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279 Holland America Seattle Cruise Reviews

HAL Zaandam Alaska Blog/Review June 5-12 Thursday - June 4th. Seven of us flew on Delta from Florida the day before the cruise.  Flight was uneventful.  We had 10 checked bags that arrived in baggage claim right when we walked up.  ... Read More
HAL Zaandam Alaska Blog/Review June 5-12 Thursday - June 4th. Seven of us flew on Delta from Florida the day before the cruise.  Flight was uneventful.  We had 10 checked bags that arrived in baggage claim right when we walked up.  We then waited 20 minutes or so for my aunt and cousin who were arriving from Michigan.  After the whole gang was together, we went to the Shuttle Express kiosk and waited for our pre-booked van.  The van arrived within 10 minutes.  The driver was VERY talkative on the trip to our hotel.  Arrived at the Residence Inn Marriot in Lake Union. We had originally booked 3 rooms at this hotel for $200 a night via the Marriott website, but we later bid via Priceline and got the rooms for $60 a night.  We then got a free upgrade to a 2 bedroom suite.  Very nice hotel - friendly staff.   We had dinner at Buck's Charter house right across the street.  Good chowder and food - nice view of the lake. Friday - June 5th Woke up and had a wonderful free buffet at the hotel.  Then 6 of us took the trolley (located right down the street) to downtown Seattle.  Trolley stopped right at Nordstrom's, so we shopped for last minute items there and at Macy's .  Hopped back on the trolley and went back to hotel.  We had made reservations for Shuttle Express for 11:25 and they were there waiting for us - great service! Arrived at Pier 91 in 15 minutes or so.  Although there were hardly any cars there - we were required to park at the very end of the drop off area and had to walk quite far (my Aunt is 87 and has some difficulty walking long distances).  We checked all our bags and headed right up the escalator.  At the top of the escalator we were all handed a piece of paper and then directed to stand in line.  I didn't read the paper as I was the designated organizer and since we had 9 of us, ranging in age from 16 to 87, there wasn't much time.  (More on this later).  Within 5 minutes, all of us were sent to different desks to check - in.  We were done within 10 minutes - pictures and all.  We were each given numbers of when to board.  I had group 1 as I was in a suite. The others were given group 6.  I waited with the others and we were all boarded within 20 minutes.  This was by far the easiest embarkation I have ever had.  (I have cruised 5 other times - a Baltic cruise with HAL and several Caribbean cruises with Carnival.)  Everyone was directed to the Lido for lunch - which wasn't too crowded.  After our lunch we all headed to the Navigation Deck where our cabins were located.  My daughters' and sister and niece had the "secret cabins" on the aft deck.  Both rooms were set up with the beds together.  There was a room steward finishing up down the hall so we asked if he could separate the beds - his facial expression was one of disgust!  He said.. "yes, yes -I will do it!"  We all looked at each other like - "oh gee, hope he isn't our room steward."  We then headed down to my aunt's room right down the hall and hers was fine.  My Aunt has some difficulty walking long distances so we had arranged with Care Vacations to have a wheelchair rental for the week.  The wheelchair was waiting for her in her cabin. Next up, our suite.  We were in cabin 7016.  The room was ready, so we all went out and sat on the balcony.  It was really nice out there.  We brought out 2 of the chairs from the living room and still had plenty of room to move around. An hour later our luggage arrived and we spent a little time unpacking prior to the muster.  There was plenty of room for all our luggage - although not enough hangers. Muster went well -the weather in Seattle was beautiful so it wasn't too bad in the life jackets. After the muster, we headed back to the cabin and then went exploring the ship.  The Zaandam is in good condition.  Seemed very clean and had no problem getting around (although my Mom got lost throughout the cruise.) I then checked out the Neptune Lounge.  I was really looking forward to the lounge as I love lattes and espressos in the morning.  Our suite was just down the hall from the Neptune. No key card was needed to get in.  Nette was the concierge on duty when I first arrived. She introduced herself to me and I inquired about possibly changing one of the key cards.   We had paid for my younger daughter (16 years old) to be in our Suite so she did have access to the Lounge, but she wanted to hang out with her sister whenever she wanted.  Her sister was in cabin 7086.  Nette informed me that if we changed key cards, my daughter would not "be allowed in the Neptune Lounge."  This I did not understand.  We paid for her in the Suite - we just wanted her to have access to my other daughter's room.  The accounts were all under my name so this was not the problem.  I spoke with my daughter, and she figured it was more important for her to get into her sisters room - so she gave up the Neptune Lounge access.  I did, however, occasionally bring my daughter a cookie or two from the Lounge when she wanted one. We were assigned fixed traditional early seating on deck 4 of the Rotterdam.  However, after I inquired, I was told that half of this floor was for "anytime dining", so there was a line at the maitre d stand (Ronny).  We were informed to pass the line and go to our table - which we did, but it seemed that we did get some strange looks on our way -  like "why are those people cutting the line?" The meal was very good - although the desserts were not that great (I am a huge dessert fan!) and my Mom said that the meat  was very "chewy." Our server (I believe his name was Eric) was very nice and accommodating.  Later that night as I was getting ready for bed I happened to see the letter that was given to us just prior to checking in... I was quite surprised.  It said that on the previous cruise there were reported cases of the swine flu and we were given the option of cancelling our cruise with a full refund. Wow!  I am quite sure that no one took this option as they most likely did not have time to read the letter prior to checking in??  Anyway, we all vowed to be even more diligent in our cleansing and hand washing! Saturday June 6th  - Sea Day The trip to Juneau was smooth (for me anyway).  A few in our group felt a little seasick and had to take Bonine and Dramamine.   My Mom went to Mass and said it was nice. After breakfast in the lido I went to the gym.  This area is smaller than what I had seen on other cruise ships.  It was also difficult to get any of the machines.  The treadmills, elliptical, and recumbent bikes were full. After waiting for 10-15 minutes, I was able to jump on an elliptical and got a pretty good workout. We all went to the Battle of the Sexes game show.  Two in our group were selected to be on stage.  If they hadn't, we probably would have found this a bit boring.  But, since we knew the competitors, it was funny to see them up on the stage. My Mom went to the Pilates class in the gym - she said it was pretty good - a little slower than what she was used to at home. A few went to the Bingo game - but didn't win. Dinner was formal. Most were dressed very nice - some tuxes but not a lot.  The food was good - but, again the dessert was disappointing. This night we had Aquis? for our server.  He was great - very accommodating.  My daughter was a bit seasick and he brought her tea and ginger.  He also had her meal come right away as he said it would be helpful.  We all wished he would have been our server the rest of the cruise (more on this later.)  Later we went to the Wajang Theater and watched the Yes Man - which was pretty funny.  It was rated PG - although it did have a few risquE scenes.  Right after a particularly risquE scene, several older folks got up and left the theatre.  The rest of the movie I sat and worried that my Mom might be offended (she is 76) but she ended up falling asleep.  Ha! Sunday June 7th - Juneau Beautiful day.  Weather was perfect - maybe even a little too warm. We arrived at the pier a little before noon.  It was a little chaotic disembarking.  Long lines (we were right up front as our shore excursion began at 12:30. Within 20 minutes we got off and were on our way. We had a private whale watching tour booked with Orca enterprises.  Captain Larry.  They seemed a bit disorganized at check-in but soon enough we were all on the van to the pier. There were maybe 20-30 folks on our boat.  Smooth waters.  Saw bald eagles, humpback whales (mom and baby), and orcas.  Got great pictures of all.  I spent most of my time on the top deck (when we weren't moving fast).  Did not feel crowded at all.  I saw the boat the cruise ships use for their shore excursions and was happy I hadn't gone that route.  They were 2-3 deep with people. They did seem to be following us a lot that day, though! After the tour, Orca took 6 of us in one van to meet up with Coastal Helicopters for our helicopter/dog sled tour.  3 others were taken via Orca to Mendenhall Glacier. Coastal was wonderful!  We had to get on the scale to get our weight and then they set us up in our gear - nice pants, boots, etc.  We then waited a few minutes for our helicopter.  Our pilot, Brad was super nice.  I was a bit nervous, but he made us all very comfortable.  I was surprised to hear that we were going over 100 mph as it felt like we were hardly moving.  At the dog camp, we met our mushers - Jessica and Robert.  These 2 are veterinary students and couldn't have been nicer.  It was just our party at the camp.  Everyone had a great time and we all had a chance to "mush."  The dogs were all very friendly and we were able to spend some time visiting with the dogs and took a lot of pictures.  It was such a gorgeous day - we didn't even need jackets. On the helicopter trip back, my sister was the co-pilot and got to "help" start the helicopter.  She loved it!  Great experience and well worth the money spent here.  My kids and niece said that this excursion was their favorite of all. We were dropped off by coastal back at the pier - it was still early as we weren't leaving until 10 pm so we headed to a pizza place right next to the pier and the kids had a pizza.  We then went back to the ship and went right to the Lido for a late dinner.  Dinner there was nice - not too many choices.  The dessert was OK.  Ice cream line was very long and had to wait a while.  It was a long day, so we all headed to the cabin and went to bed. The 3 that had gone to Mendenhall Glacier after our whale watching tour were picked up by Orca and taken back to the pier at the designated time.  All 3 said the Mendenhall Glacier was not that great.  They got back to the ship early, but were too tired to go to dinner, so they all ordered room service.  My Mom said the BLT and chocolate cake were wonderful. Monday - June 8th Tracy Arm (NOT!) I had set the alarm to get up early so as not to miss any of the glacier trip, but unfortunately, we were not able to go into Tracy Arm.  The captain made an announcement and from what I could hear (it was difficult at times to understand him in the room), is that they had attempted twice to assess the channel into Tracy Arm and found there to be too much ice? Therefore, he made the decision to go into Endicott arm instead and see the Dawes glacier.  I had not heard anything about this area in the message boards so I really didn't know what to expect.  We saw some small "icebergs" heading toward the glacier.  There were a ton of seals on the pieces of ice.  It was nice to sit out on the balcony and enjoy the scenery, however it was a little disappointing.  The glacier itself was just "there"-  nothing to really view. The ship turned left and right to give us different viewing of the glacier...it got old very fast.  We walked the lower promenade deck and then spent most of the day playing catchphrase and spoons in the cabin - that was fun! We had ordered an appetizer party for 3 that afternoon from the Neptune Lounge.  It arrived right on time and consisted of chicken wings and some cold appetizers.  Dinner was smart casual. This night we had Eddi? for our server.  I am sorry... but, he was awful.  He was not pleasant and we felt uncomfortable asking for anything "special."  My sister was even afraid to ask for extra caramel on her ice cream.    We all went to bed fairly early tonight. Tuesday -  June 9th - Sitka Another nice day - a bit overcast but cleared up later.  We arrived in Sitka a little after 8 am. We had booked 2 separate private tours for 1 pm, but we wanted to explore the town first, so we went down to the tender level shortly after 9.  We only had to wait a few minutes to get on the tender.  The staff was very helpful with my Aunt's wheelchair - they carried it on the tender and took it off for us.  It was difficult to get her up the ramp at the pier as it was quite steep.  Once in Sitka, we walked to the Raptor center.  This was an easy walk for us but was made a little difficult because of the wheelchair.  We had walked through the park (which was very pretty) and it was dirt and stone, so my Aunt had to walk.  The Raptor center was very nice.  The staff there was informative and the animals were beautiful.  We ended up taking a taxi/van service back to the pier.  I had been given a card at the pier, so I called them and they were there in 5 minutes to pick us all up.  5 of us then met with Jim Seeland of Sitka Sound Tours. I had had many emails with Jim to set this excursion up and he was very patient and knowledgeable.  Unfortunately, his boat had some mechanical problems on the day of the excursion, but he was able to get another boat chartered.  The group that went with him had a great time and said Jim was very informative - they saw whales, otters, seals, puffins, etc.  My sister was in the group and got seasick.  The waters were very calm  -  like glass in most areas - but, whenever they stopped the motion got to her.  My younger daughter and I went with Capt. Davey on the Esther G.  There were 3 other folks on our tour.  We saw the same animals as the other group, except we spent a little more time with the grey whales (one was right by our boat) and more time near a rocky island that had a ton of seals lounging. This was an exhilarating experience.  I would have to say that this was one of my favorite excursions.  Capt. Davey was terrific! And we also were given some amazing chocolate chip cookies - remember, I am all about the dessertsJ  Last tender back to our ship was at 4:30, so Capt Davey got us back just in time. My daughter and her boyfriend had an excursion through HAL - the Ultimate Adventure - Boat raft and 4 X 4.  They both loved it and said it was a great excursion.  They did come back quite dirty as the paths on the trail had not seen rain for a week. Once onboard, we got dressed for the second formal dinner.  Some in our group were tired and my sister was still a little seasick so it was just me and 4 of the "kids" (16-19 years old) for dinner.  Since we were not our usual 9, I asked if we could be seated at a different table and were given a 6 top.  It was perfect - right by the windows and thankfully, we had a different server.  He was very accommodating, and friendly.  My niece had ordered the night before for today's dinner (a vegetarian meal) and he was able to find her order and she loved it. Again, most dressed appropriately - some tuxes, but not the majority.  The food was good.. just not great   We had an early day scheduled in Ketchikan so we went to bed pretty early. Wednesday -  June 10th  - Ketchikan Gorgeous day - really could not have asked for a more beautiful day! Today 7 of us were scheduled for a floatplane tour (5 with Michelle on Island Wings and 2 through HAL) and the other 2 (my daughter and her boyfriend) were booked with HAL to zipline. The 5 with Michelle met her van at the pier and had a very short trip to the plane.  We met Michelle and soon headed off in the plane.  The water was calm and take off smooth.  It was truly beautiful to be in the air and see all of the beauty this area has to offer.  We were all given headsets and were able to communicate with Michelle and the others in our party. Michelle also played pretty music while we were flying.  It was very surreal.  Michelle pointed out different areas and was very knowledgeable about the area.  Michelle landed so smoothly in a lake I didn't even know we had landed.  We stopped on a small island to enjoy the majestic view.  Quite beautiful and amazing...no words can describe the beauty. On the way back to Ketchikan, we saw Orcas "playing" in the water and Michelle circled around 3 times so we could get good views (and pictures).  The other 2 on the HAL floatplane said they also had a wonderful trip - however, they did not get off on an island and they didn't see the Orcas.  Later, Michelle mentioned that she could have taken our whole group although there would have been 7 of us.  I was surprised as I had thought there could only be 6 on the plane, but I guess I was thinking of the boat tours?  Michelle said the limit was 8 as long as the weight was under 1200.  Since we were all thin, we would not have had a problem meeting the weight requirement L  We didn't tell the other 2 this information as I know they would have been disappointed to know that they could have flown with Michelle, too.  Anyway - Michelle was absolutely wonderful.  It is very apparent that she loves her job.  It is now difficult to decide which the best excursion was for me as all were more than we could have asked for... After another super smooth landing, we got off the plane and a young man drove us back to the pier.  We inquired about good places to eat and he recommended several in the area.  My sister and I went to Burger Queen just past the tunnel - great burgers.  My aunt, Mom and cousin ate at Annabelles - right across from the pier.  They said it was very good.  My daughter and niece ate at a "wrap restaurant" down the street from the Ketchikan sign (Mission Ave I believe).  They loved them. We got back on the ship just in time for sail away.  We would have like to have had much more time here in Ketchikan as it seemed to be a nice little town. We all got dressed - smart casual- and headed to dinner.  We were back at our regular table and again we had Eddi as our server- not good.  My daughter's boyfriend asked for another appetizer after we had finished our first appetizer and he said "no - it is not allowed" very rudely.  Aquis had no problem bringing extra appetizers or desserts to any of our party, yet Eddi said that it would mess everything up in the kitchen.  My niece again had ordered her vegetarian dinner the night before (like we were instructed to do) so we told Eddi this... his reply "oh, really?"  We said yes, he said there was no order for this.  I told him we had given the order to Nette in the Neptune and she had told us that morning that she had placed the order.  Eddi stated that it would be very difficult to have her order now and she would need to order from the regular menu.  Well, my niece is a strict vegetarian and was somewhat disappointed.  When Eddi passed the table we asked again if he could check with Nette and he looked very displeased but said he would.  Lo and behold, he comes out with her vegetarian appetizer and meal. When our desserts came we liked the chocolate mousse so we asked for extras - again, his expression showed disgust.  He brought the extra desserts and practically threw them in the middle of the table.  Later, I spoke with the maitre d about why we had different servers every night.  He said the first few nights, our server was sick so we had others "fill in" for him.  Obviously, Eddi was considered our server for the trip and we were not too happy about this.  Never once did we see him smile.  I think this might have been related to being on the anytime dining floor (although, we had traditional dining.) Went to the Magic/Comedy Show - Jeff Peterson.  He was really good - funny too.  And the dog was adorable! Thursday June 11th - Victoria Another beautiful day... We were scheduled to arrive at 7 pm today so we planned a leisurely day.  I worked out in the gym for 2 hours. Very few people were there that day.  By the time I was done, I was the only one in the gym - it was great.  We went to bingo - no winners in our group.  We played board games in the suite.  Had a relaxing day. None in our group wanted to eat in the Rotterdam dining room due to Eddi - so, we went to the Lido and had a nice meal.  The Lido was not very organized.  It took a long time to get our meals and many people were quite rude and cutting in lines.  Also, we had a difficult time finding a place to all sit together as many folks that only had 2 (or even 1) person in their party sat at the bigger tables.  We ended up having to eat out by the pool and just pushed 3 round tables together. We were in Victoria sometime after 7.  When they made the announcement that we could disembark, we headed down and found very long lines so we went back to the room and waited 30 minutes.  At that time, there weren't too many folks and we were off the ship within 10 minutes.   We all boarded a bus right out front ($6.50 roundtrip) and headed to Victoria.  Beautiful city - weather was gorgeous.  A little windy and chillier than the other days, but still very nice.  We just walked around and looked at the street vendors - people playing music, dancing, etc.  We shopped a little. I found the prices to be quite high.  The chocolate shop was charging $4.75 for a Lindt chocolate bar that I just paid $2.50 for at Walgreens in Florida. They had a good chocolate covered cheesecake on a stick. We all really enjoyed Victoria and wished we could have stayed a bit longer. After being dropped off at the pier, we stopped in Customs and got our passports souvenir stamped. The security guards were very nice - one volunteered to take pictures of all us next to the mural. We had signed up for Signature Luggage so we put our bags in the hall by 1:00 am and didn't see them again until we arrived home.  (Although, some of our luggage was ruined - we had brand new nice luggage that arrived with broken wheels and handles - not sure if this was Delta or HAL so couldn't really do anything about it.) Friday - June 12th - Seattle Disembarkation After such a wonderful cruise, this was a real disappointment.  Thursday afternoon, we had been given a letter saying which group we were in for disembarkation.  The form said 8:00 - However, since our flight was not departing until 10:20 pm we had plenty of time.  Therefore, I had requested a late disembarkation.  I talked with Nette in the Neptune Lounge and she stated that was fine... we could all leave anytime after 8:00 up until 9:45.  I told her 9:00 would be good.  So, we all ordered room service from 7:30 to 8:00. However, at 7:50 I hear someone trying to get in our room.  I arrive to the door just as the door was opening and it was Putu - our room steward.  He said  "oh, are you just getting up."  I said no, but we weren't ready to leave yet as we had not had our breakfast yet.  I told him that we planned to leave by 9:00.  He had a garbage bag in his hands and he wanted to come in and "clean the garbage"... I asked if he could wait as my Mom was still dressing.  He didn't seem too happy about this.  I understand that there are new people coming and they need to clean the rooms, but why tell someone they have until 9:45 and then come in before 8 to clean??  A few minutes later an overhead announcement was made that disembarkation had begun and passengers could begin to leave the ship. Not 5 minutes later the door is opening again (no one knocked) and it is the honor bar man.  He walked right in, saw us and said "I just need to check the refrigerator" - he proceeded to empty out the champagne we had on the counter and take the orange juice out of the fridge.  I was in total shock of the rudeness.   A few minutes later our breakfast arrived.  My Mom and I sat down to have our last meal and a quick cup of coffee before we did a final check of the room.  Just as I sit down, someone knocks again and starts to enter our room - it is a man wearing a tan jumpsuit - he says "oh" and turns around and leaves.   Not 2 minutes later he is on our balcony (he had crossed over from the next suite) and he was hosing down the balcony - picking up the rug - moving the furniture.  A few minutes later, another man joined him on the balcony. My Mom hurried off the couch and finished getting dressed. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
We had heard that the quality of HAL was diminishing but such was not the case on our seven day cruise to Alaska. Service is still top notch and unobtrusive.  Food quality is still very good. Holland America offers good, consistent value ... Read More
We had heard that the quality of HAL was diminishing but such was not the case on our seven day cruise to Alaska. Service is still top notch and unobtrusive.  Food quality is still very good. Holland America offers good, consistent value for your money.   The embarkation went smoothly.  Pier 91 in Seattle is new and is well laid out for the two ships that were embarking on that day. We were fortunate in that we had sunny weather for most of the week.  It was strange to see so much snow on all of the mountains but it is still a bit early in the season. Sailing out of Seattle meant that we did not traverse the Inside Passage on either leg of our trip.  We missed that part of an Alaska cruise but still had a lot of beautiful scenery to enjoy. There were plenty of humpback whales to observe at several portions of the cruise.  Dining is excellent. My wife and I did dine in the Pinnacle Grille a few times but the quality in the main dining room is still commendable. Portions are a bit smaller than in the past but that is a good thing as we tend to overindulge. They did offer a wine card of twenty pours which was plenty for us for the week.  It averaged about $3.50 per glass and offered six wines to choose from.  A good value and you did not have to buy a bottle. The food in the Lido deck was the same as what was offered in the main dining room.  Entertainment was fair.  The Zaandam singers will still feeling their way through the routine. No instruments were used during the shows. Everything was canned except for the flat singing of the four lead singers. They had no chemistry and blending. I found myself wondering when it would be over. They also had a saxophone player one night. He did a great job with some jokes and singing tossed in.  The final night we had the ubiquitous magician/comic act. He was very good and we enjoyed it but it seems each cruise has someone of his ilk as part of the entertainment.  Also, the cruise director must have been fairly new. He had the same routine each night and tended to read many announcements. Perhaps he will improve as the season progresses.  Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
We booked an SY cabin, but got the opportunity to upgrade to SA two days before we sailed for only $300 and it was well worth it! Our cabin was so luxurious, I never wanted to leave it! Between the invitations to private parties by being ... Read More
We booked an SY cabin, but got the opportunity to upgrade to SA two days before we sailed for only $300 and it was well worth it! Our cabin was so luxurious, I never wanted to leave it! Between the invitations to private parties by being in a suite and the ones for the Cruise Critic folks, we had four private parties with free appetizers and champagne. That was awesome! The staff in Neptune Lounge (Chris and Ada) were excellent as well. We didn't really spend much time there, but every time we dropped in to get coffee for my husband or pick up a couple of cookies or chocolate croissants, they were so nice and friendly. They learned our names immediately which was neat. I was ecstatic that there were little or no children on our cruise! This was a sore point with my last cruise on Royal Caribbean in July 2003 and I'm happy to say choosing HAL and a fall date was the right choice to avoid this type of thing. I was a bit disappointed with both the food in the main dining room and the Lido. Portions in the DR were fine for me as I'm a light eater, but they seemed rather small for most people. The lido had too many stations spread out and I was always getting in the wrong line. Food quality was okay, but didn't like the mob mentality, though I know it is the way on all cruise lines. I was quite disappointed with shipboard activities. Too many seemed geared to make money for HAL, such as bingo and the casino. Extremely disappointed that when we went to trivia once in the Vista Lounge, we were rushed through it to make way for bingo (since trivia didn't pay them anything). Did really enjoy Name that Tune in the piano bar one night and we actually won that teaming with a great couple from NJ! But overall, there was too much emphasis on shopping in every port over enjoying the natural scenery. It just seemed like Juneau, Ketchikan and Victoria were nothing but tourist traps and that was really disappointing to both of us. We did excursions in Juneau and Sitka that got us away from that downtown tourist feeling at least and they were enjoyable despite the rain. Did I mention it rained or was gray and foggy every day in Alaska. I surely wasn't expecting that. Not the cruise line's fault of course. Just disappointing. We spent a lot of time on our HUGE veranda at Hubbard Glacier, leaving Seattle, and approaching Victoria. This was some of our best times, enjoying the complementary champagne departing Seattle and our own wine viewing Hubbard. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
