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280 Holland America Seattle Cruise Reviews

I booked this cruise almost 4 weeks before sailing. We had gone on the same itenerary when the Noordam was doing the similar cruise and we had a wonderful time. It was the same month September as well. We have cruised Holland America and ... Read More
I booked this cruise almost 4 weeks before sailing. We had gone on the same itenerary when the Noordam was doing the similar cruise and we had a wonderful time. It was the same month September as well. We have cruised Holland America and have been happy in the past. This time we were not as pleased. Checking in was smooth funny though the man that checked us in did not say anything about the Mariners lunch. I asked him and then he said oh there was one in the Vista dining room. We went to our cabin first and put some items in our cabin and proceeded to the lunch. It was very nice. I must say that areas on the ship looked worn and in need of refreshing as well as it needed a thourough cleaning. On the decks by the pool and in the rooms there were always enough blankets for the cold Alaska weather, there were none inside the cabin and very few on deck. We prebooked the Thermal suite. comparing it to the time we were on the Noordam it was absolutely unkempt. Towels piling up, the floors overly wet. I never saw the stone chairs wiped down as I did the last time we were there, no music either this time. The whole 7 days our cabin steward never introduced himself or his assistant this was a first. The very first night we had our do not disturb in the door as we were getting ready for dinner, this was 6:30. There was a knock on the door shouting housekeeping, I opened the door and he said that he is doing turn down and if we wanted it, I said that we were getting ready for dinner and if he could come back, I asked him for ice and he proceeded to tell me to get him the ice bucket. I have never, ever had that happen and he did not even at that time say his name or introduce himself. We had as you wish dining which I was sceptical of, but it turned out fine, most were great servers. We did eat in Le cirque and we both felt that it was not worth the up charge at all. We also ate in the Pinnacle grill and the menu and food was very good, just this particular night the ship had to back in so the view was of the dock in Victoria and they were refueling and the smell was almost sickening. Also this was my husbands actual birthday day and of course there was no celebration as someone dropped the ball. We had rough weather so the Captain arranged Tracy Arm instead of Hubbard Glacier we have been to Hubbard Glacier before and the Glacier Bay so this was new for us, it was very beautiful to see I do prefer the other two though. If you are going to play the slots I would say don't waste your money I never saw anyone winning. The shows were pretty good, Joel Mason was on board as well as the last cruise we took, but he was so much better the last time. Bottom line there was something lacking this time from the whole crew, we probably won't be as anxious to return to them anytime soon. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
Hello, Cruise Critic Citizens, this is Deandra. I'm Robyn's twenty-year-old daughter, and I'm offering my ever-so-youthful perspective on the cruise. I had a great time. The average age of this cruise was pretty old, ... Read More
Hello, Cruise Critic Citizens, this is Deandra. I'm Robyn's twenty-year-old daughter, and I'm offering my ever-so-youthful perspective on the cruise. I had a great time. The average age of this cruise was pretty old, honestly, but this wasn't such a bad thing. The people I met on board were legitimately awesome. They were very kind, and had fascinating stories to tell. The downside of this was that I generally did feel like I didn't quite belong. The young kids all flock together in Club HAL, and the teenagers go to the Loft. I look younger than I am (everyone from the juggler/comedian to our room steward assumed I was about twelve), and when I met people I thought were my age, they were almost always Loft-aged. No offense to the high schoolers though, the people I met were neat. But I am a college Junior... too old for Club Hal and too young to party with the "old folks". I spent the great majority of time either alone or with my family. Honestly, this was a family vacation, and I preferred actually being with my family to totally branching out and never seeing them, so I guess this was pretty ideal. But, If my goal was hanging out with other young adults... it really was not available :( The Neptune Lounge was pretty cool, and was the location of most of the in depth conversations I had with older strangers. I also spent a lot of the time in the Crow's Nest with my family and the friends we made, because we are hideously addicted to trivia games. Trivia games can actually fill a lot of time, just so you know, and we learned a lot of random fluff. Also, what wouldn't a sane person do for Holland America pins? Games are ageless, so I was a part of things. The Amsterdam's cast and crew could probably benefit from some new shows? I went to most of their performances, and I don't regret it, but I spent a lot of the show feeling bad for the cast for having to wear so many sequins. The talent that HAL brought on was amazing. Ronn Lucas is this big time ventriloquist who I would actually go out of my way to see performing in the real world. We also got to see a performer called Jeff Trachta, who was amazingly talented. It's really neat to be on the ship, just wandering around, and run into people like juggler and talk to them. I liked that experience. As a practicing Catholic, I was grateful that HAL provides a priest onboard their ships. It made life a lot easier, and it made the trip much more meaningful. Alaska's beauty comes from God. It's somewhat nice to remember that while we're actually there. I loved seeing the Orthodox churches in Kodiak and Sitka. They were amazing, and I had some really enjoyable and informational conversations with the people who worked in the church in Sitka, and with the gift shop lady in Kodiak. The morning we spent in Kodiak was probably my favorite. I loved the little wildlife center/museum thing. Since we've been to Alaska many times, we skipped most of the nature-lectures, and this was about as informational about nature as anything got for me. The Baranhov Museum has some work going on around it, but if you follow the signs it is still accessible. It was a small, charming, and informative museum. It's this really old house that's been around for ages, and you can see the original wallpaper and woodwork in some parts. It deals with natural life in the area, as well as with the early Russian influence. Homer is covered in fireweed, and the beach was pretty charming. I didn't see much of the area, but it was probably really worth seeing, I suppose... I liked our family outing in Anchorage the best (probably more detailed in my mom's post), because in renting a car and just driving out of town, it kind of felt like we were runaways, or at home and taking a daytrip. It didn't really fit in with the cruise, and it made you feel more like a normal person, or a legitimate explorer. There it is then, that's my briefish but honest review of the Amsterdam in Alaska. Good times were had by mostly all, I met about 5 other people around my brother's and my age group (all within the last 3 days or so, of course), and whales are still awesome. My brother was pretty frustrated and says he never wants to go on another HAL cruise... but I am sure he will. We both just wish HAL had stuff especially for people our age... Ciao, internet people. Deandra Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We had a wonderful time on our cruise and believe much of our great attitude about everything was thanks to Cruise Critic. We discovered that a great way to really appreciate all aspects of the trip was to take the time before hand to set ... Read More
We had a wonderful time on our cruise and believe much of our great attitude about everything was thanks to Cruise Critic. We discovered that a great way to really appreciate all aspects of the trip was to take the time before hand to set our expectations in-line with reality. Our expectations were met (and even exceeded sometimes) during our cruise thanks to the fact that we knew exactly what kind of service, food, excursions, ambiance and fellow passengers we were buying in to. Thank you to everyone who participates on this message board. My husband and I are in our late 40's and were celebrating our tenth anniversary. This was sort of our first cruise, proper. My husband's only other ship board experience was a six-day crossing aboard the QE2 for our honeymoon. Our captain aboard that vessel made it quite clear that it was a "crossing" not a "cruise." I had been on a couple of short Carnival Cruises years ago, but that was for work (sales conferences) so it wasn't the same thing. We recommend the 14-day cruise. It was worth the extra dough to really get immersed in the experience. Plus weather becomes less of a factor since a few days of rain isn't that big of a deal when you're travelling for two weeks. We booked pretty early with a guarantee and got upgraded at the last minute. After talking to fellow passengers I understand there is pretty much no rhyme or reason to how upgrades happen. I think we just got lucky. (Not that there was any huge difference the class of cabin we were upgraded to - mostly location.) We had stateroom 2586. It was more generous than we expected, especially when it came to storage. We brought EVERYTHING and weren't even close to filling all the storage space. Actually we didn't even find all the storage space until the second half of the trip. (There are drawers under the bed - who knew?) Loved the CC advice about bringing a digital clock, power strip and extension cord and the over-the-door clear plastic shoe holder was such a great organizer for all our junk that would have otherwise been all over the dresser top. (Loved that trick so much I'm going to use it at home.) Our cabin location was pretty good - nearly mid-ship. The only noise we ever heard was some deck chairs scraping on the promenade, but it wasn't very loud nor a regular occurrence. 2586 offers a great view of the tenders being lowered. Number 10 goes right past the window. It was fun to watch that procedure. We stored our binoculars and a few other things in the window. We discovered that that made it possible to identify our window from the outside of the ship which was kind of fun. Our cabin was very close to the laundry room, but it was out-of-order. We hadn't picked our room, so we didn't really care, but someone who had chosen specifically to be near the washing machines might have been disappointed. Our solution was to just skip doing laundry...hope no one noticed. ? Our room had a tub and shower. We saw the "shower only" configuration in other rooms and decided those were probably superior. I only used the tub once and it is too small to really luxuriate. Just go to the hot tub if you need a soak. Food We had the fixed late seating at a table for two (Table 26). We had chosen it because of our experience on the QE2 where we really liked getting to know our servers. Our table was near the windows which we appreciated. A word about a table for two: it is great! If you want to be social there are plenty of other opportunities to do so. We loved getting to know people, but also loved the fact that each night at dinner it was just about the two of us. Also, if you do want to have dinner with new friends, you can always skip your table for two and eat downstairs, at the Canaletto, the Lido or Pinnacle together. The dining room food was solid, consistent and beautifully presented. We appreciated the reasonable portions. I thought they did a particularly good job at the soups. There were several cold soups offered, which added nice variety. Real stand outs were the veal chop and the nut encrusted salmon. At the Pinnacle the steaks were outstanding and at Le Cirque the lamb chops were the best of my life. We had a great staff that worked our table. The first day was stopped by the dining room at breakfast, but realized they don't seat you at your regular table with your regular server for breakfast (on the QE2 you get your regular spot, so we just assumed.) No big deal, we discovered it was fun to "do" the buffet and ended up never getting to the dining room breakfast. By in large the Lido food was really good, especially for a buffet. I could hardly pass up the poached eggs, fresh squeezed OJ and smoked salmon every morning. For serving on such a massive scale we were surprise at how good the coffee was. Nothing gourmet, but we thought it would be more like gas station coffee when they're making it for 1400. We took advantage of the in-room coffee service in the mornings before breakfast. You request it to arrive in a 30 minute window. Almost always they came at the top of the window. Sitting on the bed in our cozy robes looking out the window, sipping coffee that was delivered to our room...perfect. Actually our first morning we spotted whales outside our window as well. Talk about being on vacation. A few times we ordered the Triple Decker Sandwich off of the 24-hour menu and the green apple off of the "sea sick" menu to arrive with our coffee in the morning. We packed them all up in our zip locks (thanks again CC) and took them ashore for our picnic lunch. The sandwich traveled surprisingly well and it comes with chips. It was certainly enough to tide us over until we got back on the ship in the late afternoon. Since we'd already paid for the food on the ship, we tried hard not to spend much on food ashore unless it was something really spectacular. Social/Drinking/Activities Note to new cruisers: The ship sails so smoothly that we missed our sail-away out of Seattle. We were well on our way before we realized the ship was moving. Watch the clock if want to see it. Everyone was so friendly on the Amsterdam. I guess everybody already has something in common - they chose to be on this cruise - so that is enough of an ice-breaker to strike up conversations with strangers. We got to know people in the elevators, on the tender trips, at afternoon tea, in the hot tub and even over a puzzle in the library. Another great meet-up was the Cruise Critic Meet n' Greet. That was a fun way to make some connections early on. We LOVED going to the trivia games. Since it is team trivia we got to meet a lot of fellow passengers early on as no one had set teams yet. This is how we ended up really making friends, too. If we'd bumped into someone twice and gotten chatty we'd invite them to play trivia with us. With trivia everyone has something to offer. The questions were broad so everyone had a time to shine. Regular teams got a little more established as the cruise went on and that made it extra fun as rivalries developed. The prizes are pretty silly, but that's never the point for us (although we did appreciate the nights when the prize was a free round of drinks.) In trivia, as with all the activities we went to, the staff was very respectful of our time and generally nothing lasts much more than 30 minutes. Happy hour generally coincided with trivia which was an added bonus. We found all of the cocktails to be solid and well made. Not overly expensive - especially at happy hour. In the evenings it's always happy hour somewhere. Just go to that bar, get the happy hour price and then take your drink to another part of the ship if you want. Entertainment We went to most of the musical revue shows. Like expected, they were pretty corny, but certainly well executed. The dancers were very talented and performed well. I don't blame them for the high cheese-factor. The special guests were ok, but continued with the "cheese" theme. HAL could consider upping the ante a little. Everyone I met onboard was smart, interesting and well-traveled. I think HAL should ask more of their audience and offer some slightly more cerebral entertainment. Maybe some improv, sketch comedy, a one-act play or murder mystery show could spice things up a bit. Those kids are talented and I'm sure they can do more than dance. Or maybe HAL knows that in Alaska everyone is so pooped by show time, they don't need to put a lot of emphasis on engaging entertainment. Lord knows there were a few nights that I could barely keep my head up after dinner. The only other entertainment we went to regularly was Diane Fast in the piano lounge. She was great fun and knows every song ever and will play it just for the asking. We really enjoyed her and she was a work horse. Played every night and never took a break that we know of. Bravo Diane. Excursions We knew before we left that at a couple of stops we'd be tendered to the shore. What we didn't think about was that many people might want to be on the first tender to get to shore in time for their excursions. If you book a private excursion, you have no priority for getting on. It all worked out fine for us, but it was something we hadn't considered. Plan ahead and get to the tender-ticket area early. Seattle We arrived a day early and rented a car so we could tour the Boeing factory near Everett. It was awesome. So glad we did it. If you're a tech, manufacturing or aviation geek, don't miss it. Ketchikan Being our first stop we wanted to find some "real" Alaska, so we wondered up into the neighborhoods and took a back thoroughfare all the way behind the town and ended up at the Deer Mountain trail. The trail is spectacular and beautifully maintained. If you want to have the energy to get to the top, you may want to take a cab to the trail head, it's a bit of a walk to just the start. It poured rain and we were glad we had invested in some decent rain jackets. For rain pants we just sprayed a couple pair of wind pants with several