of things to do while "at sea". Another of our disappointments was that smoking was allowed in the sports bar area (the only place inside where smoking is allowed). We spent alot of time in the 10th floor Crow's next/cafe area, they have a nice library. The final show with the Broadway tunes was very entertaining, the only show we attended. Our cabin stewards were very good and professional All in all I had high expectations for the cruise and I will say I was very disappointed with the HAL dining experience and since we were on the ship for about 5 days with no other options on eating this cruise left us with a "sour" taste in our mouths. I don't believe we will give HAL another chance.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
This was our second HAL cruise. It may be our last. We had taken this cruise five years ago on the Norwegian Pearl, but this time we wanted to try HAL as a previous repositioning cruise with HAL was very nice. We thought the food and ... Read More
This was our second HAL cruise. It may be our last. We had taken this cruise five years ago on the Norwegian Pearl, but this time we wanted to try HAL as a previous repositioning cruise with HAL was very nice. We thought the food and service might be better than on the Pearl. We were right about that. It was what we didn't know that would have caused us to choose the Pearl again. DEPARTURE HOTEL We always fly in a day before the cruise and out the day after a cruise primarily because my wife does not have a lot of stamina as a result of a medical condition. This time we chose the Mayflower Park Hotel in downtown Seattle and loved it. We took the train from the airport to the hotel, which has the advantage of being both very inexpensive and ending in the mall next door to the hotel. Fortunately the ride was on a Saturday afternoon and the train was not crowded - there is really no place to store Pepto and Bismal, our very large, very "findable" hot pink suitcases. (This was their first trip with us and they provided many a laugh while never being hard to spot in the sea of suitcases!) The hotel is about 5 blocks from Pike's Place Market. Being Mother's Day weekend the market was more awash in flowers than usual. We love street vendors, and we found a wonderful leather bag to replace one we'd bought 18 years ago in St. Thomas. EMBARKATION The Mayflower's van vendor is wonderful, and they delivered us to the ship at about 11:15 a.m. We were in our room by 11:45, and eating lunch by 12:15. STATEROOM We stayed in 6175, which is a handicapped aft suite. It was a wonderful room, with more room than the three of us needed. I have never seen so much storage! It was nicely appointed with excellent craftsmanship (I'm a woodworker, so I notice such things). The bed was excellent. The window was quite big with a wonderful desk in front of it and sash big enough to sit in. The balcony was very large with a table, 5 chairs and a chaise lounge. Previous reviews I'd read had warned that there is virtually no overhang over the balconies on deck 6 aft and that proved to be a handicap on the few times it rained during the cruise. I would have loved to have had the corner suite next door so I could have seen "around the corner" on the wrap-around balcony, but the very nice folk that stayed in it had booked before I. We had never sailed in an aft cabin. Though I don't care to not being able to see where we were headed, the advantage of very little wind as the ship moved through chilly air was nice indeed. The biggest disadvantage, at least on the Oosterdam, was at Tracy Arm. The captain got us there just fine, but once there he kept the ship pointed forward for a short time, then turned it around and promptly left. We only had moments to see the glacier and the harbor seals on the ice. Had I known that's what he was going to do I would have fought the crowds and gone forward for a while. Our room stewards Joe and Tree were just exceptional, astoundingly wonderful, beyond words, etc. DINING The food in the main dining room was excellent - almost every dish was as good as one could get anywhere. The service was mostly good except at lunch a couple of times. The Pinnacle was mediocre, crowded, with inadequate seating, and it always closed before the posted closing time. We always had our "first breakfast" via room service ordered for 6 a.m., and it always arrived at 5:30 a.m. It was quite tasteless. We were thankful for the order forms we filled out the night before and hung on the door, as room service did not answer the phone one single time on our cruise. As a result, we consider HAL's claim that food is available 24 hours a day just so much hot air. If you are hungry after about 8:30 at night, your menu choices are pizza and ice cream, at least until about 11. After that, forget it. We learned quickly to buy food in port, or get extra yogurt at breakfast for those late night snacks. What became amusing, but nice, was that later in the cruise coffee that we didn't order started showing up about an hour after breakfast was delivered. ACTIVITIES AND SHIP SHOPPING The "activities" were a source of derision, especially to our 20 year old daughter. It reminded me of the days I have visited folks in adult daycares. But, I don't go on cruises for ship activities, so that might explain why I thought they were so funny. My girls are professional