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139 Holland America Seattle Cruise Reviews

I just finished a cruise with Holland from 6-14 to 6-21 of this year sailing to Alaska. I'm 23 years old, a college senior, that enjoys traveling with my family as much as possible. This was my fifth cruise but my first on Holland. ... Read More
I just finished a cruise with Holland from 6-14 to 6-21 of this year sailing to Alaska. I'm 23 years old, a college senior, that enjoys traveling with my family as much as possible. This was my fifth cruise but my first on Holland. Our travel agent told us that Holland was the best way to go for cruising Alaska because the smaller ships supposedly provided more attentive service. Well after this vacation, I will never waste money on another Holland Cruise Line. I've been reading some of the other positive reviews and I'm wondering if these people have been on some of the other lines because if Oosterdam is an accurate representation of HAL overall then they fall far short of what other cruise lines offer. The most notable disappointment was the food. If you're expecting great, flavorful, hot food then you're in for a rude awakening because that's something Holland DEFINITELY lacked. The food was incredibly bland, both in the vista dining room and the lido restaurant. It was NEVER hot and the steaks and fish were often dry. Even the surf&turf dinner was bad...they have a problem comprehending what "well-done" means and every time I ordered steak I had to send it back because it was pretty much bleeding. The lobster tail must be from baby lobsters because they are so tiny. The food is just bad. I was so glad to get off the boat so that I could eat and actually be satisfied. The reservation system is ridiculous...totally inefficient. Even if you make one, you still have to wait and we always sat by a busing station. It was awful. The staff overall was not very friendly. They acted like they were hoping you didn't ask them anything so that they wouldn't have to bother themselves with an answer. The dining room staff never offered a wine list, we always had to ask. If you asked for tea from the bread guy, instead of telling the waiter we wanted tea, he'd tell us to ask him ourselves. The other staff around the boat weren't helpful or patient...I always felt like I was imposing anytime I had a request or a question...little things like this are important to a person spending a pretty penny to have a relaxing vacation. Then at the end of the cruise they have the nerve to drive home the point of tipping the crew with a tv lecture on how much the crew depends on the tips. What gall! What ever happened to people EARNING tips? Not all was bad though, Alaska is INCREDIBLY beautiful! The shore excursions they offered were great and really good value for the money. The suite rooms were nice and comfortable and the balcony was a nice size. My sister is 15 and she really enjoyed the teen activities. Unfortunately, the activities offered for people between the ages of 17 and 60 were pretty much non-existent. The ones they did have were boring and definitely required dodging more than a few canes and handicap scooters. My point is, if you're not at retirement age or in your teens, bring some cards or some good books because the ship itself is boring and the activities are a joke. Although there were a few good things about this HAL experience like the smooth check-in, spacious rooms, great stateroom attendant (yay for Ishmail!), and wonderful excursions, the bad put a serious damper on all that. Since most of our time was spent onboard, I was so disappointed and realized that Royal Caribbean (the line I usually sail) is so much better than Holland in so many ways so I will never waste my time with Holland again and will probably recommend to others that they avoid this line as well. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
After great experiences on Zuiderdam, Oosterdam and Noordam, we were expecting an equally satisfying experience on the Westerdam. Overall, we were disappointed in the two areas where we have felt HAL shines in the mass market cruising ... Read More
After great experiences on Zuiderdam, Oosterdam and Noordam, we were expecting an equally satisfying experience on the Westerdam. Overall, we were disappointed in the two areas where we have felt HAL shines in the mass market cruising world: service and dining room food. The good: Our suite was very nice, as always. Great bedding, large bathroom, nice dressing area and a wonderful corner balcony. The ship looks great after her refresh. We loved the new Explorations Cafe and the expanded library, a rarity on modern ships. It was well used most days and very crowded during peak viewing times. The Pinnacle Grille was delightful for breakfast and dinner and we ended up there five of seven nights. The laundry service was particularly good on the Westerdam. The Captain did an excellent job in Glacier Bay and it was a day to remember. The Neptune was wonderful and the concierges good, not great as we have had in the past. I bought a pass for the thermal suite and enjoyed it, though rarely got to use the heated loungers as they were often full. Needs Improvement HAL needs to work on the open dining service and food. It was rushed and food quality nowhere near previous HAL cruises. On the few days lunch was served in the dining room, the lines were long. HAL should plan this better as they surely know when to expect the crowds. Our room steward was overloaded with cabins and often ours did not get made up until mid afternoon, a first on a HAL cruise. He was apologetic on every occasion and it was obvious he was working hard but simply had too many cabins. This was not isolated to our cabin or deck and others traveling with us had the same experience. Ship's clocks would show different times which made it hard to adjust to actual port times. I showed up at 7am one day for a meeting and it was really only 6am and this was based on the clock in my statement which Guest Relations assured me was always accurate. There was a smell of urine present in our bathroom much of the time. I do not believe it was a cleanliness issue, rather a plumbing one. The string quartet played the same set of music for 40 minutes every night. It would have been nice to have some variety in the music offered. IMO, HAL is really lacking on the live music offerings. There were two kids with wheelies coursing through public areas. Since their parents were obviously oblivious to the safety hazard as well as the annoyance they caused, IMO staff members should have stepped in. We encountered them whizzing by several times. There were several large and very loud families on board. Kids were climbing on chairs in the Queens Lounge during a Culinary presentation and using the tables and chairs in the crowded Lido as a personal playground. It appears to be an increasing problem on cruise ships these days but this is the worst I have seen on HAL. We did not attend any shows, use the casino, participate in any group activities so I have no comments on those. Conclusions: The attention to detail that we enjoyed on other HAL cruises was not there on the Westerdam. This comes from the top down and reflects in every area. We have no plans to be back on the Westerdam. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
I've been on 13 previous cruises on Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Princess since 1995. The city of Seattle is a vibrant city with a soul and you should absolutely spend some time exploring this wonderful city. I had one day before and ... Read More
I've been on 13 previous cruises on Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Princess since 1995. The city of Seattle is a vibrant city with a soul and you should absolutely spend some time exploring this wonderful city. I had one day before and 3 days after and I want to come back to this city that never sleeps and where music flows from the bars in Capitol Hill. It was safe to walk back to my hotel and we had fantastic weather in both Seattle and Alaska. I loved this medium-sized ship and the artwork aboard, however several matters greatly affected our cruise. This was an all charter cruise with RSVP and I was part of the Lazy Bear Out To Sea group. First I traveled with a vegetarian, and he called Holland America on August 10 and told them he was a vegetarian, and gave them our stateroom number 2638. He was assured that there would be adequate vegetarian options available onboard. In actuality, there were very few vegetarian meals on board and he went hungry several times. On the second to the last night, we found out there was vegetarian menu we should have asked for. How can we know to ask for it if we were not aware of its existence! The front desk made it sound like it was our fault too. When he went to the Terrace Grill to ask for a garden burger, he was told they didn't have them and to have a hamburger without cheese. After pointing out the item on the Grill Menu they said they didn't have them but I think they may have been confused. He found a manager who made the garden burger for him while the other employees watched and ignored all passengers waiting for burgers. We ate at the 2nd seating on the upper level of the La Fontaine Dining room and I have to say I was not impressed. Never were bread crumbs wiped away during dinner and the rushed staff seemed miffed if we asked for more than one appetizer or soup. The fish was overcooked and most food was bland and we never once got cracked pepper on our food or the extra bread and butter we asked for several times. Later in the cruise, we ate at early seating on the lower level with friends of ours and the service was 180 degrees different from the service upstairs. Bread crumbs were wiped away and pepper was offered. Extra requests were accommodated with a smile. We couldn't believe it was the same dining room and never returned upstairs. Our cruise documents arrived in a manila envelope. Now I had heard about the beautiful leather document holder that was now vinyl but there was neither. Even Carnival cruise line puts them in an embossed heavy cardboard folder. Now I know that this was an RSVP charter and they may have had their own folios but we still received no folders and my cruise documents kept falling to the floor repeatedly. About midway through the cruise, we ran out of bar soap and had to ask for more. There was never a spare bar placed in our bathroom in case we needed it. Finally, On Sunday, September 9th at about 9:30 pm, our stateroom door failed, I went to the front office and was given another card key which did not work. A HAL employee was down the hallway and tried his card and it did not work. The employee called someone and we waited and waited so he called again and after about 20 minutes total an employee with a key arrived. He asked if it could be fixed at 8:00 am in the morning as it seemed the battery might be dead and I reluctantly agreed. I should have insisted that it be fixed immediately as I needed to meet someone at 10:30 and I left the room again. While trying to get into my room again I went to the front desk