coats of Kamp Dry before we left. They were quite antiquate and way more affordable than real rain pants. Juneau We took the public bus out to Mendenhal Glacier. It's a bit of a hoof from the bus stop, but it's a nice trail. We really enjoyed the local color on the bus. Got to meet an interesting gent who work for a while in our hometown and also got to hear the Juneau teenagers complain to each other about the fact that there's nothing to do in town. (City life is city life, I guess.) We saw a tour group of bicycles on the way up. It would have been a great ride (nice, paved trail, easy slopes) if it hadn't been pouring rain again. I'd go for bikes if it's nice weather when you're in Juneau. The trails around the glacier are interesting and well-marked. When we got back into town we saw a sign at the Alaskan Brewery store that they had brewery tours. We signed up. When we came back to get on the van we found out it was $12! We've taken many brewery tours in the past and they've all been free, so we just assumed. We opted out. Found out later that you can take a public bus or even walk to the brewery and get the tour for free. Tracy Arm We found a good viewing point on the upper bow. I don't know what the area is called officially, but it is a balcony just below the bridge and above the bow. You can access it from deck 6, forward. It has a nice wind break, so only your upper half is exposed. It was cold and wet, so the crowds were light. But outside was really the only place to truly experience the scenery because the rain was obscuring the view from most windows inside. Just bundle up and get out there. Hoona/ISP We loved our "guy." Floyd with FISHES whale watching was awesome. Such a dear. We felt like we were visiting an uncle. He has a great little six-seater boat that he designed himself (the hot chocolate and cookies didn't hurt either.) And boy did he find us some whales. We eventually discovered three humpbacks bubble feeding and lingered there for a long time. It was so up-close and personal. We were the only boat there. It was like a private show. One of my favorite parts of the day was when we got back to the dock Floyd's wife, Margie, was standing there and she passed him is lunch bag through the window. Something so sweet about that. She offered us a ride back to the cruise dock, but we opted for a walk. So glad we did. On the way back we met the local bald eagle couple that lives in the village and stopped at the Office Bar for lunch. You HAVE to go to the Office Bar. One of the most memorable meals of the trip. They don't really have a kitchen (they are truly a bar) but on cruise ship days they fire up a few pots outside and boil the freshest crab you've ever had. There were even a couple of local fisherman still wet from the days catch pumping quarters in the juke box - a real joint. Anchorage Finally some real sunshine! We rented bikes at Convenience K store in the Captain Cook hotel (as recommended by a local.) They were very affordable. We rode 28 miles and nearly all of it was on paved off-street bike path. It was a great way to really get an over view of the city. We took the coastal trail south and hooked up with the creek trail that runs northeast out toward the university and hooked up with another creek trail that goes right back downtown. We finished the day with a beer at Glacier Brewery (nice variety, good craft beer.) The dock at Anchorage is secure and we noticed the guards were packing heat. We wondered how far we'd have to wonder away from the boat before they'd draw their weapons. We didn't test them. Homer We had no plans here, but ran into some shipboard friends at breakfast and decided to explore together. We found out the bus in to town was $15, but renting bikes was also $15. We opted for the bikes. The bus to the spit was free then we walked a bit to the very end. A hotel there called Lands' End rents nice touring bikes. They were well maintained and a breeze to ride. We took a leisurely ride into Homer. Stopped to watch a bald eagle for a while and then stumbled onto the Farmers Market, tooled around there for a while. Once we got in to old town we met fifth grader, Mackenzie, who I am sure is a future mayor of Homer. She ran a kick-butt lemonade stand and chatted it up with us for several minutes. After returning the bikes in the afternoon we watched some folks filet halibut for a while and then had a drink at the Salty Dog. Great day. Kodiak Once again we had no plan here. We wondered into town which was pretty sleepy on a Sunday morning. Chatted for a bit with a local family off for a Sunday boat ride. After some meandering we found ourselves at the visitor center. We bumped into another couple that was looking for a cab to Abercrombie State Park. We decided to go too and share the cab. It was about $20 split among several people. Abercrombie was beautiful. Great hiking, specular vistas and an interesting WWII museum housed in the old munitions bunker. Meeting the young guy who runs the museum is worth the $5 to get in. He's quite passionate about his hobby. He has recreated a WWII office and you can call from one rotary-dial phone to another in the building. We played with that for a while. My husband commented that it could easily be the last rotary-dial call he ever makes. It was fun. Hubbard Glacier We took up residency in our same spot on the upper bow. They weather was exceptional, so the throngs were out. The bow got pretty crowded, but our upper area never got more than a couple of people deep. I imagine viewing on the inside was better than at Tracy Arm for the lack of rain, but I never went inside to look - couldn't take my eyes off the glacier. It was majestic. Sitka We booked a kayak trip with Sitka Sound Outdoor Adventures. What a boon. They really personalize the trip and made us at least feel like we were in charge of the day. Our guide Dana was a perfect match for us and was full of information about local lore as well as flora and fauna. The eagles and whale put on quite a show for us that day and we even saw a seal. We booked with SSOA because they offer a one-way trip (downwind) on the kayak and then they pick you up a little skiff to get you back to town. It was the perfect way to go. None of the boredom of an out-and-back trip. We stopped on a secluded beach and had a gourmet cold lunch. There were whales nearby so when the skiff picked us up he offered to run us by the whales. It was a serendipitous close encounter. The whale came right toward us. We absolutely loved our trip and our guide. We had a bit of time after so we popped in to the fairly new Kodiak Island Brewing Company located in an industrial park outside of town. They were super friendly and came to pick us up at the dock. It's just a tiny tasting room, but they have the enthusiasm of a big brewery. I recommend seeking them out. Victoria After wondering around the inner harbor a bit, we rented a two-person motor scooter. The folks at Vintage Rent-a-Car (right behind the visitor's center and public restrooms) are super laid-back and their prices were so affordable. It only costs us $54 for two hours (which turned out to be the perfect amount of time.) We could rent the slightly beefier shooter since my husband has a motorcycle endorsement on his license. It was nice to have that extra power on the hills. We drove the coast for most of the two hours and then cut back through town on the return. It was a great way to see Victoria. I would actually consider it for a nice over-view of any city I'm visiting. Seattle We planned a few days in Seattle after our cruise. They highlights were dinner at Alki Crab & Fish across the bay. (Take the Pier 50 water taxi and the "chippy" is right there on the dock.) We went in the evening and the light on the city was picture perfect. We sat at their outside bar and raised a glass as we watched the Amsterdam set off on its next 14-day adventure. A little bittersweet. But the food at Alki soon had us forgetting being abandoned by our ship. You must have the Steamer Bowl. Holy cow, I'm still thinking about it. We also went to a movie that the Cinerama. It's the only movie theatre still able to show three-reel Cinerama movies. It's been refurbished and is a glorious tribute to mid-modern architecture and movie-going life. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
BACKGROUND INFO: We had never cruised before. We went back and forth as to whether we would like this, as a family, or not. We had several family members that have cruised before so we took their experiences to heart. As we really ... Read More
BACKGROUND INFO: We had never cruised before. We went back and forth as to whether we would like this, as a family, or not. We had several family members that have cruised before so we took their experiences to heart. As we really didn't know what we didn't know, we used a travel agent through our local auto club. Next time, I WOULD NOT use an agent. She did not add much value and I ended up calling the 800 number for Holland America several times. They were more than friendly and helpful, although they did suggest I should be calling and using my travel agent. (I got tired of not hearing back from the agent for 10-14 days at a time). Seems like every time I had a question or issue, she was on vacation, out of the office or not available. So, if we ever do go on a cruise again, I think I would either do it myself (through the cruise company or via the internet). A BIT MORE BACKGROUND: Both my wife and myself have lived and worked overseas, as Expatriates, so we both kind of know that things are not always as you would expect. I have traveled enough, around the world, to 'go with the flow' and again, sometimes things cannot or will not go as expected. That bit of info comes into our story later. TRAVEL TO THE SHIP: We live in Portland, Oregon, so we chose to drive to Seattle on the morning of our departure. It's normally about a 3 hour drive, on a good day. We ran into traffic around Tacoma, Washington and then again in Seattle. We thought we would try to get to Seattle around 1:00 PM but it actually was closer to 2:00 PM--we were a bit nervous. The city of Seattle was having a "Hemp" Festival as well as some sort of a race. The downtown core was busy/congested and it was very frustrating going block to block, just inching along. We finally got to the Pier where the Westerdam was docked. It was a bit stressful to try and find where we needed to drop off our passengers and baggage. We had to stop and ask 2-3 parking lot attendants. Finally, got to where we needed to be and dropped off everyone and I went back and parked. FYI: If you chose to park in their 'long term parking'---it's going to cost to you about $185. It's about $26 per day plus a 9% state tax added on plus a 12.5% city of Seattle parking tax tacked on. That was the last kick in the gut---$185 is a bit steep but it's part of the deal. Getting on to the ship could not have gone more smoothly. A porter took our bags and we went through security. Just the normal airport metal detector type of security check. We were directed to a window and got our key cards and some basic info and boom, we were on board. I would say arriving late DOES have advantages....no lines, no congestion dropping off our guests at the entrance and no traffic cluster to deal with. Plus, the cruise line doesn't give out any awards for being first on board. We dropped off our 'carryon' baggage in our room---which was ready---and decided to explore a bit. It was a beautiful, glorious summer day in Seattle---sunny and about 80 degrees. The chamber of commerce LOVES these kinds of days in the Pacific Northwest. You had a fantastic view of the city, Mt. Rainier, the Space Needle---just a picture perfect day. We headed to the Lido Bar on the back deck and ordered a Bucket of Beer and bought a $50 soda card (for $25) and we were already into our vacation. Within the first hour, they have the mandatory Lifeboat drill. Of course, we had just bought our bucket of beer so we had to slog that to our station. We were in the back, could NOT hear so it was generally a waste of time. We knew where we needed to report to and where our life jackets were located (in the closet in our stateroom) and that was about all we got out of the drill---which was over in about 10 minutes. We went back to the room and our baggage was already there. Decided to get a dinner reservation right away and the only time we could get was 7:45 PM. We had eaten lunch in Seattle so we felt we could make it and if not, maybe a 'room service' snack could help tide us over. We were off the dock at 4 PM and on our way to a week long vacation!! STATEROOM: We had read a lot of reviews and most said make sure you get a balcony. I guess I would have gone stir crazy if we DID NOT have a balcony. Just getting out and getting some fresh air was a huge relief. Our room, SS Veranda 8054 was nice/pleasant. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law were in the room next to us, SS 8052, so we just opened the deck door and had an extra large deck to move around on. I didn't have high expectations so I was not let down. My wife has a bit higher expectations so she was a bit disappointed. There was supposed to be a picture hanging over our sitting couch that had either fallen off or was removed because you had four screws in the wall, where the painting was supposed to be, with a dark line outlining where the picture was supposed to be. We asked the room steward and he said the frame fell/broke and they had not had a chance to fix it yet. Seemed a bit weird to us. We had the beds pushed together to make I guess would be a king. My younger daughter was on the couch, which made into a single bed at night. There was plenty of closet space to put all of our jackets and nice clothes. We had more than enough room under the bed to put our large luggage---out of sight for the week. The bathroom was adequate. I took a shower in the shower on the first day and DID NOT use it again, the rest of the week---it is pretty tight/compact. I am 6'1 and I felt cramped in the shower. I took a shower in the bathtub the rest of the week---a bit more room to move around. I am not very picky---just get me clean towels each day, make my bed and make sure I have clean sheets and make a general effort to make sure the room is picked up/cleaned up and I am okay. Our room stewards, David and Kris, were fine. They always seemed to know when we were out or gone and our room would be made up, when we returned. A couple of times, they came by to clean and we were in the room. They just came back later. They were helpful/pleasant/friendly. My mother and older daughter were in the room directly across from us, 8056, and it was an inside room, no windows. It was pretty tight/small. We all used our room as the main room so they just used 8056 to sleep in. It was fine for that. DINING: We had gone back and forth, back and forth, all spring as to whether we wanted a 'fixed' dining time or 'free-style' or 'dine as you wish' dining. Originally, we had decided on a fixed time of 8 PM. As the summer wore on, we decided that time frame would be way too late. We have two daughters and we NEVER eat that late at home (we live in the Pacific Time Zone) and we just didn't think we could do 8 PM dinner every night. I called our travel agent the first part of August to see if we could go back to 'dine as you wish' and she said no, it would be too late since we were sailing in about 3 weeks. I said could she please try for us? She got back to me about 10 days later, saying yes, we could do 'dine as you wish'---so that worked out. Now, for the joke that is 'dine as you wish'----If you learn anything at all from this: Dine as you wish basically means you call each morning and make a reservation and you either get 5:45 PM or 7:45 PM----we felt that was odd---you only got 2 choices. I asked for 6:30 PM--nope, not available, 7:00 PM, not a chance, 7:15 PM, nope. So, it was just a complete joke. The other thing that frustrated us about the main dining room: I called ahead and Holland America specifically told us NO JEANS ALLOWED---they said they have 2 formal nights (meaning a sport coat or suit for men and a dress or nice outfit for women)---NO JEANS. I cannot tell you how many folks we saw coming in with jeans on. I guess what frustrated us the most is that we took the time (and baggage space) to bring nicer clothes and it really DID NOT matter. Either the maitre'd didn't want to cause controversy or it really DOES NOT matter. Next time, if we cruise on Holland America, I would NOT bring a sport coat/jacket. I wear a suit EVERY SINGLE day to work and when I go on vacation, I DO NOT want to dress up---I want to relax and enjoy my week. I would NOT wear cut-offs or shorts to the dining room but again, I guess they are trying to go back to that 'golden age' of cruising. For our family, dressing up just is not that important but then again, we DO NOT want to eat at the Lido Buffet every night either. My wife celebrated a birthday the week of our cruise and I tried to get a reservation at the Pinnacle Grill for a special night/birthday treat. I called on Monday and COULD NOT get anything except for Friday at 8 PM---We were going to be on an excursion in Victoria at that time so that did not work. I tried to explain, stating it was a special occasion and they really DID NOT seem to care nor were they helpful. I even went down one morning and spoke with the manager and he just shrugged his shoulders and really didn't even seem to care. Oh well...that was a downer. Lido Buffet---it's buffet food, what more can you say? You get a variety of hot foods for breakfast, cereals and fruits and rolls/danish for breakfast. For lunch, there is a pizza station, an Asian noodle station, with sushi, and a hot line. Dinner, same thing, a hot line, a salad bar, ice cream/cookies/cake. Nothing spectacular, nothing fancy. The food wasn't awful nor was it great. They had a 'taco bar/Mexican