shoppers and it didn't take them long to explore, then dismiss shopping on board - they forgot swimsuits and were out of luck as there were none. For me - no bandaids or (few) toiletries or socks or underwear? Wow. I've gotten on ships before with little or no extra clothing - on purpose - to just buy it there without having to bring a big bag, and it's a good thing I did not try that on Oosterdam! ENTERTAINMENT The one show we went to was ok; the female lead singer was very good, and some of the dancers were excellent. The routines were a mixed bag from mediocre to quite good. The comedian, Julie Barr, was quite funny. PORTS We love any port in Alaska and either shop or just walk around town visiting with locals. When shopping we avoid the cruise line's in-pocket shops and seek out locally owned places. Sitka is wonderful, as there are only about 3 places affiliated with the cruise lines. We found an amazing piece of whale bone art at Sitka Rose Gallery, and I could have maxed out a credit card or two there. (The piece beat us home to Oklahoma too!) The walk to, and around the national park in Sitka is stunning and not to be missed. I loved Sitka so much that I am going back in August for a week just to fish and hang out. There was a native art place in Ketchikan back from the harbor near the Creek Street shops that had an amazing piece of marble bear and seal (I can't remember the name of the shop), but ma wouldn't let me spend $4,000 on a rock! Darn. I'm still thinking about tracking the place down and calling them to get it. The State Museum at Juneau is small, but fun. One of the displays was a spoof and I felt rather silly after saying "Oh, give me a break" several times, then seeing the explanation outside the room only upon leaving it. We love shopping in Victoria, but unfortunately our favorite shop closed down/changed its inventory "because the younger generation does not care for fine woolens" drats. However, as I've detailed below (and noted that cruise reviews for the week before ours say the same thing), don't count on anything happening in Victoria as there is not time there- a pox on HAL! If you do get a little time in Victoria the taxis are half the cost of ship-provided transportation, and there was absolutely no waiting for one either to get to town or back to the ship. THE "YUCKIES" This ship had some mechanical issues. The toilet seemed to have a mind of its own re: flushing. Some of the time flushing occurred successfully upon pushing the button. Other times it might flush five minutes after pushing the button. Many other times it would flush an hour later. And at least 6 times it would not flush at all and we had to call maintenance. On one visit the tech actually admitted that they were having system problems all over the ship and whole sections would become inoperable because of "air locks". I asked a few of our neighbors if they were having problems, and all said "Oh, yes." I found it odd that most of the propulsion came out of the port side propeller. I even asked the captain himself about it and he gave me some nonsensical mumbo jumbo; I didn't care until it became obvious that the ship was running slow everywhere it went. We sat for four hours outside the Sitka harbor while they repaired "a problem with the anchor." Apparently it wouldn't come aboard. They only managed to make up 2.5 of the hours, so we were late getting into Ketchikan and lost that hour and a half in that port. As other Oosterdam cruisers have reported, we left Ketchikan half an hour ahead of the Norwegian Pearl, but the Pearl passed us late afternoon. We got into Victoria an hour and a half late and saw the Pearl already docked and unloaded on time. We ran into a local who claimed his brother was a harbor pilot, who explained that Oosterdam had a history of running late; that the pilots thought it was because the captain wanted to collect his fuel savings bonus, and that none of the cruise lines wanted to stop in Victoria anyway but were required by law to do so. Who knows if this is true or hogwash, but at any rate, the whole is not a positive. The end result, whether because of ship issues or captain's motives, we lost a lot of time in port. So, if I ever go HAL again, I will assume that the itinerary is probably baloney. DISEMBARKATION Walked right off at 9 a.m., found our suitcases immediately, and were outside in the van back to the Mayflower by 9:30. SUMMARY The food was worthy, the cabin extremely nice, and most of the service was outstanding. However, if we do a third Alaska cruise, we will go on the Pearl again, or try some other line. Toilets are things one only notices when they don't work, and dishonored itineraries left me feeling less than comfortable about trying this one again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Ok so this was my first cruise in recent history. I was looking forward to visiting Alaska but my experience on the Oosterdam really left a lot to be desired. First of all the food. I ate in the buffett mostly but the two times I ate in ... Read More