First - Thank you to everyone on this site who has taken the time to write a review. There is no way I could've planned our trip without you. This was our first time on Holland America and our fourth cruise. I planned the trip with a ... Read More
First - Thank you to everyone on this site who has taken the time to write a review. There is no way I could've planned our trip without you. This was our first time on Holland America and our fourth cruise. I planned the trip with a lot of help from travel sites. My husband and I traveled with my parents who are in their 70's. This was a dream vacation for my Dad. We went for them, but were excited about getting away from it all. We flew into Seattle, and took a car from the airport by dialing *55 on the ground transportation phone. This phone was hard to find. Our porter couldn't speak English, so was no help. Surprisingly, it only cost $55 for a limo which was a steal compared to two taxis. We spent the night in Comfort Suites /Seattle Center. We took the complimentary hotel shuttle to dinner at "Ettas" next to Pike's Place Market. The food was good but nothing to write about. The shuttle returned at the designated time to take us back to the hotel. We had a problem with our air conditioner in our room which was repaired before we retired. The next morning, we paid $6 per person for a shuttle to Pier 30. After a lot of prior research, the Comfort Suites experience met our needs nicely. Embarkation - It was extremely rushed. Our bags were whisked away before we were even out of the shuttle bus. This was unsettling. My husband and I had to chase down the porter, who was rude, to find out what was happening. He said we should be happy that we were hustled ahead of the others. I spoke with a Holland America representative who said that the porter didn't work for the cruise line. After traveling to Europe, I felt an unexpected sudden separation from our bags was unacceptable. This started our cruise awkwardly. We became separated from my parents because they were whisked away by another representative while we were trying to get answers about our bags. We missed out on the traditional embarkation picture. We finally boarded together and went to the Lido Restaurant where the crowd was overwhelming and dangerous for my parents who are not that stable on their feet. We couldn't find anywhere to sit. People were saving seats by turning up chairs. We finally sat on the edge of the Lido pool to eat our first meal on the ship. The food was mediocre at best. It's the last meal we had there during our cruise. When we heard the announcement that our rooms were ready, we were thrilled. We had booked adjoining rooms where our bags were waiting. We spent the next couple of hours unpacking and relaxing. I found 6 empty packs of men's underwear in a cabinet over the loveseat. I contacted the steward, and he removed them. Our bags fit nicely under the bed. We had a clogged sink and tub. After speaking with the steward, they were promptly repaired. The Dining Room- Served a variety of foods each night. I was worried when the first night, two of us had to send our food back to the kitchen. It simply wasn't edible. The restaurant manager said that he would make it up to us on lobster night which he did. All week, the table steward was extremely impatient with my mother who is hard of hearing. His broken English made it even harder for her to understand him. Their inability to communicate caused a strain each night. I know that the table steward has a difficult job, but the Holland America line has a reputation for having elderly guests, so somebody is dropping the ball on training these servers on dealing with their clientele. We almost asked for another steward after the second night. In hind sight, we should have. Didn't want cause a problem for the system. Our steward never crossed the line to being rude until the last night when he asked my mother loudly if she was confused, and why, since he had asked her only a simple question. It was unacceptable behavior. Pinnacle Grill - We made reservations online a month before departure to celebrate my parents 53rd anniversary and our 29th. The service was horrible and the food was average. The dining room was far better, so this was clearly a waste of money. Cabin- This is where our experience was a pleasure. For a large cruise ship, our cabin was very comfortable and quiet. We booked VF5 with has a glass balcony. There was a tub which made the bathroom layout larger,therefore easier to move about. We relaxed in our room for several days with a comfy bed, pillows, and loveseat. Every evening, we put our breakfast menu on the door for pick up. Our order always arrived on time and correct. We had lunch in our cabin when we were not at port. The T.V. in the room had only a few stations. There were some good movies on. We like watching the news, but the only news channel was CNN. This was a pain to watch. We wished for FOX news all week. Ports- Sitka was my favorite because is was quaint and quiet. We purchased some locally made earrings for our daughter for her birthday which were a great hit when we returned home. We tried some locally made clam chowder. Juno - A rainy day. Our ship docked to far from town to walk. We had to pay $3 a piece to get into town which was a blatant rip-off when the other three ships docked were right in town. Holland America should foot the bill for this. We took a local shuttle to the Mendenhall Glacier. I'm glad we did, or there wouldn't be much to talk about when we returned home. We are okay fish tacos at a local restaurant for lunch. Ketchikan- Watching the salmon run up stream was fascinating. We purchase some fresh canned salmon to take home. Hubbard Glacier- The viewing was spectacular. We did experience it calving several times which was amazing. Was it worth the trip, probably not. We had a guide board the ship while viewing the glacier which made the viewing more interesting. Entertainment - Well, we only went to see the magician and the comedian and both were enjoyable. We did go to the newlywed game one night because of the reviews here. It was hilarious. Choppy Seas - I've never experienced such rocking. My parents had a hard time maintaining their balance while we were in the Pacific. At night, it was a great environment to sleep. Fitness Center - I worked out every morning. The view was great, but the room was crowded with no place to stretch. They could use some stretching machines. Disembarkment - No problems at all. We took the transfer to the airport because our airline kept changing our flight before our trip. They moved it so close to our disembark time that I decided to let Holland America be responsible for getting us there on time. We arrived home jet- lagged, but all in all had a nice vacation. In conclusion- I think that an Alaskan Cruise is overrated. If you spend the money to go, take a cruise to the Northern ports as well. We saw two killer whales, and that's it. Also, I would think that planning a Land Tour before your cruise would make your trip more memorable. We didn't take any excursions because of the reviews I read here. I enjoyed the Holland America experience. It was quiet and relaxing in our room. I would suggest that the ship do a better job designating smoking areas. Several times, we were gagged by smoke. We learned to take alternate routes on the ship to bypass the worst areas. We are now planning our next cruise to the South Pacific. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
Background Information: 35 yrs old, honeymoon cruise with husband age 36, his second cruise, my 7th. Have previously cruised HAL (Maasdam, Volendam and Zuiderdam), also NCL, Celebrity and Regent. Summary: I guess I keep returning ... Read More
Background Information: 35 yrs old, honeymoon cruise with husband age 36, his second cruise, my 7th. Have previously cruised HAL (Maasdam, Volendam and Zuiderdam), also NCL, Celebrity and Regent. Summary: I guess I keep returning to HAL for the familiarity, service, price and destinations. This cruise was consistent with the other 3. Overall, I'd say the food has improved in the main dining rm. and is on par with Celebrity, which I thought was excellent when I cruised it last year. The entertainment was better also. I'm still disappointed with the nickel and diming, which Celebrity is also guilty of. I chose this cruise because I didn't want to honeymoon in a hurricane; Caribbean would have been my first choice but due to the season, opted to avoid that risk. I've heard such great things about Alaska, but honestly think its overrated as a cruise port of call. If you're an outdoor enthusiast, you have to go out of your way to experience the land. I just prefer warmer weather but I was prepared with sweaters and a poncho thanks to this site. Travel To Port of Embarkation: yellow cab - quick and easy Embarkation: Quick, easy and painless. Stateroom: Suite category SY is nice and roomy. We loved the dual sink and shower in the bathroom. Bed was comfortable. Extra chairs got in the way when trying to get around in the room, so we pushed them to the corners of the room. When we first entered the room it wasn't as clean as it should have been. Drawers had hair in them, especially the drawer with the hairdryer. I wished this was in the bathroom instead. There were some hairs on the bed. The back of the sofa was dusty. I told the cabin steward, who wiped them out of the sink, but used the hairdryer to blow the hairs around the rest of the cabin and wiped down the back of the sofa. Didn't expect that. But from that point on, the room was spotless so I guess pointing it out to him was a good idea. Service: The HAL crew is still as good as my first HAL cruise in 2000. Cabin, front desk, dining was all good. Liquor: The mixed drinks were good, red wine needs to either be stored better or get better brands. Blech! Activities: still a nice variety of onboard activities, my preference being bingo, karaoke, afternoon tea, etc. Hubby went to the gym twice and had no complaints. The Mariners society reception was replaced with a nice brunch which we enjoyed. Spa: we got on early enough the first day to get a nice tour of the spa. We bought the $250 unlimited couples access to the hydrapool and thermal suite for the week. Worth it for us. We went every day but the last day. Nice and relaxing, which was what we needed after planning a wedding for half a year. Shore Excursions: Glacier bay was just standing around looking at ice melt. It was nice but after a while...hmmm. A nice touch was serving bean soup in little cups on the upper deck while we took pictures and talked with the park ranger and others. Juneau: Unfortunately, our weather was 49 degrees and rain that day. We took the tramway up to the souvenir shop, saw a quick film about AK and then saw the rescued bald eagle was nice to see. We took pictures (no flash). Tram'd back down, went in a few shops. Very touristy. How many jewelry shops do they need there? Sitka: Nice, not as touristy as Juneau. Went to the Russian museum and the Sheldon Jackson museum within walking distance. Bought some handmade soaps. Ketchikan: Touristy as Juneau, went to the visitor center/museum. Victoria, Canada: Docked at 7pm, had to choose between doing an excursion or having dinner. Chose dinner. This was an oddly timed stop. Entertainment: illusionist/comedian Leo Ward was entertaining. Tried the usual welcome show but got bored quickly and went to the Crow's nest. The Moonlight Strings are excellent, I've never heard such good musicians on a cruise. The piano bar was good too. Disembarkation: No complaints, were off within 30 min and made it to the airport on time. Dining: I was concerned about the open dining I was assigned, that we would miss out on the personalized touch that you get with the same server for a week. But the open dining was handled well and we never had to wait long for dinner, servers were still attentive. At first I wasn't thrilled with having to call and make a reservation. Being our honeymoon, we preferred to have a table for 2 most of the time. The first night we didn't make a reservation and ended up at a table of 8 after getting a pager like the ones at TGI Fridays (it buzzed after 15 min). Luckily they were delightful people. I was also afraid of sitting with others who started political discussions. Thankfully, a couple of other times we dined with other couples, they were also delightful and we had a nice time. We dined at Pinnacle twice. The first time the food was better than the second, but the back room's atmosphere was ruined for the couples when a large table of 15 filled up. Bad layout for that back room! Room service wasn't that good, tried it on the second day and stuff was missing, coffee was terrible. Went Lido for breakfast from that point on. Lido was understandably crowded all cruise due to the weather. Food was good but it was tough to find a seat at peak times. Other than that I liked the food and variety, though I must say that the sushi on Celebrity was better. The chocolate extravaganza was kinda lame. There was no chocolate cheesecake! Only complaints about HAL is the nickel and diming. They shouldn't be charging for bottled water and soda. I might have to save up for another Regent cruise for that. Alaska was ok but I'm not rushing back there on my next cruise. HAL is still a good reliable cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
My husband and I began our journey by flying from L.A. to Seattle on August 27th and staying at the beautiful Hyatt Grand. Great location, luxurious accommodations and a great way to begin our adventure. Our cruise left on Saturday, August ... Read More
My husband and I began our journey by flying from L.A. to Seattle on August 27th and staying at the beautiful Hyatt Grand. Great location, luxurious accommodations and a great way to begin our adventure. Our cruise left on Saturday, August 30th. Getting aboard went very smoothly. Once onboard we were told the rooms were not ready and all were directed to the buffet. It was beautifully arranged, with many possibilities, but it was way too crowded, like a cattle call, there was no room for everyone to sit, and there were many elderly people trying to get trays, food and find seating. The crew looked tired that first day, but were doing their best to assist those who needed help. Once in our cabin we were pleased to see it was larger than expected, and I especially appreciated that the bathroom had plenty of room, a great shower and tub. I had previously been on an NCL cruise and the bathroom was like a tiny closet, hated it, so this larger one was an unexpected treat. Our travel agent told us we had "open seating", but we actually had been assigned early dinner seating,5:45. I usually get home from work at 7:30, and we eat around 8 pm, so this was very early for us. We would have asked to be changed, but we met a wonderful couple from Utah, Gordon and Jackie, who were sitting at our table that first night, and we didn't want to loose them as dinner company, so we stayed with that assignment. The China was beautiful, Rosenthal. On four occasions I was served water in glasses that were cracked or chipped, so someone should take care and remove damaged glassware from the ship. There were great selections on the menu, and the food was tasty and presentation was great. One problem, there is an advertised option to pre purchase 10 glasses of wine, which my husband wanted to do...but everytime he asked they didn't know what he was talking about or they told him it didn't apply. In the dining room the wine steward told him it didn't apply in the dining room...at the bar he was told it was only in the dining room, so that was very confusing. Our first dinner my husband ordered a glass of chardonnay, he always and only drinks chardonnay. A glass of red wine was placed in front of him, and when he told the wine steward that he had ordered chardonnay, the steward argued with him, pulling out his paper tablet and saying "see here, you ordered this"....not a great first impression. But he did get the wine he ordered. We were very tired that first night, and we missed the big show. By the second evening all the crew seemed in better spirits, there were more smiles all around. This was our first trip to Alaska, and I chose it because I wanted to see Sitka and Ketchikan. Having been a history teacher many years ago I was particularly interested in the Russian history of Sitka, and having studied Native North American Cultures many years ago in college, I wanted to experience what I could of the Tlingit culture. So while others were out taking pictures of whales, fishing for salmon or gliding through the treetops in the rain forests, I was there to soak up some of the history. And I was not disappointed. When I return, and I hope to, I will go out to see the whales and maybe even fish, as people we met told wonderful stories of their outings. But on this trip I did three off shore excursions. First stop: Juneau. Before we started our afternoon tour we went in search of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox church. To us it was worth climbing the steep street in the rain. The history of this city is inter-twined with the Russian presence, and this church, still used as a house of worship, is like a living museum. In town I bought some wooden Russian nesting dolls for our grandchildren and a few t-shirts. Then we were off to see Mendenhall Glacier. In spite of the pouring rain it was magnificent. Why are there so many jewelry stores in Juneau? Even with end of season sales, prices were high. I heard that the cruise line owns or manages many of them, and they certainly do push visiting and buying, but it seems odd that anyone would buy a very expensive item of jewelry so far from home. That evening we were too tired to make it to our assigned early dinner, but when I asked about having dinner at the open seating dining area I was told if we did that we would loose our other assignment...so we went to the buffet at a few minutes past 8 pm only to see that the curtains were down and all that was available was pizza or pasta, neither of which we wanted. I spoke to a waiter and they did bring us a nice dinner, but I do not understand why they would end good dinner choices at the buffet at such an early time...and I think they should extend that until 9 or 9:30 pm for those who take naps and miss dinner! The next day we cruised very near Hubbard Glacier. It was freezing cold and raining again, but it was spectacular, huge and spectacular. In Sitka we visited another Russian Orthodox church. Our guide was a Tlingit, Clint, very informative. This is also an active church, 90% of the parishioners are Native American. The woman at the front door showed me photos of her great granddaughter who was recently baptized there. Again, much history in that church, beautiful icons, photos, religious objects, well worth seeing. Then we went to see the New Archangel Dancers. They are not Russian, but they performed Russian dances in authentic costumes.I'm sure we could have done these two tours by ourselves without buying into the official "tour", but the bus driver/tour guide Clint made it well worth the extra expense. Before we reached the next port of Ketchikan husband became ill with a horrible chest cold, so I got him some cold tablets, some Vapor Rub, brought him lots of juice and tea, and set off to explore Ketchikan by myself. To me this was the most beautiful of the three cities...they were all wonderful to experience, but this to me was the most magical...maybe the fact that it wasn't raining (finally a day without rain)made it so special.I took the tour to Saxman village, a Tlingit village, and to me it was such a moving experience. I studied this culture in college in the late 60's, early 70's....at the time my professor said they were a dying culture....and here all these years later I walk into their village, saw numerous stunning totem poles, met wonderful old and young members of the tribe. We were greeted in Tlingit and in English, and treated to a performance of tribal dancing. The costumes were beautiful, red capes with shell button detail, each cape embroidered on the back to signify the clan that member is from: raven, salmon, love bird, etc. Dancers included the young and the elderly. The youngest dancer was a beautiful young girl of maybe 4 or 5 years old, and one of the young women danced with her beautiful baby daughter in a sling across her chest...the baby was maybe 5 or 6 months old...excited and happy to be dancing, her little legs and arms keeping rhythm to the drum beat and chant. Among all the wonderful things I saw this was the highlight of my trip...my visit to the Tlingit village. All in all, a wonderful trip. Enjoyed the accommodations, our cabin steward was wonderful, there was plenty of great food...an abundance unless you are looking for dinner after 8 pm. And upon our return to Seattle everything went smoothly, we were off the ship and on our way to the airport in no time. I highly recommend the $16 per person charge to have the ship staff do pre-boarding check in and have your luggage sent directly from the ship to your flight home. We did it, and it went well. We got off the ship with only my carry on case, and our luggage was in Los Angeles when we arrived. This was a great trip! Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
Just finished an eight day, seven night trip on the MS Oosterdam out of Seattle, stopping at Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria, BC. Background check - this is my first review and I haven't been on a cruise since 1983 (the ... Read More
Just finished an eight day, seven night trip on the MS Oosterdam out of Seattle, stopping at Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria, BC. Background check - this is my first review and I haven't been on a cruise since 1983 (the now-defunct Sitmar line), so I consider myself a "novice" cruiser. Beforehand: All travel documents and paperwork arrived well in advance of sailing, in a blue HA folio to keep them organized. I called the Seattle office twice with questions on shore tours and teen stuff and got helpful, professional advice. No problems there. Arrival: We (myself, the wife, our 13 year old daughter and our near identical traveling family) flew to Seattle on Friday morning and stayed one night at the Marriott Waterfront, where I spent the rest of the day sitting in Nordstrom while the wives and daughters shopped for shoes. The hotel was comfortable with plenty of restaurants nearby and only a ten minute taxi ride to Pier 30, the HA/Princess terminal. Highly recommended, since the only HA pre-cruise hotel package was at the Fairmont at over twice the price. How about a bit of variety here? Check-in: After almost being late to board due to another last-minute shoe expedition, the six of us were some of the last to arrive in the terminal. Check-in was quick and painless - use the online registration before you go! Had our security photos taken and were up the gangway in no more than ten minutes, just in time to meet the rush of passengers for lifeboat drill. I remember doing that about one hour out to sea back in '83 and here we hadn't even left port. After a short snack in the Lido budget restaurant, we went to our cabins and all bags were already there, along with Wisnu, our cabin steward. First day at sea: Rough seas and lots of stomach upset (even some of the crew!) for the first 36 hours. We had access to scopolamine patches and oral meclizine, which wa being passed out like vitamins at the Front Desk. The captain kept apologizing for the conditions but I'm sure he could only do so much. By Sunday afternoon all was calm and by evening the passengers were out of their cabins. Cabin: A verandah room (VA category) on the Navigation deck (deck 8). Unfortunately, the Lido restaurant was just above, so after late night eating finished, there was an hour of rumbling as things were put away and cleaned. Not appreciated! Next time I'll look more carefully at the deck plans. Room was cramped but had adequate storage. The queen bed was comfortable, with extra blankets in the closets. Our daughter liked the sofa bed near the patio window. Bathroom was small but adequate. Everything was very clean and well-maintained. Fresh fruit (our choice) was placed in the cabin daily, a nice touch. Temperature control was fine. In summary, I was expecting a bit more floor space but I guess that's the way it is these days. Next time I'll ante up for a small suite. The view was great but I'd gladly give up the balcony for more interior room. Room service (both food and cleaning) was prompt and consistently good all week. Food: We ate our meals about evenly between the Lido buffet and main dining room (open seating, 5:15-9:00 pm). I'm no food critic and eat whatever is put my way, though I do know a good steak and my wife knows her Asian cuisine. Portions were fine for me but would be considered skimpy by some - and there were a large number of grotesquely obese people on board, packing on the calories. Service was erratic in the main dining room but the dishes were excellent and there was a nice selection with every meal. Meat was generally cooked one notch more than requested so I ordered "medium" and consistently got a nice "medium well". The asian-style food in the Lido restaurant had some good dishes but the sushi selection was poor, with low quality rice and almost exclusively seaweed rolls with vegetables. Other stations (pastas, pizza, deli, main courses, desserts) had a decent variety and were more than OK for my taste. Breakfasts were especially tasty with waffles, omelets, eggs to order, cereals, fruit, several kinds of juices (real fresh-squeezed OJ) and four different kinds of eggs Benedict. Our daughter and her friend ate heartily the entire week. Entertainment: Singing/dancing music shows (fun and energetic), magician (James Cielen - above average), Indonesian crew music show (interesting and enthusiastic). Typical cruise stuff from what I've read. Enjoyable after a busy day ashore. Passengers: Average age 40-65. The handful of families with small children kept a good rein on them and I never heard out of control screaming or tantrums. Most of the kids on board were 8-17 years old and seemed well-behaved. Our daughter thoroughly loved the teen deck activities and met all kinds of kids within the first day. After that, she took one of our FRS radios and was off from morning to dinnertime, then back up there until 11:30 pm. We never felt she was unsafe to wander around with the group and there was always a college-aged "chaperone" keeping an eye on things. Very well done. Ship shops: Constant advertising and "sales." Prices weren't bad but I cannot imagine buying "fine art" or a major piece of jewelry from a cruise ship! We just ignored this area so it didn't bother us one way of another. Casino: Helped HA's balance sheet one night and took some back another. Mostly staffed by eastern Europeans, the usual table games and slots/video poker. A casino is a casino... Juneau: Overcast at first then cleared up nicely. Took the helicopter/dogsledding tour with my daughter while the wife went to the spa and napped. A fantastic experience and strongly recommended - professional people all the way through. Expensive but worth it once! My daughter even got to sit in front next to the helicopter pilot on the way back, something she is still talking about. Sitka: Beautiful weather - mid-60s and sunny. A short stop so we just took the $10 all day shuttle and stopped at the Raptor Center to see the recovering eagles and owls. Beautiful birds! We were there in between "show" where some of the birds are brought out for a close view and a talk from the staff. Kids would love it. Ketchikan: Took the rain forest canopy/zip line tour with another great experience. Over 100' up in the trees, suspension bridges and zip lines galore. The teens had a blast and so did their dads! Well worth it. Victoria, BC: Amazingly clean and attractive city - maybe because it's the provincial capital. Definitely a place I'd like to visit again. Too bad the dollar is so weak against the loonie... Shore shopping: For the most part, junky jewelry stores and t-shirts. Sitka had a nice fur store if you are looking for a coat (Russian sable - $60,000). Most are seasonal shops that close up by the end of September. We just kept walking... Seattle return: After a leisurely breakfast, we disembarked at our scheduled time and had minimal delay working our way through to our luggage, which had been set out the previous night. Used the HA (Gray Line) buses for airport transportation - efficiently run. Summary: Pluses - good service, excellent shore tours, scenery, "Junior" had a great time with her new friends, comfortable bedding Minuses - "small" cabin, cabin location, inconsistent quality of service in the main dining room, constant "selling" from the art and gift shops Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