station' by the Lido pool. You could also get a burger cooked to order or hot dogs/brats too. The burger was good--although I waited to the last day to try it.....wish I would have tried earlier in the week. One piece of advice: Get a reservation at Canaletto--it's their Italian place. DOES NOT cost anything extra and it's a chance to at least have something different. I had Chicken Marsala. Some in our party had the lasagna and a couple others had the spaghetti w/meatballs. We all felt it was a nice change of pace and are glad we did it. We did order room service a couple of times. They were fast and efficient. We mainly did this for a mid afternoon snack. We just felt we could not make it to 7:45 PM so we would get a few things to help to tide us over. ENTERTAINMENT/ACTIVITIES: I am going to lump both entertainment and activities together---just because I felt they kind of go together. There are more than enough things to do on the ship. Many did not cater to us or our family. A lot of things are geared to the older set (Bingo, basic computer classes, wine tastings, how to mix a cocktail, etc)---I am on a computer all day long---the last thing I want to do is learn how to edit a word document or learn photo-shop. Not my cup of tea. The Cruise Director, Jason, was fine. He is young, energetic, funny and has a good sense of humor. (My mom traveled with us. She's in her mid 70's and has been on 8 or 9 cruises and she said she honestly felt he was one of the better cruise directors, basically due to his personality). As I mentioned, there were lots of things going on. You could get as involved as you wanted. We like to walk/exercise. You can walk three laps on the 3rd deck and it equals 1 mile. We would go down there and try to get 3-4 miles in every day---just for exercise/fresh air. I DID NOT want to pay to have to use the gym. Spa treatments don't appeal to me. I didn't need/want a massage or a facial. So, again, some of this stuff just doesn't mean much if you don't use it or do it at home. I know and realize that some folks want to get pampered or that's the reason they go on a cruise or the reason that they do this. One thing we did like to do was the daily trivia contests. They were hard (a variety of topics from sports, to history to current events to politics to geography---very challenging)---Jason would do these, usually in the Crow's Nest. There would usually be a fairly good crowd---maybe 40-60 folks playing each day. They would give away a basic prize like a set of coasters, or something similar but we felt like it was something fun and we got into it. We did the Joel Mason Elton John show one night. It was good/funny/entertaining. We DID NOT do the comedian. We did do the Broadway musical tribute show---a cheesy "Glee" knock-off show. We walked out about 1/2 through the show---just not that entertaining nor that good. My wife and in-laws went to the "Dating Game" show---they said it was funny and entertaining. My favorite area to be in during the whole week: The Crow's Nest--I just liked the laid back atmosphere, the view and just hanging out up there. The first couple of days, it was very easy to get a seat. As the week wore on, it was very tough. I think folks either figured out where to go or they just ended up going there because it was a nice place to relax and chill. There was a coffee bar up there as well as a regular bar too. Best part of my week: I won $1800 in the casino!! I essentially paid for our excursions/drinks and other room charges. I hit a $500 jackpot on the "Wheel of Fortune" slot machine. I hit a $1000 progressive jack pot and another $300 or so. I walked out with more than I came on board with That was the best part of my whole week!! CHILDREN'S CLUB: Both of our kids poked their heads into the HAL Kid's Club and decided it was a bit too childish/baby-ish for them. They DID NOT participate. Our older nephew did use the "Loft" which is for the teen set. He liked it and made a few friends and seemed to spend some time up there. SERVICE: Overall, I felt the crew and support staff were fine. Everyone was friendly/nice/pleasant. They all seemed to be helpful or wanted to help. The bar staff was friendly...as the week wore on, they would remember my drink, would come by and ask how I was doing, if I was having a good week, etc. Sure, you get asked every time you walk by if you want a drink, a cocktail, a glass of wine, etc. They are just trying to push more drinks, ergo, more money for the ship. We liked our room stewards---they were nice/friendly and were attentive to our needs but not smothering or in our face. We had a couple of issues here and there, through the week, but nothing out of the ordinary. SUMMARY: We chose this ship/itinerary due to the fact that it was to go to Hubbard Glacier. We worked with the travel agent and a few others. The first thing we had to narrow down is what cruise line? We DID NOT know the pros and cons of all of the various ships and their reputations. Everyone has an opinion. My mom likes Princess. Some like RCL, some like Norwegian, etc, etc. We finally decided we wanted Holland America because of the Hubbard Glacier option and Sitka. Do your homework. Figure out what is important to you and your family. We had thought we had done A LOT of homework but there is so much more we learned by just going and traveling this past week. I had bought two books ahead of time. I would suggest both: "Inside Passage" by Nancy Thalia Reynolds and "Alaska Cruises and Ports of Call--2011" by Frommer's. The Frommer's seemed to be a bit more helpful to us. Ask, ask friends, ask family, ask a travel agent. Do as much homework as you can. Pros of Holland America: 1). Seems to be a bit smaller ship (only 1800 passengers as opposed to the Princess ship that sailed by us all week). Those extra 400-600 passengers could make a difference. 2). The service and staff were friendly/nice/helpful---but I guess most would say this about any ship. 3). For the most part, it seemed clean and orderly. As mentioned, I am NOT that picky and I had read some folks said the ship looked worn out, tired, in need of repair, etc. Folks, there are 2000 people on this ship, week in and week out. There will be some signs of use/wear and tear. It was not awful, by any means. There always seemed to be service staff vacuuming, cleaning, wiping, washing, etc. I DID NOT find it to be that worn down. But again, this was my first cruise. 4). A good variety of activities. Not all appealed to our family but you could find something to do, if you wanted. 5). The ports were interesting. Seemed to be enough choices of excursions. 6). The food was fine. I have read and heard complaints but I could not complain. For all those that complain, there sure were/are a lot of folks that HAVE NOT missed many meals. 7). The room sizes were fine. Again, not any major complaints. Cons of Holland America: 1). This cruise line really, really skews to an older demographic. I would say the average age would be 65...if not older. Folks, this really is geared towards the older crowd. The retired crowd. There were lots of wheel chairs, walkers, motorized scooters. I had to really try hard to maintain my patience in lots of instances. I was behind an older/mature lady one morning in the waffle line. You have a choice of a plain waffle, mixed berries or strawberries----this lady COULD NOT decide what she wanted and held up the line for at least 10 mins. It's NOT that hard---plain, mixed berries or strawberries----chose one and get on with your day---that kind of stuff drives me crazy!! 2). The primary reason we chose this cruise and this line was to see Hubbard Glacier. WE DID NOT get to see Hubbard Glacier---due to weather and rough seas. This was a HUGE disappointment and let down. We were at sea for 1 1/2 days to get to Juneau and then another 12 hours to get to Hubbard and we DID NOT get a chance to see it. Captain said it was for our safety. I realize he had hit an iceberg earlier in the season so I am assuming he was a bit gun shy or maybe the company had him on a tight leash due to the incident earlier in the year. Our group was really, really bummed and very disappointed. We felt like we got short-changed or a major part of our trip was missing. Again, a major bummer. 3). The first 24 hours is just straight cruising, in the open water. We had a storm so the seas were very choppy. Most of our group got a bit sea sick. It DID NOT affect me but my wife was a bit green for a day as were my kids and my relatives. You should decide if you want an inside passage (calmer waters) or the outside passage (rougher and open seas)---remember, you ARE going to Alaska---you could get storms and rough weather. This was a bit of a bummer the first 24-36 hours. DID NOT see to many folks out and about. I saw several folks using 'air sick' bags and there was evidence of folks not making it to the toilet in time, in the hallways. The service staff did their best to get these 'accidents' cleaned up quickly. We had heard that a couple of folks actually got off the ship and flew home. They COULD not handle the seas and rough weather. Don't know if that's true or not, just what we had heard. You know rumors and how they swirl on a ship. 4). I realize that Holland CANNOT control the weather but it was a bit dreary/rainy/foggy the first 36 hours (outside of Seattle)---we learned from others, mostly locals, in Alaska, that the two best weather months seem to be May/June. Wish we would have known that before. So, if you are going later this fall---good luck. If you are planning for next year, maybe see if you can try for May or June. Again, weather cannot be controlled so take that with a grain of salt. My mother had been on this same Alaska cruise about 8-9 years ago, in early September and she had fantastic weather the whole week she was up there. It's a crapshoot. 5). The time in ports is very limited. We would have loved to have a couple more hours in both Ketchikan and Victoria. I realize that they are on a tight, tight schedule but take into account what is important to you and your family. Do you want to really see and experience the ports or just have a quick run through? We felt that 4-5 hours in Ketchikan was NOT enough time and only 5-6 hours in Victoria was NOT enough. Wish we could have had more time!! 6). Jewelry is not my style nor my wife's either. We could NOT figure out the infatuation with jewelry, diamonds, etc. The ship really seems to push their on-board jewelry shop, their high end watches, etc. I DID NOT go on a cruise to shop and even if I was looking for jewelry---I am not gonna buy it on a ship or from a cheesy jewelry shop in Juneau, Ketchikan or Sitka. I am buying from a reputable jeweler, in my home city, that I know and can go back to, if I had any issues or troubles. We could just not figure this whole jewelry thing out.....maybe we are not the target market/demographic?? 7). Finally, remember, you are going to be with 1800 folks, in a fairly tight/confined area for a week. Some of these folks will drive you batty but you get that anywhere (Disneyland, any other resorts, etc). Just go with the flow---the ship is big enough so if you see the guy that is the loudmouth 'know it all' ---just go to another area. Or the little old lady that doesn't know how to order waffles: Just avoid the waffle line that morning If I had written this after the first 48-72 hours, I probably would have said we would never cruise again. We were upset with the rough seas, the sea-sickness, the boredom of being at sea for almost 2 days. We were busting at the gut to get off the ship when it hit Juneau. A bit of cabin fever. By the end of the week, we had changed our tune a bit. I don't know if I would sign up for another cruise in the next 6 months or so but maybe, down the road, in the future. It DID get better as the week wore on. We loved Sitka and Ketchikan. The weather did improve and we started to enjoy ourselves. I had chatted with another couple in Sitka and they have been on 10 other Holland America cruises. They had expressed disappointment with not seeing Hubbard Glacier either but they said this was one of the worst Holland cruises they had been on. They said keep a good attitude----it will get better. And it did. They said that this was NOT the best 'first cruise' to be on. They said the weather and the seas were not normal and that we should not give up. I would say overall, maybe a 7.5 out of 10 total. There were things that could be improved. We did not have our socks blown off by any means but we would probably go on a cruise.......maybe......someday again. We would do a LOT more research. We would use these reviews and then do some more homework. I realize that this is getting late in the Alaska cruising season so it may not be all that helpful to most but maybe to those that are going to cruise next year, take a bit from this and maybe it will help?? Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We sailed on 8/20 for Alaska, out of Seattle. Spent 3 nites there, precruise, and enjoyed the city. Everything was very well organized for cruisers-easy transfers, quick check-in, friendly folks. We were well pleased with the ... Read More
We sailed on 8/20 for Alaska, out of Seattle. Spent 3 nites there, precruise, and enjoyed the city. Everything was very well organized for cruisers-easy transfers, quick check-in, friendly folks. We were well pleased with the Westerdam experience. We had sailed this ship in 06, prior to refurbishment,and could note many of the changes. We had also sailed HAL in the past, to Alaska. We also paid probably less than half of what we had for our other experiences, so it was not realistic to expect the same level of service, but we enjoyed it immensely. We found the food to be uniformly very, very good and still artfully presented. We had a less than stellar experience last year on the Summit, so it was easiest to compare to this, and the service was far better. Staff in the Lido were engaged, and smilingly tending to service. They were quick to offer beverages, assistance, and could identify if clients were temporarily searching for other buffet items and tables were not in need of busing. The entertainment offered more options and was of higher quality. I tried some of the complimentary offerings-the photo editing classes, tai chi, and cooking classes and enjoyed all but the cooking. Refinements in tour disembarkation, space usage on the ship, laundry pricing packages, and flexibility in choosing times for dinner were all improvements that were noted and offered a better experience. The weather did not cooperate this trip, but it's a good excuse to try again! I will consider HAL and the Westerdam again in the future with pleasure. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We were celebrating my parent's 50th wedding anniversary on the Amsterdam. We have previously taken cruises on Carnival, Royal Caribbean and HAL. The overall cruise was quite enjoyable. The itinerary was fabulous and we had excellent ... Read More
We were celebrating my parent's 50th wedding anniversary on the Amsterdam. We have previously taken cruises on Carnival, Royal Caribbean and HAL. The overall cruise was quite enjoyable. The itinerary was fabulous and we had excellent weather. But the Amsterdam had its ups and downs. The Ship We had an outside cabin on Deck 2 (Main Deck). The cabin had tons of closet space. The bathroom was good size and we had a couch and sitting table. I have a bad back, so by the end of the cruise I was getting rather sore from the bed. We were below the walking track on deck 3. Each morning, at 5:30 AM, someone was above us dragging the deck chairs. This was quite annoying. The TV was very limited. Fox News, CNN, ESPN, Cartoon Network and a few movie channels. The cabin steward (Putu) was very good. The dining on the Amsterdam was very spotty. We thought the main dining room was pretty good. Some nights it was very good, others just OK. We would rate it on par with other cruises that we have sailed before. There was nothing really exceptional, but then again, it was pretty consistently good. The portion sizes were normally OK, but there were a few nights where they were a little small. The last formal night had an awesome Filet Mignon and Lobster. VERY good. The "Grand Master Chef Dinner" was very lacking. This typified the Amsterdam. Really good and then below par. The special lunches by the pool were great. There was Dutch Day, Indonesian Day, and the Salmon Bake. All were excellent. The Lido was a big disappointment for us. The food was very bland and there was not much variety. We had dinner one night in the Lido and it was not all that great. Lunch was also very busy and boring so we ended up eating at the grill by the pool most of the trip. We discovered that there is no place to "casual dine" on the Amsterdam from 8PM to 11PM. We discovered this when returning on the ship after 8PM. There was no place to eat. The Lido closes at 8 PM and the terrace grill, with burgers and pizza, closes at 6PM. This is unacceptable. You shouldn't have to rush back to the ship with reservations to grab a quick bite to eat. This signaled to us that HAL is not geared toward the independent cruiser. Our favorite place to hang out was the Crow's Nest bar every day for happy hour. Almost every day there was a buy one get the second drink for $1 at 4PM. This was a great place to have a drink before dinner. Many of the days they also had team trivia games at 4PM and that was also fun. The wait staffs in the Crow's nest were all excellent. Very friendly and efficient. They were even bringing us appetizers each night, which was a really classy touch. So a big kudos for the Crow's Nest! Overall the entertainment was not as good as previous sailings. Our last HAL cruise had excellent entertainment. This time it was pretty poor. (Except for Jeff Trachta and Michael Ziefield. They were top notch performers.) The HAL singers were so amateurish that we just stopped