Ok so this was my first cruise in recent history. I was looking forward to visiting Alaska but my experience on the Oosterdam really left a lot to be desired. First of all the food. I ate in the buffett mostly but the two times I ate in the restaraunt, the food was basically all the same as the buffett. By day three I was bored with the menu. Each day it was salmon, chicken pork and very rare beef. The salad bar one day had two types of lettuce. On day one there was sliced cucumbers. On day two there were tomatoes. On day three there was celery. The sauce changed daily but the basic items were always the same. Eating in the restaraunt wasn't a whole lot better as both nites the steak came totally rare when asking for it medium. Got to the point that I ordered it well done in hopes it might not be too bloody for me. I just found that the dining was a big downfall. Even though I know HAL has tried very hard to change the image from their older more sedate clientele I felt this cruise represented a way older crowd than I anticipated. The late shows were sparsely attended. I realize it was the first cruise of the season and that presented some issues. First the day to Tracy Arm we didn't go very far and never saw the glacier that was supposed to 'like Glacier Bay'. Ports of call in Sitka, Juneau and Ketchikan were all good however Ketchikan was only from 8 am till 12:30 and last port in Victoria we didn't arrive till 8 pm or so. The emphasis on shopping and visiting jewlery stores was a real turn off. Instead of handing us a port map and showing where the attractions are their 'shopping ambassador' met you and gave you a map of the jewlery stores. That I felt was a total turnoff. I did enjoy the staff but I think I'd like to experience a new ship with more dining choices. I know some people just love cruises but I met several on this cruise that were less than impressed. I know it wasn't the norm but this was a dissapointment for me. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Before I officially begin my review, I should let everyone know that my family has cruised once before on Costa to the Caribbean before and I did write a review here. So this cruise experience and review has that as a standard insofar as ... Read More
Before I officially begin my review, I should let everyone know that my family has cruised once before on Costa to the Caribbean before and I did write a review here. So this cruise experience and review has that as a standard insofar as the actual ship, food and service are concerned and not the ports or experience off ship. My family decided to take a cruise to Alaska for two reasons: our son is at an age where he is very much into wildlife and we share that passion and can now enjoy it as a family and also to get away from the Houston heat before summer gets in full gear. The only thing we knew we really wanted to do on this cruise was see some whales and other wildlife - we were NOT disappointed at all. We booked this cruise before school was out so we did not expect a lot of children to be on the cruise - we were more focused on staying together. We stopped in Juneau, Stika, Ketchikan, and Victoria. TRAVEL/BOARDING We decided to fly in the night before and stay in town to be fresh for boarding. We were lucky that we did, our flight was delayed and we didn't get into Seattle till 2AM and the hotel at 3AM. I had booked all transfers with Shuttle Express and it was so much less expensive than a transfer through HAL. The drivers friendly and helpful and very convenient. Getting off the ship was as easy as getting on. Painless. CABIN We booked a category VD located towards the front on the port side. We wanted to have a veranda so that we could really get our own view outside and take pictures whenever we wanted without going to the public spaces. It was really cold for us - remember we're from the south! Our room had a queen size bed and a pull out bed for our son aged 10. When that was out there was no room at all to walk or stretch. It was comfortable enough for 3 people and 7 days was the maximum for us to be in such tight quarters. We had 5 pieces of luggage and there was plenty of under the bed space and closet space for all of our things. We brought enough formal clothes for 3 nights and with coats and sweaters and boots etc, we still had room once unpacked. The bathroom had a tub - which wasn't used but gave us more room while showering which was a plus. There was also plenty of storage for toiletries. Why are there no fans in bathrooms? No one goes on a cruise to sit in the cabin, however, with a kid there's going to be some TV time. For those who have children, or simply enjoy a movie at the end of the day this is for you. There is Cartoon Network and TBS/TNT and a movie channel. There is also a DVD player if you want to bring any of your own or borrow from the library in the Crow's Nest. The sheets were clean and extra blankets were in the cabin. The mattress is also comfortable. On our past cruise it was horribly thin - not so here, even the pull out mattress was comfortable. What is nice is that you can control the temperature in your own room so it is always comfortable. A word about housekeeping - while friendly and in the room a few times during the day.... they didn't change sheets and I noticed that towels were sometimes just refolded. This was a huge negative for me. Ultimately, it was why we removed gratuities from our account. FOOD We ate in the Pinnacle Grill the 2nd night for Mothers Day. It was very easy to get reservations the first evening on board it was pretty empty. The restaurant was touted as one of the best on the seas, and land for