and told them my key or any employee's electronic room key did not work, could they please let me into my room. After another 20 minute wait I finally gained access to the room again. I was up at 8:00 am the next morning to allow maintenance in and left my roommate to that task but by 9:00 am no one had arrived. He called down to the front desk and they asked what the problem was. Again we had to explain everything as they seemed to have no clue and our door was finally fixed at 9:30 am, 12 hours after the problem began. Now for some of the good things. I loved this ship. At 62,735 gross tons it is easy to navigate and has a wonderful art display and a podcast to explain them. iPods can be obtained at the library or you download the podcast to your iPod from HAL site. The staterooms are all very well appointed and our window room even had a bathtub and plenty of wall closets. We received two different pillows on each bed but each of us asked for one more and we got it immediately. There are waffle weave robes in the room that can be purchased for $49 with free monogramming but my room steward just placed my order form back up on the hangar with my robe and I didn't realize it was my form until I turned it over the night we were packing. $49 more dollars saved. Room service also was substandard as we never received salt or pepper for meals and when we ordered a bucket of beer, not only did the wrong brand arrive, there was no ice. Ice seemed to be rare commodity on this ship and our ice bucket was only filled once a day. Since there are no refrigerators, we had a separate bucket in our room for our chilled beverages but we had to find ice every day. I am not a novice cruiser and any problems with our stateroom or food were handled immediately day or night on other cruise lines but not Holland America. I would like to say I could recommend Holland America to others but I can not. I can however, gladly recommend every other cruise line I have been on and this is a sad statement coming from a stockholder as well. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
Was expecting a bit more from my first holland cruise. Some of the public areas were in need of painting and repairs. Our cabin had scratches on the wall and the shower head would not stay in place. The food was ok but not great. The ... Read More
Was expecting a bit more from my first holland cruise. Some of the public areas were in need of painting and repairs. Our cabin had scratches on the wall and the shower head would not stay in place. The food was ok but not great. The lobster in particular was not good at all chewy, hard and the servers didn't come back around till it was dessert time. That was the other problem they didn't come around much offering coffee or anything else. the tables were seated VERY close together making it very difficult to get in and out. Thought it was strange that they did so much general housekeeping of the public areas, like vacuuming and cleaning windows and rails between the hours of 9 and 9. Usually you rarely see this being done on other ships. Lack of service in the bar areas was abundant until after 3pm. If you wanted coffee or coke you pretty much had to go to the lido deck, even in the casino area no coffee. plenty of wine and martinis to go around though. Would not recommend the drink cards alcoholic or non alcoholic The entertainment was pretty good though there were times especially between 2 to 6 that there were little to no activities. Especially the days at sea which was very odd. Maybe the last cruise of the season is suppose to be like that. Loved that they had an "on the deck for a cure" breast cancer walk on the ship. great idea. The cabin boy was great very attentive. Even when the room filled with smoke at one point. Apparently something to do with the air conditioning and the smoke stacks not sure but it only lasted about an hour. Had one lido deck attendant that was awesome Honkey Dorey knew everyones name. The lido area was great food but the tables were not cleaned very fast sometimes going 20 min or more before they were cleaned. ports of call were good. Even the change in plans due to high winds turned out for the best. embarkment and disembarkment went very smoothly. photographers were not the best many photos never made it to be sold and some that did had parts of heads cut off. LOVED that they offered more 5 x 7 photos bought more because of it. Nothing major but not perfect all in all still had a great time Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
Overview: We questioned the inconsistent remarks on Cruise Critic before the cruise. Unfortunately we must confirm inconsistency of food and service. Not what we expect from a premium cruise line. This review covers only the ship, not the ... Read More
Overview: We questioned the inconsistent remarks on Cruise Critic before the cruise. Unfortunately we must confirm inconsistency of food and service. Not what we expect from a premium cruise line. This review covers only the ship, not the great excursions and fantastic scenery, nor the rainy weather in Sitka. We are a 60 year old couple with eleven previous cruises; first time on HAL and our second cruise to Alaska. Our Noordam experience, departing Seattle on Sept 2, was not as enjoyable as Celebrity, RCI nor Princess. Cabin/Hotel: We booked a balcony cabin, but later upgraded to a SY suite in response to HAL special offers. The upgrade included a night at Seattle's Fairmont Olympic and bus service. We were very pleased with the hotel, bus transportation and coordinating with HAL reps at the hotel. Well Done! The Noordam cabin was spacious with a large balcony, which we used frequently. We particularly liked the large bathroom with two sinks, separate shower and jacuzzi tub. The bedding and choice of pillows was a nice touch. The room steward, Romahn, was great. Ship: The Noordam is a new ship and maintenance and cleaning was on-going. The staff was generally very friendly. We thought the decor and art work was generally very nice, but the cabin doors look like cheap plywood and detract from the overall appearance. The public rooms were well kept, but the Lido and Showroom were usually overcrowded. The shopping area was well stocked and overpriced. Photographers were always present, but not overly assertive. Photo prices were much higher than other ships. Entertainment: We missed some of the shows due to poor food service, but the magician was excellent, the comedian was okay, but ruined the karaoke experience as a judge by trying to steal the limelight; plus she was often gross for a family oriented show. The string quartet was wonderful and played several venues throughout the ship. The HAL Kats band was versatile and generally provided good music. When the ship cruised Glacier Bay, the forward starboard door on deck four was opened so we could take photos on the bow. A nice touch. The sliding roof over the pool area was also nice during cold and rainy weather, but the roof mechanism significantly reduces the view and photo ops from the deck above.  Dining Experience: The Lido buffet provided a broad selection of good food. It was usually very crowded at meal times and we sometimes asked to join a couple sitting alone at a large table. The Dining Room food was unremarkable and the service ranged from poor to excellent. Ice cream was the only good dessert. No reservations are allowed between 5:30 and 7:45. Gratuities are predetermined based on the $10/day, so there is no incentive for wait staff to do a good job. One evening the DR Captain's explanation for poor service was everyone wants to eat at the same time. My complaint to the Hotel Mgr received no response. Room service was generally on time, but twice the order was incomplete. One afternoon we called for tray removal as we left the ship. Three hours later the tray was still in the hallway. I was on hold for 18 minutes trying to get someone to pick up the tray; frustrated, I finally hung up. My written complaint to the Hotel Mgr was also unanswered. Conclusion: The Noordam is a beautiful ship, but the dining service significantly detracts from the total experience. I doubt we will cruise with HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
This is not the Holland America of old, and that is not a good thing. We sailed on the old Noordam in 1999 to Alaska and 2000 to Europe. At that time, I felt that Holland America was a step above the other mainstream cruiselines. Their ... Read More
This is not the Holland America of old, and that is not a good thing. We sailed on the old Noordam in 1999 to Alaska and 2000 to Europe. At that time, I felt that Holland America was a step above the other mainstream cruiselines. Their food and service were superlative. That doesn't hold true anymore on the new Noordam. The food was such a disappointment. The flavors were bland, the selection was limited and not a single entree had the "wow" factor I had come to expect from Holland America. My children have multiple food allergies and I wrote a letter 2 months in advance to see how they could handle those allergies, expecting at least some accommodation. I finally received a call the day before the cruise telling me there was absolutely nothing they could do. When I got on board, I asked to speak to the dining room manager and was refused. I just needed to ask some simple questions about the oils they used and the use of preservative sprays and I could never get an answer. I will certainly try another cruise line the next time to see if they can better accommodate my kids' needs. The kids' club was adequate but they didn't have the security or contact features that we have come to appreciate from Disney and Carnival. The staff at the club was nice enough, but they didn't have the kids wear name tags, and I wondered how they kept track of names, and again, of my kids' food allergies. Also, we booked a separate, adjoining cabin for our kids, and it would be nice if they had kid sized bathrobes. The pool is another area of complaint. Part of the reason we booked this cruise was because it had a covered pool area. However, they kept opening the roof, even though it was in the 50's and raining. It was never once warm enough to get in the pool comfortably. All in all, a huge disappointment. If you are looking for fine dining, go elsewhere. We certainly will Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Background: My wife and I are both in our early 40s and we traveled with our 16 year old son. My parents (late 70s) were with us as well. We have been on 30 prior cruises on most of the major lines. This was our first trip to Alaska. ... Read More