going. It wasn't even worth our time. The Ports Ketchikan - We spent the day in town. Nice little place. Lots of shopping available. We had great weather and the ship was docked to it was easy getting on and off the ship. Tracy Arm - This was a day at Sea where the ship travels up an "arm" to see a glacier. We had great weather and little ice so we were able to get very close to the glacier. This was a nice addition that most cruise ships cannot do because of their size. (I guess size does matter) Juneau - We were also docked here so getting on and off the ship was a breeze. We spent the day in town. Had some Halibut and Chips by the pier and watched the float planes. Lots of shopping here but very similar to Ketchikan. Icy Straight - We took the Whale cruise which was pretty good. After that we walked to Hoonah which was a bust. Very small town with nothing to do. This is not one of our favorite ports. It is a manufactured cruise ship port. We should have gone to Skagway instead! Anchorage - Anchorage was our favorite port because we rented a car and did our own thing. We drove down to Portage Glacier and then did the Wildlife Conservation Center. After that we went to the top of Mt. Alyeska on the tram. Was a super day. But getting off the ship was a real pain. Our schedule said that we were in Anchorage from 7 AM to 11 PM. But we didn't dock until 8 AM. Then we were told that we were in a "secure" port and that we had to be shuttled to town and that didn't start until 9 AM. It turned out that they started letting people off at 8:30. We were then told that the last shuttle back to the ship was at 9PM. And that you couldn't walk back through the port. So why do they advertise this as a 7AM to 11PM port when you have to take their shuttles and they run from 9AM to 9PM? This made for getting on and off the ship a pain and it was similar to tendering, only on land. Homer - On Homer we decided to purchase the $15 "hop on and hop off" tour. This was to take you into Homer and allow you to see town at your leisure. This was a joke. The bus was a school bus. The stops were laughable. "Our first stop is the True Value Hardware Store, our second stop is Radio Shack"... And I am not kidding. Homer Spit was also a shuttle ride off of the ship. So again, it was a pain getting to and from the ship. The Homer Spit consisted of mainly fishing charters and a few restaurants. This was our second least favorite port. (Icy Straight wins that award) Kodiak - Kodiak was a day where the ship was docked just outside of town. We decided to go on our own, so we rented a taxi and went out to Fort Abercrombie. It was very scenic but smaller than expected. The taxi fare was about $20 each way. After the fort we walked around town. Not much to Kodiak. On the way back to the ship we stopped at the Kodiak Brewing Company for some homemade beer. That was fun! Try the Sarah Pale Ale! Would have been nice if it wasn't a Sunday when everything was closed. Hubbard Glacier - This was a day at sea with the afternoon at the glacier. The weather was cloudy but there was little or no ice in the bay so we were able to get real close. A crewmember said that this was only the second time this season that the ship was able to get real close. So we felt very lucky. Sitka - We did the Sea Otter and Wildlife cruise and it was great. Probably the best "tour" we have ever taken on a cruise ship. We saw lots of animals and the captain and crew were great. This is a "don't miss" tour. After the tour we walked around town and used the free town Wi-Fi to pull down emails and post to Facebook. Victoria - Our last day was spent at Victoria. We docked about 1.5 miles from town. We did the Butchart Gardens tour. It was good and we were let off downtown to do further exploring. Loved Victoria and we want to go back! Overall Impressions of HAL We like HAL but don't think it is that much "different" than the other cruise lines. The clientele is much older than other lines. I think the average age on this cruise was probably 65 or 70. This can be a good or bad thing depending on your tastes. The dining room and entertainment are on par with the other cruise lines. (Although the entertainment on this ship was not near as good as our first HAL cruise) We felt the Lido was below par in comparison to the other lines. The "you can bring your own wine on board" policy is great and this does separate them from the pack. The service was very good, but nothing out of the ordinary. Would we sail HAL again? Maybe.... It would depend on the price, itinerary, and ship. I'm not sure that it pays to be brand specific when cruising. I think the difference between the lines is getting smaller and smaller. Debarkation We purchased the transfer to the airport. We left the ship at 8:15 and we were at the airport by 9:15. (Which isn't too bad since we had to claim our luggage and go through customs.) We had our boarding passes, on Southwest, and were at the gate at around 10:00 AM. (Our flight was at 11:30) So getting off the ship was pretty painless. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Just got home from 7-day cruise on the Oosterdam. Wish I was still on the ship. I have only had one experience cruising and it was on the Carnival Holiday about 12 years ago. That was a much smaller and older ship. The Oosterdam was much, ... Read More
Just got home from 7-day cruise on the Oosterdam. Wish I was still on the ship. I have only had one experience cruising and it was on the Carnival Holiday about 12 years ago. That was a much smaller and older ship. The Oosterdam was much, much better. Transportation to Pier 91: We took link light rail from airport and transferred to bus for about $5 each. Bus dropped us off on a bridge and we had to climb down a number of stairs with all the baggage, which was a challenge, but we were not sorry because we got to see some of the streets of Seattle and bus driver and light rail employees were friendly. On the return, we thought we would take taxi, but the organization of the taxi system at the pier was horrible. We finally decided to go with Shuttle Express back to the airport at $18 per person. We just went outside the ship terminal and they were very friendly. We originally thought we would go with taxi to the light rail, but there was a long line and taxis were picking up people that were way at the back of the line, as they just wanted to grab passengers and not wait on the line to do it in the order they arrived. Taxi to airport could be from $45 to beyond $60. The sign on the cabs say, "airport $32 from downtown", but Pier 90 is further away, so don't be fooled. Encountered two separate hostile taxi drivers and the way they were picking up people was not properly organized, unfair, and chaotic. Both the Oosterdam and Princess Sapphire unloaded passengers at the same time. Why, why, why? Why does the authority at the Pier 91 allow this? There really should be a difference of at least 2 hours between the disembarkation of cruise ship passengers. It had a ripple effect, as the security line at the airport was an absolute mess and very, very long and the competition of airfare made the airfare prices way higher than otherwise. On my next trip, I will surely check that my cruise ship doesn't return anywhere near the time of another cruise ship. Ship Very friendly service on the Oosterdam. Employees greeted us and smiled every time we passed. We enjoyed Rollis, a waiter in the Vista Lounge, and above all we were soooo happy to have met a gentleman employee in the Lido Deck dining area, whose name is Ngakan (pronounced "Knock-on"). One night, in the Vista Dining room, all the staff danced around the room on three occasions. The shops seems like a waste of space. I liked the Karaokee in the Queen's lounge. DJ Bret made sure to get the crowd to cheer on every volunteer singer and singers were backed up by a live band. There were some contests where they only gave out an Oosterdam pin if you won. There were Trivia contests where you were encouraged to team up with people, but then they gave the team (sometimes of strangers) one bottle of champagne to share. My guy doesn't drink, so it wasn't much incentive. The captain of the ship is actually a funny guy. Our cabin steward Daniel always greeted us in the hallway. I think the employees are under a tremendous strain of getting ready for the next bunch of passengers, so it was very unfortunate that some workers knocked on our door three times wanting to enter to change linens or check the stock in the fridge before our assigned departure window of time had come. It made the last half hour stressful, as I was doing my best to be sure that I had packed last minute items. There were cleaners out on the balconies cleaning at around 9:15am, so be forewarned to close curtains if you are changing outside the bathroom. I participated in Jackpot Bingo twice, but not third time, as I think that real numbered bingo balls, like in the old times, should be used instead of having the numbers called up on the computer. Ship had three bingo games with a chance to win $40K, $60K, and $100K if you got bingo on the entire card in under 46 calls. Each bingo card had identification numbers on them. It seems that a programmed computer can know what numbers NOT to call, which may be the very reason why no one has ever one. It was nice to have breakfast on the ship before disembarking. That was a treat and employees at the Lido Deck dining area were still pleasant right 'til the end. Shows Ventriloquist was fun, as was the magician. Some of the group dancing was good, but in between the dance routines were solos or duets (singing only), that were way too cheesy, and I left to do something else. So much more to write about! I would consider Holland America again, as they do try to keep prices lower than competitors, and I spoke to different cruisers who said that the friendliness of the staff is what stands out about the Oosterdam/Holland America. Juneau Took free tour of the capitol building. $1.50 city bus to 2 miles from Mendenhall Glacier. Walked a straight level sidewalk the rest of the way. (took around 1.5 hours) Took the $8 Glacier Express bus back (took less than 20 minutes. Ketchikan There was two guys at the port that offered us to ride the seaplane for $175/person, but we still didn't go ahead with it. Sitka Sweet town. Went to Raptor center. Victoria Took $7.50 RT/pp bus to Empress Hotel. May have done better with blue taxis that seemed to be picking up at lightning speed even though line was long. I think I heard that that was $14 for a careful, but don't quote me. Parliament building is lit up like Christmas at night. Cabin We booked a VH cabin guarantee and found out our room number 10 days before trip: we were given a VB cabin on deck 6 near elevator towards front of the ship. I was happy with cabin and location. Cabin appears larger in the photos online, but I would have been happy to live in the cabin. Nice hot water, great water pressure, shampoo, conditioner, and bath gel pumps in the shower. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
This was our first experience with Holland America and our second trip to Alaska. My wife and I have been on three other cruises, two with Princess and one with Carnival. I blame myself for the initial stress I experienced since I ... Read More
This was our first experience with Holland America and our second trip to Alaska. My wife and I have been on three other cruises, two with Princess and one with Carnival. I blame myself for the initial stress I experienced since I didn't realize my wife's passport had expired and I was concerned that a driver's license and birth certificate wouldn't be enough for her to fly and cruise with. After some phone calls and web research I was assured we would be fine since we were sailing round trip from Seattle but I couldn't relax until we were on the ship. As it turned out, everything went smooth as silk, even when entering Canada, and I was able to enjoy the trip. I booked my own plane tickets out of Detroit and opted out of the HA transfer to the pier hoping to save a little money. A little research after the fact showed that a cab ride was about six or eight bucks less and you had to handle your own bags at the pier. When we got to Seattle we went to the HA desk, bought transfers, handed them our luggage and got on the bus. Worked out just fine. Not only was it worth a few bucks more to forget about the bags until after we got on the boat, the HA people made sure you got to where you needed to be with minimal hassle. There was a HA and a Princess boat at the pier loading at the same time. There were a lot of people being moved through the pier but the lines moved quickly and efficiently and we were on the Oosterdam in no time. At 4pm we were on our way to Glacier Bay. The second day was a full day at sea. This was a great opportunity to get acquainted with the ship and research shore excursions since we didn't have an opportunity to do so before we left. Excursions were easily purchased at the excursions desk or at one of the automated touch screen kiosks around the ship. The Oosterdam is an attractive, nicely appointed vessel though, as others have commented, may be starting to show her age particularly along the waterline. The captain reminded us that the ship was due for dry-dock soon and I'm sure she'll be good as new in no time. The interior of the ship was very clean and well maintained. Being able to close the roof over the pool was a nice touch that kept the pool area usable the entire trip. They push the spa facilities pretty hard and the spa looked well equipped. We are not spa people so we never used it. My wife found it very handy to be able to use her "keycard" in the casino machines in addition to cash. Day three in Glacier Bay was as we remembered it from our last visit 15 years ago, spectacular! We had a beautiful sunny day and the mountain views and glaciers did not disappoint. Day four was another beautiful sunny day spent in Juneau. Like all the cities visited, downtown Juneau was the usual collection of shops selling overpriced jewelry and cheesy souvenirs. We purchased a shore excursion to go whale watching and visit Mendenhall Glacier. The whales were very active and put on a great show. Mendenhall Glacier was awesome though we wish we had a little more time there. Sitka was next. A drizzly, cloudy day but hey, it's Alaska. You've got to expect it. Weather never keeps things from happening though. The port doesn't accommodate cruise ships so we tendered to shore. A well organized, relatively quick process. Weather cleared nicely by the time we got to shore but Sitka was a bit of a disappointment for us. We didn't buy a shore excursion and the city attractions were mostly cultural and centered around a church in the middle of town, Zzzzzzz. Other than that was the usual souvenir shops selling the same stuff every other city has. We highly recommend a shore excursion here. I'm sure we would have benefited from one. Day six was spent in Ketchikan. Once again the weather cleared as we exited the ship. We remembered Ketchikan as a good place to see the salmon running but I guess we were a little too early in the season this time and there wasn't much to see in the way of fish this time around. There were four cruise ships docked so the city was really busy. We took in the lumberjack show which was quite entertaining. We had to be back on the boat by 12:30p in order to make Victoria, BC by the next day. Wouldn't have minded a little more time in Ketchikan though. Victoria was a little odd. Travelling at full steam from Ketchikan we didn't get to Victoria until 7pm the next day. Then it was all aboard by 11:30pm. Victoria was a big modern city and was worthy of a little more time to explore. The short amount of time spent there almost felt like an afterthought. I'm sure the schedule is based on port availability as there are many cruise ships making this run this time of year. There was almost always another ship visible from ours while at sea and every port but Sitka had at least three cruise ships at their docks. Still, it was a very pretty city and I would like to go back and stay a while some time. Between the flat rate, pre-billed tipping and the smooth, well organized disembarkation in Seattle, Holland America made the end of the trip easier to deal with than any previous cruise we had been on. When I was researching cruise lines one of the standout complaints about Holland America was the poor food quality. Unfortunately, I would have to agree. One of the standout memories from our two Princess cruises was the incredible food. Large portions and very high quality. We never felt that way with the meals on the Oosterdam. Although we never walked away from the main dining room hungry, we also never found ourselves saying, "that was a great meal!" Any of the meats served were tough and grizzly and didn't seem to be of very high quality. Perhaps the better cuts of meat were saved for the other, added cost, reservation only restaurants. Appetizers were bland and forgettable. Soups and salads were just OK. I'm not saying the food was bad, it just wasn't great. I wont even bother commenting on the buffet. Certainly nothing special but how special should a buffet be? It served its purpose as a handy, reliable source of tolerable sustenance. Price was the main decision maker in giving Holland America a try. Although we thoroughly enjoyed the trip we are going to think twice next time based strictly on the uninspiring food. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
We decided on a family cruise to Alaska since it also give us a chance to visit relatives in Seattle. Based on experience with HA a number of years ago we picked them. Although we waited to get to the ship so that we would not wait in ... Read More