My wife and I embarked on this first-ever cruise to celebrate our fifth anniversary. After a long and exhausting separation due to work, we intentionally chose a cruise as a relaxing alternative to our typical DIY, adventure-seeking, ... Read More
My wife and I embarked on this first-ever cruise to celebrate our fifth anniversary. After a long and exhausting separation due to work, we intentionally chose a cruise as a relaxing alternative to our typical DIY, adventure-seeking, see-and-do-everything vacations. Overall, the Oosterdam delivered a great experience. We seemed to be in a rare demographic on the ship - early 30s and no kids. There were quite a few families on board, and a vast majority of older folks (50+). We would have enjoyed more couples our age, but really didn't mind the age distribution. We flew directly to Seattle the morning of embarkation. We had not pre-booked an airport transfer, although we apparently could have done so as late as baggage claim at SEATAC airport. We took a taxi instead, which ended up being quick and about half the price of a transfer. Embarkation was smooth and took about ten minutes. Like most people, we had pre-registered online, so it was just a matter of checking passports and taking photos for our ship access cards. It was nice to drop off our luggage in the warehouse and not have to worry about it again until it appeared in our stateroom. We boarded about 11:30 am, our room was ready about 1 pm, and departure was 4 pm. The ship itself was clean and inviting, and reminded me of a Marriott or some other mid-tier hotel chain - not downright luxurious or all that inspiring, but nice and good quality. We were very pleased with our verandah stateroom. Due to our excellent booking rate, we did not have a pre-assigned room, which made me a little nervous. Turns out we got a verandah room in the very back of the ship - which was surprisingly enjoyable, and not a bad place to watch the world go by. Our verandah was the same width, but seemed to be a lot longer, than the typical verandahs on the sides of the ship. Due to the terraced layout of the back of the ship, our verandah was not sheltered above, and did not offer any privacy from the staterooms above us. This didn't bother us, although it may bother some. Food quality, overall, was "good" on a scale of fair to excellent. We only ate in the main dining room a few times, due to our shore excursions and other activities. Food quality there was average. Breakfast on the lido level was excellent, with made-to-order omelets, waffles, and eggs benedict. We also enjoyed the pizza. We ate in the Pinnacle Grill once, which was well worth the cover charge, and delivered steaks nearly as good as the offerings at top joints like Ruth's Chris. Don't miss the chocolate volcano cake! Our only dining drawback, if you'd call it that, was the fact that we got mysteriously moved from "As You Wish" dining to assigned, early dinner seating during check-in. We didn't mind too much, and so didn't protest. We were assigned to a table for four with another couple in their early 60s. Great folks, but we didn't have a lot in common to spark conversation, and it would've been nice to either sit at a larger table to meet more people, or have some flexibility in choosing our dinner mates. Shore excursions were fantastic. Remember: this is Alaska, so get out and see the natural beauty! You can shop anywhere, so don't waste time shopping during shore excursions. We did helicopter glacier trekking, kayaking, and a wilderness hike, and loved every minute of it. None of these activities were very strenuous, and there were outdoors-type tour options for every age and ability level. I booked all of the excursions through HAL, two of the three online prior to boarding. The prices seemed reasonable, and the convenience couldn't be beat. For what is considered a mid-size ship, there was a wide variety of entertainment on board. The most fun activities were the ones that had guest involvement - the Oosterdam Superstar singing competition, the Marriage Game, the cooking demonstrations, and bingo (our first time!). The evening shows were good, the standout being the guest magician, James Cielien. The only activities disappointment: we were waitlisted for the hands-on cooking classes and never got in. C'mon, HAL: 3 classes with only 12 participants each means only 36 guests out of about 1900 get to try cooking classes? Disembarkation was smooth, no issues. We spent a couple of days in Seattle after the cruise, which I highly recommend as a relaxing transition back into real life. In summary, HAL and the Oosterdam met all of our expectations, and provided a great venue to see Alaska. We'll cruise again, probably on a different line. Not that there was anything wrong with HAL - just to try something different. But HAL and Alaska were a great first-time cruise experience. Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
First of all, this was my 29th cruise overall, but only my third on HAL first since 1997. In the last 5 years, I have cruised exclusively with Carnival. We traveled with a group of 11 on this cruise. Five of us are in our mid-20's, ... Read More
First of all, this was my 29th cruise overall, but only my third on HAL first since 1997. In the last 5 years, I have cruised exclusively with Carnival. We traveled with a group of 11 on this cruise. Five of us are in our mid-20's, with our parents and a couple seniors. All in all, it was a great trip... the ship was great, service excellent, and Alaska was breathtaking. Embarkation: A breeze we arrived to the Pier in Seattle around 11:35, and were on board in 15 minutes. Service: Excellent in general. Room stewards were great. Bar servers were extremely personal and went out of their way to learn your name. We found dining room service to be very average, and wine service in the Vista Dining Room to be poor. However, our two nights in the Pinnacle Grill provided EXCEPTIONAL service. Entertainment: Solid all around. Was not expecting shows up to Carnival or RCCL's caliber in the show room, but they were still pretty good. The magician was phenomenal one of the best I've ever seen. Comedian was great too. The Cruise Director (forgot his name) and the cruise staff were great, and made sure that there were activities to be had for people of all ages. There was MUCH more to do aboard than I anticipated. Nightlife: Again, LOTS more than we thought. The casino was of adequate size with friendly dealers. The Piano Bar was a BLAST. Sports bar was okay; poker room was a HIT. Northern Lights was hit and miss more of a crowd on formal nights, though it seemed teens took it over at times. Food: I'll break the food up in three categories, because they deserve to be recognized individually. Vista Dining Room: A MAJOR part of our cruise is meeting every night for dinner in the main dining room. We were traveling with friends we haven't seen in years, and our family does not get to get together that much. We realized we would not have one table for 11, but thought we would be next to each other. Unfortunately, there ended up being a couple tables in between. We tried to change to no avail, so we had to live with it. Fine, we'll accept it. Unfortunately, we found the food in the Vista Dining Room to be marginal at BEST. All courses were wildly inconsistent, and entrees tasted like they had been sitting out for a while. Normally a highlight of the cruise, we found the dining room food to be very disappointing. We ate in the Vista the first and second nights. We ate in Juneau on land, and returned to the Vista after Hubbard Glacier night. Another sub-par dinner made Tuesday our last trip to the Vista for the week. We spent the rest of the week either at the Pinnacle Grill or eating on shore. I don't think I had unreasonable expectations for this dining room food we just found it to be WELL below the quality of the main dining room food on the last DOZEN cruises we have taken (mainly on Carnival). Pinnacle Grill: In my opinion, this restaurant really MADE the cruise for us. We had made reservations for 11 for Sitka night before the cruise. Our waiters (Jay and another couple servers) were OUTSTANDING. Everyones meals were phenomenal and cooked perfectly. We all were able to sit at one table, and had a great time. We tried to book again for Thursday, but were told that it was sold out. Thursday afternoon, we went by to check if there were any cancellations, and we were in luck! They were able to squeeze our party of 11 in again, and we all enjoyed another near perfect meal. This place is WELL worth the $20 cover. Our experience here was superior to our experiences in Carnival's Supper Clubs (which are also fantastic). Lido: I ate all my breakfasts and most lunches in the Lido. The breakfast selection was great. I really enjoyed the eggs benedict station and the belgian waffle section sooo good. Lunch also had a wonderful selection, and I usually opted for the Asian food. Debarkation: Painless. We were off the ship by 9am after a leisurely breakfast in Lido. Miscellaneous: I'm not going to cover the ports too much, as those can be researched separately. I will say that the tendering process in Sitka was pretty poor if you didn't book an excursion. I did not have a problem, but many in our party had to wait almost 2 hours in order to be called to shore. - The ship was clean and laid out generally well. I really appreciated all the nightlife activities being together on deck 2. I didn't really like the setup of the gym, but it was adequate for the crowd on board. For the size of the ship, I prefer the layout of Carnival's Spirit-class. In conclusion... this was a very good cruise. We LOVED Alaska, and especially enjoyed spending time with family and friends. Our sub par experience in the Vista Dining Room did actually detract from our enjoyment of the cruise because it is such a large aspect of OUR cruise experience. However, other than that, it was a good time, and everything else was generally good to excellent as we expected. Would I sail HAL again? Sure... for the right itinerary and right price. Would I go out of my way to sail HAL? Not at all. Being in my mid-20s, I did not at all feel out of place, or feel like there wasn't enough for me to do. This actually surprised me, and I would not at all mind sailing with them again. Other than some big improvement to make in the kitchen, the Oosterdam was a great cruise. Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
My family of four (my husband and I, plus two teenage boys ages 13 and 16) just returned from a first-time cruise experience aboard the Westerdam from Seattle to Alaska. My husband and I were celebrating our 30th anniversary, and wanted to ... Read More
My family of four (my husband and I, plus two teenage boys ages 13 and 16) just returned from a first-time cruise experience aboard the Westerdam from Seattle to Alaska. My husband and I were celebrating our 30th anniversary, and wanted to have a special experience with our boys to commemorate it. We booked a special conference tour aboard the Westerdam with Insight for Living (IFL), a parachurch Christian organization founded by Chuck Swindoll. The experience with IFL made the trip for us! The IFL group gave us wonderful bible teaching, meaningful and wonderful entertainment at night, and had a youth program that engaged both of our teenage sons--no easy task, even for seasoned professionals. The Westerdam crew folded our group experience with IFL into the ship's rhythms gracefully. We received all of our conference materials and bulletins in a timely manner, and our dining schedules and port itineraries complemented each other easily without conflicts. The staff was friendly, gracious, and accommodating. For the most part, our trip was delightful. Our boys loved the Lido deck dining room, and the variety (and quantity!) of food that was available. We think the cruise line probably lost money because of our son's appetites. We did have some frustration immediately after embarkation because it was so difficult to find seating in the Lido dining room--but on the other hand, the cruise line fed its passengers several hours before the official departure time. Also, the service was sometimes very slow during our dinner hour in the Vista Lounge. It was always friendly. However, the late seating (8:15) was somewhat difficult for us because we are early risers. When coupled with the slow service, we typically finished our meal at 9:30 p.m. Our cabins were very comfortable. We splurged and booked a room with a balcony for ourselves, while our boys had an inside cabin across the hall from us. The balcony was worth every extra penny! It made the day at Glacier Bay for us, and we loved watching the scenery flowing by us at other times. The bed was the most comfortable hotel bed I've ever slept in. My husband had a small problem when he used the ship's internet service; at one point he was unable to log out and continued to be charged for services. However, a phone call made to the staff solved the problem quickly and graciously. We booked two shore excursions through the cruise line. They were both excellent, but VERY expensive. The continual surcharges onboard this otherwise lovely ship are my loudest complaint. We came to the conclusion that it was considerably more cost effective to book excursions and services outside the ship, and we frequently did so. For example, on the day of disembarkation we had a large time lag between the time we left the ship and our flight home. If we had used all the ship's available options (bags shipped to the airline, shore excursion, and transportation to the airport), we would have incurred about $500.000 dollars worth of charges. Instead, we decided to use the luggage shipping option($16.00 for each person), but took taxis and a "Ducks" tour we arranged ourselves. We saved about $300.00 dollars and still had a great time. One more caveat: we took the ship's tour of Butchart Gardens in Victoria. I'm a die-hard gardener, and have wanted to see this magical place for years. It is utterly lovely--but there were three other cruise ships parked at the docks as the same time as the Westerdam, and the gardens were packed--so packed that visiting was a rather stressful experience. For readers from Southern California: it was comparable to visiting Disneyland on a major holiday, or Toys R Us the day before Christmas! Rent a good video instead and visit in the off-tourist season. In conclusion: my family had a wonderful, memorable trip. The glitches were small, and the experience was terrific. Holland America and the Westerdam crew deserve applause for their efforts and service. Bon voyage! (7/14/08) Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
Packing... Clothing Like many others, I agonized over what to take, writing down hints as I read the boards. I use ziploc bags, packing folders and compressions bags to organize it. Below is what I ended up taking for each person ... Read More
Packing... Clothing Like many others, I agonized over what to take, writing down hints as I read the boards. I use ziploc bags, packing folders and compressions bags to organize it. Below is what I ended up taking for each person unless otherwise noted, family of 4 with 3 adults (DH, DS and me) and a 9 year old girl. - 4 long sleeve and 4 short sleeve shirts, some of which were worn in Seattle pre-cruise - t-shirts for layering, 2 long and 2 short sleeves - 1 pair jeans (also wore one pair on the plane) - zip-off pants (for warm weather, nice for wandering around the ship) - khaki pants (for the boys to wear on non-formal nights) - 2 dresses for me, 2 dresses and 1 skirt/3 tops for DD for non-formal nights - Formal wear: 1 black skirt/2 tops for me, 2 dresses for DD, boys each had a dark suit we rented formal shoes through the cruiseline formalwear, and it was so nice not to have to pack 2 pairs of bulky shoes - swim suit - rainsuit - warm hat, scarf, gloves - warm layer: sweatshirt or polartec shirt - lightweight raincoat - shoes: hiking sneakers/boots, sandals, flip flops, dress flats (DD), dress sandals with small heel (me) - What I wished I had also taken: sweater for wearing to the dining room in the evening. Otherwise I was very happy with what we took. It did not all get worn because it was never warm during the cruise, but I would take it all again. If you are concerned about cold weather gear, they do sell hats, gloves, sweatshirts on the boat during Glacier Bay day, and all of the ports have reasonably priced items. Everything else, some of this I always carry, some was specifically for this trip DVDs (we watched more than we usually do on vacation), books, binoculars (1 larger pair and 3 compact pair), pocket bird book, backpacks for excursions, GPS (wouldn't take it again, had a hard time picking up a signal), over door shoe rack (DH thought it was a bad idea at first, and then refused to throw it away when we were headed home), suction cup toothbrush holder, popup hamper for dirty clothes (loved this!), powerstrip (there were 2 sets of plugs - one US and one European - at the desk in the room, I would also recommend an extension cord if you want to work on the bed or the sofa), cameras/chargers, iPods/chargers, computers (to load pictures onto from cameras), sunscreen, night light for bathroom, toiletries and makeup, small flashlight, travel hairdryer (I am tired of the ones that I find in hotel rooms), travel alarm clock (there is no clock in the cabin!), travel scale (all of our bags were under weight restrictions, but we did have to redistribute), post-it notes (to write notes to each other or cabin steward and leave on mirror), highlighter (to mark activities that we wanted to do), extra 1 qt. and 1 gal. ziploc bags, small foldable cooler (did not use as the refer kept everything cold enough), notebook-sized plastic planner (had information about hotel reservation, shoe rental, excursion confirmations, e-tickets, etc.), lanyard (only DD used hers, as the rest of us just kept them in pockets; it had a plastic holder to insert the card into, so no need to have a hole punched, and they were able to scan the card through the plastic so she didn't have to take it out), clothespins to better close the curtains, and probably a lot more little stuff. We used the provided toiletries, and they were always replenished. All of the above fit into 2-25" upright rolling suitcases, 1-29" rolling duffel, 1-26" duffel, 2 rollaboards, 1 tote and 1 backpack; 4 checked bags and 4 carryons in all. The 4 larger suitcases and the 2 rollaboard all fit underneath the bed for storage, backpack fit in the storage seat for the desk, DD's tote was in a corner next to the desk. Pre-cruise... We arrived in Seattle on Friday evening, took the pre-reserved Shuttle Express (http://www.shuttleexpress.com/index.html) to our hotel. There was a bit of a line waiting for a shuttle, and I hadn't realized that we needed to check in first, so we ended up waiting longer than we should, but it was less than 10 minutes. There was one other family in the van with us, and we were first to be dropped off. We stayed at the Silver Cloud Hotel Stadium (http://www.silvercloud.com/16home.htm). It was cheaper than the hotels in downtown, had 2 queen beds, and a free shuttle into downtown. They took us to a nearby liquor store and to a grocery store for wine. The shuttle would take you as close as possible to your destination, and there were 5 pickup spots that were always convenient to get to where you called - take a cell phone - for them to get you. Very nice hotel, I would gladly stay there again. I don't know, however, how busy it gets when there are games going on at the stadiums. Since the weather was good on Saturday, we went to the Pike Place Market, ate breakfast, and then went to the zoo, following SeattleCruiselover's bus directions. We bought the city pass (http://www.citypass.com/city/seattle.html), which includes admission to the zoo and 4 other attractions for one price; I figured out that it paid for itself if you went to 3 attractions. The zoo took about 2 hours, and there was a wild eagle nest located above the wolf habitat that we got to see; I recommend seeing the raptor show as it was very informative and you could get a closer look at the birds and talk to the trainers after the show. Took the bus back town, walked around a little bit, and called for a pick-up by the shuttle. The kids stayed at the hotel while the shuttle took us to buy liquor and wine. On Sunday morning, we packed up our things but left everything at the hotel and took the shuttle to the aquarium. That took about an hour to go through, we enjoyed watching the otters playing. We then walked to the Walgreens to pick up sodas, and called once again for the shuttle. The hotel's shuttle will also take you to both piers in town, you just need to arrange it when you check in. We were scheduled for the 1 pm shuttle, which dropped us off right in front of the luggage drop. Embarkation... Upon arrival at the luggage drop, someone looked at all of our bags to make sure that they all had the luggage tag on them. We had a 6-pack carrier of wine and they told us to take it on ourselves. We also had 3 12-packs of sodas, and they weren't pleased that we hadn't packed them in something, but they taped a luggage tag to them anyways, and we received them all in our cabin just fine except one of them was missing one can. After dropping the luggage, we went into the terminal to check in. There was no one in line in front of us, and we filled out the medical form at the desk. Since we had checked in online, we only had to show our passports to get our room cards. They put a wrist band on DD which had our lifeboat station on it; they do this for all children, but I don't know up to what age. We walked around the photo line, out the door, and up the gangway to the ship. Used the provided hand sanitizer, had the room card scanned, picture taken (to be associated with the room card for when you exit and enter the ship, and they did usually look at the picture as they scanned the card) and walked on board. We then took the elevator to our floor (4th), dropped the carryons in the room and ran up to the Lido for lunch. The time from being dropped off at the terminal to being in the room was less than 30 minutes; I highly recommend getting to the pier around 1 pm. The only complaint I have about the embarkation process is that once we were on board, we had no idea what deck we had arrived on and where to go, and we had to look around for someone to ask; I feel that there should have been someone standing there announcing the deck number and where to go to find the elevators and stairs. This is really a minor complaint, as the confusion didn't last that long. :) The life boat drill is held at 3:15 pm. You are supposed to line up with men in back, women and children in front. Because my daughter was the smallest in our group and needed a child's life jacket (there isn't one in the cabin, you are supposed to pick up children's jackets at the drill) I tried to stay in the front, but kept getting pushed back by all the late arrivals. One guy seemed very smug about being late and not having to stand there "like cattle" as he said, then got irritated with the cruise personnel when he was told to move to the back. Why can't everyone just accept that this drill has to be done and cooperate? They had to track down several passengers that were supposed to be in our life boat, thus prolonging the process for everyone. We had asked for an early seating, and were assigned the latest seating at 8:15 pm. When we went to the location (posted in the bulletin) where we supposed to be able to talk to someone about seating assignments, all we found were other passengers, some of whom were quite upset about their assignments and the lack of someone to talk to about it. One of them called someone (? the front office), but we decided that we could live with what we had been assigned. We did end up going to the front office for something else, and did ask about it. We were told that there was no flexible seating on this sailing; we were in the lower dining room, which I believe is where others have said that the flexible dining occurs, and there was no evidence of it; I later found out that there was no flexible seating on this sailing because there was a large group booked. We also went up to Club Hal and signed some paperwork for DD to go there. They hand out a daily program so that they kids can pick what they want to do and when they want to go. They separate the groups by age. Our sailing had a large number of kids, over 200 under 18. My daughter was in the 8-12 group. She only went there on sea days but did make friends. She did not go at night because of our late dinner seating. This age group is allowed to sign themselves in and out, unless you request that they not be allowed to do it. The ship departed from Seattle at 4 pm. Life on board... Our room We had a VF category veranda balcony room with metal railing. While it would have been nice to have the plexiglass, it really didn't matter. It was usually too cold and too windy to stand out on the balcony for any length of time. Our room steward introduced himself on the first night, and did a good job of being unobtrusive, towel animals on all but the first night. It took him a day, but he did get us 2 extra chairs for the balcony. With 4 people, it could be a bit tight. My son found the pull-out sofa not very comfortable to sleep on, no better than a rollaway. The upper bunk was fine for my daughter, and she was able to get up without the ladder, but she is very athletic. It has been suggested to have the lower bed made up the pillows at the foot of the bed so that you don't bang your head on the bunk; we didn't find this necessary, as we quickly learned where the bunk was! Also, the lights are along the wall, and pillows would fall off the end if the bed was made up that way. Very comfy bed and lots of pillows. Weather We had some pretty rough seas any time we were out in the open ocean, with stiff breezes. None of us got sea sick, and we took no preventative meds. The only time it rained, though, was at departure time in Ketchikan and it didn't rain that hard; it also sprinkled a little bit in Juneau. Most of the time it was cloudy and foggy; unless you were close you couldn't see land except on the way to Victoria. Temperatures ranged from the mid 40s to mid 50s. Meals We did both room service and went up to the Lido for breakfast. Every room service order had something minor wrong with it, from missing an item to only getting 2 coffee cups and sets of silverware for 4 people. We went to the Lido for lunch and if you went after noon it was difficult to find a table, although we always managed. There were Asian and Italian stations, bistro station for sandwiches, salad bar which had regular and rotating items, ice cream station (ice cream flavors varied from day to day, mixings, sugar free section with 2-4 choices, at least 2-4 other desserts). Near the Lido pool there is a Mexican buffet and a grill that you can get hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, etc. until 6 pm. We never ate at the Lido for dinner, at the Pinnacle Grill (which was never even remotely full) or the late night dessert buffets. As I said before, we had the latest seating at 8:15 in the lower level; other seating times were 5:30 (upper), 6 (lower), and 7:45 (upper). In looking back, I am glad that we did not have the early seatings: we would not have made it back in time while in Juneau (although you can always have room service or eat in the Lido) and we were able to take all the time we wanted in eating. The biggest problem with the late seating is attending shows and events. There were things every night that we would have liked to try that were in the 8-9 pm range that we were unable to do. The show times were 7 & 9, so we either had to get ready for dinner early and go the 7pm, or arrive half-way through the 9pm. There probably isn't an ideal time for the shows that everyone can get to them conveniently, but I think that the times could be adjusted a little better. The food was good to great. Had salmon most every time it was offered, experimented with some things that we wouldn't normally eat; I had the crab legs and surf and turf, which were wonderful. There was always something on the