Background: My wife and I are both in our early 40s and we traveled with our 16 year old son. My parents (late 70s) were with us as well. We have been on 30 prior cruises on most of the major lines. This was our first trip to Alaska. We traveled to Seattle two nights early to spend some time in the area. Seattle is a great city with plenty to do and excellent dining. We enjoyed great weather with temperatures in the low 80s. We stayed in the Homewood Suites-Downtown, which is really outside of the downtown area but still convenient. Since it's a suite hotel, we had plenty of room. The hotel was clean and well maintained. A breakfast buffet was included. I highly recommend both Etta's Seafood and Il Bistro (Italian) for dinners. We took a cab to the pier at about 11:00 am on the day of departure. We breezed through check-in and boarding started at about 11:30. We were eating lunch by 12:00. My parents flew in the night before and used HAL's transfers. They didn't arrive until after 1:00 pm and encountered long lines. They weren't happy. Ship: The Noordam is a very pretty ship with very nice public areas. We thought the theater had a better layout than the smaller HAL ships and the seating was much more comfortable. There is both an indoor and outdoor pool (and it was warm enough to use them several days); however, the indoor pool area was usually crowded with kids and offered very few lounge chairs. Several nights, the crew removed the chairs and began cleaning the floors several hours before the pool was to close. I found this to be very poor customer service. I submitted a complaint card but never received a reply. We had balcony cabins (cat. VF). These are much smaller than the balcony cabins on the smaller HAL ships. It was rather tight for three of us. My parents, who cruise frequently with HAL, noticed the same thing. The balcony was also smaller but had two chairs and a small table. This was very useful for viewing the scenery in Alaska. Dining: The dining on the Noordam was a disappointment. We have always enjoyed the food on HAL but the quality had taken a turn for the worse on this ship. We had "as you wish dining." In my opinion, this is a disaster. We chose this option so we could eat between the traditional early and late seating times and were told that reservations would be available. We weren't told that a reservation cannot be made for times between 5:30 pm and 7:45 pm, which of course is when we wanted to eat. We settled for 7:45 each night and were seated at nice tables by the back window. On many nights, those without reservations were forced to wait or given a beeper (aka Outback Steakhouse). It appeared very disorganized. I will never cruise with HAL in the future if I cannot get traditional dining. The quality of the food in the dining room was very uneven. Many entrees were bland and unseasoned, although some were very good. Desert soufflEs were excellent. Much to my surprise, the surf and turf on the last formal night was the worst meal I've ever had on a ship. The lobster tail was very small and the beef (supposedly tenderloin) was thin, tough, and overcooked. The seafood we had in port was far, far better than that on the ship, despite some special selections for the Alaska itinerary. The service was spotty. On two nights, I was served the wrong entrEe. I think service suffers as a result of the "as you wish" process as opposed to the staff. The waiters were the same friendly staff that we have encountered on other HAL ships. It appears that their numbers have been reduced, increasing their workload. We ate breakfast in the buffet each morning. It had the typical selections, which were fine. Service in the hot line was slow so lines formed. The fresh squeezed OJ, as always, was a highlight but it appears that they are discouraging its consumption as I saw buffet servers handing out a lot of concentrate. You had to bypass the server to get to the good stuff. The ice cream station, which was open most of the time, was also a highlight. Ports: The ports were the highlight of this trip. We started in Glacier Bay and were fortunate to have great weather. The scenery is indescribable. The onboard naturalist and rangers (who boarded in the am) provided interesting commentary. We got to the glaciers around lunch time and were treated to several rounds of "calving." We took the Orca Enterprises whale watching trip in Juneau. It turned out that the Noordam's naturalist also works for Orca as he was on the boat with us. We saw a number of whales and more great scenery. We ate at the Crab Shack behind the library (excellent King Crab, even out of season) and took the shuttle to Mendenhall Glacier in the afternoon. The shuttle was easy and there were no crowds. We took the Sea Otter Tour through HAL in Sitka. It was on a larger boat (about 100 persons). We saw a variety of wildlife and more whales. It was a nice trip but over priced ($150+). We took a city tour and had a salmon lunch in the afternoon. The local salmon is simply amazing. This tour and a shuttle to the restaurant were available at the tender dock. We had tried for the zip line tour in Ketchikan but it was sold out. We settled for a boat trip and a crab lunch (through the ship). It was expensive but the Dungeness crab was great. We were plenty full when we finished. Victoria was a rain out. We took the trip to the gardens. I'm sure they're beautiful, but it was humid, raining, and there were thousands of people (3 ships in). My son was the smart one.....he stayed on the ship. Disembarkation: We arrived in Seattle early and disembarkation started around 8:00 am. We had a noon flight so we took our time. Luggage and customs were no problem. HAL implies that cabs will be limited (so you will book their overpriced transfers). This was not the case as we were in a cab within a couple of minutes and on our way to the airport. We had time for lunch at the airport. I highly recommend Anthony's. It's located in the terminal after you go through security. The cappuccino was excellent...far better than typical airport food. It was a better meal than many I had on the ship. Overall, we had a very nice time, as we have on all of our prior cruises. As I noted, we were disappointed with several aspects of the Noordam (particularly the food) so I don't think we'll travel on her in the future. We'll certainly return to HAL's smaller ships. Alaska, however, is a great destination in the summer (beat the heat) and we'll certainly return. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
We arrived in Seattle three nights before the cruise to do some sightseeing. We stayed at the Marriott Waterfront. Loved the views of the marina across the street. Saw Pikes Market, toured the Boeing Plant, visited some wineries and eat ... Read More
We arrived in Seattle three nights before the cruise to do some sightseeing. We stayed at the Marriott Waterfront. Loved the views of the marina across the street. Saw Pikes Market, toured the Boeing Plant, visited some wineries and eat great seafood. Embarkation was extremely smooth. HAL had people posted everywhere to answer any questions, direct you where to go....line moved very quickly. Fantastic surprise awaited us at the check-in counter where we found we'd been upgraded!! That's never happened to me before and it was wonderful! We were on the ship at 1 and our cabin was ready so we could put down our hand luggage...which was very heavy due to wine bottles...HAL permits guests to bring wine and champagne aboard with them. Had lunch in the Lido. Our personal impression is that the Lido Buffet isn't big enough for the number of guests. If I were sailing with HAL again I'll choose to eat in the formal dining room I guess, because the lines were very, very long to get anything at breakfast or lunch. The Vista Dining Room, however, was very nice and the service very good. Our cabin attendant, Agus, was very good also. The room was always serviced twice a day and he thoughtfully provided extra things that he could see we could use...like a second wine chilling bucket one night when we wanted to chill champagne in addition to our wine. The beds on HAL are really, really comfortable. I've cruised on ships where it felt you were sleeping on foam rubber atop plywood. (I've always been too scared to see what it really was...) The weather was great all through the trip. On a couple of days it was overcast and foggy in the morning but it always cleared by mid-morning. Juneau and Ketchikan are touristy places filled with t-shirt and jewelry shops. In Sitka we did an excursion with Captain Davy Lubin and it was the highlight of the trip!!! Saw whales, eagles, puffins, cormorants, otters, seals.... We had booked him independently after hearing a rave here on cruisecritic about him. We did a float plane ride to Misty Fjords in Ketchikan that was breathtakingly beautiful. The day we cruised the Hubbard Glacier stands out for the superb job the crew did of maneuvering the ship so that each side got a spectacular view of the glacier. On our balcony it felt that the whole show had been arranged to be seen just from our vantage point. We love Alaska and I'm already looking to go again next year! Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
Just back from our first cruise to Alaska, first cruise with HAL and first cruise with "as you wish dining". We are in our mid 40's, middle class lifestyle and have sailed with Carnival and Royal Caribbean many times and ... Read More
Just back from our first cruise to Alaska, first cruise with HAL and first cruise with "as you wish dining". We are in our mid 40's, middle class lifestyle and have sailed with Carnival and Royal Caribbean many times and travelled without our teenagers. Embarkation: Wonderful! We arrived at 11:00am and were on the ship by 11:20am. Cabins were not ready til 1:00pm so off to the Lido we went for the buffet. I hate this part, it is so crowded, people sitting at tables but not eating, but we survived. Cabin: We were in an SY cabin and it was fantastic. Plenty of drawer/closet space, walking room, etc. We loved the bathroom with 2 sinks, shower and tub and was probably my favorite feature of the cabin. Okay, maybe it was the balcony big enough for 4, or maybe it was the bed that slept like a dream....we loved it. Only 2 things to improve in our opinion: the tv is to the side of the bed making it hard for the person on the other side to view and I hate that so much of the window is blocked by a 'wall unit' type configuration. Not much to complain about at all..... Service: Worst we have ever had on any cruise. No point in trying be nice about this one. Rarely ever saw a smile, rarely ever did anyone speak to us before we spoke to them. Our cabin steward took care of our room at the minimum levels, never restocked the fridge even after asking, never replaced the breakfast card without being reminded and never ever spoke to us again unless we spoke to him. I know people beat up Carnival but seriously, their staff would go out of their way to be friendly and speak yet on HAL i found people felt bothered by even the slightest of conversation and this was true throughout the ship except for the blackjack dealers and the Lido staff. Dining Room: Worst we have had on any cruise. this goes for the food quality as well as service. We had 'as you wish dining' and I think the concept is fantastic and while we love building a relationship with the staff we will give that up for the other attributes of this plan, only if service itself is not compromised. Getting a tea refill was nearly impossible and the initial glass was so small it would be gone very quickly, we witnessed the staff being rude to people, rolling their eyes at