We decided on a family cruise to Alaska since it also give us a chance to visit relatives in Seattle. Based on experience with HA a number of years ago we picked them. Although we waited to get to the ship so that we would not wait in line, we still waited over 30 minutes to board the ship since baggage scanning equipment kept breaking down. Since we were in a deluxe suite, we were supposed to get priority boarding but that did not happen. The suite was great with plenty of room inside and out and the steward was totally helpful. There was plenty of storage space for 3 people including the wine and water we brought on-board. HA has great policy compared to most other lines since they allow unlimited quantities of wine. We bought mostly Washington state wines from wine tasting trip 2 days before the cruise. We paid the corkage when we had the wine at dinner. A good deal for all parties. Generally we had breakfast in the room but went to the Lido a few times since they had smoked salmon which was not on the room service menu. We alternated between the Lido and Vista for lunch. Although other reviewers were critical of the Lido, I generally found a good variety and the food was tasty. The Vista experience was less satisfying for lunch and dinner. For lunch the main courses and even the hamburgers were not tasty. Only one of the three dinners in the Vista was really good and it was the first night. We opted for the Pinnacle Grill 3 times and twice it was excellent and really a great meal. the third night was their special Le Cirque night where they have a special menu and a higher cover charge. The quality was poorer and certainly not worth the extra $$$. Skip it! The worse meal of the cruise was at Canelleto which is separate area off the Lido. The pasta was overcooked and the veal dish was like breaded cutlet. In addition to the food there was a noisy large group at the table next to us. The management refused to ask them to be lower the volume but was willing to move us. Upon seeing that happen, I got the impression that they raised the volume to compensate for the distance. DO NOT TRY THEIR FOOD. The Entertainment was ok and was a poor Las Vegas act. A couple of the food demonstrations were fine and gave us some recipes to try. The Casino was small and low key except for one issue. A family member was winning a reasonable amount of money at Blackjack and they asked her to leave the casino for a short break. The fitness center was small and the first few days it was crowded and you had to wait for access to the equipment even at 630 in the morning. By the end of the week, it was almost empty. The Spa was fine but it books up early. The excursions at several ports were interesting. In Juneau, I booked the tours directly with the tour company. It was about 25% cheaper than the ship price for the small tour. We also booked a few excursions on the ship and these were fine except that the excursion department booked one of the events twice at different times and called early in the morning(6 am) to see why we were not at the meeting point. We found our tickets and they said 8 am on them. Finally DO NOT go on an Alaska cruise that does not stop at Glacier Bay. It was the highlight of the trip. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Because we have cruised with three different lines we will try to compare and contrast when appropriate and speak to the destination stand alone. We took a 7 day round trip from Seattle visiting Juneau, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, ... Read More
Because we have cruised with three different lines we will try to compare and contrast when appropriate and speak to the destination stand alone. We took a 7 day round trip from Seattle visiting Juneau, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria, BC departing in early July. The ship. Westerdam is a very clean and well maintained ship. Ship shape included evidence of seamanlike items as well as to interior quarters and general cleanliness. There is one theatre area for shows along with two smaller venues below for activities. The Crow's nest on deck 10 offers comfortable and relaxing viewing of the scenery, along with a weather deck above for the same. There are also sheltered areas on deck 10 with plenty of chairs and lounges, as well as plenty of thoughtfully provided blankets. The destinations. This is an Alaska cruise and the destinations were spectacular. We were blessed with excellent weather. Keep in mind that you are travelling through areas that are primarily classified as temperate rainforests. Partly cloudy days are considered ideal weather and we had plenty of that. Being from the south, we loved the cool weather. Juneau - We took a few minutes to stroll the town before our excursion rolled out. Once out of the cookie cutter cruise owned/affiliated tanzanite district it was a very interesting town with friendly people. We took some time to explore a beautiful old Russian Orthodox Church an walk by various government buildings and the Governor's house. The ship sponsored tour was whale watching and Mendenhall Glacier. Allen Marine did an incredible job on the whale watching. The guide was an enthusiastic marine biology major and this made it all the better. We had great luck seeing many feeding pods of humpbacks along with numerous Orcas jumping nearly in our laps it seemed. I think that even the crew was grooving on the good luck. Back on the bus, our very personable and funny guide, Phil, took us to Mendenhall for some more very incredible vistas. As a bonus, there was a bear in the tree by the visitor center. The Ranger swore up and down it was real and not a set up. Hubbard Glacier. Awesome view. Tall as a 35 story building and the Captain took the ship up so close I was wondering if I was going to be able to lick it. OK, not quite. This is not to be missed. Sitka. We winged it in Sitka. Visited the old Russian Orthodox Cathedral. While visiting with some locals we came across some folks from our area who had just relocated to Sitka. We were suitably jealous. This is a wonderful town that is unspoiled in many ways. Most of the shops are locally owned and are very charming. Arts, jewelry, and furs were sold along with salmon and other items. One local establishment was a Faberge outlet and sported some museum quality pieces along with some more "affordable" items. They also had a good collection of lacquered boxes and eggs in the Russian genre. Very nice. Not so amazing was that the ship somehow forgot to highlight the shopping opportunities in Sitka as opposed to the full court press in Juneau and Ketchikan. Ketchikan. We took the ship sponsored Misty Fjords National Monument tour, by Allen Marine as in Juneau. Again, the vistas were incredible and the guide service featured local native Americans well versed in the area, cultures, and traditions. It gave added depth to our understanding of the area. Victoria, BC. When your only disappointment is the brevity of the stop, then you know this could be a destination of its own. Butchart Gardens was an excellent tour. The beauty of the place is truly breath taking. We did not include the butterfly gardens due to time constraints. That is a good thing. We were told that the butterflies bed down at dusk and so later cruise arrivals tend to miss out. There is much to see and do in Victoria. We did not have time to go to the Empress for high teas or to the maritime and various other museums. We also noted that there is a very happening night life area and an interesting china town as well. Victoria is reachable by ferry from Seattle and is something I would like to do on its own. Seattle - we started and stopped here arriving a day early and enjoying the Inn at the Market at Pike Place Market. We enjoyed the view of the market and nearby cruise ships from one of the Parlor Suites and this was the perfect chill out spring board to the trip. In addition to floor to ceiling windows looking out over the sound, there is a roof deck for viewing as well. One stop shopping for the Seattle experience. Overall - I have noticed some criticism of HAL excursions, maybe from the perspective of doing a good job of communicating/promoting them. I found the excursions to be the best of the three lines I have experienced. The stateroom. We had a VB veranda suite. Normally we do inside for nice dark sleeping but for Alaska we opted for a room with a view and are glad we did. Generous in size compared to other lines and vey clean and comfy. The stewards were the highlight of the service. The food. Of the three lines we have taken, I would definitely place this in the top three. Lido staff service was uninspired which matched the fare. I have searched out omelette station cooks in the past to give gratuities at the end of a trip but not this time. We had the dine when you wish option and this was not quite the way it played out. It seems that they hand out buzzers to summon you back in ten to thirty minutes of so more often than seems appropriate. We opted out on that and did the Pinnacle Grill twice. The food was good there, but the breadth of selections was fairly limited and they seemed to push the wine list too hard. Word of caution - one night they did the "Le Cirque Restaurant" theme at a $39 per person surcharge - it was grossly not worth it and they were still pushing the wine hard. I gave in simply to enhance the experience. The monkeys on the plate were cute, but I would prefer a culinary delight. One last comment on food services. It was very obvious that there was a selection process based on cabin location in the main dining room for the dine when you please option. When you come in with several groups of people at the very beginning of the meal time and see folks seated in the corners or interior as opposed to a window or stern view it makes you feel pretty uncomfortable. I just don't like seeing paying customers treated like second class citizens in this way. It was very transparent. So, if you did not pay for the highest dollar cabin and you want a decent seat ask for your party of two to be seated by yourselves. You will have a decent view and will not feel dissed. The service - Aside from the cabin stewards it was pretty uninspired. HAL is a great old line and this cannot be the way it is throughout. On this ship, at this time, it was not up to snuff. The entertainment - There are shows and comics. The comic is OK, the Elton John Show is very good. The Piano Bar guy, Randall, is a solid entertainer. The guitar guy, Zak, in the Crows Nest was really excellent and had a fine range of music. The string quartet was uninspired and seemed incredibly bored to be there. Too bad because they seemed to be good musicians from a technical perspective. Casino - friendly staff and talkative dealers. The casino did not ever get too crowded. The crowd. This is not a party boat. The demographic is probably a bit more senior on average and well heeled. In fact, I noticed prunes on the fruit selection very meal. The passengers are a well behaved lot and this made for a pleasant atmosphere. The ship seems to cater to large groups as well and this cruise had a large special interest contingent. The seemed to split the passenger list into two homogenous groups without significant intermingling. It was a bit different. Overall impression - a very fine ship, well handled, an incredible list of stops and scenery in between. The whole thing could be made better with more inspired service and elevating certain areas to where they ought to be. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Embarkation from Seattle took about 45 minutes from drop off to the room. Our room was ready by 1 PM when we boarded, so that we were able to drop off our hand bags and enjoy lunch. Our suitcases were in our room by 3 PM. Smoking a ... Read More
Embarkation from Seattle took about 45 minutes from drop off to the room. Our room was ready by 1 PM when we boarded, so that we were able to drop off our hand bags and enjoy lunch. Our suitcases were in our room by 3 PM. Smoking a allowed on balconies-we left our balcony several times while our neighbors were smoking cigarettes and cigars. We paid an extra $1000 for a balcony room and then were unable to use the balcony. For the forseeable future we're going to use Princess and Celebrity who don't allow balcony smoking. Food Service: Lunch the first day was mediocre. The fruit tasted old, the lines were long and slow, and the serving staff were not organized. The food picked up after the first day, but the service during the first 2 days was slow with the no self-service policy. The staff is inadequate and not inspired enough to make it work well. After the first 2 days the service was better. We felt that the Lido food was mostly tasty and presented well. The food service by the Lido pool was especially good. Vista dining was very good. Good menu choices, food was very good and the presentation was excellent. We only had the choice of as you wish dining. Reservations each night got us in as soon as we arrived. With a different waiter each night, there was no chance to develop a connection. The service seemed disorganized, was slow and inadequate most of the time. Entertainment: The production shows were fantastic. Lead singers and dancers worked well together, were very polished and entertaining. Joel Mason's Elton John tribute show had the audience singing and clapping and laughing. Kevin Jordan's comedy show wasn't worth the walk down the hall. He gets his laughs making fun of teenagers and kids--almost had one small child crying. He certainly lost me at that point. Elizabeth and the HAL cats were good, but they only performed a few times. There were many times they or someone could have been singing out by the Lido pool, but no one was. The Adagio strings were good musicians, but seemed bored. Zach Winningham was a good entertainer in the Crows nest playing the guitar and singing. Ports: Juneau-walk to the tourist shops from the ship. The Mt. Roberts Tram is steps from the ship-we chose to not pay the overpriced $35. Mendenhall glacier and the surrounding grounds were magnificent. We took the Glacier Express bus for $16 round trip--well worth the ride. Hubbard Glacier-Beautiful sunny day to view the surrounding mountains, the seals, the artic terns and the chunks of ice fall from the glacier. The forest ranger talk was great. Sitka-tendered into port. We walked 1/2 mile to a beautiful totem pole park for a leisurely stroll through the forest. Ketchikan-we took the blue city bus for $1 to Totem Bight State Park. Wonderful rain forest type park on the coast. Next door is a totem pole carving demonstration area. We loved walking around town-Creek street, Married Man's Trail, Dolly's House and views of the harbor. Victoria-Butchart's Gardens are magnificent, but we've seen them and chose to stroll around town. There is a pathway from the ship to the inner harbor of about 1 easy mile. The harbor is full of activity and the streets surrounding the harbor are fun. At night the buildings and harbor light up and the whole area is gorgeous. Safe, easy walk back to the ship for a late night snack. Disembarkation was organized and fast except for the numerous passengers who chose to try and beat the system and ended up clogging up the stairwells and hallways making it hard for everyone else. They need to bring back walking the plank! Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
We took this cruise to celebrate my 60th birthday. There were 5 people in our group and this was the first time any of us had sailed on Holland America. Since I was the one to choose the cruise I was very hopeful that it would be a ... Read More