menu that everyone was willing to eat. My son loved the chilled fruit soups, sounds odd I know but they were tasty. My DD did order off the children's menu a few times mid-week, but also got items off the main menu at the same time. Our wine steward did not always approve of our choices of wines that we brought on board, and managed to charge the corkage fee every time (I have heard that some people weren't charged every time, but we were); he made origami figures for all of the children at his tables every night, often showing how he did it. Our servers, while not overly so, were friendly and efficient; after the first evening, we were served our cappuccinos automatically. Getting into the lower Vista dining room: there was usually a long line on the starboard side, where it was easy to walk to. There is also an entrance on the port side, but you either have to go down the aft stairs or cross over from the other side close to the entrance. Even table are on the right (port), odd on the left (starboard), so if you are at an even number table, go to the port side line. Our table was #176, which was in a perfect location as you could see out the back and port windows. It was a table for 4 right next to another table for 4. Show and activities We did not do alot, but what we did do we enjoyed. We caught most of the Westerdam Superstar (karaoke American Idol) tryouts and the semi-finals in the Queens Lounge, and did go to the finals in the showroom; our sailing apparently had a much bigger group of finalists than usual, with some kids that could compete on the real American Idol; the winner had been a member of the Platters, and he was great. Shows that we saw: grand tour with ship's singers and dancers (OK), magician Leo Ward (unfortunately missed most of the show, I highly recommend that you go), Captain's Welcome Toast (get free wine or champagne), Tyler Linkin (good show), stage and screen (ships dancers and singers, this is the one with the costumes by Bob Mackie, OK show). Movies that were shown in the Queen's Lounge, we never went so can't say anything about the setup: Fool's Gold, Definitely Maybe, The Other Boleyn Girl, College Road Trip, Spiderwick Chronicles, 10,000 BC. I also did the Kitchen tour on the first sea day. I recommend you bring a camera, as there are carved fruits, molded breads, ice sculptures, etc. It is a walking, self-guided tour, and you do get a handout with interesting facts about how many service staff and chefs there are, and how much food is prepared during the week. You can also get your picture taken with the executive chef Andreas. Professional photos are done in the atrium (with stairs for background) and either side of the entrances to the Vista dining room. They were done on both formal nights, with pictures also taken in the dining room at the tables, and there were several times that pictures were taken on informal nights as well. The pros also take pictures on embarkation, at Glacier Bay, and during some port stops. All pictures are available in the Photo Gallery on the 3rd deck. Throughout the week you look for your pictures, which have already been printed, and either throw them away, buy them, or ask them to be set aside. On the last day, after the second formal night, you can make your final purchases. I have 2 complaints about these photos. The major one is the price; they charge $40 for each sheet, with a buy 2 get 1 free offer; this price is outrageous. The pictures are already printed, and so many are thrown away; if they charged less more would be bought and they would end up making more money. The other issue that I have is the way they took some pictures at an angle; I realize that this is a subjective and artistic complaint, but I didn't care for the way that they looked, and they took half of the shots this way. General attitude of the crew There have been some complaints on this board about unfriendly crew and inappropriate actions. I thought that everyone was very friendly; the crew in the Lido restaurant was especially helpful, carrying trays for those that needed assistance, walking around to find tables for people, etc. I saw no inappropriate interaction between crew and/or passengers, but I wasn't looking for it either. The restaurant officers - in both the Lido and Vista dining room - were there for every service. We saw some of the other officers frequently around the ship, including the Captain several times. I didn't care for dealing with the front office people, as I was never really sure that they understood what I was asking. We enjoyed the cruise director Kerry. The DJ Jazzy was OK. Dress code Most people wore jeans or other comfortable clothes around the ship during the day. There were several crass individuals who wore the bathrobes to the Lido restaurant and to the shows; note that these individuals were in these specific places, not in the hallways to and from spa/pool/cabins. On formal nights, the only time that I noticed what people were wearing was while waiting in line to go in. Most men wore either dark suits or tuxes, there were a few jeans mostly on the second night (which I thought should be kicked out, they could have gone to the Lido if they didn't want to dress a little nicer), and very few with either dress shirt/tie, dress shirt/coat, dressy sweater, again mostly on the second night. Women were in either long gowns (not many), cocktail dresses, skirts, dressy pants. I felt that all of the children were dressed appropriately, in either dresses/skirts for the girls (some a little short, but what can you expect with teenagers) and tuxes/suits/dress shirts and ties for the boys. I didn't bother noticing if people changed after eating dinner, as who can tell if they changed or ate in the Lido. Informal nights got a little less informal as the week progressed, but everyone still dressed nicely. There were jeans, but not that many. No tank tops, shorts, etc. TV I intended to make note of the channels available, and then didn't. There was a news channel, cartoon network, movie channels, and ship channels. The 3 ship channels, in the 40s, showed a forward cam, aft cam (very shaky picture), and what I would call the officers channel, which would list information such as temperature, speed, location, sunrise/sunset times, ocean info, time, etc. There was also a channel about shopping. Digital Workshop This is a new offering on the HAL ships. There is a room off of one of the lounges on deck 2 that they had set up with the leader's computer, large screen, and about 20 laptops. This uses a new windows software, sorry I can't remember the name but it is a free download; it only works on intel Macs using the windows partition. Topics: Just shoot me (intro), best face forward (editing digital photos on computer), home away from home (make your own travel movie), on the download (create website to share photos, how to transfer photos), 15 minutes of fame (enhance your website, blog), a click ahead (scrapbooks, photo cards, other memory gifts); all of the topics were repeated 2-3 time during the cruise. My family uses Macs, and we are very familiar with using them to upload and edit photos, create a website, etc. We all found this to be useless for us. However, if you have never used a digital camera, uploaded and edited photos, etc., you might enjoy the workshop and learn something from it. Ports/excursions The Glacier Bay day was wonderful. We had times of sun, which really helped bring out the blue in the glacier. Marjorie calved a few times, saw seals on the floating ice bergs. We split our time between the top deck and the bow. [With the doors open to the bow, our room, which was just a few door down, stayed cold most of the day. ;) ] The rangers made comments throughout the day, none of which could be heard in either place; I guess they need to improve the PA system or install more speakers. Juneau: docked at 5:13 am, getting off the ship was relatively painless. We did not have any excursions planned. Since the weather wasn't all that great, decided not to go up the tramway. We pre-arranged a rental car from Rent-a-wreck (don't rely on the website reservation system, e-mail or call them) and called them for a pick up. They were there in about 20 minutes, and while driving out to their office, described locations of things that we might want to see. We drove up to Mendenhall Glacier, and hiked for a few hours, walking out to the waterfall. Saw a porcupine in a tree near the visitors center. After we left there, we went to the Fred Meyers and picked up a few things we hadn't packed, some souvenirs and snacks, and drove north to the end of the road. There was a black bear that ran across the road in front of us. We went to the Shrine and walked around the inlet looking at birds. On the way back to town we went to the Alaska Brewing Company, then dropped the car off. They drove us back to town, we shopped for awhile, the kids went back on the ship, and we went hunting for all of our freebies. The ship left Juneau at 7:44 pm. Sitka: dropped anchor at 7:55 am. We were a little concerned about getting off the boat quickly, with the tendering, as we had an excursion booked at 8:30. If you are not taking a ship excursion, you have to go to the Queen's lounge to get a ticket at 8:15. We ended up leaving with the last of the ship excursion people, so it was a non-issue. If you plan to leave the ship after 9, you don't need a ticket at all. The tenders are actually the ship's lifeboats, and it doesn't take long to reach shore. Unfortunately, with the rough weather, our excursion with Capt. Davey was canceled as he has a small boat; the people he took out the day before ended up getting sick, and he didn't want to risk it. He recommended that we take the ship's excursion in the afternoon, which we did; the Sea Otter and Wildlife excursion ended up being enjoyable, and we saw lots of otters, 2 types of whales, eagles, seals, and an Alaskan brown bear; they dropped us off directly at the ship, so I don't have any comments about tendering back to the ship. In the morning, we walked out to the Raptor Center (use a shuttle or taxi, as it is a long walk) which I recommend. We caught a taxi on the way back and had them drop us off at the Totem park. After walking around there for awhile we walked into town and stopped in some stores, grabbed some clam chowder for lunch, and then did the excursion. Weather was overcast the whole day. Anchors aweigh at 4:49 pm. Ketchikan: Docked at 6:34 am. First thing I did when I woke up was look out the window, and my heart sank as I looked at the fog. We had an early morning Misty Fiord floatplane tour booked. We got off the ship, went to the visitors center where we were supposed to meet up, and called and talked to the owner. He asked that we push our flight back a bit, to see if the weather cleared. So we took a wildlife tour that was offered in the next booth; saw eagles, nests, and 1 black bear that was very close to the car. After we got back, the company said they weren't going to fly, so we went shopping once again. It was raining as we waited in line to get back on the ship (they had entrances at 2 different decks, so that helped to reduce the lines somewhat, but it seemed that everyone wanted to get back on the ship at the same time) and the ship departed at 1 pm. VIctoria: as I said above, it was a beautiful day sailing along Vancouver Island on the way to Victoria. The ship docked at 6 pm, but no one was allowed off until 6:30 pm. Since we have been to Victoria before, and didn't really want to go to another touristy area, we stayed on the ship and ate at our usual dinner time. We did get off briefly, and walked along the jetty; this is the only time, aside from Seattle, that we were parked where we could see our starboard room; however, just looking at the ship we couldn't really tell which room it was, so if you want to take a picture of your room, tie something brightly colored on the balcony to help you find it. Departure was at midnight. Debarkation Back in Seattle: docked at 7am. On one of the first days onboard, they give you a piece of paper to fill out about post-cruise plans, including ship excursions and transportation, and you request a departure time. We opted to do the baggage express, where they take your bags off the ship and to the airport for you; essentially, they check you in for your flight while on board and print your board passes and luggage tags. The night before debarkation, you get your departure window time, boarding passes and luggage tags if doing the baggage express (note, these are not the airline luggage tags, just something that the ship uses, they put standard airline tags on at the airport), and a luggage claim card. We had requested 9-9:30 and got 8:30-8:45. We went up to the Lido for breakfast, and left our cabin at 8:40. They scan your card one last time, walk down the gangway, and into the terminal. Since we had already taken care of the luggage through the service, we walked straight through. Entire process, minus getting luggage, took maybe 10-15 minutes. We called for the hotel shuttle and they came and picked us up. When I booked the hotel, I called and asked if they would pick us up and store our carry-ons for the day and they said yes; this was verified again when we checked out. The shuttle driver and the front desk person were not happy when they figured out that we weren't staying that night, but they reluctantly checked our carry-ons with the bell service and took us to the Seattle Center. There we went through the Science Fiction Museum and Experience Music Project, then walked over to the Pacific Science Center. All of these places are included in the city pass that we purchased the weekend before. We didn't feel the need to go up the Space Needle as we have done it before, so once we were done, we called for a pickup by the hotel shuttle. We walked over to the Pyramid Alehouse for lunch. Our pre-booked Shuttle Express picked us up promptly, we were the only ones in the van, and sadly headed to the airport to head home. Overall impression: I am not sure that cruising is for us, as we typically go non-stop from morning until we drop into bed at night from exhaustion, and this is not that type of vacation. That being said, the Westerdam is a wonderful ship and I would recommend it to anyone. It has a nice itinerary, and by sailing out of Seattle, airfare for Americans is a little more reasonable than flying in/out of Vancouver or doing a one-way trip. Any problems that we experienced were minor and had no impact on the overall experience. I do wish that the weather had been better and that we had been able to do our excursions in Sitka and Ketchikan, but I knew ahead of time that there was no way to predict or control the weather, and don't hold this against the ship or Alaska. ;) Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
We are in our early 40's and have been on 9 cruises on all different lines. This was our first trip to Alaska. Embarkation: What a breeze, very calm people, no rushing, pushing and crazy people. Nice touch of big cookies, water, and ... Read More
We are in our early 40's and have been on 9 cruises on all different lines. This was our first trip to Alaska. Embarkation: What a breeze, very calm people, no rushing, pushing and crazy people. Nice touch of big cookies, water, and lemonade while people waited to board the ship. Already got to know a few crew members while waiting. Convenient parking right outside the ship, but you better get there early to get a space otherwise you have to park across the street. Ship: Very nice and understated. Didn't think any of the public rooms were overall fancy like we've seen on other ships. The atrium was a disappointment and not all glamorous, big, open and beautiful as we've seen on other ships. However, there was a gorgeous light that hung down that changed colors and it was absolutely the highlight of the atrium. It was just stunning. The elevators were gorgeous on the outside doors and we loved the glass ones that went down each side of the ship where you could see the ocean. The casino was small and not very good at all. The Lido pool was very pretty and so was the aft pool. We didn't walk into 1 public room and just say wow on the ship like we have on other ships, but it still was a very nice ship. Staterooms: We normally always cruise with a balcony or mini-suite and this time we got a fully obstructed outside cabin on deck 4. We had a tender boat hanging right in our floor to ceiling window. The windows were one-way tinted so crew could not see in during the day. Crew were always on the tender during the day and at times we'd see 4-5 of them in there. That was a little distracting to us. We could, however, see a little bit of the water because the tenders had windows on them and we could see through, so even a completely obstructed cabin, really wasn't, so that was better than we thought. At night when the ship was going at full speed, we heard a horrible rattling noise all night long, which kept me awake. The lighting at the vanity was very poor. The beds were comfortable and nice, but we felt the bedding was softer and cozier on Princess and Carnival of all things. We would not choose this type of room in the future. Service: Outstanding service. Comparable to Celebrity. Crew got to know your names, they carried your trays, got your coffee. Very good. Room attendant very good. Dining room service, we had fixed late dining. Server was very nice, but very inconsistent in service with some dinners taking way, way over 2 hours. Had lunch in the Vista dining room and service was quick and perfect. So it depends on which server you get. Food: I expected better in food quality than we got. I expected to have the food quality be similar to Celebrity. It was not comparable at all in our opinion. Some of the items were very good, such as their prime rib. Deserts were not up to our standards - Celebrity excels in this category. Had a banana cream pie we were so excited for at lunch in the Vista dining room and it was not good at all. It had the consistency of oatmeal and tasted awful. The lady from England next to us said it should be fed to the whales and she wasn't too keen on it and we jut chuckled. Disappointed in formal steak and lobster dinner. Lobster so small and cold, filet the size of 2 silver dollars and flat as a pancake. Have had much better on other lines. Not saying that all the food was bad, because it definitely wasn't. It was hit and miss for us and not consistent at all. Another favorite was their thai appetizer, it was delicious. Did not enjoy the cold soups. French onion was decent and the wedding soup was decent. Enjoyed the Thai food on the Lido deck, pizza was decent - needed more cheese. Sauce had best flavor of any line. Salad bar in Lido was hit and miss each day, dressings missing, sometimes garbonzos sometimes not, croutons missing, etc. My husband, who loves food, said the best meal he had all week was the meatloaf sandwich in the dining room the last day at sea. That should tell you something. I disagreed with him a little, because I did think the prime rib was some of the best we've had. Also the pan seared lemon butter flounder was quite good too. Other than that, I couldn't really tell you another good meal I truly remembered as being outstanding. I was really looking forward to the Parmesan chicken that I heard so much about and in all honesty, it was gross. It was a fat chunk of chicken with no flavor. I make my chicken dijon 200% better than what they had. Another let down for me. We have cruised on almost every line so we have tasted a lot of different things to base our comparisons on. We are not loyal to one line over another, we cruise on them all and keep an open mind and give our honest opinions and comparisons. I can definitely see that some cheerleaders for some lines don't like that and can't respect other people's opinions, which is very shallow. We are open to all opinions and respect them all on any cruiseline, good or bad and don't hold it against anyone. We truly have enjoyed all the lines in one way or another. None are perfect, just all different. Entertainment: We usually go see at least one show on ships and we are used to seeing the same old stuff. This time we went to the Joel Mason show, a Tribute to Elton John, and he was absolutely hysterical and amazingly musically talented. We loved it and it was by far the best show we have ever seen at sea. We also attended his 2nd show on the last day at sea. I highly, highly recommend not missing this guy. He's too good for cruise ships in our opinion, but thank the Lord he is on cruise ships, because he helped make our cruise so great. Ports: What can I say? The Lord blessed us with such incredible weather throughout this cruise. Glacier Bay was an absolutely amazing day, one of the best days we have ever had on a cruise. Pure blue skies, warm weather, and clear as a bell once the morning fog wore off. All I can say is WOW. There just are no words to express God's beauty. We really enjoyed Juneau and had fun at the t-shirt shop, which was the best shopping of the cruise for us. 50% off everything, and there really were some good buys. We didn't do any excursions this time because we have another cruise planned so close to it, but if I did Alaska again, I definitely would do a whale watching one and a few more. In Sitka, again, we had another gorgeous sun-filled day. We walked around a little and actually met up with a waiter from a previous cruise ship that was in port. We had fun chatting with him for about an hour. We walked to the Sitka National Park and then to the Raptor Center. Both were great and the walk there was just gorgeous. Ketchikan was the only port that was cloudy, but we had no rain the entire cruise, which is completely amazing. There, we walked the town and watched the horses and Huskies and ate some halibut and chips on the pier. Victoria, we walked around, but we've been there so many times, it's just a bore to us. It is very pretty though. We also met some very, very nice and fun people on this cruise. A big hi to Liz, Sandy, and Nilda and my orange hat man and several others! Would we cruise Holland again? Absolutely, someday in the future. We love to cruise and love exploring the different ships, lines, and meeting such wonderful people all over the world. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
My husband, mother, sister and I just completed an Alaskan voyage on the Amsterdam Aug. 17-Aug. 24. I had cruised Holland America many years before and had most recently been on two RCL cruises. We arrived at the Seattle port for ... Read More
My husband, mother, sister and I just completed an Alaskan voyage on the Amsterdam Aug. 17-Aug. 24. I had cruised Holland America many years before and had most recently been on two RCL cruises. We arrived at the Seattle port for embarkation about 1:30 p.m. - not the easiest place to get around so watch for signage. It was a very quick embarkation process, helped in part I am sure because we had done on-line registration and were able to turn in our signed form. My husband and I had a lovely verandah cabin (very similar in size, look and layout to the verandah cabin we had on the RCL Rhapsody of the Seas) and my sister and mom shared a handicapped cabin also on the verandah deck - it had no verandah and the window was partially blocked by a lifeboat but the room was quite large. We proceeded to eat in the Lido for our first meal on board, which became our official breakfast and lunch spot on a daily basis, and settled in for departure. Overall ship This ship is smaller than many others, with room for 1,380 passengers - the crew numbered about half that and the service levels showed it, as it was excellent. The smaller nature of this ship was what was attractive to us. Public rooms were very nicely appointed, except for the Queen's Room Lounge, which felt a bit claustrophobic and overdone. Nice artwork spread throughout ship. Crow's Nest was excellent for whale watching and sightseeing as we cruised along. Our verandah was as always wonderful, with a full size lounge chair and regular chair. I still spent quite a bit of time out there despite the cooler temps, as flannel blankets were available on deck three. Lots of families on board - overall age of passenger was older than on RCL. Staff were very accommodating at all levels. Ship Activities and Entertainment This ship did not have as many activities as other ships I have been on, and this is due in part to it only having so many public rooms and thus only so much space - this was fine with us as we find many shipboard activities to be of no interest. The gym was great - yoga and Pilates were an extra cost. They had four behind the scenes events that we enjoyed - a tour of the kitchen, a tour of the backstage area in the Queen's Lounge, a Q & A with the cruise director (Eric Holland, who was excellent) and a Q & A with the headliners for that cruise. The stage variety shows with singers and dancers were okay - first one better than the second, which was pretty lame - hardworking young folks though. Not their fault the material in the second show was a bit off. We also attended a movie. We also attended the naturalist's presentations, which were all good. That's all we attended but there were also kitchen demo/cooking presentations (for a cost), art sales, the typical fitness activities like shuffleboard, and other things. Starfire, a two piece group, which played in the Ocean Bar was excellent and was very pleasing to an age range of 40-80. Food Dinners were spent on the lower level, second early seating. Food quality was overall very good. Some soups were a bit salty. My sister had special dietary requirements and the staff were very accommodating of that. If something was not right, it was fixed right away. The Lido had excellent variety, ice cream bar open almost all day and I highly recommend the soft serve - just wish they had had it more than two days of the whole cruise as the ice cream in the Lido was quite whipped and too airy for our tastes but the ice cream in the dining room was much creamier and richer - all depends on what you like, I guess. They ran out of mint tea about two days before the cruise ended. Desserts were really wonderful. Ports We were at sea on Saturday, Sunday took us to Juneau, Monday was Tracy Arm, Tuesday was Sitka, Wednesday was Ketchikan and Thursday was Victoria for only about six hours. We did no shore excursions as felt like all were overpriced, and all the port cities were very walkable. Juneau looked a bit worse for the wear. Tracy Arm was breathtaking. The ship was too big to get up right by the glacier but you still had a great view and the day we were there, we were lucky to have sunny skies and no wind. We tendered into Sitka, which was our favorite port and I highly recommend a walk down to the national park from the dock and the Alaskan Raptor Center. Ketchikan was very kitchy and crammed with shops - neat to see salmon spawning just piled on top of each other and huge in the river a short walk from the port. We were really sorry to have been in Victoria for such a short time. It's a good half hour walk to get from port to downtown but is worth it. Just wish we had spent more time there. This will be our first and last cruise to Alaska as we have more desire to see inner Alaska and not more ports, as they began to all look the same. Disembarkation was smooth as silk - we were staying on in Seattle for a couple days with family who did not cruise so we were among last passengers to disembark so this helped greatly as mountains of luggage had been reduced considerably. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
My husband and 2 sons (15 & 12), and my mother and sister, just returned from our cruise to Alaska aboard the Noordam. We flew from Newark, NJ to Seattle on the day before the sailing and stayed in the Sheraton Downtown. We arranged ... Read More