requests made from people at near by tables and with only 3 courses (HAL skips the salad which was a surprise to us) the meal still took well over 90 minutes. They never once spoke to us, never asked about the day, never followed up after serving the entree to make sure it was okay except on one formal night. The portions were incredibly small and nearly every night someone at the table would comment about they would be calling room service within the hour and remember, we ate with different people every night and every night this topic came up. Desserts were repeated over & over again, the pies were served stone cold as if they came out of the freezer and if asked if they could be warmed we were told no. They did offer coffee after the meal but never a refill. Lido: Staff was more helpful and friendly here than anywhere on the ship. there was always someone to carry a tray, they didn't let you do anything yourself which was nice but frustrating due to the small portions they would serve. And seriously, we don't eat huge meals, but i would think 10 string type french fries is not a serving, maybe steak fries yes, but not string type. they only offer water and tea and coffee so I really missed the lemonade or punch of some type. Getting bar service was much easier here than the formal dining room. Entertainment: Absolutely geared towards the over 60 crowd, which is fine except that the dancers were rarely together and the female singers wouldn't make it into the Top 10 on idol. Activities: Rare but fun. Newlywed is always a hoot and the trivia is fun. Skip the scrapbooking class. For $6 you receive 3 sheets of paper, 2 photo mats and a few pieces of HAL ribbon. the only supplies were a few pairs of scissors, 2 glue sticks and red and silver glitter. The 'teachers' didn't scrapbook. they gave you HAL magazines to cut pictures from as the embellishments! I felt really bad for the women who came expecting a class. they didn't even have sample pages for you to copy. Absolutely pathetic and this was listed as an "artist in residence" program. Excursions: Our independent ones were fantastic. The only one we booked with HAL was the Misty Fjords in Ketchikan. I should have researched this better or asked more questions because their printed info didn't make it clear that you were paying $159 per person to take a 2 hour boat ride out to the fjords, see the monument and a waterfall, and take a 2 hour boat ride back. The guides were very informative and tried their best but nearly all of the 120 people appeared to be very bored, many sleeping. Alaska itself was fantastic. Mother Nature was very kind, we had sunshine for 4 days and very mild temperatures. We saw eagles, sea lions, and whales, met some great people both on and off the ship and can't wait to return to alaska. Sadly it won't be on a HAL ship though. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
This was my second cruise -- my first being on RCI to the Western Caribbean in 2006. I am in my mid-30's and cruised HAL with friends. Embarkation was easy breezy -- we were on the ship within 30 minutes. We boarded around 1 p.m. ... Read More
This was my second cruise -- my first being on RCI to the Western Caribbean in 2006. I am in my mid-30's and cruised HAL with friends. Embarkation was easy breezy -- we were on the ship within 30 minutes. We boarded around 1 p.m. and our rooms were ready for us. Luggage arrived within an hour or two. The Noordam is a gorgeous ship, inside and out. I loved the glass elevators that overlook the ocean. We had one of the few inside cabins. They were small (as is to be expected) but made great use of the space. The beds are sooo comfortable and I appreciated all the little extras, like robes, big towels, and a nice showerhead. Alaska is absolutely gorgeous and I cannot wait to go back! Our first day was a sea day, followed by a day of cruising in Glacier Bay. The bow of the boat was open while sailing Glacier Bay, although the very cold and rainy weather prevented us from spending too many hours outside. The ship stopped at Marjorie Glacier for an hour and we watched the glacier from the windows of the Lido Deck while we ate lunch. Amazing! Day 3 was Juneau. We arranged for the pilot's choice helicopter tour through HAL. Worth every penny of the $400 price. The pilot's choice tours are able to take off even if the weather is somewhat inclement, they include plenty of flight time, and you land on two glaciers where you have a few minutes to walk around and capture incredible pictures. Day 4 was beautiful Sitka. Fortunately the weather cleared in the early morning and we enjoyed a sunny afternoon. I did not purchase an excursion in Sitka. Instead, we walked around this cute town, visiting the National Park and the raptor sanctuary. We were the only cruise ship in Sitka, and the town is anything but touristy. I took some of my best photos here. Day 5 was Ketchikan. Again, I did not purchase an excursion. Unfortunately, I found that there was very little to do in Ketchikan. It is extremely touristy and we were one of several cruise ships in port that day. Day 6 included a brief stop in Victoria, British Columbia in the evening. I fell in love with charming Victoria and only wished I had more time to spend there. While there are things I appreciated about the Noordam, such as the fact that announcements over the loudspeaker are kept to a minimum and drinks are not pushed like they were on RCI, overall I was very disappointed. The food in both the Lido and the Dining Room is average. There was not one memorable dish. The service was much less passenger-oriented than what I experienced on RCI. We took advantage of the "As You Wish Dining" (we found even without a reservation there was never a line), but even our fellow cruisers who had traditional dining said that they did not have the relationship with their waiters that they've had on other cruise lines. HAL has done away with their unlimited soda card, and replaced it with a punch card that includes 20 sodas for $20. This system was disappointing, and we were further frustrated when we found the sodas to be very watered down, and there is a charge of $3.25 if we wanted to mix soda with fruit juice. The entertainment was also disappointing. The best show was the Elton John impersonator -- very fun and lively performance. The HAL cast was terrible. Their closing performance was an improvement over the performances earlier in the week, but even then the singers were not hitting their notes and the dancing was not clean. While the singers gave a decent performance on some of their solos, they had absolutely no ability to blend and harmonize for the ensemble numbers. It was painful. The comedian, Julie Barr, is hysterical, and even her adults-only show is fairly clean. The ship was dead after 11 p.m. Often we were the only ones in the Crows Nest lounge. On the final night of the cruise, Joel (the Elton John impersonator) and a few members of the HAL band had a jam session in the Crows Nest. This was the best couple of hours I had on the ship. The music was fun and it was evident that the band was having a great time. They were talented enough to improvise and yet sound as if they had rehearsed. I would have loved to have had more nights like this on the ship. I had a hot stone back massage and foot & ankle massage at the spa. The treatments were very relaxing and since I took advantage of the in-port special, they were reasonably priced. The aesthetician did try to sell me some of the products, but she was very gracious when I wasn't interested. The spa also features a hydrotherapy pool. Unlimited use is $20 per day. Very relaxing and highly recommended -- a great way to spend a sea day. Disembarkation was a breeze. Our color/number combination was called around 8 a.m. and we were off the ship and through Customs within minutes. I doubt that I will cruise with HAL again. RCI seems to do a much better job of addressing the wants of my age demographic, and I will be happy to give them my business. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
We were aboard the Saturday, September 9, 2006 sailing of the Oosterdam out of Seattle to Alaska. We flew into Seattle the day of the cruise and used a local town car service instead of booking transfers. There were 4 in our party and this ... Read More
We were aboard the Saturday, September 9, 2006 sailing of the Oosterdam out of Seattle to Alaska. We flew into Seattle the day of the cruise and used a local town car service instead of booking transfers. There were 4 in our party and this was cheaper and more comfortable than the bus transfers. We arrived at port and turned in our luggage. I had arranged and confirmed a wheelchair to transport one member of our party aboard ship. It was not available. However, they did escort us to a quick check in and provided seating until a wheelchair was available. The rooms were not available when we boarded so we headed to Lido for lunch. It was crowded as is normal for the day of embarkation. Food was good and the wait staff was excellent. They carried your trays to your table and even got your drinks for you. After lunch we checked our cabins and they were available. We had rented a wheelchair from Care Vacations and it was ready and waiting in the cabin. The inside rooms in this category are extremely tiny. Don't know the square footage but, they are much smaller than the interior cabins on Carnival. However, the room was very nice and the cabin steward attended to our every need during the cruise. The bathroom was quite roomy compared to the cabin. HAL does provide a fruit basket in every room - Ha! - 2 apples, a pear and an orange in a tiny little bowl. Sailing out of Seattle was much rougher seas than we had experienced on our first Alaska cruise which sailed out of Vancouver. Seas were so rough on Sunday that the ship was literally empty. Most people were ill and stayed in their cabins. This first full day was the captain's party and the first formal night. We made it to the captain's party. You entered the lounge on the 2nd floor. We were directed to a spot in the back of the room for our wheelchair bound companion. People were seated in theatre style seating and just waiting. We never did see or meet the captain. Finally we just left. We went into the dining room and found that our table was the only one in the room not set for dinner. Dining is very nice on the Oosterdam with silver and Rosenthal china. I asked why our table was not set and the assistant waiter said 'table shake'. We were seated there anyway. I set my camera on the table and they brought us water glasses. About that time a sound somewhat like a blasting cap went off under our table and everything started to move. We really had to scramble to catch the water and the camera. This was repeated about every 2-3 minutes. I can't believe they chose to set us there knowing this was going on. We requested a different table and were given one. We did return to our regular table the next night when things were not quite as rough. The food for the cruise was very good. The food presentation was the prettiest I have seen on any cruise. Our wait staff was first