We took this cruise to celebrate my 60th birthday. There were 5 people in our group and this was the first time any of us had sailed on Holland America. Since I was the one to choose the cruise I was very hopeful that it would be a pleasant experience for all of us, and I do believe it was. We drove to Seattle and stayed there the night before the cruise. Once we were out of the car (Seattle is very congested and hard to navigate) we loved Seattle. Lots of things to do within walking distance of the Space Needle. The day of debarkation went rather smoothly. I had pre-reserved on line our parking near the pier. The staff at the pier was extremely helpful and pleasant. On other cruises there were porters outside the terminal who would take luggage that was pre-tagged, however, we had to take our luggage quite a distance before we could actually release it to be taken aboard. We arrived at the pier before 11:30 although I would have preferred to wait a little longer to avoid the crowd that is there at the very beginning. My brother who arrived at the pier only 20 minutes later, had much less of a wait time. Our cabin was ready right away and we spent some time just exploring the ship. The Lido was crowded, but we were hungry and did not have too much trouble navigating the lines. It was sometimes evident that the staff is tired of explaining things, but it was not always clear what you could and could not touch and I often felt they were "rude" when correcting us about it. The muster drill was not too bad, but it was the kind where you line up and squish together for quite a while. They demonstrated the use of the life jackets, however, some in the back could not have possibly seen. What I missed was the opportunity to get to know my cabin steward. There was never anyone who showed up and introduced themselves and showed us how to call them, where our life jackets were located, or how to use the things in the cabin. They had a system where you called a number "At Your Service" when you needed something and one of several people would show up. The food was very good, among the best of the different cruises I've been on. We wanted to try all the different options and were pleased with most of them. The Main Dining Room (we had early seating) food was excellent. Once again, though, there was not that "personal" touch of feeling like you knew your waiter, he was very busy all the time. And gone was the time at the end of the dinner where the waiter told you all about what was going to be happening the next day, such as formal dinners and changed eating times. For my actual birthday we ate at the Pinnacle. It was very elegant and the presentation of the food was very amazing. For breakfast and lunch we would alternate between the dining room, the Lido, the Grill and room service. We never did try the Italian restaurant. The dining room was great for a leisurely lunch or breakfast, but for a quick meal the Lido was fine. We ordered breakfast in on those days we needed to be off the ship early. One day it was really good and the other day the quality was not so good. Overall the food was very good. I almost always would have liked more sauce on the main dishes, but then again, I never asked for any extra. Our room and balcony were very nice. The size of the bathroom was almost as large as you would find in a hotel room. The controls on the shower and tub were a little confusing, but we manged to get them figured out. There were a few signs of wear, but nothing very noticeable unless you were looking for it. The entertainment was very good. We spent a lot of time in the Piano Bar and Randall was very good. He could work with any age group as people came and went throughout the evening. The early crowd was more my speed, but there were nights we stayed until it closed down. The comedian was really funny, and Joel who did the Elton John tribute was talented and very funny. We were especially having a good time at the final show where all of the entertainers would do "drop-in's" during Joel's show (including Randall from the Piano Bar). The design of the Vista Lounge was not very conducive to watch the shows. There were never enough seats for everyone, and many seats were behind posts that blocked the stage almost entirely. The Ports of Call were all quaint and beautiful. We did the Salmon Bake and gold panning in Juneau and enjoyed both the food and the setting. The rest of the ports we just explored on our own. But the Hubbard Glacier was the highlight of the trip. The captain was able to get pretty close and turned the ship so both sides could get a good view. Since my brother had a cabin on the opposite side, we were able to have a double dose by switching balconies when he turned the ship. I am very glad I remembered to bring gloves and a warm sweat shirt with a hood. It is beautiful, but very cold. From what I had heard, I was thinking it was going to be a nice quiet ship with lots of people around my age and older. That was not the case at all. Unfortunately, many of the people who brought very young children had cabins next to ours, and tables in the dining room close to ours as well. And in most cases you knew they were there. There were also many younger couples and twenty-somethings. The old folks like me only made up about half or less of the group. Debarkation was the most stress-free I have ever experienced. They let you wait in your cabin as long as you need to, and breakfast is available in all the venues. They ask early on in the cruise what time you would like to debark and it looks like they can get pretty close to that time. So you are given times and tags, and they don't even announce when to leave. They just announce that debarkation is starting and you just leave when it is your time. It was very smooth. Very smart on their part to make your last morning of the cruise so stress free, so you leave with a good feeling instead of a bad one! I would probably sail Holland America again. I think anything that was lacking in this cruise is probably lacking in other cruise lines as well because the industry is changing. This cruise will be a beautiful memory for me for years to come. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Let me start by saying that this is my 4th cruise to Alaska - first on HAL. I think that the average age on this cruise was 75 - There were about 40 kids(teens and below) on this cruise. I don't know if it was because it was early ... Read More
Let me start by saying that this is my 4th cruise to Alaska - first on HAL. I think that the average age on this cruise was 75 - There were about 40 kids(teens and below) on this cruise. I don't know if it was because it was early June or the demographics of HAL, but sometimes it felt like it took hours to move down the hall or board a tender, etc. Embarkation - Due to a SNAFU, I ended up parking our car at the port and had to get there early. Lines were short and were probably on the ship within 15 minutes of parking. Granted, I dropped off the luggage with a porter first. And some of that time was spent going up the gangway behind someone in a walker. Cabin was a decent size and was ready when we boarded. HAL seems to have a policy of serving food for the first two days. Needless to say, getting some snacks took a while and it also took a while for the other folks to figure out the lines. Dining - The food was pretty good overall. The Pinnacle grill was not to be missed. My parents stated that the Italian restaurant tasted like Chef-boyarde(sp?). There seemed to be something for everyone and with the specialty lunches served on the Lido, no one went hungry. Ports - We had been to Ketchikan before. The biggest disappointment for us was that the duty free liquor shop had closed down. It rained all day in Juneau. Did a little shopping and used the free internet in the library that was next to the ship. Icy Straight - went whale watching with Misty Bay lodge. Saw a ton of whales. Anchorage - We took the kids the the museum and they had a great time with the interactive exhibits. Then took a bike ride along the water. Homer - Rented a minivan and the seven of us did our own tour. Found the Bear Creek winery. The kids had fun on their swings. Kodiak - It was a sunday and we walked into town. The six year old stayed in the kids club. The brewery was a hit. Sitka- Great weather and a beautiful town. Easy to walk around. Kids club- My six year old really enjoyed it. My eight year old mostly did. Pools - The pool on the aft of the ship seemed warmer than the spas. My kids preferred that pool and it was hardly used. Disembarkation - We were in the third group off and were off of the ship by 8:20. The only issue we had was finding a porter - they were mostly on the RCCL side and were not allowed to come to our side of the terminal due to union rules. That was not HAL's part, but the Port of Seattle. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Between my wife and I we have done 19 cruises on 5 different cruise lines, we are both full time travel agents so we have, through our training, developed a set of standards we look for. This was the second time on Holland American for us, ... Read More
Between my wife and I we have done 19 cruises on 5 different cruise lines, we are both full time travel agents so we have, through our training, developed a set of standards we look for. This was the second time on Holland American for us, with our first being on the Oosterdam last year. In many ways I like what Holland does but The Amsterdam has a few glitches. Before we get into the cruise a few pre cruise and post cruise comments as a traveler. We opted to go to Seattle a day early and made our own air reservations with Alaska Air, interestingly enough overall their fare was over $250.00 less than Southwest even after figuring the cost of baggage. We arrived at SEA-TAC and had made reservations with the Quality In Downtown Seattle for the overnight and transportation, for a fee, from the airport. The driver from Quality WAS NOT helpful in directing us to the proper pick up location and we spent what was probably two frustrating hours trying to find the pick up location. SEA-TAC, in my opinion is not well marked. When we FINALLY got to the hotel, I filed a complaint with the duty manager and she did discount the transfer fee. The hotel was in general pretty nice, but the desk clerk marked the wrong room number on our key holder and that caused additional frustration and delay in getting settled. We had thoughts of possibly doing some sightseeing, BUT that was now long gone. The next morning transportation was available to the pier and no problems. Now to the cruise: Check in went smoothly and I was informed about an alternate door to avoid the embarkation picture, mainly because I do have some mobility issues and the alternate route was shorter. Our stateroom, ocean view, was neat, of course as usual we had to ask to have the bed separated even though we had specified separate in the reservation. After dropping off our bags it was on to the dining room for lunch, a Mariner feature on embarkation. This was the best service we had in the dining room, more on that later. After walking around the ship and the safety drill, we had a few minutes to relax before having dinner in the Pinnacle Grill. The food and service there was excellent! The first morning we had breakfast with some friends in the dining room, the service was OK, as I ordered Eggs Benedict and they arrived in a timely manner. This was the LAST good service in the Dining room. Day 2, I ordered an omelet it took over 1 hour to arrive, day 3 I ordered pancakes and they arrived cold after 45 minutes. The dining room was NOT busy so I could not find a valid excuse. By lunch time I was ready to go to the Lido Buffet, I found that the hot service line was understaffed, and I vented my frustrations to the supervisor Phillipe. After lunch I went to the internet cafe and sent of a e mail to Holland American detailing the poor quality of service in the dining room and lack of servers. I guess that must have raised a few eyebrows in Seattle as during the remainder of the cruise I met many of the managers, chefs, and the Hotel Manager. Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the most grease, from then on we ate mainly in the Lido buffet and staff was calling us by name. There were several outstanding servers there including Wede, and Harrisman, the servers behind the counter were always smiling and I must rate the food in the Lido as VERY GOOD. On formal nights, (I call it dinosaur picture night) we ate in the Canaletto three times and the food and service was excellent. This is a well kept secret on Holland no extra cost and a good, but somewhat limited, menu. I HATE PACKING FORMAL CLOTHES and hate wearing them even more! We had one other experience in the main dining room, that was the Chefs Dinner, in my estimation a HUGE disappointment, with my wife and I going up to the Lido afterwords for some real food. I had a 5 minute steak in the Lido that was FAR BETTER than the beef offered in the chefs dinner. The ship in general was in excellent condition I saw lots of cleaning painting, etc going on during the 14 day cruise and for the most part I felt the crew was very good and even friendly. Cruise Director Jimmy was very nice and not over the top like many I have seen, he did actually seem to enjoy what he was doing and was NOT overbearing. The production shows were good, it is a challenge on a smaller ship without all the extra capabilities that the bigger ship stages offer. I felt that the singers and dancers were talented and their shows were good. I do like the layout of the theater and the seating much better on Holland than on most other cruise lines. I had the opportunity to talk with the audio teck one evening and told him I felt he did a great job and the sounds was clear and not over driven. One person from the crew that seemed to have an attitude was the DJ, who hosted trivia several times, it was more of a feeling than anything seen. I found the naturalist/shore expert, Jeanette, to be just plain annoying! She is a former teacher and anytime she hosted trivia, she never used a mic and her voice quality worsened with her increased volume. She also did not have accurate information on transportation which cost us the opportunity to get off the ship in Kodiak. We did not opt for any shore excursion through Holland America as is the case with "rain forests" Alaska's weather can be fickle and so we chose to do a few things on our own. Since both Holland American and Princess cover a lot of the same ports I was surprised at how poor the gangways were in several of the ports. Many were extremely steep, in the case of Homer there was a very long pier with no shuttle and no benches, this needs improvement. One of the highlights of the trip was stopping at Sitka, we took a tour to the Fortress Of The Bear and this was a great experience. This facility is a rescue center and they currently have 2 adults and 3 large cubs, they were quite active when we were there and the founder, who gave a talk about the bears and the center was quite informative. I had been looking forward to going to Victoria, but the information we received was that transportation had to be paid for in Canadian money so we did not get off the ship there either. Disembarkation was a breeze as we took advantage of the baggage check through, I really like this and it is well worth the $20 per bag fee not to have to lug your checked luggage around post cruise. On a whole the cruise was good, I gave it a 7 and my wife gave it an 8 out of a possible 10. The Amsterdam needs to improve their dining room operation, pressure Alaska for better gangway facilities and get some more activities on board on sea days and especially on port days. They also need to have much better information about transportation at the ports to eliminate disappointments. Will I take Holland American again, most certainly, however I am pretty sure it won't be the Amsterdam. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Firstly about us..I am 65 and my wife is 56 and we have taken previous cruises on RCI (3).This is our 1st on HAL and 1st to Alaska.We are not 3 and 4 times a year cruisers like some but as we cruise less often we indulge in suites when we ... Read More
Firstly about us..I am 65 and my wife is 56 and we have taken previous cruises on RCI (3).This is our 1st on HAL and 1st to Alaska.We are not 3 and 4 times a year cruisers like some but as we cruise less often we indulge in suites when we do as we like the "extra perks" involved with suite life. We decided to drive to Seattle as airfare for 2 was close to $1000 and we can drive it in 10-12 hours with one overnight stop and no hassle with airline baggage restrictions and airport transfers etc.We found an excellent parking deal thru Smith Cove Travel for $140.00 inc tax for the week including shuttle service to/from port at a secure lot. Having cruised on 3 different classes with RCI (Vision/Radiance/Voyager)we were anxious to compare the Oosterdam to our previous ships.We both commented that Oosterdam seemed much more confined and closed in than any of the 3 ships on RCI.Hallways seemed narrower and ceilings lower and without the large atrium/promenades we were used to on RCI there were times it felt a little claustrophobic. Our suite (deluxe verandah) would be comparable to a Grand suite on RCI but cannot compare to an owners suite.The closet/drawer space was very limited and if we were at sea any more than 7 days it would have caused issues.The one big plus was the balcony which was a huge wraparound at the aft starboard corner that is far superior to anything we have had on RCI.Overall I would rate the suites on RCI slightly superior to HAL. Ships staff were excellent and we would highly recommend all crew/staff on the Oosterdam. The CD who was JT Watters was first class as were all his staff. Entertainment was OK but nothing exceptional. Before commenting on the food I should mention that I worked in the Food & Beverage industry for over 35 years so try to look objectively at what is offered in the way of the total food department.Overall the Dining room food is superior to RCI (except for desserts,which are very disappointing).The Lido buffet is not as good as Windjammer in layout or offerings.Specialty restaurant Pinnacle grill is equal to Chops but Canaletto does not come close to Portofino on RCI.In summation the food on HAL is slightly better than RCI and the DR selections are far better. When you consider that the ship prepares over 11000 meals a day it is beyond me how anyone can complain about anything when it comes to onboard food. Ports of call were Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria BC. We took HAL tours in Juneau and Sitka and found both very good and fair value for money.In Ketchikan we simply walked around on our own and in Victoria we stayed on board as we are Canadians and have been there,done that,got the TShirt several times before.Had we known that on the last night (Victoria) the entire ship closed down at 6pm we would have gone ashore. They boarded up the casino,shops,library,not even a farewell stage show...nothing. Both embarkation and disembarkation were well run and went very smoothly,except for of course the usual suspects who decide to ignore all printed notices and P.A. announcements and clog the hallways,stairs and gangways well in advance of their scheduled departure times and then seem annoyed when told they must wait until their appointed time. In summation, this was an excellent cruise that we would recommend and we will return to HAL in the future and try a different class of ship.Not for a while though as next up is a transatlantic cruise on Oceania in March 2012. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
We had a great trip don't get me wrong. Service was incredibly good. Staff was very friendly and very helpful but the Oosterdam is getting old. The decorating was bad. Tacky is a good word for it. You could see where they had updated ... Read More