My husband and 2 sons (15 & 12), and my mother and sister, just returned from our cruise to Alaska aboard the Noordam. We flew from Newark, NJ to Seattle on the day before the sailing and stayed in the Sheraton Downtown. We arranged both the flight and the hotel ourselves and saved a fortune over the Holland America prices for arranging them. We took the Seattle Grayline bus from SeaTac to the hotel. The bus was $10.25/adult and $8.50/child. We bought the tickets in the airport terminal. It was very easy to find the ticket counter and the bus ran quite frequently, so we did not have to wait at all. We spent the day sightseeing in Seattle all on our own. Some of us went to Safeco Field for a tour, some to the Space Needle and then we all met at Pikes Place Market for dinner. The hotel arranged for a van to drive us to the pier on Sunday morning, and we arrived there around 10:45am. We did our check in and were done and waiting to board by 11:10am. At 11:30 boarding began and the HAL personnel handled it with ease. Like another CC review said, there are photographers everywhere. We do not like having our picture taken, and we just had to keep telling them no thanks, and they let us go by. We found all the food in all the venues satisfactory. It was not outstanding to our taste. There was a large variety of foods to choose from, but for my husband (who like ordinary food) he found it a bit fussy. He wanted more choices for chicken for dinner besides the overdone grilled breast that was available every night. He eats no seafood, lamb, or veal. So he was limited to a steak or pasta every night. The comic and the Elton John performer were wonderful. We were less than thrilled with the dancer/singers. We participated in the daily trivia, the name that tunes, the golf putting, the galley tour and the cooking demonstrations. We found that many of the popular activities all took place around the same time, and we couldn't do everything. Also, some things took place while we were at the late dinner seating. In Juneau, some of us did the Mendenhall Visitors Center and whale watching excursion, while others canoed in Mendenhall Lake. The visitor's center was very informative, but we would have liked more than an hour there. The 3 hours of whale watching was too long. We saw a few puffs of air and a splash and that was a sighting. We saw a partial tail, but missed anything more than that. We saw Stellar sea lions sunning on a buoy and though that was wonderful until we spotted a postcard showing the same thing. Now we wonder if the sea lions were real or stuffed because we didn't see them move. The tour guide and driver for the canoe excursion was incompetent. His descriptions of the scenery were unoriginal. He told nothing more than what could be read in any tourbook, and his driving was abominable. He took the speed bumps much to fast and my sister was hurt in the bounce in the back of the van. When he realized that she was hurt, he gave a fake name and hometown. He failed to remember that he had been flirting with her earlier and had told her his life story. My biggest complaint with HAL and the Noordam was the children's programs. My 12yo was in a group with 8-12 year olds. Anyone can tell you that there is a HUGE developmental gap between a child that has just turned 8 and one that is about to turn 13. He would not participate in the activities because the group only had younger kids in it. We were not the only ones to have this problem. We know this from all the 11-12yo boys that we talked to that were roaming the ship. Luckily, they all managed to find each other to hang out. We complained to the front desk and the cruise director and were told that there was no other way to do things. There were only 5 kids counselor on the boat. It was also HAL policy not to allow my 12yo to go with his brother into the 13-17 group even though he is closer to 13 than 12. Personally I think that there is also too large a developmental gap between 13 and 17 to have those children together. We were given no helpful response to this problem, we were only told to fill out and send a comment card to the corporate office. Our disembarkation went smoothly. We had an 11:55am flight and were off the ship by 8:30am. The luggage was easy to find and customs was quick. Our private van transportation was waiting. One tiny thing that irked me, was something that HAL prided themselves on. We were told that we could remain in our cabins while waiting for the announcement for our color to leave the ship. Before that, our steward had made up the room while we were at breakfast. We returned to find it all set for the incoming cruisers. My issue is that the room was cleaned and the sheets changed, and we were allowed to sit on the bed and use the bathroom. Sounds strange, but does that mean that the previous cruiser could have used our bathroom while waiting to disembark, then we got on a few hours later and the room was not cleaned in between. I am a bit of a clean freak, and I want to believe that no one has used my bathroom since the steward disinfected it. And no, I do not use public restrooms. Although, the cruise was basically ok, I don't think that we will be cruising with HAL anytime soon. They seem to be trying to attract families, but the activities are still geared towards an older crowd, and we need more kid friendly things. We have done and outgrown Disney, we just need to find an in-between. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
This cruise was our 5th and we are loving it more every time we get out on the water! Our trip this time was a second trip to Alaska, (since we enjoyed it so much the first time!) and we choose Holland America since we have not sailed with ... Read More
This cruise was our 5th and we are loving it more every time we get out on the water! Our trip this time was a second trip to Alaska, (since we enjoyed it so much the first time!) and we choose Holland America since we have not sailed with this line before. Our previous cruise lines have been Crystal Harmony to Alaska, (the first is the best), Dawn Princess to Mexico twice, & Celebrity Constellation for fall colors out of New Jersey. We were thrilled with the trip! Hotel—We stayed at the Alexis Hotel in Seattle the night prior to embarkation. This is a small boutique hotel located downtown and a very nice alternative to the big hotels. The room was huge! We later found out that one part of the hotel previously were condo's. The hotel had exceptional service! We would stay there again. Dinner on Saturday night was a wonderful experience at the Waterfront Seafood Grill located on Pier 70. Be sure to make reservations early. Food was outstanding and service first class. It really set the mood for the rest of the trip. Embarkation—After a short ride to the pier, we arrived at 12:30 and were surprised that the lines were not longer. The entire process took about twenty minutes. It was ultra smooth. Upon entering the ship we were expertly directed to the Lido dining area for lunch. This was quite good with many made to order choices. The luggage arrived to the cabin at 1:30 pm and this gave us plenty of time to unpack and get organized. Our suite was very similar to one we had last year on Celebrity's Constellation, except the veranda was deeper with two wicker chairs, two ottomans, with a small table between. There was also a small round table with two chairs which was perfect for outdoor dining. Ship Information—The design of the interior of the ship is slightly different then we have experienced before. The "grand" foyer is there but much smaller in size. Many of the corridors have just one passage way for guests moving either forward or aft. The only time this seemed a problem was the deck area that had all the shops. Otherwise, the ship did not seem crowded to us at all. Even the elevators were a snap to show up. Service—We are big on service! And this ship did not disappoint us one bit. Our cabin steward was very polite and the cabin was cleaned twice each day. By accident we tried the free style dining on the second night out and found that we really liked it. We had wondered if not have the same wait staff would make a difference in the service, but it certainly did not. Everything worked so smoothly and everyone was very friendly and accommodating. Shore Excursions—We were very impressed with the quality of shore excursions. Sitka & Juneau were outstanding. The whale watching in Sitka was past our expectations. We were lucky enough to see humpback whales doing "bubble netting" which is how they feed. Wow, the pictures are keepers! Food—Overall the food was very good! The Lido cafe was the best of any ship; the dining room was equal to Celebrity in every way and room service was always prompt. Only one small complaint was the one night we dined at the speciality restaurant. My husband's rib eye steak was very tough! The staff was not wanting to change it out, so he just endured it. Entertainment—We did not see every show but we would say that the entertainment was only average at best. The broadway show we saw was just "more of the same" that we have seen on other ships. We are not hard of hearing, but the music was just to loud! Disembarkation—HAL has hit the mark in this area!! It was so smooth it stunned us! There were no lines, no fighting to get on the elevators, no looking for a place to sit. What made it so easy was that passengers were allowed to stay in their cabins until their disembarkation color/number was called. Since we had a late flight, we went to the Lido Cafe for breakfast and then back to the room. We were called at 10:30 am and off the ship we went. Shore side, the luggage was extremely well organized, & lots of help on where to go. Summary—Would we sail with HAL again??? And that would be a resounding "yes"! The captain runs a tight ship and it shows! We look forward to cruising with them again!! Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
We just returned from a very memorable journey on the ms Oosterdam. We sailed on July 13 from Seattle. We spent the night before at the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Seattle. A short ride to Pier 30, this location was OK. We were told ... Read More
We just returned from a very memorable journey on the ms Oosterdam. We sailed on July 13 from Seattle. We spent the night before at the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Seattle. A short ride to Pier 30, this location was OK. We were told that it was closer to Pike's Market than it was, but that was alright...we were pooped from a long day of travel anyway. EMBARKATION Embarkation was simple and hassle-free. It's a lot less luxurious than the Disney cruise we went on last year, as the embarkation takes place in a warehouse-type building. Still...it's very simple, and easy to figure out your way around. We were delayed 45 minutes during the embarkation process, and there weren't many chairs, so it meant standing. We didn't care, though! We were heading on a cruise...plenty of time to relax later. Upon boarding the ship, we realized that the delay came from leaks in the ceiling. There were several buckets spread about Level 2, but it seemed they disappeared by mid-afternoon. We were immediately escorted to the Vista Dining Lounge...that was so relaxing and much less congested, I hear, than trying to haul luggage around in the Lido buffet line. What a great treat to be welcomed with shrimp, pasta, and chocolate mousse! CABIN We were pleasantly surprised with our verandah cabin on floor 5. It was shorter in length than the Disney line, but it had tons of storage! I loved the bathroom...the tub was huge, the water pressure was great, the amenities were wonderful, and the towels were large! The beds are also worth bragging about. The sheets are wonderful and so is the comfort of the mattress. There is a mini-bar in the room that is restocked daily. There was no alarm clock/clock in the room, so I was glad I read about that ahead of time. We truly enjoyed the balcony, especially with so much Alaskan scenery to see at all time. We were on the inner passage, and it seems like there is always a change in scenery. We were on our balcony a lot...taking pictures of all the scenery as it passed by. FOOD Upon returning home, the scale tipped 5.2 pounds higher and I consider that a victory since we were amid tons of delicious food all week. We ate in the Vista Lounge every night and loved the portion sizes and the variety. There was always something new to try, and like all cruise dining, if you don't like something, ask for a replacement. That never happened at our table. We were pleased with all the entrees. We were most fortunate to have Hunky Dory as our steward. He's very well-known on the ship by everyone...whether you have him as your steward or not. He knows everyone's name and there's a reason he's Employee of the Year! Food in the Lido was good, but I wouldn't give it bragging rights. Maybe we got a little spoiled with the fanciness in the Vista. There was a great variety, but many of the foods (salads, desserts, pastries, breakfast entrees) were repeated day after day. The Dutch chocolate dessert buffet was impressive, but after a late seating, we were too full to indulge again at 10:30 p.m. Instead I walked around taking pictures of the display and gained 3.4 pounds just from the rich smell! CROWDED? The layout of the ship is nice, even though I couldn't find my way around - even until the last day! I was always turning the wrong corner...and I have a great sense of direction! There are plenty of small lounges/bars throughout the ship. Upon arriving on the ship, I worried that there'd be no seating in these small areas, but it was amazing at how empty the ship always seemed. I never felt crowded and I always felt like there were plenty of places to escape to when I needed it. CLEANLINESS/APPEARANCE The general cleanliness of the ship was great, but there were areas that could have used some touch up from general wear and tear. My mom was traveling with me and she's cruised with HAL before. She was less impressed with the ms Oosterdam than she was with the other ships, stating that the others seemed much fancier. This ship is quite fancy, but I think the color scheme (teal, etc) makes it look dated even though it's a fairly new ship. DRINKS There is always a wonderful drink special of the day with a discounted price. I think I was most disappointed in the lack of free sodas from a fountain machine. Having cruised with Disney, I think I became quite spoiled with getting a diet soda anytime I wanted...for no charge. I'm not a tea or coffee drinker so my caffeine cost me money all week. KIDS We opted for a "no kids" vacation, and on Holland America it seems that others opt for the same plan. HAL is not set up for kids like Disney or Royal Caribbean. It is truly geared for couples. There were a few kids on our ship, but I think I could have counted them on two hands. I think they spent their entire time in the pool as there wasn't anything else for them to do. PORTS Our itinerary included Juneau, Sitka, Hubbard Glacier, Ketchikan and Victoria, BC. Juneau It was raining as we came into port and because we were the third of three ships docked for the day, we parked a mile out of the downtown area and relied on busses to take us downtown. We chose the Whale Watching Quest and Mendenhall Glacier as our excursion package and we were SO happy we did. We saw 25 whales up close and watched them breaching and bubble net feeding, which is rare to see. It rained during most of our excursion on the water, but we were in an enclosed boat, so it was just fine. The Glacier was beautiful and so worth the money. It was pretty packed there so getting into the visitor's center without being bumped around didn't happen. We spent some time in downtown Juneau and even had an Alaskan Summer Ale at the famed Red Dog Saloon. That's worth a stop for sure! By the end of the day the sun was out, and we were walking back to our ship in short sleeves. Sitka This was a beautiful little town with great views from the top of the hill. We needed the tender, but that was very convenient. We were the only ship in town for the day, so it wasn't crowded. Some of the little shops were closed because it was sunny. I guess the store owners close down when the sun comes out because it's so rare and they want to get out and enjoy it. The people are all very friendly, but the prices are very high if you plan to eat off the ship. I'd fill up first because just a hot dog is $4.50...better to eat what you already paid for on the ship. Hubbard Glacier We were one of the lucky groups to see another sunny day at Hubbard Glacier and enjoy quite the display of calving (when the face of the glacier breaks off). It was amazing, and I couldn't stay there long enough! I guess we were two miles from the glacier, but it felt like we were ¼ mile away. When we got there, there were two other ships just leaving so that was fun to watch them as they sailed against the majestic backdrop. Ketchikan Again...another quaint little town that started out cold and rainy and ended up being a very nice and warm day. Creek Street is a fun walk full of shops behind the main street. Lots of historic buildings. We went in the visitor center and learned about the Tlinket people and the history. I'm not normally one who likes that kind of thing, but it was neat...and only $5. It was very crowded as three ships were in town, so the stores were extremely busy. Victoria, B.C. I'd been told that this wasn't that great of a stop, but I felt much differently. You're a cab ride or a short walk to the part of town where you'd probably hang out. For $7.50, a cab will take you there, but be sure to let them know you're not going to the Gardens. For some reason, the cabbies want to take you to the Gardens and that is a 30 minute drive. 20 minutes into ours, we realized we were being "taken for a ride", and he wasn't happy that we only wanted to be dropped off downtown. The flowers are just beautiful...there are thousands of hangings baskets of multi-colored flowers. DISEMBARKATION This went very smoothly. We opted for a late disembarkation because we had a late flight out of Seattle. We ate a leisurely breakfast, and weren't called to leave the ship until 9:15. Finding luggage wasn't a problem...everything was very organized. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Review of Noordam, July 1-8, 2008, Alaska's Inside Passage Background: This was my family's third cruise. We had previously sailed on Carnival's Fantasy to the Caribbean in March, 2006; on the Volendam to Alaska's ... Read More
Review of Noordam, July 1-8, 2008, Alaska's Inside Passage Background: This was my family's third cruise. We had previously sailed on Carnival's Fantasy to the Caribbean in March, 2006; on the Volendam to Alaska's Inside Passage in June, 2007; and now, the Noordam, July 1-8, 2008. My husband and I (early 50s) traveled with our teenage son and daughter and my sister-in-law (early 60s). Pre-Cruise We arrived in Seattle two days early to enjoy the sites. We stayed at the Comfort Suites on Roy Street. We had a two bedroom suite with kitchenette, perfect for the five of us. We were about two blocks from the Seattle Center an easy walk from our hotel! We enjoyed the Space Needle, the Science Fiction Museum, the Experience Music Project, Pioneer Square with the Underground Tour, Pike's Place Market, and the water front. We ate at Ivars, Elliotts, and Salty's on Alki Beach. Embarkation: We arrived at the pier about 1:00 PM. Had no problem checking our luggage and no waiting in line to check in. We boarded the ship about 1:30 and went directly to our cabins. Cabin: We were in side-by-side cabins in what my DH affectionately called "steerage", #1118 and #1120. We prefer the lower decks because my daughter has motion sickness problems. While we enjoyed being on the deck with the front desk and shore excursion offices - so easily accessible and only one floor from the dining room, we would never again book these particular cabins. We were directly below the kitchen and were awakened early (4:00ish) every morning with what sounded like carts/tables being dragged across the floor and one morning the smell of bacon was so strong that we could have been sleeping in the kitchen. Our cabins were lovely, spacious, and the beds were divine!! We only had a shower - I missed having a bathtub. Upon our arrival to our cabin our air conditioning was not working - in either cabin. We complained first to our room steward and finally to the front desk where we were assured that the "problem was being worked on". My DH begin staking out various places on the ship where we might "camp out" because the room was much too hot for sleeping. Fortunately, after about 4 hours we could feel cool air blowing into our cabin and by bedtime we were able to sleep comfortably. And we appreciated that the front desk checked back with us every day or so to make sure that the air conditioning was still functioning properly. Dining: Dinner: There was no "As You Wish" dining on our cruise in the Vista Dining Room - probably because of the large group (942 people) on our cruise (more about them later). Our food was consistently good and well presented. Some entrees were better than others, but overall we were satisfied with our selections. The portions were adequate - only once did my DH have to order a second entree because the serving was so small (the duck breast). And one other time, we were unhappy with the entree (the Wiener Schnitzel). It was dry and flavorless. But most entrees were quite good. Our steward, Rae, was wonderfully sweet - anticipating our every need. We had plenty of bread, water, ice tea, milk, etc. - never having to ask for refills. Problems: (1) We missed the string quartet playing during dinner, in fact we missed having any music at all and the dining room was loud. I don't know if this is a result of the design of the room, but the lack of music (which probably couldn't have been heard in the first place) and the loud voices destroyed much of the ambience of the dining experience. (2) The pace of our meal. Most evenings it took us 2 hours to be served and eat a four course meal. I don't think this was a problem with our steward but with the kitchen staff. We would frequently wait long periods between courses. Then we would usually have to hurry through our dessert in order to get to the entertainment in the Vista Lounge. (3) The variety (or lack thereof) of desserts. While I think the Vista Dining Room did an adequate job with desserts we were a little disappointed in the variety and creativity. Most of the desserts my family tasted were good but nothing memorable. Breakfast and Lunch: We ate in the Lido Restaurant, Vista Dining Room, and the Terrace Grill for Breakfast and Lunch depending upon our mood and the schedule for the day. Again the food and choices were very good and again the service in the Vista Dining Room was so very slow that by the end of the cruise we abandoned the idea of eating in the Vista Dining Room at all. There is just too much to do on an Alaskan cruise to spend two hours eating lunch! Entertainment: (1)The Vista Lounge singers and dancers were wonderful - the best of our three cruises. Sadly, this cruise was the last for the four singers - their contracts were up and were moving on to other exciting things. The shows were exceptionally good for a cruise line. The "That's Vegas" show on Monday night was very good except for an odd opening number and the most unusual rendition of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" I have every heard. The dancers were very good and the again, the singers were excellent. (2) We also enjoyed the comedy of John Branyan the first night of the cruise and looked forward to seeing him again later. Unfortunately, he was not scheduled for another performance (again, probably because the 942 people reserved the Vista Lounge for their group) and we were quite disappointed. Go see John Branyan if he is ever performing in your area. He was very funny with a very clean performance - no sexual or off color jokes - my teenagers loved him, too. (3) On Thursday we enjoyed Howard Hill, a contemporary concert pianist, playing themes from television and movies (think a young Liberace without the candlesticks). He was a good talent and it might have been a very good performance, but I couldn't tell because the sound system was adjusted so poorly that the recorded background track, (which everyone on cruise ships use these days) overpowered the pianist and live performers. (4) Randy Keith was the "piano man" and every time we entered the piano bar he had a crowd around the piano singing. While he was very good and attracted a good crowd, we were a little disappointed that it was a loud, hard-driving type of performance, rather than the laid back, easy piano sounds we enjoyed last year on the Volendam with Barrie Blythe. Just a matter of personal taste. (5) We were not able to hear the Lakatos Strings in the Explorer's Lounge because they only performed during our two hour dinner time. (6) We enjoyed dancing to the Sean Bell Trio in the Ocean Bar, DJ Rich in Northern Lights, and with Meryll & The Hall Cats in the Crow's Nest. The Sean Bell Trio was not bad, rather young to be playing Standards, but their location was awful. They were stuck in a small corner, and the "dance floor" was really little more than a cleared out part of the walkway. Despite having all these different venues for dancing we didn't feel that the Noordam offered a good place for consistent ballroom dancing - most of the music seemed to be geared for a younger audience (who were not on this ship) maybe this music works for a Caribbean cruise where the passengers tend to be younger. Children/Teen Program: My teens had a good time with the 30+ teens that participated in the teen activities. There were three teen counselors/supervisors. They were all well behaved, no discipline problems that we were aware of. One problem with the Teen Program however. At midnight the counselors went to bed leaving the teenagers unsupervised in The Loft. Noordam should either have counselors on duty until the last teen leaves or they should close down The Loft at midnight. (This could turn into a bad situation!) Greenhouse Spa: While my DH and I enjoyed both the hydro pool and the thermal suites it was not worth the $250 to us. It was especially nice after a day of site seeing to come back and relax, and I'm glad we tried it, but I doubt that we will purchase the spa package again. A couple of times I took my shower at the spa but was disappointed in the service: could not find a washcloth and when I asked the girl at the desk she said none would be available until the next morning; shampoo was available in the shower but no conditioner or soap; water with lemon or lime was available in the hydro pool area but no clean cups/glasses. Shore Excursions: Juneau: We took a 1½ hour helicopter tour of the glaciers with Coastal Helicopters (booked ourselves - not through HAL). Driver/escort met us at the dock right on time. Luke was our very competent and informative pilot. What a beautiful view from the helicopter!! We landed on a glacier and walked around for about 25 minutes. In the afternoon we took the bus to Mendenhall Glacier and toured the area. Sitka: The tendering process was easy and well managed. We took a 4 hour tour with Davey Lubin on The Ester G (www.puffinsandwhales.com), a six passenger boat, to look for wildlife (booked ourselves - not through HAL). The boat ride was fabulous, saw all sorts of animals on land and sea and got a great tour of the area with Davey. FYI my DH, sister-in-law, and I did fine in the small boat on the open sea, but both of my teens had some sea-sickness problems. After a lunch of hamburgers in town we toured Sitka and did some souvenir shopping. Ketchikan: Since we had such a short time here we decided to forgo any scheduled shore excursions (we toured the Misty Fiords by float plane last summer), so we did a walking tour and shopped. Victoria: We took a two hour tour of the city (arranged through HAL). Wish we could have spent more time there. Disembarkation Because we had an early flight we chose to depart early carrying our luggage with us. This was so simple and so easy - it just meant that we were up early with an early breakfast. We had no problems exiting the ship and walked straight to our shuttle stop. Final Thoughts Approximately 45-50% of the passengers on the Noordam were with "Inspirational Cruises and Tours". In so many ways this affected our cruise: 1. They used the Vista Lounge for all their worship/seminars. Therefore, entertainment and informational sessions were cut for the rest of us; for example, unlike last summer's cruise on the Volendam, there were no Naturalist lectures. 2. With that many passengers on board with the same schedule, restaurants, bars, and decks were either packed or almost empty. The rest of us would have benefited from having their schedule so that we could have avoided being in the public places at the time their group meetings let out. Frankly, I think most of them went to bed after dinner (they were at main seating), because the Vista Lounge was never more than half full and the bars were deserted by 11:00 PM. (Actually, I have a feeling that the Noordam lost money on the sale of alcoholic drinks and in the casino this week, but they did run out of chocolate ice cream.) 3. One of the highlights of our cruise on the Volendam last summer was meeting and talking with people from around the globe. This year, most, if not all, of the "Inspirational Cruises and Tours" group were from the US and while they were all very nice it was not as much fun as dining with international passengers. The staff and crew were fabulous, wonderful. They always greeted me with a smile and a "hello" and did everything possible to help my family have a wonderful cruise. This was also the last cruise for our Cruise Director, Drew Murdock. He was returning home to eastern Canada after four months aboard the Noordam. Drew was terrific and we would love to see him on a future HAL cruise. Captain Hans Mateboer was our ship's captain. After advice from CC we did not attend the Captain's Champagne Toast, however, we did meet Captain Mateboer at the Saturday luncheon honoring Mariner and Suite guests. Captain Mateboer had a new and interesting problem that I'm sure he and HAL will be talking about for some time to come. When we tried to depart Sitka on Thursday our anchor would not come up. After trying for several hours to pull up the anchor, Captain Mateboer made the decision to sail on to Ketchikan (albeit slowly) while the maintenance engineers replaced the anchor motor. So we set sail (late) dragging 30 meters of anchor and chain (over 36,000 pounds!). Sometime around 10:00 PM the new motor was working, the anchor was pulled up, and Captain Mateboer order full steam ahead. We arrived in Ketchikan the next morning about one hour late so HAL gave us an extra hour in Ketchikan, causing Captain Mateboer to sail the Noordam as "fast as she has ever sailed!" to Victoria, where we arrived right on schedule. This was our second cruise on HAL. On the second day we received a Holland America canvas bag on our bed with a brief "thank you" for sailing with HAL. A couple of days later we each received a tile with another "thank you" note from HAL. And then the next day we received an invitation to attend a luncheon in honor of the Mariners and Suite guests on Saturday, hosted by the Captain, Hotel Manager, and Cruise Director in the Vista Dining Room. The luncheon was a nice thank-you and we appreciated being invited. This was the only meal in the Vista Dining Room where we were served in a timely manner - we were in and out in an hour and 15 minutes. In summary, we enjoyed our cruise on the Noordam - she is a beautiful ship. My favorite moments were walking the promenade deck; sitting in one of the teak chairs on the promenade deck, covered up with a blanket, watching the scenery and listening to the waves against the boat; hot chocolate (laced with Bailey's Irish Cream) on the Noordam's bow in Glacier Bay; dancing with my DH on the deserted dance floors! While the cruise was not perfect we will definitely choose to sail with HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