steaks. Being from Houston and loving steak, I was incredibly disappointed. My husband wasn't too impressed and neither was my son, and I didn't even bother after the second bite. The staff noticed and even when told we were unhappy - we were still charged. It is very sad when this happens and it tainted the entire way we viewed food here. Perhaps it is because we were fairly young and used to a high standard of food in terms of taste and service - we did not enjoy the food. It was bland, lacking in seasoning and slow in service. I suppose that is probably necessary since the crowd was so diverse. I officially critiques this at the end of the cruise. This was the case both in the dining room and the Lido deck buffet. The one saving grace was the ice cream. My son gave the ice cream staff 2 dollars of his own money he loved it that much! KIDS CLUB AKA HALS CLUB When we arrived on board we went to check this out - and the facility was dated but clean. There were a total of 13 kids on the ship that sailing according to the counselors. They were very focused on the younger kids and had nothing for my son. So we didn't go back but did ask for programs to be sent to the cabin. We never received any. SHIPBOARD ACTIVITIES/AMENITIES The ship is an older one - and it shows. For Alaska it was intimate and navigated the waters well. I would never take this ship to warmer waters - I was very unimpressed with the activities list. It was clearly meant for an older crowd of people. We were bored without the scenery and the excursions. The pool was nice, it is covered and the water was warm and a nice swim. The hydrotherapy pool was extra - 150 per person for access to it. The spa services were overpriced and underwhelming. The shops were minimal and it was all overpriced. The photo services had pictures taken of formal nights and such. Packages were reasonable for those - but still expensive. They did have a Black Label Photography which is basically Black and White pictures with a real photographer - very professional and no sitting fee - but very very expensive - plan on spending a good 500 - 1000 on that alone. You can get beverage cards that give you a 5% discount. Hardly worth it in my opinion. OVERALL The ship is for older retired couples as a whole - they really do not cater to a more lively crowd. I didn't expect otherwise - we chose this cruise for the ports and we did get a great price for the cabin. It was worth it because of the experience off the ship and we will be back to Alaska in a few years but will go with another line. I removed the gratuities from our account because the food was sub par, the housekeeping was sub par, the service in the dining room and the buffet was slow and sub par. The price we paid to HAL was fair - a penny more and I would have felt ripped off. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
I with my wife and friends traveled to Seattle to cruise on the Holland America Line Oosterdam, as first time cruisers I was really looking to get going on our voyage to Alaska. The ship looked very impressive and after finally getting on ... Read More
I with my wife and friends traveled to Seattle to cruise on the Holland America Line Oosterdam, as first time cruisers I was really looking to get going on our voyage to Alaska. The ship looked very impressive and after finally getting on board we checked out our cabin; I expected it to be really cramped but I was surprised how nice it was, my wife was not so impressed. We were next door to our friends so me met on our adjoining buy separated verandas. The problems presented themselves after realising that there was so real service in the dining room it was a buffet style lunch but after getting our food which was excellent we had to get on another line to get our drinks, 8 ounce glasses of juice or ice tea,leaving or food cold and unprotected.This continued for every meal at the casual dining room. The main dining room was excellent but the the formal meals were with the king crab, lobster and fillet mignon were when we were at open seas, the shipped tossed around that pretty good so if you were prone to sea sickness your substitute meal was green apples and tea if the ship served the fancier meals when they were in more protected waters it would have been much calm seas to sail in and more passengers would have enjoyed the king crab, lobster, and fillet mignon, maybe I just answered my own question. I would also explain that every morning I, we, awoken by crew members dragging and then slamming the deck furniture together at 5;30am every morning the front desk said that they would investigate and correct this problem, the told me that everyday, very polite but very unprofessional They gave us $100 for ruining our sleep every morning. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
My wife and I went on an Alaskan Cruise recently and loved much of the experience, but my wife is gluten-free, because she has Celiac Disease! Boy did she have a terrible problem!! FOOD..BEWARE, BE VERY AWARE, IF YOU ARE GLUTEN FREE ... Read More