class. This has been an extremely rainy year for Alaska. We were told on ship that they had seen a total of 10 sunny days between the first sailing in May and our Sept. 9th sailing. We expected the worst but, did not get it. Our first port of call was Juneau. It was overcast. Our dock was the furthest from town so there were shuttles at a cost of $2 each. This ticket was good for all day and they did have wheelchair lifts. We did not book an excursion choosing instead to just look around town on our own. This is a good time to shop Juneau as it is at the end of their season and many stores were 50% off. We bought several souvenir items. Our next stop was Hubbard Glacier. It was a bright and sunny day. Hubbard Glacier is incredible. We got so close it looked like you could just reach out and touch the glacier. The glacier does constant calving and the color is beautiful. Split Pea soup was served on deck. It was fine but, not my taste. Our next stop was Sitka. Another bright and sunny day. This is the only port where we had booked an excursion. Our ticket envelopes were at our cabins when we boarded ship and there was a note asking us to stop by the shore excursion desk. I did so and was told that the wheelchair lift bus for our excursion was broken and would not be repaired before our arrival. We were given the choice to get a refund on the excursion and we chose to do so. This is a tender port and we were pleased to find the Oosterdam has wheelchair lifts on their tenders. We took a cab to the Raptor Center and found it very interesting. Town is quaint but, shops are pricey. No sales and no bargains. Our next stop was Ketchikan. Another bright and sunny day. We docked at Tongass and had a short walk into town. No excursions booked. Just walked around and went over to creek street. There were a few live salmon still in the creek and many dead ones. The smell was terrible. There were 3 seals in the creek feeding on the salmon. They put on quite a show for our cameras. Several sales and good shopping. Our last port was Victoria, BC. We did not stop here until 6 pm but it was a clear night so we got off ship and just checked out the dock area. There were shuttle buses into town at a cost of $5 each. We did not go into town. Overall the cruise was nice. The ship is beautiful and the staff is very helpful. All of our previous cruises were on Carnival so we were anxious to see the differences. The Holland America ship seemed much smaller inside. The ceilings were lower, the hallways narrower, the atrium 3 stories instead of the 10-12 on Carnival. We did not feel the service (though excellent and we have no complaints) was any better than we were used to on Carnival. The casino on board was quite small and usually almost empty. Most of the tables never opened and those that did were rarely full. We went to the two large stage shows and they were very good. We also went to watch one singer - again very good - and a magician - also good. We did not check out any of the lounges or bars. The Crow's nest is famous on this ship. It is a wonderful viewing room at the top forward of the ship. It is beautiful and there are some great views. However, we found it full every time we went there and no one would give up space for a wheelchair. We did not try the SPA. I had wanted to book a massage but the only ones offered were very fancy and very costly (around $200 ea). We did find a few problems on ship. I kept finding holes in the floor under the carpet. The floor in one of the hallways on the 4th floor had ridges and holes in it. I tripped several times and wondered how many people actually fell. They do have many elderly guests and it is a wonder no one broke a hip. The hallway on the 2nd floor which leads to the dining room has quite low ceilings. One of the bars on that floor hung banners each day to advertise their drink of the day. I am 5'4" and my head brushed these banners. Taller people actually had to duck. We also found that when we exited the ship in Victoria one member of our party had the wrong photo pop up on the screen when her card was scanned. It was a woman at least 30 years older and looking nothing like the lady in our group. The security guard looked at the photo, at our companion and off she went. Just how secure are guests on this ship? She could have gotten off ship, handed the card to anyone she wished and they could have boarded the ship in her place. When we told the front desk they said we would have to retake the photos. My husband asked what for? we were leaving the ship the next morning! The photo shop was very limited. There were very few places to have photos taken on ship. Photos getting off at port were quite cute and quite good. 8x10 photos are $20.95. We purchased one of our formal pictures in an 8x10 and asked about having some 5x7 reprints made. We were told it would be the same cost - $20.95 per 5x7 print. Does that make sense? We had been told that one of the perks of Holland America is that you can stay in your cabin until your color tag in called at Debarkation. Since we had a member of our party needing a wheelchair this was not the case. We were sent to a very small and crowded lounge to await our call. It did not take long and we were off the ship. I have only Carnival with which to compare this Holland America cruise. I MUCH prefer Carnival. On Carnival rooms are much larger and brighter, the casino is much bigger and better, photos are much more selection and much better, food is as good or better, lido offers a much larger selection and service is every bit as good. Every evening my husband and I were actually bored on this trip. There is just no night life. By 10:00 pm most people had gone to bed. Read Less
Sail Date September 2006
MS Westerdam Alaskan Explorer Cruise via Glacier Bay to Juneau, Sitka, Prince Rupert, and Victoria Embarkation Date: Seattle - 08/20/2006 Disembarkation Date: Seattle - 08/27/2006 Background It has long been a dream of my sister to ... Read More
MS Westerdam Alaskan Explorer Cruise via Glacier Bay to Juneau, Sitka, Prince Rupert, and Victoria Embarkation Date: Seattle - 08/20/2006 Disembarkation Date: Seattle - 08/27/2006 Background It has long been a dream of my sister to enjoy an Alaska Cruise and had decided that this would be the perfect way for her and her husband to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. My brother and I, veteran cruisers, would join them. When searching for itineraries, my sister found the "Quilting for Christmas" cruise sponsored by Quilt Camps at Sea. Since my sister is an avid quilter, this would combine the sights of Alaska with her favorite hobby. Because of this targeted cruise, we didn't really explore other cruise lines and routes and went along with the group. That said, I can't say enough good things about the Quilt Camp organizers. They were very helpful in handling any and all requests and coordinating things with the cruise line. (For past cruises I have used a major internet agency and have been very happy with the services and prices I've received, but that's a separate topic altogether). So our group consisted of 4 adults in two cabins (8032 & 8030). As I have developed mobility problems over the past few years, the travel agent suggested that we would be more comfortable with a handicap stateroom with a standard adjacent verandah cabin. We were able to open the partition between the two verandah's throughout the cruise allowing us to have a very large balcony to use in enjoying the Alaskan views. As for past cruises, we sailed together as a group to the Eastern Caribbean on the NCL's SS Norway several years ago. My brother and I have sailed a Mexican cruise on NCL and 3 Caribbean cruises on several of Princess' Grand Class ships. Seattle/Embarkation Since we were all flying from different cities, we flew into Seattle the day prior to the cruise and scheduled our flights to meet around the same time. After collecting our luggage we had arranged ground transportation to our hotel and the cruise port the following day with Airport Direct Shuttle (airportshuttledirect.com). They have an option of using a Chevy Suburban instead of a standard limo which was able to accommodate four "plus size" adult passengers, our 8 pieces of luggage and my large bariatric rollator walker. Our efficient driver dropped us the pre-cruise hotel we had arranged, the Best Western Pioneer Square (pioneersquarehotel.com). This historic refurbished hotel had a good location for taking in some of the sights of the pioneer square area including the Seattle Underground tour and many interesting shops including the famous Seattle Mystery Bookstore. A number of good restaurants are within short walking distance from the hotel. The hotel offered a continental style breakfast with the room. Unfortunately the hotel is very small and the breakfast area was not well stocked and was quite crowded. Given the close proximity to any downtown hotel to the cruise ports and price of this "boutique" hotel, I would probably invest in staying somewhere more mainstream and up-scale if we were to do this again. On the morning of the cruise at the cruise terminal porters were a bit hard to flag down from our shuttle. (This contrasts to the Princess dock in Ft. Lauderdale where there were so many luggage handlers they practically fight over customers to get tips.) Once inside the cruise terminal the "expediters" recognized that both my sister and I needed handicap assistance and had us wait in a special "chair-line" for people who can't stand in their feet. This is really nice, but not surprising since HAL has a reputation for catering to senior passengers. The expediters were very nice and bar stewards from the ship walked around serving cups of water and juice to passengers as they waited in chairs and lines to check in. There was a bit of discussion with the expediters and the terminal folks to determine if they had the correct size of bariatric wheelchair to assist me in embarkation. Unfortunately they did not, and after a rather long wait I was required to walk up the exceedingly long gangway to board this ship. My sister, who can use a standard wheelchair was taken directly on board and assisted directly to the lido buffet for lunch. My brother accompanied me in the long walk and we met up with them at the buffet about 20 minutes later). Bottom line - the accessibility of the gangway in Seattle is fair-to-poor for people with physical challenges. Staterooms Our VA Class verandah staterooms were located on the forward port side of the ship quite close to the forward elevator lobby. Our stateroom, 8032, was a handicap room which provided ample space for movement around the room with the minimum 30" clearance around all fixtures and doors. This means that my rollator walker could be pushed basically anywhere in the room, into the lavatory, or through the door and out onto the verandah. The accessible lavatory had no tub but an integrated shower, toilet, vanity area with very efficient floor drains that generally kept the toilet/vanity area dry when the shower curtain was pulled. Handrails, the ADA height toilet, and fold-down shower stool were all extremely sturdy and well