This post is for anyone who is interested in cruising on Holland America's Amsterdam to Alaska. I'm writing to review our cruise in June 2007 on the Alaska Explorer cruise, 7 days RT from Seattle. Due to time constraints, ... Read More
This post is for anyone who is interested in cruising on Holland America's Amsterdam to Alaska. I'm writing to review our cruise in June 2007 on the Alaska Explorer cruise, 7 days RT from Seattle. Due to time constraints, I'm not going to do the usual chronology report, but rather to give you the highlights that we hope you will find most useful: + : Fabulous artwork all over the ship. Clearly, HAL took care to make sure this looked like a flagship. There are sculptures, paintings, and even a working planetary clock from the 1800's (Astrolabe, seen from several decks including purser's square, with chimes and mechanical displays on the hour). + : Fresh flowers, including beautiful orchids, on every table in the buffet, and striking arrangements in public rooms throughout the ship +: The ship was very nearly spotless and could have been brand new, with minor exceptions + : Buffet was well above average in selection. Quality varied from average to above average. + : Many staterooms had tub baths, rarely found on lower level staterooms. + : Personal attention: there were at least two "hosts" that worked in the buffet area that showed remarkable ability to remember your names and travel companions, and were exceptionally courteous. They would frequently greet you by name and assist you with locating seating and/or your travel companions! We wondered if they have photographic memory. + : Embarked naturalist couple gave great narrations of fjord transits and wildlife sightings, as well as history of the ports + : Captain got this ship all the way up to the (twin) Sawyer glaciers on the June 8 cruise. On the previous cruise two weeks before (the ship alternates with an Inside Passage itinerary), we were told the ship only made it halfway up the fjord and never saw the Sawyer glaciers. + : Stateroom service was the best I've seen. Room was kept clean and made up, and special requests were received well. + : High Tea - is presented on days at sea in the dining room. It is a little rushed, but is very well done. The food service for this is an exception to the notes below: everything seems to be beautifully done and tastes wonderful. We wondered why the desserts elsewhere on the ship did not have the same quality. + : Promenade deck: there aren't many ships today that have a true promenade deck, complete with the classic lounge chairs and blankets, where you can walk all the way around the ship. The Amsterdam has this and it is done beautifully. + : Shore excursions: managed well, and seemed to give good value overall. + : Fitness facility: absolutely beautiful and well equipped, all the way forward on the ship and high up with windows and a great view. Although the ship's motion is a little more pronounced here, Amsterdam's size and stabilizers made this a rare concern. The spa and "thermal room" areas are adjacent. + : Thermal area/spa: for a fee, you can visit the thermal spa (they put an identifier on your key) either on a daily basis or all cruise long. The thermal spa has four lounge chairs made of small tiles, ergonomically designed, that are heated! There is also a mineral spa, showers, and saunas. This "members only" area turned out to be a good investment for us, not only for the relaxation, but also because the viewing deck was a great place to be during the Tracy Arm fjord transit, and we got great pictures then and also of the bald eagles at Sitka. There were some freeloaders that figured out how to access the deck from the ladders below, but the crew figured it out and got them back below. We loved the privacy as well as the amenities in the thermal spa. + : Shops - were average in both selection and value. Most items were priced as you would expect (high) but some of the sales were worthwhile. We didn't buy very much on board. We were disappointed they did not have a replica of one of their beautiful dolphin sculptures, done in crystal, which was a gift from the shipbuilder and was displayed right outside one of the shops on the upper deck above the purser's lobby. + : Photographers - above average for both value and selection. Portraits were taken on formal nights, and the usual shots embarking and at dinner. We purchased a nice 8 x 10 portrait with an 8 x 10 of the ship in a facing frame in a presentation folder, and have it displayed in our home as a great memory of the cruise. + : ID cards/cruise cards - were handled better than I've ever seen. On Royal Caribbean, you had to stick your card in a slot and it gobbled it up and spit it out farther down the queue, much like a subway. With HAL you just held up your card and they scanned it with a hand scanner. This made for quicker and more efficient embarkation and disembarkation. o : Room service - above average quality, average selection and delivery time. There were times it took longer than forecast, which made it difficult to entertain in our balcony room. (I imagine if we'd had a suite it might have been a little better.) Asking for things like extra wine glasses for our guests seemed to throw them for a loop, and I imagine we're not the first guests to ever make that request. The language barrier was also an issue with room service. o : Entertainment on board was average: aimed for the middle-age to older crowd; generally well done overall. The main lounge is somewhat lacking due to obstructed views and limited capacity, and they seem to overuse the rotating stage. Some of the live dance bands were very good, especially the Asian band that played in one of the lounges amidships above the purser's area. - : Toilets did not flush on two occasions early in cruise. However, repairs requests were met promptly and corrective action taken. - : Dining room food was uniformly bland. Preparation did not meet the standards set by presentation. The menus made every dish sound wonderful, and the presentation was excellent, but taste was simply neutral. Although HAL put on a great culinary arts demonstration, and the ice sculptures were fabulous, it seems like they've made a decision to outlaw all spices from the kitchen, and go cheap on some of the ingredients. - : Soda -- like most ships, soda costs extra. However, tea and water with lemon were readily available. Cappuccino and pastries in the NY Times lounge were also pricey (standard Starbucks prices). - : Pools -- tended to be limited in capacity; seem smallish for this size of ship. - : Theatre -- amazingly, it is situated such that all seats are oriented in line with the ship looking to port, so the theatre is wide and shallow. Fortunately, there are large flat panel displays on each side if you can't sit right in the middle, but the architecture seems strange here. - : Seafood offerings were modest. We had pictured lots of Alaska King Crab, Dungeness Crab, etc. With the exception of the salmon bake on deck, there was little to brag about with regard to the seafood offerings, which seems odd given the itinerary. - : The Pinnacle Dining Room (I think it was $30 or $35 per person surcharge) sold out quickly, and had mixed reviews. - : Dining room service was average to below. We had to ask for things which should have been offered (e.g. water refills). - : If you travel with or are a diabetic, there are very limited sugar-free or "no sugar added" offerings, and sometimes you have to request them or no options will be presented in the dining room. - : In port embarkation/disembarkation: the gangways were frequently very steep, making this difficult for older passengers. In one port, the gangway was shifted to a lower deck; we wondered why that wasn't done much earlier and more often. - : When we embarked, there were piano tuners tuning up the several grand pianos that are located in the various lounges, which we thought was superb. However, HAL is changing over to all synthetic electronic pianos, which is practical but very sad. Staterooms: the six of us that traveled together varied in age from young 30's to upper 70's; four of us had Cat E outside staterooms very low on the ship and the other two had a Cat B verandah (balcony) stateroom. The travelers with the lower staterooms would have been happier with staterooms on higher decks and the same amenities; they didn't like being so low on the ship and seeing the water up around their windows. The balcony stateroom was excellent. Ports: we were amazed at how small Juneau was, but had a great time at Mendenhall Glacier. We also rented a car in Juneau and drove out to the Shrine of St. Therese, which was absolutely beautiful. Sitka was distinct for its bald eagles and whales, along with the historic Russian fishing village character. Ketchikan was more of a touristy but fun stop, and the evening stop in Victoria was great for Butchart Gardens and a chance to tour the Empress hotel. We enjoyed all of the ports. Overall: we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and would cruise HAL again. While the Amsterdam is clearly not a 5-star ship, we would put it as a solid 4-star, and probably exceeds the other ships that would be in that category. We were concerned that the Tracy Arm itinerary would be inferior to the Inside Passage itinerary, but as it turns out, most who had done both thought this to be the superior choice. We hope you find this review helpful. We couldn't find very much on Amsterdam before we cruised. Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
Just got back this weekend from our cruise on Ms. Noordam to Alaska out of Seattle. Overall, the trip was fantastic. This was our second cruise, the first being a Western Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas. So, ... Read More
Just got back this weekend from our cruise on Ms. Noordam to Alaska out of Seattle. Overall, the trip was fantastic. This was our second cruise, the first being a Western Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas. So, this was my basis of comparison. My husband and I were traveling with my sister and brother-in-law, who had the inside cabin next to ours. We are all in the 40-plus age range. Embarkation was pretty smooth and orderly overall. We had gotten our boarding passes and registered our travel documents on line in advance, but apparently so did everyone else. Although the "Internet Check-in" line was rather long (we arrived there about 1:00 p.m.), it moved relatively quickly. We were able to go to our rooms right away. My sister and brother-in-law had gotten onboard the ship when check-in opened (around 11:30 a.m.)and had been on the ship about an hour or so before my husband and I arrived. They said that their check-in was really quick. We checked out our rooms and went to the Lido for some lunch, which was pretty good. The first night of our trip (Sunday night into mid-day Monday)was very, very rough as we hit some rough seas. My husband got seasick as did my brother-in-law. After a while it calmed down and it was pretty smooth sailing for the rest of our journey. We commented that it would have been nice if the Captain or someone on the crew could have given us some early warning that they were expecting rough seas so that we could have been prepared and taken our Dramamine in advance. Also, we were sleeping in a little bit Monday morning due to the "rough night" but a loud emergency bell woke us up in the morning. We thought it was a real emergency - until the captain came on the loud speaker to announce that it was a drill for the crew. ("NOW THEY DECIDE TO HOLD A DRILL!") Food: My husband thought that overall the food was good. I on the other hand thought it could have been better. (Personally, I thought the food and the presentation of the food was better on the Jewel of the Seas.) I would have liked to have seen more of a variety. My husband was really looking forward to the Dessert Extravaganza, but he thought it was disappointing. The line was really long. I skipped it since I didn't feel like eating at that time. He said that he could get similar desserts in the local Safeway and that it was nothing special. (I think Royal Caribbean was better in this department.) We ate in the main dining room (Vista Dining Room) every night. We had open seating. We tried several times to get a window table but never could. The "host" assigning the tables was not very personable and we felt that sometimes he was laughing at us when we asked for a window table (we had inside staterooms?). With this type of seating plan you really don't get the personal service you would if you had the same table every evening and your waiter could get to know you (as we did on the Jewel). The flexibility of not having to dine the same time every evening was nice, though. Entertainment: I was expecting the entertainment to not be so good based on reviews I had read previously. However, I did enjoy it. I especially enjoyed Julie Barr -- the pink and purple-haired comedienne. She was very funny. Since I was a contestant in the "Superstar" contest in which she was a judge, I got to meet her personally -- she was awesome. I also thought the singers were very good. Again, got to meet Josh, the lead singer, as he was also one of the judges. He was very good and also very personable. I also liked Jazzy, the DJ who ran many of the events -- the Karaoke, Bingo, Game Show. Drew, the cruise director was also great -- would have liked to see him mingle a little more with the passengers, though. (I think he would make a great television MC.) Julie, Josh, Jazzy and Drew made the cruise experience especially entertaining and fun. The magician (I think his name was Jason) and Pianist were also very good! I even got to be part of the entertainment as a contestant in the Superstar contest -- it was a blast!! We had such a great piano man on the Jewel of the Seas that it was hard to compare the lounge entertainment, which just didn't wow us. However, we did have fun the last night of the cruise with Alan in the piano bar. It did seem that there were less people taking part in the "night life" on this cruise than on the Jewel. Ports: The ports of call were great. We were fortunate enough to have beautiful weather (we deserved it after the first night at sea). I wore a light-weight ski jacket at every port. Glacier Bay was great. In Juneau, my husband and I took the helicopter ride to Mendenhall Glacier. It was definitely a highlight of the trip. It was cold on the Glacier - but worth the trip. We had taken two similar excursions in Sitka and Ketchikan (Sea Otter and Wild life Quest and Boat ride to the Misty Fjords). We should have taken one or the other -- the Misty Fjords boat ride was a bit too long - 4 hrs. and took up all the time in Ketchikan. We did see a lot of beautiful scenery and wild life -- eagles, whales, sea otters and harbor seals - so it was worth it! The stop in Victoria was short -- We enjoyed our city highlights tour and tour of a castle. Staterooms: We had an inside stateroom on Deck 4. It was small but comfortable and very nice for an inside room. The bed was awesome and better than what we had on the Jewel. The stateroom had a regular shower which was better than the shower on the Jewel (which was like showering in a tube). All in all, it was a very pleasurable cruise -- no major complaints that would keep me from cruising on Holland America again. Our steward was wonderful -- our room was always clean and he was very personable. We loved coming back to our rooms at night to a different towel animal every night and that wonderful bed. The ship was beautiful and although there were 2,000 people on board, it did not seem so. We had a great time and are ready to plan our next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
In the summer of 2006 my wife and I attended a reception for Holland America Line (HAL) hosted by our local travel agent. We were so impressed with the HAL presentation that we decided we would give them a try. One point that attracted me ... Read More
In the summer of 2006 my wife and I attended a reception for Holland America Line (HAL) hosted by our local travel agent. We were so impressed with the HAL presentation that we decided we would give them a try. One point that attracted me particularly was the smaller capacity of most of their ships. In the late fall of 2006 we and another couple booked on MS Amsterdam for their seven-day Alaska Inside Passage cruise round trip from Seattle for May 2007. We chose the seven-day as opposed to a longer cruise because of time constraints on some of our party. The trip was planned as a birthday cruise for one of our number. We (my wife and I) booked through our regular agent. The other couple, who live outside the US, booked online. We two chose an ocean view cabin. I wanted a veranda cabin but all were already booked and I did not want a penthouse suite. The fare was only slightly higher than what we have paid on previous cruises, possibly due to increased fuel costs. Our agent was able to get restricted air tickets Atlanta-Seattle RT for several hundreds of dollars less per passenger than HAL wanted for their air package. Guess which we took. We chose our shore excursions before leaving home and booked them on line, having them billed immediately to our credit card by HAL, a procedure we had not encountered before. We flew from ATL early the morning of the cruise. With the time zone change, it was still morning when we got to Seattle. Baggage pickup and handling was smooth on arrival, with assistance from HAL/Princess reps. The prepaid bus ride to the pier was non-eventful. Embarkation was more chaotic and inefficient than I expected. Despite our having prepared at home the online HAL "express" boarding passes, boarding was anything but express. There was a long line of passengers filling out forms that mostly asked for information that we had already submitted, including credit card billing details. In fact, another line of passengers who did not have the express passes, was shorter and moved much more quickly. However, all the HAL personnel were friendly, cheerful and good-humored. Next, armed with our cruise cards, we boarded the ship. We knew our deck and cabin number, but upon entry through the gangway, we were informed that our cabin was not ready and that we should go to lunch first in the buffet restaurant. We did that, leaving our hand carried bags in a holding area. After an hour, our cabin was ready. We were pleased to find a large, comfortable room with a sitting area, a full tub in the bath, and plenty of storage space. We found our friends, who had traveled separately, within an hour, and spent some time exploring the ship. Everything on Amsterdam is up-to-date and in good working order. Amsterdam had just come off the 105-day world cruise but nothing seemed the worse for wear. There was one morning when the vacuum toilets stopped working. The front desk staff acted surprised when I reported it but I know it happened all over the ship and has happened before. It cleared itself up (as far as I know) in a couple of hours. The front desk did call back later to ask if the toilet was working again. The ship sailed on time and the lifeboat drill was held shortly afterward. On HAL, the drill is held on the boat deck with the passengers assembled around their boat station. The exercise was a muddle, with crew members calling the names of passengers who should be present until someone (anyone?) answered. By the time we got back to our cabin, our baggage had been delivered and we met our cabin attendant, Bardu. We saw very little of him during the cruise but never lacked for anything we wanted or needed. Then to dinner. Any-time dining is not available on Amsterdam. We chose second seating and were assigned to a table for six in the upper main dining room. We went to the dining room only for dinner each day and ate our other meals in the buffet or on deck. The meal group was made up of we four and a congenial retired couple from Houston. We all struck it off immediately, never lacking for conversation or mild jokes at each other's expense. All present were appropriately dressed for each meal, including two formal nights. All participated willingly in dining room fun such as Dutch hat night and chef's special night. The wait staff, Karna and his assistant Nyoman ("Newman") were attentive and responsive, the wine waiter only slightly less so. The headwaiter or captain, Sugiyono, came to our table several times each meal to check on us or simply for conversation. After the first night, he brought us every night the next night's dinner menu and vegetarian menu so that some of us could choose in advance the dishes they wanted. Meals began on time, were served promptly and were finished expeditiously, but with no rushing. The food was generally good. I'm easily satisfied, as is our male companion, but the two ladies occasionally refused a plate or sent something back and reordered. In the buffet lunch line, they ladies were dissatisfied with quite a few items offered, and the day of our on-deck grilled salmon lunch at Ketchikan, they were absolutely horrified by the quality of the salmon that was served. Other than the dining rooms, we enjoyed the pizza, taco and burger bar on the pool deck, my wife loved the atmosphere in the coffee bar, We had one exquisite seafood lunch in the Pinnacle Grill, courtesy of our travel agent, with superb table service by Mattej, a young Slovenian who is gaining experience to start his own food service establishment. In all dining areas, we noted a general laxness on the part of passengers and crew in regard to the use of hand sanitizers. We attended all of the production shows in the main lounge. There was plenty of seating space and never a problem with being on time for a show because of late meals. All the shows were good; the lead male singer and the second banana female were outstanding. The shows were a pleasant change, having seen the same four shows on four different cruises, over and over again, on a different cruise line. We did not bother with any of the comedians, jugglers, impressionists, or whatever else they had to offer. For other entertainment, we shopped, went to the casino one night, and spent some time almost every night in one or another lounge in conversation or dancing. The musical ensembles, mostly Filipino, were uniformly good. One young man, Paul, a violinist, was marvelous. My male traveling companion and I went once to a wine tasting conducted with flair by Rod, the head wine steward. For exercise, I walked two miles almost every day on the prom deck; my wife accompanied me a few times but I was never alone because there were plenty of other walkers. We had our photos taken a few times; I commend the photography staff for not being aggressive. Our cruise took us to Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan in Alaska, and Victoria in British Columbia. We also spent a day cruising in Glacier Bay National Park. As was to be expected in mid-May in Alaska, the weather was cool but we had sunshine every day. Even in the national park, the morning chill and overcast burned off by noon and we enjoyed a beautiful afternoon. Hot pea soup served on deck that morning certainly helped ward off the chill. We participated in guided tours or excursions at every port. There's a certain sameness to the Alaska towns and not a lot to choose from among a variety of nature walks, wildlife sightings and salmon bakes at each. During the whole cruise I saw one whale, one seal and lots of otters and eagles. Debarkation at Juneau was messy. Throngs of passengers stood for 30 minutes in the passageways waiting for deboarding to begin. Tendering ashore at Sitka went smoothly, as did exiting and returning at the other two stops. On the whole, shore excursions were organized much more casually than has been my previous experience, with a lot left up to the passengers to figure out where they were going and how to get there. However, we thoroughly enjoyed the float plane ride over the Juneau ice field and took pictures as good as anything in National Geographic. The Mt. Roberts tram ride was nice but overpriced. They say you can ride up and down as many times as you want during the day for the price of one ticket, but really, how many times do you want to ride up and down? The salmon hatchery was a bore but the Mendenhall Glacier was worth the price. Sitka was fun, with the Russian dancers and browsing on Lincoln St. Our guide was OK, but made some misstatements about the town and its history. Our guide in Ketchikan, Charlie A., a retired school principal, was the best. He is steeped in local color and tradition and gave us interesting commentary on salmon canning, totem carving and wildlife characteristics. Our stop in Victoria was only a few hours in the evening. The bus driver/guide there was knowledgeable but rather distant. From him I first heard the phrase "First Peoples" for Native Americans. Service was good everywhere with a couple of rare exceptions in the sales staff in the shops. Perhaps the most difficult person to get to know during the cruise was Captain Dirk van den Berg. I encountered him four separate times, even stood next to him once in the sandwich line in the buffet restaurant. In seven days I managed to get only one word out of him: "Enjoy." Other officers of the navigation staff were much more forthcoming about their duties and experience. Disembarkation back in Seattle was about as well organized as going ashore in Juneau. Although we had colored-coded baggage tags and a prescribed order for getting off the ship based on flight times or destinations, groups were being called at random. A ship's officer at the gangway told me that the shore party on the dock was dictating debarkation based on the delivery ashore of baggage. Once ashore, customs and immigration was a breeze. We quickly retrieved our bags and the transfer bus was waiting. A 20-minute ride had us at the airport and the bus dropped us and our baggage in the middle of the Memorial Day travelers. After a lengthy wait to check in, we went to the gate with a couple of hours to spare. The flight home was without incident. My overall impression of HAL is good but not significantly better than the line I usually cruise with. I do like HAL's smaller ships. My three traveling companions have a better overall impression of HAL and MS Rotterdam than I do but by no means do I regret having made this cruise. Perhaps my lukewarm response is a matter of too high an expectation. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
Background: I am a 36-year-old male from Chicago, IL and was accompanied by my 29-year-old girlfriend. This was my fourth cruise but the other three were all with Royal Caribbean to the Caribbean. We flew to Seattle the the day before the ... Read More