We had a great trip don't get me wrong. Service was incredibly good. Staff was very friendly and very helpful but the Oosterdam is getting old. The decorating was bad. Tacky is a good word for it. You could see where they had updated parts but not other sections. Our room was sort of not so clean. I hate mildew in a shower or tub grout and there were mildew spots. I looked under the bed and it looked like it hadn't been vacuumed in weeks. We actually had a dirty blanket, yuk! Food was OK. I've had better on Princess. One of the shore excursions should have be canceled. We got in later into Victoria and we arrived at Butchart Gardens in the dark. How do you see gardens in the dark? You don't. Loved our cabin. We had a back corner which was great for Glacier Bay. Scenery was fabulous. We had a wonderful time and loved our room Stewart and table captain. Would do again only on a different ship. We bought a disembarkation package to the airport. Don't waste your money. You are better off getting your own town car to the airport. It was $30 per person and you get on a big bus and they dump you off in some remote spot in the airport. We had my 90 year old mother with and had no wheel car. We had to haul everything ourselves for what felt like miles. Total ripoff. Bad service. HAL needs to improve this badly. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Our family had the opportunity to cruise on the Oosterdam out of Seattle for a large family outing. In total there were ten of us, including four kids. The ages of the kids were 17, 14 and two 12 year old boys. Two of our party were ... Read More
Our family had the opportunity to cruise on the Oosterdam out of Seattle for a large family outing. In total there were ten of us, including four kids. The ages of the kids were 17, 14 and two 12 year old boys. Two of our party were frequent HAL cruisers, my family had cruised Disney and RCCL (this was our 4th cruise) and one family had never cruised before. We sailed June 12-19, 2011. The ship made calls in Glacier Bay, Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria. We enjoyed the ports tremendously. Sitka was a tender port, so be prepared if you are not on a ship excursion you will need tickets to get off the ship. Pre-Cruise. Needless to say we were excited that our adventure was about to begin. We had waited over 18 months for this trip which was a celebration of a 50th wedding anniversary. We flew into Seattle the day prior and had an opportunity to check out Pike Market and stop at the original Starbuck's as well as enjoy some great seafood. We stayed at the Sheraton Hotel on 6th and Pike. The hotel was very nice with a pool on the 35th floor where you can see the sound and ships sailing by. The two families with children took the light rail from Sea-Tac and it was only $16 (three adults and one 12 & under) per family, a real bargain. Two of the family stayed with a family friend and would join us at the port the next day. We traveled with all carry ons, and had only one checked bag (a rolling garment bag). The light rail was easy to manage, and well-marked. We would have taken the light rail back at the end of the cruise, but a van had already been booked for the return trip. Our hotel was only two blocks from the last station on the light rail and we did not find it a problem to walk with our luggage. As we could not get a good flight on the Sunday of disembarkation we spent one more night in Seattle and this time stayed at the Monaco- our room had a goldfish to keep us company. It was also a nice hotel, right downtown. Now knowing how easy the light rail is I might consider staying out by the airport and taking the rail downtown to enjoy the day next time. If you enjoy fresh flowers in your stateroom you should make it a point to stop at the Market before boarding. The steward's will find you a vase and you can get lovely arrangements for as little as $5 to $10. We did this, and we enjoyed our fresh flowers for the entire week. We took a van from the hotel to Pier 91 for $10 per person. We booked the van for 10:00 through the hotel (no free shuttles) and he was right on time. We were at the Pier in about 15-20 minutes. Check in was a breeze, very easy. Our carry on bags were dropped at security and we proceeded upstairs to get our keys and wait for boarding. We boarded promptly at 11:30 and were excited to get started. Our two Mariners arrived at the pier shortly after we boarded and enjoyed their lunch in the dining room while the rest of us went to the lido. The staff served the food at the lido for the first 48 hours to help prevent Noro. This slowed moving through the Lido, but I am all for this precaution so that we could hopefully avoid the illness. After lunch we explored the ship and some went swimming. Of course we went to the sail-away to wave good-bye to Seattle! HAL now has rooms ready at 11:30, which is great if you are getting on the ship- but I think it puts a great stress on the staff. Our room was ready, and just as we had wanted by one room that was to have split beds for a brother and sister was made up as a queen bed (that took until 9:30 PM to get solved) and one room that was to be a queen bed was split. Our staterooms were on the main deck, just forward of mid-ships, with the adults in outside rooms and the children in insides across the hall. The insides were a great value, they were larger and had more storage than the adults rooms. They also had the advantage of being dark, and allowed the kids to sleep much better than their parents. I would have been very happy with the interior that they had. Please note on all Seattle itineraries, you will be sailing up to Alaska in the northern Pacific. Be prepared if you are prone to motion sickness at all. No one in our party of 10 became sea sick on our first day out, but plenty of people were ill. We were sailing in 10-12 foot seas. The worst we had of it was looking like we had too many Alaskan beers as we walked down the hall. The medical staff will give you free sea-sick pills if you need them. We enjoyed the ship, but as noted by others it is worn and in need of the upcoming dry-dock. A plus for HAL is fresh flowers in all of the public rooms and free popcorn at the movies. A downside, the pools and the hot tubs closed up early in comparison to other lines we have sailed on. This is a problem when you have young people looking for something to do and enjoy using the pools. Also the hot tubs are extremely small, two person tubs at the aft-pool. We really enjoyed the Crow's Nest located forward (not aft as a previous poster noted). It is on Deck 10 and only the forward elevators will get you right up into the area. It is an easy walk on the 10th deck outside however if you find yourself in the aft by mistake. From the Crow's Nest we watched whales almost every evening, and even saw Dahl Porpoises. We always had great attention from the bar staff, and when they would see us in other bars knew immediately what we usually ordered. Glacier Bay was the main reason we booked this cruise and it did not disappoint! We spent the entire day out on decks. It was a cool day for the folks from the southern part of the US, with the high temps that day no better than the low 50s but we were comfortable in turtle necks, fleeces and vests. I did wear a hat, but never did put on my mittens that I had brought. There were plenty of blankets for those who desired them. We were extremely lucky and did not have rain at all. The teens were spilt on the teen club. Never saw the 17 year old when we were on board, and the 14 year old did some of the activities. The 12 year old boys were extremely disappointed as they put 8-12 together and there were way too many 8 year olds for the 12 year olds. As one 12 year old was an experienced cruiser whom almost always has to be pulled out of the clubs he was disappointed. This led to large groups of 12 year old boys roaming the ship looking for something to do in the evenings (as the pools were closed). On RCCL the 12 and 13 year olds were grouped in the "teen" area, but with different activities. My 12 year old did do the Junior Ranger program on board because I encouraged him to do it, but that was the last time he participated in organized activities in the club. With over 200 kids 17 and under on board there was plenty of life on the ship. Overall, the service on the ship by the stewards and MDR staff was hit or miss. This was a disappointment to the two frequent HAL cruisers who also agreed that for some reason the service was not what they were used to. There were many new contracts on the ship, our room steward had just boarded that day. If there were many new in the dining room and kitchen this may have caused some of the issues in the MDR. Service was much slower than we have normally experienced. Not sure if that was due to us being a table of 10, or our request to be at a table of 10 which put us on the first level of the dining room with open seating. Food was fine, although the one major meat eater of the bunch was disappointed in the selection of beef (although he understood it would be heavy in seafood, he just didn't expect quite that much). The Lido is not set up as nice as either the Voyager or the Radiance of RCCL (think of a cafeteria and not a food court), and the selections not as nice either but it was adequate for a buffet. Soda needed to be ordered from the bar staff instead of walking up to the drink area and buying it there. The kids enjoyed the ice cream and pizza. Our family enjoyed the entertainment offered to varying degrees. The magician was very fun, and later in the week he offered a second show designed to give you a more up close view of magic. The singers and dancers put on nice shows as well. One night there was an adults only comedian and she was just ok, but what I found interesting was the number of people who seemed to be offended by her humor, even though they were told it was adults only. Karaoke was offered several nights and we enjoyed watching the other passengers perform as well. The night club "Northern Lights" never seemed to have anyone in it. The scenery was the best entertainment as we often spent the evenings watching the world go by as the sun didn't set until 10 or so. In the ports our family group of 10 each did our own thing. We booked and independent whale watching tour in Juneau with Dolphin Tours, while one family booked through HAL. Both had good experiences. In Sitka everyone did the town on their own, shopping, visiting museums and the national park. Ketchikan was the only port where we all did an excursion through HAL, the "Deadliest Catch" Bering Sea Fisherman's Tour. Yes, we were not in the Bering Sea but this tour was very informative on the fishing industry in Alaska, and if you are a fan of the show they candidly answer questions about the show as well. All agreed it was well worth it. For Victoria only two booked a tour, and that was to the Butchart Gardens which they enjoyed tremendously. The others took a bus for $7.50 per person downtown where we enjoyed street performers and walked around the inner harbor stopping by the Empress Hotel to visit the Tea Room and the gardens. We were back on the ship by 9:00 to finish our packing. Embarkation and disembarkation was a breeze. We chose to carry our own luggage off and we were off and through customs in no time at all. If we would do Alaska again and wanted to do Glacier Bay we would sail HAL again and perhaps choose one of their smaller ships. It is interesting even in our own group people differed on how busy the ship seemed. Those of us used to RCCL thought the lounges and shows were fun and that there was plenty to do if you wanted to without it being too much, the kids were looking for more to do (except the 17 year old!), and others thought the ship was "a bit of a party ship" and a little too big for their taste. We love to cruise, and pick the itinerary over the ship. The ports on our cruise were just what we were looking for. It would have been nice to have had more time in Ketchikan, but because of the time it took to get back to Seattle it was only a half day port on this journey and our tour that morning was three hours, giving us just about an hour to do a quick walk around. We hope someday to return to Alaska and maybe be able to do a land and sea tour. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Bckground: We originally decided to do an Alaskan cruise when Disney announced they were heading to Vancouver. Then had to change our direction a bit after researching and realizing that Glacier Bay was going to be a must for our trip and ... Read More
Bckground: We originally decided to do an Alaskan cruise when Disney announced they were heading to Vancouver. Then had to change our direction a bit after researching and realizing that Glacier Bay was going to be a must for our trip and as Disney wasn't authorized, we had to look elsewhere. We also wanted a R/T itinerary and preferred Seattle for airfare budget purposes. Our options were NCL, Princess, and HAL. After mind numbing amts of research and review reading, we ended up choosing HAL. We booked our trip over a year in advance. We were also travelling with my sister in law (37) and my inlaws (upper 50's). As our only other cruise was Disney, it is my only point of comparison. Pros: 1) Embarkation/Debarkation were both fast and efficient. Thanks to CC I knew in advance to sign up for luggage direct, wonderful and worth every penny.Advantage HAL 2) Crows Nest and Explorations Cafe: Beautiful views, yummy coffee drinks, great games, books, magazines, and enjoyed Gaither on guitar. Advantage HAL 3) Our inside cabin: We thought it was very roomy and storage was amazing. We even had a pack n play set up the whole time. Our last cruise we had an ocean view and I was regretting the inside view choice until we got on board. I have never slept in such wonderful darkness. Our daughter turned 2 on board and she too slept great the entire trip, including her usual naps. 4) Service: We had a great room steward, Rio, all smiles, always handy if we needed anything, always called us by name. Our dining room server Djucko and wine steward Joseph were also good. Christian the assistant dining room manager was wonderful as well, we always saw him doing anything that was required to help in the dining areas. I have no idea when any of these people sleep, I'm pretty sure they don't. Also, noone bothered us to buy things, if we wanted a drink they were there if not they were gone. Advantage HAL 5) Laundry service: Another tip from CC. For $49, our entire cabin sent our laundry out and it was always delivered within 24hrs (although they say 48), clean and pressed. This is most helpful with children. 6) Leo Ward the illusionist: This was the only show we went to in the evening. From 11-59, we were entertained. Lots of laughs and "how'd he do that" Although I did not attend the show on Saturday afternoon, my 11 year old came back with several tricks and jokes, big thumbs up. 7) Adiago Strings: Usually playing after we came out from dinner, just delightful music, our 2 year old always wanted to swing by for a bit, no pun intended. 8) Glacier Bay and Ports: All were amazing, none disappointed. 9) Covered swimming pool that children can use: this is one of the reasons we chose the Oosterdam. This was a big hit with our son, although I thought it seemed closed alot without any communication as to why or how long. But overall, big plus! 10) Fellow cruisers: Although we really didn't meet anyone, this was a nice crowd with what seemed like alot of big groups (families, reunions, etc) travelling together. I never saw anyone out of hand or making a scene. People seemed pleasant and laid back overall. Advantage HAL 11) Cleanliness: This is big. I never went into a dirty bathroom or saw a bit of trash. Tables were cleaned quickly in public areas. I actually like the staff serving in the Lido the first 48hrs, it got much messier once the guests got involved:) 12) DVD lending library: Free and great choices 13) The beds, linens, and robes: super comfy, dreaded coming back to my own bed and pillows. 14) Drinks: Well mixed and reasonable prices, no more expensive then your local Applebee's or TGI Fridays Disappointments: 1) The Food: Overall, I would give it a C+. This was a huge disappointment for us. It wasn't terrible, just very mediocre. The Lido reminded us of a cafeteria, not so much a buffet, (a buffet with amazing views though). Is there really a request for Hungarian Goulash? We love food and food is a big part of our vacation. I was expecting amazing seafood considering this was an Alaskan cruise. What I had, 3 times (trying to give it a chance) were 3 different fish entrees, all very dry and very fishy tasting. Beef was mediocre as well. We ate at Pinnacle once, and I would say it was worth the charge but I wouldn't say it was amazing. It def did not compare, in our opinion, to Palo on the Disney Wonder. We ate 5 dinners in the MDR and really enjoyed the staff and the view from our table, but the food was the least impressive thing about the dining experience. Small things like serving cold food on cold plates, I do not want my entree salad in a warm bowl with warm lettuce and tomatoes, nor do I want ice cream in a warm dish. Shrimp or seafood cocktail was also warm a few times. 2) Kids club: Very small, space wise. Not alot of overly creative themes, topics. I know this is not a line known for catering to children but I also know they are trying to broaden the demographic they serve ($199 3rd and 4th passengers) so I think there is room for improvement in this area. Our boat had 200 children on board and I think there were 6 counselors, 2 for each age group. Our son went a few times and had fun when he went but he also often forgot it was even there. 3) The ship: I know she is heading to dry dock soon and I would say the timing is right. Just a bit worn out. Overall, inside and out, no comparison to the beauty of the Disney boats. 4) Movies: Great little theater but Kenny Chesney is the movie you show on our day at sea? I have nothing against him at all, but our group was really disappointed as we were really wanting to catch a big budget thriller or family comedy or something that day. 5) Fitness Center and it's equipment were pretty worn out So, 13 Pros and 5 whiny cons. This was an amazing trip and we had a great time. This cruise is all about the destination anyway. I think for future cruises we'd like to try some of the other fish in the sea, we'd def go back to HAL if they expand/improve their dining options and children's activities/options. We certainly loved the staff and clientele. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Sailed on the MA Westerdam from Seattle (6/18-6/25) round trip Seattle: Juneau, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria BC. Had a veranda cabin on the port side on Deck 5 with four. Embarkation was not bad (had to fill out ... Read More