designed. The hose on the hand-held shower was somewhat worn which caused it to "kink" when held in some positions. One towel hook was broken on the door of the lavatory and our stateroom door also failed to close completely automatically requiring us to check the security of the door each time we entered and left the room. Although we didn't complain about either of these items, our cabin steward must have reported them because they were both fixed mid-cruise. The handicap stateroom contrasted with the adjacent standard stateroom in that the standard room was about 30% narrower allowing for very little room to pass at the foot of the bed. The standard room included a sofa seating area while the handicap room had two chairs and small dining table. The standard stateroom lavatory was just slightly smaller and had a tub with shower in the tub. Lavatories are equipped with toiletries from the Steiner spa's Elemis lines that are very nice. Unfortunately it did not seem that items would be replenished throughout the cruise without specifically asking the room steward. (On past cruises, new toiletries were presented each day). Both rooms were equipped with a dressing table and 19" television and a mini/bar refrigerator. We brought 4 12-packs of diet coke on board in separate luggage bags checked just for this purpose and emptied the mini-bars into the bag and replaced it with the coke. We informed our cabin steward the location of the mini-bar items. One disappointment was that we had to reset the mini-bar ourselves and did not have use of it during the last day of the cruise as it is locked for inventory the first thing in the morning on Day 6. One thing I will commend HAL on, which has been noted by others, is the beds. These are the most comfortable beds that I have experienced on any cruise ship. Being a linen "snob" I recognized and appreciated that high-thread count linens were used on the bedding, also adding to the extra comfort. The beds have an integrated drawer at the foot which is used by the room steward to store extra blankets, etc. So they are unavailable for guest usage. Despite that, behind the drawer area there is room underbed for luggage storage. This is a good thing because the two closets provided were quite small. In comparing the stateroom with the standard balcony stateroom on the Princess Grand Class ship, I would say that the handicap room was approximately the same size as the standard Princess room and the standard room was considerably smaller. Ship Layout / Public Rooms The Westerdam has three elevator lobbies with quite fast elevators. The forward and aft elevator lobbies each have four elevators with a coordinated "call" system. (Pushing the call button will bring any one of the four elevators.) At midship there are 6 elevators. Two scenic elevators each on the port and starboard sides and two central internal elevators. The call buttons are coordinated only with the elevators at the specific area, even though they share the same "lobby". The scenic elevators only had access to decks A - 9, while the central mid-ship elevators accessed deck 10 as well. One of the challenges of any ship is figuring out which elevators go to which levels. Public rooms are found on Deck 1 - The Main Deck, Deck 2 - Lower Promenade, Deck 3 - Promenade, Deck 9 - Lido and Deck 10 - Observation. On Deck 1 public areas are limited to the central atrium area that houses the atrium bar, front desk, and shore excursion desk. The Atrium area on the ship which extends across three levels (Deck 1,2 and 3) is actually quite small. It is really somewhat difficult to look down from Deck 3 to Deck 1 and see anything. This contrasts with Princess' Grand class ships where the area, despite also being only 3 levels, seemed very open and inviting. This is all due to the fact that the Vista-class HAL ships are significantly narrower at mid-ship than the similarly sized Princess Grand Class ship. This creates all sorts of problems across the entire ship with the size and feel of public spaces. The forward area of Deck 2 is dominated by the Vista Lounge (the "show theatre"). This is really confusing to a lot of passengers since the theatre at the forward area is called "Vista" and the dining room at the aft is also called "Vista" (i.e. Vista Lounge vs. Vista Dining Room). The main floor of the Vista Lounge is quite accessible. I really like the fact that HAL has chosen to use primarily banquet seating over the tiny theatre style seats used exclusively on Princess. When I traveled on Princess my "girth" forced me to use a barstool at the very back of the theatre whereas I could have sat nearly anywhere in the Vista Lounge - a big plus. The large theatre has excellent sight lines on Level 2. The balcony on level 3, however, is obstructed in numerous areas by support poles creating "dead zones" in the seating and annoying people who get "stuck" sitting there. The next area aft on Deck 2 is the casino/piano bar area. The casino is quite small and smokey. One plus is that HAL has one night designated as "non-smoking" night in the casino for those who are bothered by the abundant smoke in that area. The adjacent piano bar is strangely decorated in an off-putting yellow and purple motif but offers different types of music being played each night. I really liked the small, but upbeat sports bar that followed that area. Next forward is the Queen's Lounge/Culinary Arts Center. No culinary presentations were scheduled in the center during our tour, but I did see the really bad looking kitchen set (you'll see better stuff on the food network). The room is also really small for the types of shows and events that are scheduled there. I went to Digital Photography seminar there that packed the room. A late-night comedian show held later in the trip was standing room only and the dance floor was filled with cheap folding chairs. Really "un-elegant". They also showed movies there during the week, but the movie times and titles were difficult to find. This room is also very inaccessible for people in wheelchairs or requiring a mobility device. The aisles are very narrow and once you get to a place where you can "park" your device you can't sit in it because it will block an aisle making any programming in this area unreasonable for handicap passengers. Directly behind the Queens lounge, with entrances on either side, was the flashy Northern Lights disco/bar. I really didn't explore this area so can't comment on its decor or how it was used. Half of the atrium level on deck 2 is used for the Windjammer Cafe which servers at-cost coffee and smoothie beverages along with "free" pastries and confections. The remainder of the atrium is contains the Pinnacle Grill and Bar. This area was actually pretty large for a premium dining venue, but the fact that it takes up more than 1/2 of the atrium area and is closed much of the time really limits what could be a very attractive useful public space. Continuing back across deck 2 is the Art Gallery where featured Art and the office of the Park West at Sea art auction is located. If you transact any business at the daily art auctions that monopolize the Ocean Bar on Deck 3 most days, you'll go here in the evening to "close" your deal. Beyond that is the Explorer's lounge. A less "gaudy" version of the Piano bar on the same level. What strikes me most about both the Piano Bar and the Explorers lounge is how HAL has chosen to make these long narrow spaces instead of large square spaces. Again, it adds to a claustrophobic feeling that dominates the entire ship and makes featured entertainment events like "team trivia" difficult for the entertainment staff to administer because they have to walk from one end of the space to the other to see participants. It also makes these events less interactive with the other passengers because you really can't see all the people you're competing/playing the games with. The aft part of decks 2 and 3 are dominated by the Vista Dining room. This two-story area houses all of the tables for the standard-assigned dinner seatings on the Westerdam. We had the first seating in the Upper (Deck 3) Portion of the dining room as did everyone else in our "Quilting" group. I'll discuss dining more later. Of course the outside of Deck 3 - the Promenade deck, is the place where you can walk around the entire ship on the teak promenade and view the ocean from the various deck seats and lounges that line the promenade. Moving aft from the balcony access to the Vista Lounge you will find the conference rooms (where the various sewing classes for the quilters where held), the Internet Center, and the Java Cafe. The Java Cafe is normally another "Coffee House" like the Windjammer on the deck above, but because of the quilters using the conference rooms this was used for the various computer classes that are normally held in the conference rooms. Nearby you will also find the Erasumus Library. This attractive room is rather large compared to other cruise ship libraries and has nice well lit desks and comfortable seating. Next up are the "Signature Shops" which offer the various duty free items that are common to cruise ships. Since the shopping area encroaches on the normal pathways to the atrium, it becomes pretty congested at night and really forces you to "shop" if you are traversing the deck. The good thing about the shops is that the prices and service are very good. I bought a wonderful Citizen watch which the staff gladly sized to my large wrist with extra links and got a better price that a similar watch I purchased at a shop in St. Thomas a few years earlier. My sister also bought a very lovely ring at a reasonable price. What is strange about the shops is that they didn't seem to have an area selling sundry type items I've found on other ships (simple medicines, sewing kits, tissues, candy, etc.) The Deck 3 Atrium was dominated primarily by the Ocean Bar which was used almost exclusively for the Art Auctions. Again, this limited egress around what would normally be rather attractive public space, but that was all cleared out in the evenings. The standard photo gallery lined the area from the Atrium to the upper level of the Vista Dining Room on Deck 3. The forward area of Deck 9 is dedicated to the Greenhouse spa which offers the standard Steiner suite of services and a "thalasso therapy" pool which could be used only with an extra cost subscription from the spa. (This contrasts with the Lap Pool and Saunas on Princess Grand Class ships which, while located in the spa, are accessible to all guests without an additional fee). The central pool area follows with tables lining both sides and a retractable cover which is, of course, closed during Alaska trips. This makes gives the area the standard pool "chlorinated" smell. While I did not use the pools, it is my understanding that the pools on HAL are saltwater as opposed to the Freshwater pools used on the Princess ships. What did impress me about the central pool layout was that it did seem like it would be relatively easy to use if you had limited mobility. The pool did not have the wheelchair "dipper" found on the Princess ships for passengers with no mobility, and