Background: I am a 36-year-old male from Chicago, IL and was accompanied by my 29-year-old girlfriend. This was my fourth cruise but the other three were all with Royal Caribbean to the Caribbean. We flew to Seattle the the day before the cruise so we could have about 24 hours to enjoy the city( very beautiful). We spent the night at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel which is in a great location downtown at very reasonable price (just over $180 for our room with tax). Money Saving Tip: Take public transportation from the airport to downtown Seattle - two busses go from the airport to downtown for just $1.50 per person. Takes about 45 minutes. The Itinerary: Seven Night Round Trip Alaska Cruise from Seattle with stops at Glacier Bay, Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan. Embarkation: Embarkation was a breeze. We took a taxi from downtown to the port (short drive, about 15 minutes). We arrived at the port about 11:10am and there was a short line to drop off our luggage. Tip: Make sure to fill out the online forms to speed up the Embarkation process. When the ship opened up for boarding at about 11:30am we were ready to walk on. We explored ship, had lunch, and our stateroom was open about 1:00pm. Only problem with Embarkation was we had signed up for Fixed Late Seating and were assigned to Open Seating; a quick visit to the Maitre'd settled the problem. Ship Information: What a beautiful ship. Although not as many activities as Royal Caribbean ships, definitely a lot more elegance. I enjoyed all the nice perks Holland America offers such as robes in all staterooms, wooden decks, cloth towels instead of paper towels in public restrooms, bathtubs in all bathrooms, etc. For me the most beautiful parts of the ship are the Crows Nest (bar up on top deck), the Spa and Explorations Cafe. Activities/Entertainment: Activities I took part in included Bingo, the Express Shave at the Spa, the special therapy pool/ceramic chairs at the spa, the Piano Bar (Kory is great), two of the shows at the Vista Lounge, and a cooking lesson with the head chef of the Pinnacle Grill which I recommend). The only problem with the entertainment was if you have late seating, by the time you are done eating a lot of the activities are either over with or winding down. The quality of the shows I felt were good but not great. There were plenty of options on sea days to keep people busy and a good variety of activities for all ages. One complaint about the spa: Although the services are great the people at the spa really push selling their products hard which detracts from the experience. The gym had great views and excellent cardio equipment, but could use more weight lifting equipment for people who are used to nice gyms. I did really enjoy jogging out on decks 3 and 10; what a view! Tip: It might be a good idea to inform the spa worker from the onset that you are not interested in learning about any products for sale. Money Saving Tip: Although the Explorations Cafe is beautiful, the internet price is very high (75 cents per minutes or a bit cheaper if you purchase a package). For $6 an hour you can purchase internet cards at the ports in Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan. The internet stations are near to where the ship docks, did not have long lines when I was there, and the same card is good at all three ports. Warning: The casino charges 10% to get cash off of your sea card - if you plan to use the casino bring cash with you. No need to spot a casino 10%! Stateroom: We had a fourth floor aft Verandah stateroom which was much nicer overall than those I've been in on Royal Caribbean. The Verandah was huge (more like a deck than a balcony). I enjoyed the wooden floor of the Verandah and the wicker deck furniture. Our room stewart(Rony) was outstanding and very friendly. The only complaint was my girlfriend felt the vanity was kind of small and had poor lighting for putting on her make-up. Tip: Sleep with the door balcony door cracked open to enjoy the sound of the ocean as you sleep. Dining: We ate most of our breakfasts and lunches at the Lido. The food there was high in both quality and variety and overall was much better than the Windjammer on Royal Caribbean. The lines at some stations were sometimes a bit long (especially for omelettes). However I did not find the food in the main dining room to be any better than Royal Caribbean (it was generally quite good, but nothing outstanding). The menu was also somewhat repetitive (i.e. different type of Baked Alaska every day for one of the deserts, but I guess it was an Alaska cruise). Tip: Lobster Tails and Filet Mignon were listed as separate entrees during the second formal night; ask your waiter to make a surf and turf plate and don't be bashful about asking for a second lobster tail! This was the best meal. The Pinnacle Grill was very good but I am not so sure it was worth the $30 per person (if you are tight on money I would recommend skipping the PG, if money is not an issue go ahead and indulge). Money Saving Tip: To avoid a corkage fee for your own wine, pour a glass of wine in your stateroom before heading to dinner and bring the full glass of wine with you into the dining room. Warning: We ordered room service twice and our order was botched both times. Service: Overall I thought that the staff on board the Noordam was very friendly but I did not feel they were better than the staff on board the Royal Caribbean ships I have been on. Shore Excursions: 1) Glacier Bay: You do not leave the boat from Glacier Bay; just scenic views. I was a little misinformed and thought that the boat sailed for several hours by glaciers whereas the boat travels for hours to a glacier and stays still there for an hour. Still a beautiful place to see. Tip: Even if you have a Verandah, go up to Deck 10 for a good portion of the time as there is a better view and you can hear the naturalist and rangers much better as well as have an easier time spotting whales and wild life. I was able to see some small calving of the glacier. 2) Juneau: This was the highlight of the trip. I did a helicopter flightseeing tour with a two hour glacier trek. Although expensive ($399 per person) this was a once in a lifetime, incredible experience. 3) Sitka: Probably the most beautiful port as it is the least "touristy." We did the Sea Kayaking which was good but not great. This is the only port you tender. 4) Ketchikan: We did the Canopy Zipline Tour. Also a lot of fun but nothing like the glacier trek in Juneau. Tip: We booked all our excursions through the Holland America website. Although you can save some money going directly through the shore excursion companies, it is less stressful to book directly through Holland America (priority on tenders and the ship will wait a while if your excursion is running late). Interesting Fact: Juneau claimed to be the biggest city (by area)in the United States. When we arrived in Sitka our guide on our excursion there said they were the biggest city. In Ketchikan they claimed to be bigger than Sitka. Disembarkation: We did the express disembarkation where you get off early but have to carry all of your luggage from your stateroom off the ship. Typically you leave the ship some time between 7:15am to 7:45am with express. We were at the airport (via cab) by 8:20am and at our gate by 8:35am. The airport is about a 20 minutes taxi ride from the port and taxis are abundant (cost was $32 with tip). All in all a fantastic cruise and I definitely would love to sail on Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
Background My wife and I sailed on the May 13th sailing to Alaska out of Seattle. We are both in our late 20s with not kids. This was my first cruise and my wife's first cruise with Holland America. Travel We booked our travel ... Read More
Background My wife and I sailed on the May 13th sailing to Alaska out of Seattle. We are both in our late 20s with not kids. This was my first cruise and my wife's first cruise with Holland America. Travel We booked our travel through HAL and flew out of Atlanta the morning of the 13th, landed in Seattle about 10:30 am, and were transferred to our ship by around 11:30. The transfer was smooth and there were HAL agents all over Sea-Tac to show us where to go and what to do. Embarkation The transfer bus dropped us off right by the door to check in. The only complaint I had about check in was the internet vs onsite problem. We filled out our information on line. Apparently so did 99.9999999% of the passengers. Young, old, families, couples, singles, there really wasn't a distinction between who did it online and who did it in Seattle. The problem was that of the 8 lines to check in (not including suites) there were 5 for internet people and 3 for checking in there. So as you can imagine, anyone who didn't do it on line went right through while we waited for 30-45 minutes. I think this is a sign of the times and HAL needs to reallocate their lines. Once the paperwork was done we went right to the boat and up to the Lido for lunch. We had a good lunch and walked around the ship until 2:30 or so when our rooms were ready. Flying from Atlanta to Seattle in May caused me a slight problem. It was 85 when I left Atlanta. The Weather channel said it would be 65 in Seattle the day before. It was 45, overcast, and windy. Our bags didn't arrive in our room until around 6:30 and I was freezing my but off in a polo, sandals, and blue jeans. This was never more apparent that during the life boat drill. It probably only would have taken 15 minutes for the drill but one of the workers was securing one of the life boats and dropped a soda can size steel piece down onto some poor guys head. It took a minute for the crew to figure out what happened and then the guy was taken to sick bay as he was bleeding from the head. It was a freak thing and I'm faulting HAL for it. It's just the reason we were out there so long and this Georgia boy was freezing his toes off. incidentally the guy had 12 stitches and was okay. Stateroom We went back to our room and checked everything out. If you've never been on a cruise it's small but for a ship the rooms are quite nice. There wasn't a lot of space but everything was put together very intelligently. Space was definitely used well. Plenty of space in the closest. The drawers under our bed or full of linens and things so we didn't really get to use those. We probably could have ask that they be removed but we made due. Ship The Noordam is very beautiful. The lounges, bars, public rooms, everything is very nice and extremely clean. The dining rooms, Pinnacle Grill, and even the Lido were very beautiful. The gym looks out with a panoramic view of the sea. The Exploration Cafe had the most comfortable chairs. The only thing that would have made it better were more high backed chairs. I'm 6'5" and it seems like all the chairs were made for people about 5' tall. The decor is very interesting. Some rooms are very traditional while other push the modern envelope but HAL managed to flow everything together very nicely. Dining Lido:5/5, Dining Room: 4/5, Pinnacle 3/5. These are ratings on the quality of food but more the overall experience relative to the expectation. The Lido is the nicest buffet I've ever been too. The food variety was great. There was the entrees, an asian station, pizza, pasta, salad, sandwiches, desserts, ice cream. It was great. The only suggestion are 1) bigger drink glasses (8oz) and 2) self service (the portions of entrees were a little small). The Dining Room was beautiful. Very nice appointed. We were had a table for two but sat with other people during lunch. Everything was done very well but the food lost a point. The presentation was great but the taste was slightly bland and the variety was a little too continental. I know they try to float the middle with the menu but it would have been nice to see maybe an Italian night or a asian night or something. The Pinnacle Grill was the biggest disappointment. It was in no way worth the up charge. The food tasted like I what I would expect from the Dining Room and in fact we were told the food in the Dining room on formal nights is scaled up for to Pinnacle Grill quality. It really just wasn't enough. My wife and I are kind of urban foodies and we eat at nice restaurants frequently. I was expecting something like a 4-5 star steakhouse but it just didn't deliver. The only other dining comment I want to make is the cards. They offer cocktail, soda, and wine cards and boy to they offer them. They pushed the things like used car salesmen. That really needed to be toned down. Activities/Entertainment There really was a lot of fun stuff to do on the ship. There always seemed to be 20 things going on. My wife and I actually had a hard time choosing. We saw two shows that were great, saw a couple of good movies, played in the casino, played bingo, and went to martini classes and wine tastings. It was great. Service This is where HAL really shines. Everyone was so nice. It could have been in no small part that none of the crew was American but that's just my two cents. Everyone had a smile and were more than happy to help. The true gold stars went to the dining room staff. These guys worked like you wouldn't believe. Our room steward was great too. The only problem I had was we asked to have the mini bar emptied. We don't drink that much and my wife is diabetic and needed somewhere to keep her insulin. We were told to put it out on the counter. I thought that meant they would take it away but instead a whole refrigerator full of drinks sat on our vanity for the whole cruise. Given the limited space, this was a big disappointment. Excursion These were fun. We did a variety of things and I feel like we got our money's worth. Juneau, Sitka, and Victoria were all really nice and we had great weather for most of the trip. I was a little disappointed with Ketchikan. The whole town seems like just one gift shop. I didn't get a lot of "authentic" Alaskan feeling there. The neatest thing that happened to us was actually free. We were waiting to tender back to the ship in Sitka and four sea lions came right up to the tender boat and started playing. It was so cool. Disembarkation It was sad to go but HAL is nice enough to let you stay in your room until you're called to disembark. We got a later disembarkation because our flight wasn't until 2pm. This was nice until about 5 minutes before we were called, the head of housekeeping came by and asked us to leave so they could make the room for the next guest. That was a little put-offish. Especially since we were called about 5 minutes after we went down to one of the lounges. Summary In summary, HAL was great and so was the Noordam. There were just a handful of things that could have been handled better. I don't know if HAL reads these reviews but most of the comments also went in our comment card so hopefully they will take notice and your next experience on HAL or the Noordam will be all the better for it. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
The O-Dam ship was selected for following reasons: We have sailed the Zuiderdam Twice and are booked for a third on March 31, 2007. Both sailings to the caribbean were outstanding. The pool roof closes and traveling to Seattle was less ... Read More
The O-Dam ship was selected for following reasons: We have sailed the Zuiderdam Twice and are booked for a third on March 31, 2007. Both sailings to the caribbean were outstanding. The pool roof closes and traveling to Seattle was less expensive than to Vancouver. I traveled with my wife, 42 and my son, 9. I am 52 This was our 12th cruise. 3 HA, 5 RCCL, 2 Disney, 1 Celebrity (very disappointing), and one Carnival (yuk). Having sailed on the Zuiderdam we are very knowledgeable of the ship and therefore did not have to spend any time getting trying to figure out where everything was. We are from the east coast and my wife and son had never seen SF so we flew into SF on August 17 and spent two wonderful nights at the Nob Hill Motor in located about 1+ to the wharf. We did as much of the tourist things we could (Aquarium, SF Zoo and the night tour at Alcatraz) and had a 9 AM flight to Seattle from Oakland on August 19. The Seattle airport does not seem to have Taxi's at the arrival terminal. You had to lug your luggage to the other side of the parking lot to pick up a cab. We did use a Limo service which was a few dollars more. $35 as compared to $28 for a cab ride. (We did take a cab back)The cab back does drop you off at the departure terminal. (Go figure) On to the cruise: Embarkation was a breeze. Its always good to do things on line. We always look warn from the travel and never stop for the customary take you embarkation photo. There should be one line for the photo and anther to bypass getting a photo. We also booked our excursions online prior to the cruise. Did not wish to miss out on doing the things we wanted to do. The Lido is laid out very nice. Two stations for Sandwiches and two for the buffet. One for sushi and another for pasta and Pizza. We were able to go to the rooms as it was about 12:45 when we got on the ship. We put our carry on in the room. We carry Walkie Talkies to keep track of each other. Make sure you have a 3 watt+ radio as to penetrate all the walls on ships you need the extra power. Family radios just wont do it. We had a balcony cabin which is very nice but more important to have on a caribbean cruise. It gets just to chilly at night or even day to be out there too long. Even when we got to Hubbard Glacier, we went to the front of the ship to mingle with others and took several photos of the glacier. The service on this cruise was not up to the standard we were accustom to with the Zuiderdam. Our room stewart was very good however, the dining room staff was lacking. I'm still waiting to be greeted by the head waiter. As vets of HA cruise will know, the majority of the workers are from Indonesia. I do like the diversity you find with workers from all parts of the globe you find on other cruise lines. I believe the service is weaker when the workers pretty much get a standard tip each cruise. By HA adding the suggested to the onboard account most people do not bother to adjust the amount up or down. Entertainment. Michelle was the Cruise director. Michelle along with the assistant cruise director (Everett) did a very nice job of keeping you entertainment and informed. As two of the three judges for their Superstar competition they played off one another very well. Everett played the part of Simon to as annoying level as possible. He did his job well as he was booed and hissed at continually. Comedians - was just OK. They were family shows and were under control. I wish they had had a late night comedy as we have seen twice on the Zuiderdam. Both times Julie Barr was wonderful. I really missed this on this cruise. The illusionist was terrific and put on several performances and the two production shows were typical cruise line shows. The daily entertainment was less than what we previously have experienced with HA. I suppose that has more to do with less outside activities due to the weather. However, the daily team trivia is always competitive. The evening had a couple of game show mania's. The one run by DJ Roy was far better than the one run by Everett. He made a poor mockery of the game whereas DJ Roy did a superb job running the game on the second night. Each contestant won the same prize for being up there. This was also run differently on the Zuiderdam as the winner received a little nicer of a gift. There was also TV tune trivia one night and music trivia on another. To my surprise DJ Roy let teams mark their own papers. Scores were much higher (I wonder why???) The ports and excursions: Juneau We went to something called Sled Dog Summer Camp. It was completely Sled Dog abuse. I cannot believe this excursion cost $149PP to see the how poorly treated these dogs were. They were skin and bones and I wish I could of let them all go. They stood a better chance of survival if they would have been turned loose. They are tied for most hours of the day to a post in front of a green hut. They have very little interaction with one another due to the fact that they are not fixed. There was no vet on staff. When I asked about this one of the "kids" who worked there simply said "we are around the dogs so much we know what to do when they need treatment" (I bet we all know what that meant" Finally, they were tied to a sled on wheels once a day to run. We videoed this and will send it to animal planet for them to see how mistreated these animals are. The town was very nice and there were several ships in port at the same time. Including the Zuiderdam, the sister ship which we enjoy so much. We went over to it to see if we could visit some of the staff that we grew fond of on previous sailings. They both however were out on excursions themselves when we checked in with security. Hubbard Glacier was an experience however we are not there long enough. You can hear more of the calving than you can see as it takes place in sections beyond your viewpoint. DONT FORGET BINOCULARS AS THEY RIP YOU OFF IF YOU TRY TO BY THEM ON THE SHIP. Sitka a small town with not much to talk about. My wife did the 1/2 day Salmon fishing and caught two. She said that each person caught two. Ketchikan was very nice. However, once again, we were not there past 1pm. We had a 9:30 excursion via seaplane to see the bears feasting on the salmon. The seaplane ride was about 25 mins and takes you to the middle of nowhere. You are picked up by a man who looks like the Stinky Pete character from the Toy Story II movie. He takes a one mile ride in a van and you go to an observation platform to view the bears. You have to walk about a 1/4 mile to get there and he carries a first aid kit and a 30 06 loaded rifle. You have to keep the children in the middle of the group as you walk to the deck. We saw three bears and we were there for about 90 or so mins. We arrived back to the ship as the last excursion to return so I never saw anything of town of Ketchikan. We usually enjoy walking the streets of wherever we go. Always go on ship excursions that leave the area. You never know. Victoria: The mandatory stop. A city that was nothing more than lots of overpriced stores. You cannot pay with US dollars and expect US dollars in return. They give you Canadian money which is not too well accepted in the US. You will have to charge everything. BTW, Most shops did not appear to accept Discover. MC and Visa were the most accepted. Club HAL: My son loves club HAL. the counselors give each child tremendous one on one attention. These people are the reason adults with children have the opportunity to enjoy the adult activities available to us onboard. My son stayed late night each evening and could not wait for the club to open each evening at 8PM. Thanks again for a terrific job HA in keeping the children entertained. The Vista Class Ships have done a very good job of attracting families. The overall food level: To tell the truth. We preferred the Dining experience in the Lido over the dining room. Service was better and the same food is available. The salad bar was very good also. We did not do the Pinnacle on this trip but in the past that was a very nice experience. Disembarkation: We had a 10:45 flight and HA had us off the ship at 8:20. We found our luggage in about 10 mins or so and we called the limo who took us but I kept receiving a voice message and thus we took a cab. Because we were first off the was a few mins wait. We were at the airport at 9:15 and checked in by 9:45. An hour later we were on our way back home. Overall: Alaska needs to be seen more than once. I don't know when I will get back there again but I would like to go again. The weather ranged from about 48 to 62 F and it rained almost daily. Next time I would like to go from Vancouver and do more of the inside passage and also see Glacier Bay. The only way to go i believe is with HAL as they appear to have the best spots to dock. Where we were docked other ships had to tender. I suppose its because HA was one of the first to go to Alaska and get the best spots to dock. Experience counts. Looking forward to my next cruise in March, 2007 on the Zuiderdam to The Caribbean followed by the Explorer of the Seas in August of 2007 from NY to the caribbean. Thanks for staying with me this long and happy sailing to all. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
OK...Here it is.... Oosterdam Alaska July 15-22, 2006 R/T Seattle Ports: Monday-Juneau Tuesday- Hubbard Glacier Wednesday- Sitka Thursday- Ketchikan Friday PM- Victoria, B.C. Cabin: VA 8112, Deck 8 (Navigation) Aft (Immediately below the ... Read More
OK...Here it is.... Oosterdam Alaska July 15-22, 2006 R/T Seattle Ports: Monday-Juneau Tuesday- Hubbard Glacier Wednesday- Sitka Thursday- Ketchikan Friday PM- Victoria, B.C. Cabin: VA 8112, Deck 8 (Navigation) Aft (Immediately below the Lido exit onto the aft pool deck, port side) Cast of Characters: Captain: Olav van der Waard HotMan: Firmin van Walle Cruise Director: Jimmy Lynett Cruise Staff: Sr. Ass't CD: Everett (the Baby-Faced Bingo Boy) Daryl (Team Trivia), Lee (DJ). Stephanie, Terri Cruiser #1 and ATM Machine: Cindy (aka Mom) Cruiser #2 and June high school graduate: Anne (age 18) This will take some time, so grab a snack, a pillow, and a blanket. I have many pages of notes. I will try to categorize so you can skip parts. DISCLAIMER: I realize that HAL does not run the cruise line specifically to my taste, and that's fine. And, as my dad always said, It's a difference of opinion that makes horse races. Having said that, I wonder if I was on a different ship than all of you who think the Oosterdam is the best ship ever. I really didn't like it from the first hours on board. More on that later. CABIN: I decorated our cabin door with a poster commemorating Annie's graduation. Shoot me. We were on kind of a dead end hallway, and few people had to pass by and look at it. Our neighbors thought it was great. The mailboxes were a good addition. Kept me from breaking my bloomin' neck from sliding on flyers on the floor. The cabin location was not good. It was very noisy on the aft pool deck, and from people going in and out of the Lido. We even heard a group up there moving tables and chairs and laughing at 4:00AM. And of course we heard the deck cleaning crew early every morning. This was an upgrade from VH Guarantee. Sounds like a good deal. But even though the VH was a small forward cabin with steel verandah railing, I'd bet it wasn't nearly as noisy. Avoid any cabins on Deck 8 under the pool areas, as you will hear people scooting chairs and tables, kids running and jumping, people dropping things, and women walking in high heels. Maybe under the Lido restaurant is OK because it's carpeted. Our cabin steward, Inda, was superb. I spoke to him in Indonesian phrases I learned from postings on the board (thank you, Brian and others) and he really got a kick out of my efforts. I also learned as I went along, and practiced on the Lido staff and our dining room stewards. They appreciated it as well. If you can, please make the effort. It makes all the difference. We had towel animals twice a day, and they had a class on making them yourself on the last sea day. Some of the animals were very cute, and some kind of, um, scary. We saved a couple of them on the back of the couch for the entire cruise. Note: All verandah pax are no longer gifted with personalized stationery as in years past. This is now only provided to Suite pax. EMBARKATION: Pretty fast, and efficient, but there is a lot of walking involved. Roller skates would help. If one is not up to a lot of walking, HAL provides wheel chairs. If you have used the ship's transfer service, there is a long walk from the baggage claim area at Sea-Tac to the buses. At least it's not under construction anymore. The bus dropped us off on the Princess side of the pier, so it was a hike around to the south side to the HAL area. And it was a hike through the building and out to the gangway. High tide, so the gangway was uphill. Upon entering the ship on Deck 2, we found that HAL has embraced the idea of, We'll sort of wave you in the general direction of your cabin and you can read the numbers on the doors. But this was OK, and it probably saves wear and tear on the carpet from all the stewards running back and forth to the Atrium. Once we got to our cabin, we were able to divest ourselves of our carry-on bags, which by this time had become a grand nuisance, and we couldn't stand the sight of them anymore. We kicked them under the bed. Which is about the only storage space you have, incidentally. The only drawers are in the night stands, and two big drawers under the ends of the beds. But the steward uses these for the bedspreads. The closets, with pull-down shelves, are thankfully quite generous. The safe had a number pad (choose your own 4 digits). Our checked luggage arrived just shortly after we did: Us-about 1:45PM....Luggage-about 2:00PM. LIDO RESTAURANT: Not stopping to unpack, and following the urge to get started on the week's consumption of huge amounts of food, we headed up to