My wife and I went on an Alaskan Cruise recently and loved much of the experience, but my wife is gluten-free, because she has Celiac Disease! Boy did she have a terrible problem!! FOOD..BEWARE, BE VERY AWARE, IF YOU ARE GLUTEN FREE BECAUSE THEY DO NOT HAVE A CLUE WHAT THIS MEANS!! On Day 1 my wife asked a greeter in the Lido Buffet Area about what items them have for lunch for someone with Celiac Disease. He looked at her like he was going to catch a terrible disease and actually backed away from her!!! He then told her, "how am I to know what you can and cannot eat?"!! She was discouraged, but walked away so I followed. She stopped at the Italian area to ask if they had any gluten free items. She was told they had pizza and pasta, but she had to wait 30 minutes, which she did. When 30 minutes had passed, she went over to pick up her Pizza. She was told she had to get in line, again. Once it became her turn, she asked for her gluten free Pizza and before the server handed her the pizza, he cut it with the pizza cutter he had just used on a regular pizza which does contain gluten. She then told me she could not eat that, for which he replied, why, it is gluten free pizza. She told him that now it was contaminated because he cut her pizza with the knife he had just used on the regular pizza. He got a little upset with her, and shrugged his shoulders and then threw her pizza in the trash, and asked VERY rudely if she needed another. She just walked away! We were very discouraged! At dinner that same evening, we went to our table that was assigned to us, looking forward to dinner because she had found very little (tomato's and lettuce) for lunch. We sat down and asked what items could she choose from or what items on the menu were for her. The server looked at her like she was speaking Russian and he was from Indonesia! She then told him she had filled out the paperwork two months ago because she had Celiac Disease. He then looked very confused and said he could not guarantee they had anything for her, and he knew nothing about me having any disease!! We told him it meant she was gluten free, and that we needed to speak with his supervisor. To make a very long story not any longer, she was given salad dressing that was not gluten free and fish for dinner with a sauce that was definitely NOT gluten free! She was very ill for the first 2 days of our cruise!! We could not get too far from a restroom, and she was in terrible pain all night and most of the second day!!! We could tell you many other stories, but why? I am sure you get the drift of the problems we ran into!! We had to make a decision as to how to get food that she could eat, and not ruin our cruise. So, we went to the Pinnacle Grill and found the Chef (Andrew). We explained to him our problem, and from then on we ate in the Pinnacle Grill or ordered a shrimp cocktail from room service. Andrew did a great job, and gave my wife many wonderful gluten free meals!! The only problem was you have to pay extra for the Pinnacle. So we did have a vacation that cost us much more because we ate lunch in the Pinnacle ($20) or dinner in the Pinnacle ($50), or if we were in Port we found food she could eat. Our first day in Juneau, we went to a grocery store (had to pay $44 for a taxi) to stock up on gluten free foods for our room, so we did not have to pay every meal for food we had been promised was part of our cruise price, but was not supplied!! CABIN and ENTERTAINMENT: We just loved our room, a SA suite, and found the entertainment to be top quality!! We think the Entertainment was the best we had seen in 10 years on a cruise ship!! EMBARKATION AND DEBARKATION: They were both great and we were on and off very quickly. Signs need to be posted for Suite Cabins for priority boarding, which we not found in Seattle, and would have been a good thing!! SERVICE: WE FOUND THE SERVICE TO BE JUST A GRADE OF A, C- to D+, except for our Cabin Attendants! They were great, and did everything and anything we needed!! We give them an A plus!! I feel The Westerdam is beautiful and very nice looking, but the service and the food problems are big enough to keep us going on Celebrity because they know was gluten free means, and my wife has a right to food that she can eat on a cruise ship! The attitude of many employees was bland, and they seemed to need education about Celiac/gluten free. When the head Chef in the dining room came to our table, he just blamed a lack of knowledge, but it was NOT his fault, because he had tried to tell them, but they just have a hard time learning and understanding this, because of the language sometimes. I refuse to accept his explanation!!! They were excuses for his inability to do his job!! My wife was very ill for 2 days because he did not think it was important enough to fix!!! AGAIN I SAY, IF YOU OR A FAMILY MEMBER HAS CELIAC DISEASE, THINK TWICE ABOUT THE WESTERDAM, even though it is a beautiful ship with great entertainment!! We did not get to go to the Hubbard Glacier, but the captain did take us to Tracy Arm which was wonderful and very appreciated!! Dave, Oregon Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
Just back from an Alaska cruise ( our third), this time on the Oosterdam. We were so disappointed by the ship! The ship is old, worn and in need of immediate refurbishing, both in the public areas as well as the cabins. In our deluxe ... Read More