pool entry was not "zero depth". What was different than other pools I have seen is that rather than using "climb up" pool ladders, access to the pools was done with teak steps that were wide like standard stairs and you could descend down to the shallow end of the pool without the need to "pull" yourself up a ladder. The port side of the pool features the Ocean grill which has a taco/mexican bar and a hamburger/hot dog/pizza station. On the starboard sid of the pool is the pool bar. Following from midships toward the aft on Deck 9 is the Lido Buffet which offers identical service areas on the Port and Starboard sides. The final aft area is the adult pool which is open to the aft of the ship and is for "adults only" and is uncovered. This area was not used frequently for the Alaska itinerary because, well, its just too cold. Deck 10 is the home of the Crow's Nest lounge. This is a very large space with the best forward views from the ship. It is dominated by a large dance floor and a small bar on one side and bandstand on the other. Banquet seating extends around the sweeping windows and tables also arc the dance floor. It is notable that only this bar and the pool bar are the only bars that are consistently staffed both day and evening. Slightly aft from the Crow's nest lounge is the clubby Oak Room which offers an indoor/outdoor cigar bar atmosphere and is apparently pretty popular in the evenings. Most of the rest of Deck 10 is an observation deck with deck chairs and lounges and great views. At midships the elevator will take you to the area where the "Club HAL" activities for younger cruisers are found. Dining There are basically five choices for dining on the Westerdam - Main Seating dining in the Vista Dining Room, Specialty Dining in the Pinnacle Grill, Buffet Dining in the Lido Cafe, Buffet Dining in the Ocean Cafe by the Pool, and Room Service. The Vista Dining room is open for Breakfast, Lunch, and High Tea with open seating. The hours for table service of breakfast and lunch are quite limited with breakfast being served only from 8 - 9:30 and lunch for 12 - 1. Since these times conflict with many activities, it makes the dining room service of these meals almost completely impractical. On Princess we really enjoyed dining room breakfast, but could only make the limited hours once on the Westerdam during the trip. In the dining room we found the breakfast service to be very spotty. Passengers were seated at the very farthest end of the dining room from the door and the breakfast menu was actually quite limited, and extremely poorly executed. I ordered eggs benedict which was topped with less than a teaspoon of cold hollandaise sauce on each runny poached egg. My brother ordered a sausage and cheese omelette and was served a cheese omelette. Pointing out that it was incorrect, the dining steward brought him a plate of 4 brown-and-serve style sausages over 30 minutes later. The selection of danishes and pastries were unappetizing and sub-standard. Toast was served cold. Later in the day all three of us (my sister was in sewing class and did not eat breakfast in the dining room) experienced different levels of abdominal distress which we attributed to the poor preparation of breakfast. We rarely eat lunches while cruising, sticking mostly with a breakfast and the dinner feasts. On the couple of occasions where we did eat lunch we made selections from the lido buffet. The buffet meanders with different stations stretching from midships to the aft pool area. There really isn't one concentrated buffet but really 5 separated areas labeled "italian", "bistro", "dessert", "salads", and "deli". To create a meal you literally may need to walk in and out of dining areas to access each of these station all while carrying your tray. This is a nightmare for disabled passengers, and there was spotty service from the servers in this area to assist people. To prevent ship-bourne illness, the buffet stations are cafeteria style requiring that each selection be individually served and plated by the staff. At peak hours this creates long lines congesting an already poorly designed setup. Since I found it difficult to traverse the entire width of the dining area to view the selections I basically only ate salads that I could describe to my family member how to configure with common ingredients. On our evening in port at Juneau our shore excursion returned too late for us to make it to our standard dining room seating so we were forced to eat at the Lido for dinner. We didn't think anything of it since we had read that there was an area in the Lido that was dedicated to table service for those who did not want to follow the dining room dress codes. When I asked the dining captain about that advertised policy I was told that "that didn't work out so we don't do that anymore". So we could not have the standard dining room selections and ate the lido selections for the evening which were (drum roll) the same courses served in the dining room the PRIOR evening. We basically had the same dinner (pretty decent prime rib - but the same thing) that we had the night before. My sister had the spaghetti from the italian station which she found quite delicious. Breakfast and lunch, when we did have lunch, were relegated to room service. Room service breakfast is ordered from a card you place on your door the night before. There are no other breakfast options (the room service menu refers you to the card). You check off what you want for a selection of fruits, breads, cereals. The only hot choices were fried eggs or omelettes and a choice of ham, bacon, or sausage. Has browns were not listed as a selection, but if you ordered any "meat" you got one Arby's-style potato cake tossed in if you wanted it or not. For lunch, dinner, or snacks you could call from the room service menu. Any request that was not on the menu is automatically denied. Example: My brother-in-law wanted a tuna salad sandwich on wheat bread. The menu had a "tuna melt with cheese". Basically he wanted it with no cheese unmelted. The person taking the order said it wasn't on the menu, but he'd ask the chef. Over our time on the ship we placed approximately 10 - 12 room service orders between our two rooms. Every single order, whether it was written on the breakfast request card or phoned in, was delivered with wrong or missing items. Hot items were invariably cold. Cold items were invariably warm. "Delicious Hot Cocoa" consists of a pot of hot water and packets of swiss miss for you to mix yourself. The star of the culinary experience on the Westerdam was dinner in the Main Dining room. In general you could get all you wanted of (with one big exception) expertly prepared food. The dishes tended on the blander side and our table was mysteriously absent of salt or pepper every night (we'd have to ask for it). For a "fixed" seating venue it took our waiters longer that I'd experienced on previous cruises to get our preferences down (like the fact that we wanted salt & pepper on the table). By the third night coffee, iced tea, or sodas as each preferred were waiting. (I mean it is nice to have someone note these preferences and execute them, but when you've been on other cruise lines where the waiters ask about this the first night and are able to follow through on nights 2 - 7 makes it noticeable that it took the waiters until the third night to do the same which seems a little "off" to me). In a bit of a change, the wine/bar steward at dinner was really attentive - going above and beyond the call of duty. This was the first time in 5 cruises where I thought the wine/bar steward actually deserved an extra tip. As I mentioned before, the food itself was uniformly good. The portions were uniformly small - but you could always order extra helpings of anything that appealed to you. The only major problem we had was with the lobster at the "Farewell Dinner". One of my sister's two lobster tails was raw. I'm not talking undercooked, mind you, but actually raw - the shell had not changed to its signature red color and the lobster flesh was still somewhat translucent instead of white it should be when it reaches the minimum level of doneness. This should have been noticed by the line chefs or the waiter and serving it was not only unappetizing once the lid was lifted off the plate, but could have been very dangerous if eaten. Bar Service In other areas bar service was sorely understaffed. It seemed impossible to get a waiter to bring you anything, and if you decided to use your "coke" card, forget being served again. They seemed keenly aware that the best service should go to the people drinking the most expensive items. So even if you wanted to switch from a "coke" to a "Long Island Ice Tea" you couldn't do it because you had coke first. Its just bad form. On our past Princess cruises we purchased the "coke card" which consisted of a sticker attached to you cruise ID that entitled you to unlimited fountain drinks. On HAL they issue you a punch card for $18 good for 20 servings. Your card had to be punched each time you were served. Since we actually purchased the card on the gangway all the servers were "turned off" that they couldn't get the spiff on the first day for selling the card. I used my punch card 4 times because I couldn't get servers to assist me. That basically means I paid $5 a piece for fountain beverages. This entire system may just be problematic because of differences between Caribbean cruises (where people drink lots of fruity stuff all the time and they need lots of servers) to an Alaska Cruise (where you're just as likely getting someone asking for cocoa or coffee as you are the occasional bar drink). Entertainment Cruises provide a variety of outlets for entertainment. The most visible are the splashy vegas-style shows that are held in the theatre venue (the Vista Lounge in the case of the Westerdam) to more intimate shows or performers in the various lounges and bars. Entertainment can also be found in activities directed by the Cruise Director and his staff including hosted board games, trivia games, dancing lessons, lectures, etc. Warm weather cruises also feature a variety of pool-centric activities. The glue that holds entire entertainment staff together is the Cruise Director and the way he or she motivate their staff. The Westerdam's cruise director, Steve Gayda, was by far the worst cruise director of any cruise I have taken. He was visible only at the large events as the brief host and I never, ever, saw him mingle with passengers on the ship. This is the first cruise (and mind you there were much larger passenger counts on my previous voyages) where I never actually met the cruise director in person at some point during the voyage. He was virtually invisible, along with his staff. Our favorite activity during cruises is to participate in Trivia and "Game Show" events. On both Princess and NCL these were hosted at least twice a day by enthusiastic cruise staff. On the Westerdam, the once-a-day trivia events were treated like "chores" by the entertainment staff. In fact each of the trivia sessions were about 25% repeats of questions from previous sessions. The staff did