the Lido (just out to the aft staircase and up one floor...very convenient!) When we got to the top of the stairs, we were at once amazed and confused (or maybe dazed and confused!) It is pretty jazzy dEcor for HAL...red and purple and yellow. And instead of one food line, there are stations: deli, hot food (The Bistro), The Wok, Italian, desserts, and the cut-throughs (2) have Continental breakfast and beverages in the morning, and salad bar and beverages the rest of the day. Plus an extra beverage bar forward of the lines. There is also an eating area forward of the stations that has a wood floor and wicker chairs. Very pretty. The stations are a pretty good plan, as it is no longer necessary to enter the Lido, grab a tray, and wait interminably while the diners ahead of you in line stare at the cheese as though they've never seen it before, holding up the line something fierce. You should be able to find sustenance at whatever station you manage to stumble across...and stumble is the operative word here. The food service area is a very cramped and crowded place. It is difficult to move (especially with a tray) and not be in someone's way, much less try to pass port-to-port. And there are traffic cones around the Italian station (why?????) which does not help. Usually, a smiling steward will take your tray at the end of the line, find you a table, and fetch your beverage. Or maybe they just did that for me because I'm old. Who knows. Anyway, it cuts down on folks wandering around trying to find beverages, salads, and desserts. There were several lunches and one dinner where seating was at a real premium. For instance, the day in Ketchikan, which had a 12:30PM All Aboard plus the salmon bake on the Lido pool deck, was just bedlam. After making TWO full circuits (two port and two starboard) of the entire Lido Restaurant, the Lido pool deck, and even the aft pool deck (even though it was raining buckets) we said, Nuts to this, and took our trays down to our cabin. Same thing the evening of the Victoria call. I was only able to enjoy bread pudding once. It was not offered at the dessert station, and I asked for it one day and the steward disappeared and never returned. Anne brought me a dish of it one day, and I said, Did you have to go to the back door, knock three times, and say Joe sent ya? Too bad. It was one of my favorite things, along with the muesli (which is now just Muesli and not Bircher's Muesli. Same great stuff, though. Desserts are so pretty and taste so bland. Don't know how they do it. I think the chefs are unaccustomed to the American Sweet Tooth, and the fact that we like our treats SWEET! At this point I would like to enter a personal observation, and I am hoping that my characterizations do not reflect the majority of HAL pax. Our cruise seemed to have an inordinate amount of folks whom HAL had convinced in the brochure that they were The most important people on Earth. because lots and lots of people acted as if they were just that. And it was our job (the polite and considerate folks) to A) Get out of their way at all times, and B) Let them push in ahead of you at every opportunity. This condition also applied if they were finished with their meal, but not yet done chatting, or deciding on shore excursions, or just gazing out the window. Never mind the multitude of souls with a full tray in search of a place to sit. Myself, I just can't imagine being that inconsiderate. But I guess a lot of folks can, and do. Amazing. Note to HAL: get rid of the piano and provide some space for people to MOVE AROUND! One other note about the Lido and I'll move on: At lunch, the Italian station and/or the Wok uses so much garlic that it is almost to the point of Appetite Suppression. I do not like garlic, its aroma, or its affect on my digestive system. And being blasted with its essence in this way is very off-putting. Just my opinion. I'm sure there are those who think this olfactory assault is just short of Heaven. Good for them. GETTING AROUND: For a ship of this size, this is more difficult than you might think. I do not like the way this ship is designed and laid out in the public areas. Aisles are narrow, and since people travel in pods, getting around all the mobile roadblocks was sometimes very frustrating. And I certainly do not mean to cast aspersions on my fellow travelers who are mobility impaired, but the proliferation of scooters doesn't help matters. One of those in the elevators, and you're waiting for the next car. And since I've brought it up, I cannot understand why it was designed so that the forward set of elevators/stairs, when accessing Deck 9 (Lido Deck), dumps people out in the middle of the Spa. The WayOut is to the port side only, and through a narrow hallway. Also concerning elevators: the mid-ships glass elevators are nice, but if you happen to have an adjacent verandah cabin, don't count on a lot of privacy. There will be elevators whizzing by at all times, and most of the folks riding them will be looking over to see what you're up to on your verandah. The Shops-oy!-the Shops! Way too much merchandise in way too little space. It is impossible to seven browse, much less stop to look at anything, without being in someone's way. The layout is worse than a maze...little dead end areas that you can't get out of because everybody else has followed you in. And on the first day when they are restocking, don't even think about it. Also, if they are having a drawing for Inch of Gold or whatever (a not uncommon occurrence), hopeful winners all congregate in the aisle to wait, so if you're headed to the Vista Lounge, the Internet Center, or the Library, it's better to just turn around, go down to Deck 2, forward, and back upstairs. The Photo Gallery is another bottleneck. Folks looking at pictures along the walls can bollix up traffic going to the Dining Room to no end. And the Promenade deck! At the points where the ship indents in the middle, the deck is constricted to a passage for one person to get by. The morning of On Deck For the Cure (for which HAL deserves much praise!) the 150 of us who were walking all came to a crashing halt at these points. I am astonished at the design. Running or jogging on this deck is not prohibited as it is on the other classes of ships. I suppose this is because there is a public deck below, and not cabins. It is still annoying to be in the library and hear Thump, thump, thump above your head. Overall, the layout is nice if there are maybe 100 people on the ship, but not 1800. To me, this ship is just not very user friendly for this number of passengers. ENTERTAINMENT: Moving right along, we come to the entertainment portion of the review. First off, I will whine about why they chose dark green paper and black printing for the Today at a Glance portion of the Daily Program. It is hard enough for us old folks to read without this adding to the problem. Plus, the highlighters don't work worth a crap on dark green paper. The special Lido pool deck lunches were not mentioned in Today at a Glance, but in tiny print at the bottom of the FOOD column on the backside of the page. I didn't even know to look there until the last day. Also not mentioned in Today at a Glance was the Daily Quiz. Anne and I have enjoyed doing the Quiz on all of our cruises, and we won every day! (Maybe a new HAL record??) Our Cabin Steward was more astonished with each passing night when he delivered our prizes. But because of the lack of notification, we also speculated that we were the only two playing! By the end of the week, from Quizzes and Trivia, we had accumulated so many dam prizes, we said we were having a HAL Logo Sale in our cabin Friday morning. We had 6 O dam mugs, 3 luggage straps, a key chain, a luggage tag, and a flashlight. We ended up giving most of it away. Team Trivia with Daryl was just about our favorite activity. We had different partners almost every day, and won 3 or 4 times. We had a great time with the Scavenger Hunt, and the games before Late Seating dinner, except that they should start them 15 or 30 minutes earlier, as they ran over into dinner. I realize we had a window of 8-9 to arrive at dinner, but our table mates were always there promptly at 8, as were we, since it was 10:00PM back home and way past my bedtime, much less dinner time. We did not play Bingo. Well, one day we wandered in under false pretenses. The session was advertised as Bring a piece of chocolate and receive a Bingo card! Since we had saved most of our nightly pillow treats, we showed up ready to be given lots of cards. Actually what the deal turned out to be was that for every pack of cards you bought, if you brought a chocolate, you would be given a free card equal to the number you bought. Buy One, Get One Free, in other words. Since the cards were sold in $20 packs, we decided we didn't want to play that bad, so we sat and watched and ate the chocolates we brought! We watched the Superstar shows and enjoyed the many lectures that were offered on the many facets of life in Alaska. The Tlingits who boarded at Yakutat to narrate the Hubbard Glacier visit also gave a wonderful presentation about their lifestyle in Yakutat. The Naturalist, Cindy, (no relation) got us all up to the Crow's Nest early Monday morning to watch for whales in Frederick Sound south of Juneau. Alas, the professional entertainment was disappointing. The cast of singers and dancers were very talented and full of energy, happy to be doing what they were doing. The costumes and sets were good, and the stage had multi-level areas, and an a section that lowered for scene changes. But the shows.....not good. Maybe it was just me, but the songs chosen were trite and unimaginative. We saw Rockin' Road and Escape. Both almost boring. The brought-on-board entertainers weren't much better. For the fourth cruise in a row (different ships) we were subjected to Drew and Angela DV8 Reality Magic. We didn't like it the first time, and never went back to see if it had gotten any better. On the Veendam two years ago, we even went to see the pair give a talk and demo in the afternoon, and they are very friendly and nice folks. Their show just sucks. The comic was Bernie McGrenahan, who was kind of on auto-pilot, and was his own best audience. There was a ventriloquist, Mike Robinson, with the requisite smart-aleck dummy. We lasted ten minutes at that show. And there was the Neil Diamondwell, I don't know what to call it. Stylist, I guess. He talked and sang like Neil Diamond. It's OK if you like that sort of thing. Everybody loved him. Except me. The Elton John guy is much better. I always used to look forward to the evening's entertainment, but this cruise really did not meet my expectations. I have been on cruises where one or two acts weren't so good, but never the whole week. The one exception was the Crew Show. We were fortunate to be on board the Indonesian week, and it's my favorite. The Angklung (and you can bet I had to go dig out the program and look up how to spell THAT!) Orchestra really fascinates me. On previous cruises, usually after the late show Anne and I would head off to bed, or for a last cup of tea and reading in the Lido. But Daryl insisted that we come to Northern Lights every night. And did we have fun! Tuesday was Disco Night, and it was a blast. I did the Electric Slide, the Hustle (this was my era, gang!) and Lee and Everett taught us new dances. The next night was Country Night, and even though it's not my favorite type of music, I was out there learning the Cotton Eyed Joe and lots of other dances. The last night was 15-20 minutes of music from each decade, starting with the '60s. Every time the decade changed, we had New Year's Eve and threw streamers. What a great time! I think I blew out my knee, though. But it was worth it! CLUB HAL: Needless to say, Anne did not join Club HAL on this cruise, but there were many kids on board. I want to say that the Club HAL counselors did a fantastic job of keeping them busy, as they were never intrusive or running wildly around the ship. They had their own clubhouse way up on the Observation Deck, and it seemed to be where they mostly stayed. The teen group had their own space as well, with video games and computers. NEW DINING STYLE: As many of you know, an experiment is taking place on the Oosterdam concerning a rather watered down version of free style dining. I didn't really think it was a good compromise. If you're going to offer variable dining times, seat people as they come into the dining room and fill up tables with those who arrive at the same time. OR stick to the regular set times so that all are served the same course at the same time. The eight at our table were all there promptly at 8, but at tables where folks wandered in at all times, the poor stewards looked like Keystone Kops trying to keep up with who was having which course. This seems to me to be a huge burden on the stewards, whose job is difficult enough as it is. But the Suits in Seattle don't have to implement it, so they think it's a brilliant idea, I suppose. Just a quick note to address a subject on the boards: there IS a definite vibration in the lower dining room aft. We ate breakfast back there one morning, and I had to take my coffee cup out of the saucer and put it on the tablecloth before it drove me nuts. PINNACLE GRILL (or, since the Odam has not undergone the upgrade yet, The Pinnacle at the Odyssey): Good food. Wonderful presentation. Nice surroundings. One tiny problem. I made the reservation (a gift from our TA, and there seemed to be a lot of these) IN PERSON on Sunday morning. The young lady entered the reservation into the computer (a phrase I've come to hate) as Tuesday evening, 6:00PM (a much better dinner time for me.) When we presented ourselves at 5:58PM on Tuesday, our reservation could not be found. The gentleman asked if I could have confused Tuesday at 6:00PM with Thursday at 6:30PM. No. So they squeezed us in, even though the room was occupied by perhaps four other parties. Having read that the service in the Pinnacle was glacially slow, I was expecting to spend some time here. But the service from Chris and Ohno was efficient and timely. Chris was rather taken with Anne, so I guess that helped. Or maybe since they were squeezing us in they needed to turn the table. Whatever. We both had the small filet. Delicious. I had scalloped potatoes and spinach. Also delicious. For dessert I enjoyed the triple crème brulee, and Anne had the most ginormous piece of Baked Alaska I have ever seen. With Cherries Jubilee on top. Flamed. Amazing. A good experience all around. I'm glad we went. If you are really into slow, long drawn-out meals, I suggest you eat breakfast or lunch in the main dining room. Only the lower room is open for breakfast, and the day we ate there, only three other tables were occupied. But man, it took almost an hour for orange juice, one of the daily specials, and coffee. I noticed they offered a 30 minute Express Breakfast with limited items. My guess is the items were water, and the rolls already on the table. TRANSPORTATION: Major beef here. First, may I say that I am a very easy going person, and if a trip goes reasonably well, I'm happy. I am not one who has to have everything perfect and has the Complete Come-Aparts if the least thing goes awry. We were told that because of the Odam's size, we had to dock at the far south dock in Juneau. The Zuiderdam was there at the same time, and she was made to anchor, even though there was pier space available. Be that as it may, they were charging $2 a head to shuttle you back and forth to town. On Gray Line buses. Which HAL owns. Same thing in Victoria, except it was now $5 per person (US) for half the time in port. Gray Line buses. This is Revenue Enhancement on HAL's part, pure and simple. Two years ago when we docked in Seward, the shuttle buses to downtown Seward were free. Is gas that expensive that they can't provide free shuttle service anymore? To make things more annoying, the port time is so short in Victoria. The Odam was putt-putting down the west side of Vancouver Island on Friday, flat calm, at 12 knots. Why not put on a little speed and change that Victoria port time to, say, 3 or 4PM to midnight? I'm not talking about just this cruise, but as a schedule change in future? I understand that extra time is planned into the schedule to perhaps allow for rougher seas and longer transit times. But wouldn't it be better to schedule an earlier port and then MAYBE be a little late? Our whale watching excursion returned to the west end of the harbor (pretty long walk from downtown) at 10 PM. The last shuttle left the Empress at 11:15 for an 11:30 All Aboard. The guide told us the bus driver would take those of us who wished to shop downtown before taking the others back to the pier. It was a double decker bus and took 15 minutes to load, and the bus driver evidently was unaware of the plan. He headed straight to the pier. By this time it was nearly 10:30PM. Once we unloaded at the pier (only slightly faster than loading) I asked if he was taking the bus back downtown. He asked if I had a ticket. I said, No. The shore excursion bus picked us up at the pier and took us to the harbor. Well, if I wanted to go downtown (obviously the last trip of the night) I still had to cough up $10 for the two of us. Anne was planning on buying lots of Canadian items, and really wanted to go. By the time we got back to the Empress, it was 10:40PM, and most shops were closing. We dashed into one, bought stuff, and barely made the last shuttle back to the pier. The message I received was: Hey! Come to Canada! Spend your money, We love it! But we are going to make it as difficult as we possibly can. Maybe it was because it was the end of the cruise, and I was depressed due to that, and tired from all the disco-ing, but this situation destroyed my last nerve. And I was a pretty sad/mad panda when we embarked the Odam that Friday night. SHORE EXCURSIONS: I wasn't going to go into shore excursions, as that is so subjective. Let me just say that Allen Marine is the best in Southeast Alaska at boat-based tours. In Juneau we saw 11 humpbacks bubblenet feeding, which is a rare sight. Digital cameras suck for this. In Sitka, we saw hundreds of sea otters (male raft) and Sitka Sound was so smooth, they took us all the way out to St. Lazaria Island Wildlife Refuge. I have been to Sitka maybe 20 times, and I have never gotten to go out there, though I've always wanted to go. It was beautiful! Lots and lots of puffins and guillemots. Hundreds of sea stars (purple and orange) and sea anemones (green) at the tide line. What a trip! Our kayaking trip in Ketchikan was canceled, not because it was raining (if they did that for all activities in Ketchikan, they would never do anything!) but after they took us all the way out to Knudson Cove (about 30 minutes), we found out that the first two groups had encountered strong winds and were stranded on the island. (They had to be rescued later by a landing craft!) Disappointing, but understandable. Luckily, our bus driver had not left to go back to town yet, or we would have been stuck out there for a while. So we ended up returning to town with plenty of time to spend money. Which we did. DISEMBARKATION: This was easy and extremely well organized, considering all the luggage taken off the ship in a short amount of time. This was the only morning we had room service, as I could only imagine the nightmare in the Lido. We breezed through the terminal and on to the bus to Sea-Tac. Why does getting off the ship seem to go so much faster? Here are the good things about Sea-Tac. If you are flying on certain airlines (Alaska was one, but I can't remember the others, sorry.) You are dropped at a tent at the north end of the terminal to check your bags. No long lines. Easy. Quick. Much better than the big lines inside the terminal. Also, air side of security, there is a huge place right in the middle of the terminal called Pacific Marketplace. Great shops. Huge food court with many choices (Ivar's seafood chowder in a bread bolle-terrific!) Huge windows with great panoramas of planes and scenery. Oh, and all the doors on the stalls in the women's restrooms open OUT! (Ladies will understand and appreciate this fact.) CONCLUSION (FINALLY!!!): If you have stayed with me to this point, I thank you for listening. All in all, it was a wonderful week. The good ole HAL spirit and signature of excellence is thriving. The worst day cruising...etc. It went way too fast. I told the World Ocean and Cruise Liner Society in my report card that I am disinclined to sail the Odam again. Or any Vista Class ship. I look at some of the features of the ship and ask myself, What were they thinking??? I think that in some areas they sort of missed the boat. Just personal opinion. And the difference of opinion makes horse races! Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
The ship itself is gorgeous inside, and out. They have many comfortable places to sit and relax and the ship is rather quiet. I (being 13) enjoyed the music they played publicly because it wasn't too loud and you could get away from ... Read More
The ship itself is gorgeous inside, and out. They have many comfortable places to sit and relax and the ship is rather quiet. I (being 13) enjoyed the music they played publicly because it wasn't too loud and you could get away from it very easily. The art is gorgeous to look at with pictures of some of the other HAL ships a few years ago, and the colors blend well nicely. (Lots of reds, dark pinks, purples) EMBARKATION: We arrived in the port of Seattle and were happy that there were no lines. I was traveling with my dad (50), great aunt (84) and grandmother (81). One tip for future HAL traveling, fill out your immigration form online or before you get to the port because you DO have to fill it out before you go up to the desk. (Something we did not do). We got there at about 11:15 and they were actually not allowing people to get on yet. There weren't a lot of people there anyway (maybe 70?) and they said the wait wouldn't be much longer. SHIP INFO: The ship--even with being 900 ft. long and with 1800 people--seems rather small when you are on it. The Promenade and Upper Promenade deck can get very confusing but you can find your way easily. The elevators were very slow on our ship and I usually ended up running up 8 flights of stairs instead. The ship has 2 pools, one is really an "adult only" pool but I still saw kids in it. The pool with the closing roof really helped especially in Alaska where it was raining everywhere except for Ketchikan. DINING: The Vista Dining room is a very lovely atmosphere and the lower ceilings made it seem like a smaller room. We were in the very back on the first floor, and we had a window looking out at the stern of the ship. Gorgeous place to eat meals. The Lido Restaurant has anything and everything and the crew working there is very friendly. The morning breakfast rush could get congested but once you found your table and started eating, it died down. I have eaten in the Pinnacle Grill once before, not on this ship (though my family did) and they enjoyed it extremely. It's a very nice restaurant with good, fast service and great food. activities: I will confess, I'm a Bingo dork. I've won 5 times on 4 different cruises so I've had my share of luck. But I always love to play. The Bingo with Everett (senior assistant cruise director) and Stephanie (cruise activities staff) was VERY enjoyable and fun. (Sadly, I didn't win anything). The daily program did really have choices for anyone and I was never bored without something to do. The cruise activities staff were all very nice and lovely to talk too. SERVICE: I've been on a lot of high-end cruise ships where the service was a little more then outstanding. Like where the waiter will carry your tray every single step of the way during the buffet...I love that but sometimes you just want to do it yourself. The men who worked in the Lido would help you if you needed it and that is just enough for me. The room steward that we had was exceptional and did his work very fast. Our dining room waiter was very nice at recommending and making exceptions. All of the Filipino/Indonesian crew were always smiling and they would always want to please you. Service was very good. SHORE EXCURSIONS: We did not take any shore excursions on this cruise but I will tell you about the ports of call. First was Juneau...rainy Juneau...I'd been there before and it didn't blow me away. It had some very nice shops and of course we went to the Red Dog Saloon. It was still a very nice town. After Juneau, we cruised by Hubbard Glacier. That was absolutely gorgeous...we got 3/4 of a mile away from it (which sounds like a lot but it really isn't) and saw eagles, otters, and bears all from the ship. They opened all of the forward decks of the cabins (which are usually closed) so you could see it from about everywhere. Next was Sitka. I had never been their before but it was really boring. There were 3 other cruise ships that day but it still wasn't very crowded. Very cold, very wet, and nothing exciting. After Sitka was Ketchikan. I was there 3 years ago on 4th of July during a parade which stole a little of the atmosphere of the town. It was probably the best port that we went to in Alaska, only because it was a clean town, good shops, and nice people. We left Ketchikan early and so we had a long day at sea for the rest of that day and the next night ( 6 PM) we arrived in Victoria, B.C. We didn't have time, energy, or mood to do really anything so we went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant in an alley, about a 7 minute cab ride from the Empress hotel. (The ship provided shuttles to the hotel so that you were more in town). STATEROOM: My mom was our travel agent and guaranteed us a verandah room. Little did we know until we had arrived at the embarkation counter, that she had upgraded us to a suite! It was very exciting and the extra room really helped. (I shared a room with my dad). The balcony was large and the bathroom space was a lot better. We had a separate shower and bath, something you wouldn't get in a verandah cabin. Their wasn't a lot of closet space however, but that didn't matter too much. CHILDRENS CLUB: Kids/Tweens: I knew there were many kids onboard but I didn't see too many of them running around like mad. The kids counselors did a GREAT job keeping them entertained and having fun. Teens: The last time I was on the Oosterdam (in April, to Mexico) I went with my best friend. We went to the information meeting the first night but she wanted to leave, so I went with her. I never went back so I was hoping at this cruise that I would make some friends and go to it a lot. I was wrong. The group of kids weren't extremely welcoming and the counselor wasn't good at getting the group to do something. ENTERTAINMENT: I'm a theatre buff so I always enjoy the broadway shows. They were the same ones I had seen in April but i still LOVED them. "Rockin' Road" is a different type of show but "Escape" is by far my favorite show. I love the music in it. It's like a tropical show in Margaritaville. Very, very good. The stage is very cool as it has many different elevations and the lighting was great...as were the costumes. The first night they had a comedian and he was very funny but the second night, were these 2 guys who were jugglers/comedians. ABSOLOUTLY AMAZING. They had amazing talent and were very funny. The next night was a Neil Diamond fan that did his tribute and I heard nothing about it. (I didn't go but I stood outside listening...I wasn't that impressed.) They also had a ventriloquist who was apparently exceptional but I didn't go to that either. Oosterdam Superstar (karaoke competition) was one of my favorite things from the last cruise. They made it very, very funny and enjoyable. The Newlywed-Not-So-Newlywed Game was a big hit as it was last time. They picked 3 couples and asked them questions (just like the TV show) and the outcome was hilarious. The whole entertainment crew were amazing. The cast was delightful to talk to as you would run into them in the elevators or public rooms. The cruise activities staff was still exceptional and the cruise director, Jimmy Lynett was sensational. He did so much and made the cruise so much more fun just with his personality. DISEMBARKATION: This process went very smoothly and started at about 8:00 AM I believe. A nice thing was them allowing us to stay in our rooms until we had to leave. We got off at about 10:30 as they wanted everyone off by 11:00. OVERALL: My second time on this ship was still an amazing experience. I defiantly would like to go back on this ship again as it met my expectations on just about everything. This was my 10th cruise, my 3rd on HAL, and my 2nd time on the Oosterdam. I was still impressed as I was the first time (when we went to Mexico) but I had higher expectations then last time on the things that I didn't like. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
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