Just back from an Alaska cruise ( our third), this time on the Oosterdam. We were so disappointed by the ship! The ship is old, worn and in need of immediate refurbishing, both in the public areas as well as the cabins. In our deluxe veranda suite, the leather chairs and sofa were worn down to the nubs... the yellow chair arms were brown! The towels, even in this very high category of cabins, were threadbare. The pool deck is chipped, the plastic "wicker" on the pool chaises are fraying... on and on. The food in the dining room is less than mediocre, the Indonesian wait staff, while very sweet and charming, have little grasp of English and the wrong food order is more common than not. The Lido is totally impossible... no flow of people and unless you don't mind waiting on long lines for a long time, and then trying to find a table is exasperating. On a positive note, the extras accorded to suite passengers ( which is why we booked this ship) are plentiful. We enjoyed dinner in the Pinnacle, with excellent service and excellent food, especially the steaks. Breakfast was also served to suite passengers in the Pinnacle, a lovely perk. The Maitre D and waiters were sure our favorite table was always available. The Le Cirques dinner ($40) was truly outstanding and worth the money. After sampling a few very mediocre lunches in the dining room, we choose to eat in either the Pinnacle or the italian specialty restaurant nightly. The food and service in the Pinnacle was outstanding and well worth the extra $20. The services of the private concierge in the Neptune Lounge were also excellent. Unless you're booking this level of cabin ----- book on another ship!!!! We've traveled on 2 of HAL's larger and newer ships and had nothing but good things to say about them. This ship is tired, old, needs a re-vamp in decor as well as food. Doesn't even come close to the Celebrity cruise we took in the spring. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Just returned from a 7 day Alaska Explorer cruise on the Oosterdam. Following is a short recap of the trip. Spent first night in Seattle at Fairmont. Transfer to hotel was easy and quick. Afternoon at Pike's Place Market and ... Read More
Just returned from a 7 day Alaska Explorer cruise on the Oosterdam. Following is a short recap of the trip. Spent first night in Seattle at Fairmont. Transfer to hotel was easy and quick. Afternoon at Pike's Place Market and then a ballgame at Safeco Field made for a great start. Breakfast the next morning in the main dining room at the Fairmont was elegant/good, but expensive. However we did not feel cheated at all, well worth the cost. Transfer from hotel to pier 99 (north of downtown) was easy after checking in with Holland desk in Fairmont lobby. Getting into the pier building was one of the low points. Confused chaos was the order of the day. Holland folks telling you different things. Finally one lady just took us in on her own into the check in building. Once inside we were able to go to the deluxe verandah suite line and got quickly through the line and on to the ship. Ship is nice, but a bit worn. Dry dock is coming up in October for the Oosterdam. We were on the Rotterdam deck just down the hall from the Neptune lounge. Room was very nice and roomy. Plenty of closet space and drawer space for three. Our son said the sofa bed was the best he had ever slept on. Neptune lounge is an excellent feature. Snacks were always fresh and the staff was the best. Room stewards were amazing. Things were just as you wanted. I opted to tip the stewards 20.00 each day during the trip. They seemed to appreciate that. We had open seating for dinner, but asked the Neptune lounge personnel to book us each evening at 7:45. This worked out great. Food was better than Carnival and about the same as Celebrity and Princess. The formal nights had the best food. Service in the dining room was lacking. Two nights my dinner order was incorrect and they tried to get me to take the incorrect entrEe. Breakfast in the main dining room was excellent. We stayed away from the Lido deck. We could never find a place to sit and it was very frustrating. Pinnacle Grill one evening was very good. Steak was excellent. Well worth the cost. One nice tip for breakfast in room. Write what you want on the slip you hang out and you will get it. We wrote the Dutch breakfast on the slip and received them. We saw all the shows. The illusionist was very good. Vista lounge was full when he was performing. The comedian was also good. The 'Broadway' shows were lacking. Vista lounge was only half full for them. Holland needs to get the message! Casino staff was helpful and gave good advice. Lots to do on the ship during the day. Trivia in the Crow's Nest was fun. A Tarot deck of cards has 75 cards. Who knew! Stops were at Glacier Bay, Juneau, Sitka, Kethickan, and Victoria. Went to salmon hatchery, Mendenhall Glacier, and Salmon Bake in Juneau. Very good excursion. Did not do anything in Sitka. Heard lots of folks say the otter/whale watching was good. Went fishing in Ketchikan and had great success. Victoria was great. Went to Butchart Gardens on Sat night and saw fireworks. Stops were all good. Glacier Bay was OK, but wish we would have cut that down and had more time in Victoria. Disembarkation was very easy. Opted for luggage direct for 19 per person. Well worth the cost. Put luggage tags on bags and did not see them until we reached home. Overall good cruise, but some of the bad things overpowered the good. Three stars. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
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