nothing to generate enthusiasm about the event or to foster camaraderie among the passengers. I do have to make one notable exception, which is the cruise staff member Mike Soprano who ran the trivia on the last day of the cruise. He knew how to work a crowd and researched interesting and unique questions. You can tell he really likes his job, unlike all the others who acted like bored camp counselors. The sailing included two "vegas-style" production shows entitled "Grand Tour" and "Stage and Screen". These were very entertaining shows which made the most of the elaborate staging available in the Vista Lounge. The singers and dancers were very good and seemed to enjoy their jobs. There was also a performance by a Comedian/Juggler, a Comedian/Magician, and a Featured Singer. The Comedian/Magician also hosted what was billed as a "bawdy adults only comedy show" late one night in the congested (as mentioned before) Queen's Lounge. Despite the "adults only" moniker, the short, amusing (not hilarious) show was more of a PG-13 affair than the "R-Rated" program it was billed to be. Again, we were really disappointed with the number a variety of entertainment options compared to previous sailings, but then I can't be sure that these weren't toned down because of the many affinity groups that were booked on the cruise with their own agendas. In addition to the Quilters, there was also a large group of "Senior Bachelors" and "Nursing Professionals" that were holding their own events throughout the sailing, perhaps monopolizing venues that might have been used for normal activities. With the lack of the types of activities that we normally frequent, we did choose to attend an art auction, which we usually avoid. This was actually pretty interesting, although I was surprised at the high price of the pieces shown. (They averaged $1000 up for starting bids). I did locate one serigraph I would have liked which was actually reasonably priced. Unfortunately for the HAL cruises all pieces are sold framed as displayed. I hated the frame on the piece and would have to buy the existing frame and have it re-framed at additional cost. Since framing is a good portion of the cost of the art I didn't feel that it was fair to pay for two frames and chose not to make a purchase. The auction did include free champagne, snacks, and if you stuck around to the end you had an opportunity to win some pretty substantial gift certificates. Each person also received a very nice signed lithoserigraph. To keep track of all the events available on the ship a daily schedule was printed and delivered with the nightly turn-down service. While informative, there were numerous typographical errors in every edition often listing events at completely wrong times or in incorrect locations. On Day 4 included frequent references to the next port being Ketchikan, while this sailing substituted Prince Rupert for Ketchikan. Ports of Call Day 1 - Sea day. Nothing to see but sea and some land. It was very foggy and cool on the decks. Make sure you've got some warmer clothes for your Alaska trip! Day 2 - Cruising Glacier Bay. It started out with an overcast morning and early in the day as we entered Glacier Bay the ship was board by a US Park Service Naturalist and a Native American Cultural representative. These people provided cruise narration throughout the day that could be heard on the outside decks and verandahs. We were very lucky because as we approached the first of many glaciers the sky cleared up and we had the rare beautiful sunny day to view everything. It was spectacular! The vistas were breathtaking. When we approached the highlight of the tour, the 2-mile wide 800-foot high Marjorie Glacier I was amazed at how we passed remarkably close to the face and were able to hear the roar and see the splace of ice calving from the face of the Glacier which moves 8 feet per day and constantly regenerates from its mountainous confines. Absolutely awe inspiring! I would highly recommend an itinerary that includes Glacier Bay. Day 3 - Juneau. Here is the deal about Juneau which you find out from the natives when you get there. Average temperatures are from the 30s to 60s year round and it rains constantly. There are only 44 clear days per year, and by clear they mean these are days when it doesn't rain -- it doesn't mean it gets sunny which is even more rare. So our day in Juneau was one of their very rainy and windy days which resulted in many disappointments for people with helicopter-based shore excursions which don't fly if the winds or rains are too extreme. (The floatplane trips did apparently still fly). Fortunately for us we opted to take the Whale Watching and Wildlife Quest tour run by Allen Marine. After about a 20 minute bus ride north of Juneau with an excellent driver to explained all of the local sights we boarded a modern comfortable and accessible tour boat to view whales, sea lions, and bald eagles. The tour promises that you will see at least one whale or your money back. This is easy to do because the bay is the seasonal feeding ground for humpback whales. Our very lucky tour allowed us to see nearly a dozen whales. We were able get a rare sight of a mother and calf humpback in addition to a group of 4 adults who did a "synchronized swim" for us that was amazing! We also saw an island covered with cute sea lions and bald eagles perched off in the hills. This tour was really wonderful and I'd highly recommend it. Day 4 - Sitka. Sitka has shallow docks, so tendering is required to visit this port. Because of this, only my brother and brother-in-law chose to go ashore. They enjoyed walking around the city and visited the Raptor Center choosing to walk there instead of taking the shuttle bus. Day 5 - Prince Rupert. This itinerary substituted Prince Rupert for Ketchikan which was the normal port. Prince Rupert is a really small cannery town located at the very northern part of British Columbia. Since the town is not a big cruise-ship port, it had some additional charm by having more local artisans and fewer "tourist" type places. Day 6 - Sea/Victoria. Again, because of the distance from the ship to transportation I did not go ashore after dinner in Victoria. The rest of the party did, however and really enjoyed their short time in what appears to be an extremely beautiful city. Day 7 - Disembarkation. Disembarkation was relatively smooth since we were in the first group going ashore. We chose to rent a car and do some independent touring of Seattle prior to our red-eye flights home to Detroit. Summary The trip was extremely worthwhile due to the fabulous sights in Glacier Bay and Juneau. The staff of the Westerdam was generally friendly, but overall service and food quality was spotty and inconsistent. Public areas of the ship while generally attractive, are poorly laid out and lack good accessibility. Excellent dinner selections were marred by sub-par breakfast, lunch, and lido-buffet services. The entertainment and cruise director staff were aloof and less friendly than previous cruises. Unless you are part of the affinity group (as we were) I would find it hard to recommend this HAL ship when there are other options in this competitive market. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
Positive comments first: Service from room stewards was great. Our verandah room in the back of the ship was great. Good shore excursions & good exercise area. Very good organization on embarkation; mix-up on times for disembarkation ... Read More
Positive comments first: Service from room stewards was great. Our verandah room in the back of the ship was great. Good shore excursions & good exercise area. Very good organization on embarkation; mix-up on times for disembarkation left people racing to grab some breakfast. Pretty ship. Negative: Not enough activities while on ship to participate. Would have enjoyed more lectures, hands on activities, etc. A lot of the music in the bar/dance areas was poor.(e.g. Crow's Nest) The stage shows were fair. The midnight buffet was at 10PM, & not hyped up very much.Why only one midnight buffet? Picture taking was supposed to be from 10-10:30, but they allowed the crowd to start eating at 10:15 so little time for photos. The biggest disappointment was the food. It was poor! I don't expect food to be great when you're feeding 2,000+ people, but it still should be average to a little above. Soup was served cold(we sent it back, but still only lukewarm.) My risotto with grilled eggplant the 1st night was inedible along with a pasta dish one of our 10 people ordered. Little flavor to food. Overdone steak etc. Celebrity Cruise Line had much better food. Our group of 10 concurred. We paid the extra $20 at the Pinnacle to get good food. It was great. Not enough value for the $$. Would not cruise with HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2006
Background -- I have never been on a bad cruise. I have always enjoyed the experience. I have been on 10 cruises four of those on HAL. I have always told my friends that HAL is the best. I think HAL missed the high water mark on this ... Read More
Background -- I have never been on a bad cruise. I have always enjoyed the experience. I have been on 10 cruises four of those on HAL. I have always told my friends that HAL is the best. I think HAL missed the high water mark on this cruise. The cruise seemed to be off the mark on almost everything. It was understaffed and several of the officers/senior members seem to be down right grumpy. (Especial the dinning room/Lido deck senior officer). No future cruise sales person and very stressed out dinning room staff. The ship -- The ship is small by todays standard but, it had a great traffic flow and had all the things you needed in a cruise ship . The Artwork and flowers on all the public areas make HAL my choice for the most classy ships. Our cabin and cabin steward were awesome. The food -- The food was good in most places. I usually look forward to a night in the Pinnacle Grill. For the first time I was very disappointed. The pawns were overcooked, steak was average and the both deserts were overcooked so they were as hard as rock. (molten cake and crème) The worst was the high tea. We were given a dirty fork and tea bangs but no hot water. We did really enjoy the dinner room for dinner and a couple of times for breakfast. We had table 42 with a total of 10 people. The waiter and assistant waiter did an excellent job. Our table mates were awesome. The Cruise -- One of the more interesting things that happen on the cruise was an electric fire in the crew quarters. It happen late one evening. About 45 minutes after the alarm went off and we were told to stay calm, the captain came onto the speaker and told us that the firs was out but he was turn on the ventilation system so we might smell additional smoke. I did not sleep very will that night. We also skip Victoria Canada because of the rough seas. Just sat in the bay for four hours. All in all this was an ok cruise. I hope HAL was just having a day week and this is not a trend that I will be seeing in HAL in the future. Read Less
Sail Date May 2006
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