Sailed on the MA Westerdam from Seattle (6/18-6/25) round trip Seattle: Juneau, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria BC. Had a veranda cabin on the port side on Deck 5 with four. Embarkation was not bad (had to fill out health questionnaires while standing in line which was "semi annoying") and went by pretty fast for the size of the line (arrived at the terminal around 1:30 pm). If you are going to shop, grab 2 or 3 Alaska coupon books by Alaska Magazine) that were handed out just before you board (several free items in Ketchikan and Juneau, nothing in Sitka or Victoria but curiously in Skagway which we did not dock at). Several fellow passengers asked me where I got that book (Westerdam did not give or have any of these books). In the Lido and Vista Dining Room, they do not serve complementary soda!!! If you do not care about paying $2.44 for a can of soda then help yourself to the cabin mini bar (they check it daily when they clean the room) or $6.00 for a large bottle or $2.00 for a small size of water. The stuff in your room is NOT complementary as several first time passengers thought (in some hotels, they post the prices inside the refrigerator mini bar. You can take small cartons of milk from the buffet to store there or sneak stuff aboard. When I first ate lunch on Embarkation Day in the Lido Buffet, I thought the sodas were complementary. I also thought the bottled water was complementary. When the first server asked for a room card...I stopped him and handed back the water bottle. The second server opened the sodas before I could stop him, guess he saw me stop the first server....(On the Disney cruise, soda was complementary, but that was back in 2008). They should say there is a charge or at least have it in print someplace. One older couple got annoyed over this when settling their account. The second pull down bunk was directly over the main bed....BE CAREFUL if you sit up...They should at least have put padding under that pull down bunk. My wife hit her head several times and I did too. This is an "older" crowd demographically so if you have kids, teens and are younger, you may want to rethink this cruise. Saw some returning Humpbacks (from Baja?) and Orcas on the return. Ate in the Vista Dining Room every night (service was slow on some days but fast on others, there was some lapses but nothing to make a real "federal case over"). You can eat breakfast and lunch there too as opposed to the Lido Buffet. Never saw any burrito skins at the Mexican buffet in the Lido pool area and they did have real taco shells for 2 days. On Disembarkation Day, had a late "gray" tag for 9:30 am so there was no general "everyone for themselves" but if you have a 12:15 flight (board at 11:45 am) then you are risking it. I got through a very officious and semi paranoid TSA (we had some "newbie" trying to impress the boss and the boss had to come over and tell him to step it up) and had to run a long ways to my flight with 20 minutes to spare. Alaska Air needs a lot more help at their check in. Factor in a full 3 hours from when your transportation arrives at the terminal to when you board. Simply tell Holland that you have an "earlier" flight if you want to get off earlier. Customs was fast. They were as "interested" as their Canadian counterparts. The pickup at the Seattle terminal is a mad house and several drivers had to "orbit" repeatedly. Security seemed to be on "power trips". Holland America's two 7 day Glacier trips are essentially the same so if I want to see other cities or have more time then I may have to check out the competition but then again, this was the least expensive at this time. The more popular July and August bookings are more expensive. Hope this helps. Saw some negative reviews on the May 2011 voyages so I was apprehensive. They need to paint the outside especially the lifeboat divots. Lots of rust that probably does not affect the operations but it detracts from the ambience and experience. Three shows (13 person cast). Shows were okay. Nothing to cheer about after you seen the Disney shows. Did not play in the casino (1 and 2 cent slot machines as well as slots up to $1 per pull). Poker and 21 card games. Must cash out any winnings on your room key by 2 pm of the last day. Librarians seems "bored". If you want to "permanently borrow" a book then you can do that. Coffee shop prices as standard for what you would pay at home. During dessert in the Vista Dining Room, their capaccino machine died so the server had to run forward. I opted not to force him to run to the other edge of the galaxy. He appreciated that. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Summary: Glad I went. Had a good time. Like HAL This was a two week cruise out of Seattle, which I booked one day before the final payment. When they finally gave me my cabin it was an ocean view on the Lower Promenade Deck in a ... Read More
Summary: Glad I went. Had a good time. Like HAL This was a two week cruise out of Seattle, which I booked one day before the final payment. When they finally gave me my cabin it was an ocean view on the Lower Promenade Deck in a good location - except it was under the kitchen. Having been in that location before, I was aware of that and the people who were originally next door (from Cruise Critics) confirmed that they were awakened each morning at 4 am with metal wheeled carts rolling around overhead. Therefore when I was given an opportunity to upgrade to a Veranda by paying extra, I decided that if I was ever going to do a Veranda, Alaska was the place to do it. We were on the port side just a few cabins behind the wing bridge. I would rather have been on the starboard side, but this cabin was very good. I have no complaints about the cabin. I rented a scooter for this trip. I rented it before I made the cruise booking. It was quite reasonable to rent, and it really helped because we were pretty far forward and the dining areas are all aft. Also I rarely had a problem getting an elevator with the scooter which I think is somewhat astonishing. The only problem I had was that there was some kind of sculpture cum chair thing opposite the elevators on our deck and I could not back the scooter out of the aft elevators without running into it. I tried backing into the elevator, but I can't turn my head to look behind me without a lot of pain, so backing in was not a good option. Even my husband agreed after I tried it once. Once was enough. Bob would tell me when I could back out and which way to turn. We flew into Seattle on Thursday - got a non-stop Southwest flight from BWI to SEATAC. Arranged for a limo transfer for us and our luggage to the Mayflower Park hotel. Walked over to the monorail and went to the Space Needle for dinner. Then the next morning borrowed a wheelchair from the hotel and Bob pushed me down to Pike Street Market and back. The hotel gave us an embarkation package which included breakfast and a shuttle to the port. At noon took a shuttle from the hotel to the terminal. Embarkation was a breeze. Gave our luggage to the luggage people and picked up the scooter at the dock kiosk so I could use it for the embarkation process and we were waved right through and even missed the photographers (a good thing). Our rooms were ready immediately when we boarded - that's the first time that ever happened. So we went to the room first. See the room comments for how we did it with a scooter - it was not a handicapped room. We had to eat in the Lido on embarkation, and it is not possible to eat in the Lido when you are using a scooter. There are no longer trays and the scooter basket is not equipped for food. This was exacerbated by the fact that they were having people serve you everything instead of allowing you to take it. They told us the reason for that was for two days in case people got on with colds or other illness to keep them from passing it around. That seemed to be a good idea, but it did make things slow with long lines to be served as people did not understand that they could go to the next station. Bob went and got us something - he came back with spaghetti which was the only place that had no line. I never found a good way to eat in the Lido with either my cane or the scooter. There were no helpful people to carry your food. The service was really slow which made it was painful for me stand and wait for other people to be served. We only ate in the Lido if forced. We never ate in the Italian restaurant - I wasn't sure if it was extra price or not and you had to make a reservation. The food was reasonably good in the main dining room, but due to the fact that almost all the crew were new, the service was VERY VERY slow at first and we did not always get what we ordered. Bob ordered sugar free ice cream for dessert and got a sundae (which is what he really wanted anyway). Once he did not get a second soup (he will have three soups and no entree sometimes), and once a lady and I got each other's omelets and didn't realize it until she got to the goat cheese in the middle of mine. After the first couple of days, many people defaulted to the Lido and ironically the service also improved. We talked to some people who were on the previous cruise which was from Ft. Lauderdale through the canal and around the Pacific (a long cruise) and they told us that the ship's people were hand picked for that cruise and most of them got off in Vancouver where the cruise ended. Then 70 absolutely new staff, and some that were returning from leave and others that were transferred from other ships got on along with 1000 people who took the one day cruise from Victoria to Seattle. So the servers were finding their way around for those first days. Some people complained that they did not like the coffee, but we don't drink coffee so don't care about the coffee. The same person said her hot soups were not hot enough, but I found them perfectly fine. They no longer have breakfast specials, but the menu is expanded (they now have Eggs Florentine and not just Eggs Benedict), and I could always get cranberry juice. The choices were particularly good on the four formal nights. When they gave you lobster there was a container of melted butter to go with it instead of the steward drizzling some over it. They also no longer take your lobster tail out of the shell for you. I had trouble deciding on formal nights, but even on regular nights, I always had something I liked to eat. Bob lost some weight - he said when he got back that he was down to his target weight. I didn't lose, but I didn't gain either. The ship was noisy and had some vibration and creaking all the time even though I did not consider that there was particularly bad or rough weather. Sometimes some loud starling banging. Most of the time if there was rain it was at night. We did have rain one day in Kodiak for part of the day, but all the other days were at worst overcast. Spectacularly good weather for Alaska with blue skies. The people were nice - some of them had been on as many as 14 Alaska cruises and had a lot of information and anecdotes. We had a Cruise Critics meeting on the second morning. The tides are pretty steep in that area of the world so the ramps were also steep and some of them had steps, so I could not take the scooter off the ship. Some of the tours were on regular buses where wheelchairs could be stowed, but some were in school buses with no luggage capability. The tour tickets were not always informatory about this. The port maps were EXCELLENT and had a lot of information about the ports - more than just shopping things. I do not see why cruisers need to have tanzanite and Diamonds International in all the ports anyway. It is stupid. And my opinion of people who shop in those places in Alaska is not complimentary. Bob went to some of the shows and enjoyed them, but of course the theatre is the usual HAL theatre where you can't see on the ground floor unless you are in the front row. The theatre was right under us so he usually went down one flight of stairs and sat in the balcony where he could see. I was too busy editing photos to go. We went to trivia once but for some reason it was just not fun the way they did it. I don't know why - we've always really enjoyed trivia. I went to a HAL ports trivia on the last day, not realizing that they meant just Alaskan ports, and sat with a man who knew all the answers and we won some coasters. I was completely unable to use my own computer to do emails because it would not allow me to use a shifting IP address or something like that. The computer lady and I tried everything and nothing worked. I got emails sent once, but other than that I had no success. So she lent me a laptop. That worked fine and I could use the internet while sitting in my own cabin. Bob walked out to the business center in Ketchikan and bought a thumb drive for me (and he also got some fudge for himself at the candy store) and I just transferred my Favorites and photos to the other laptop and did the internet that way. One thing I could not do on either computer though was Facebook. The page would load and then I would get a message that the page couldn't be loaded and it would vanish. I only managed it at the end for a little bit. Dis-embarkation was semi-bad. I had thought we would take a taxi to the airport, but when Bob turned the form in he paid for bus tickets. DO NOT take the bus unless you are flying Delta or American. Those are the only airlines where you can check the bags at the location where the bus delivers you. Also you stand in a long line to get on the bus after you get through immigration. They did not give us any information at all about what places were open for breakfast or the hours, so we got room service. They gave us Black 1 as our disembarkation color and said it would be 8-8:15, but there was no information about what the sequence would be. When we got to the airport, I could not get a wheelchair as Southwest had no presence at the bus dock, so we had to drag ourselves and our luggage all the way through the airport and up an escalator (there was a LONG line for the elevator) to get to the Southwest counter. Once we got there we got our luggage checked and a wheelchair and the only problem was flight delays because of weather. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
My husband and I are in our mid 70s. The last time we cruised we got a wheelchair for use on the ship. So this time I rented a scooter to be delivered to the dock because I have difficulty walking the distances required on a cruise ship. ... Read More
My husband and I are in our mid 70s. The last time we cruised we got a wheelchair for use on the ship. So this time I rented a scooter to be delivered to the dock because I have difficulty walking the distances required on a cruise ship. Neither of us has ever been to Alaska before Pre-Cruise: one night at the Mayflower Park Hotel. I had been to Seattle in 1994 and wanted my husband to see Pike Street Market and eat dinner at the Space Needle. The concierge at the Mayflower said I could borrow a wheelchair to go to Pike Street Market (which we did). She also made arrangements for us to be picked up at the airport in a Town Car ($45) and gave us the Cruise Special which included breakfast the next morning and a shuttle to the port. Internet in the room was free. Embarkation: fast and easy. We were delivered to the dock about 12:10, the porters took our bags and showed us where the scooter kiosk was on the dock. I got on the scooter and we went through, right onto the ship with no waiting. Food: Since this cruise was booked only one day before the final payment, we had non-fixed dining. We went up to eat every day at 5:15 and never had to wait for a table. We had room service for breakfast whenever we had an early tour and it was delivered at the time we asked and had the items on it that we wanted. On the first few days in the Lido, you could not serve yourself because they said they were trying to avoid people who came on board spreading sickness. But this made the lines very long. There was no way I could do the Lido on either a scooter or with a cane even if I was allowed to serve myself. If I was lucky enough to get food, I would have no place to put it on the scooter. I had to find a table and my husband had to guess what I would want and bring food. On previous HAL ships, the staff has been helpful when people are handicapped and having trouble, but that was not the case here. No one offered to help, and we only were offered tea or water at the table once. So we never ate in the Lido if there was any other option. Dining Room service was excruciatingly slow and sometimes we did not get what we ordered. I ordered two soups once and only got one of them. A lady and I ordered two different omelets and she got mine but didn't realize it until she got to the goat cheese in the middle. I understand this was because of mostly new crew. The food was usually good. I love the cold soups. The breakfast menu in the dining room was changed from when we were on HAL before and I liked it. We were able to get cranberry juice and tea if we wanted. We never ate at the specialty restaurants. Activities: We did Trivia once. We usually do all the Trivias but we didn't have any fun at the first one so we didn't go again. I went swimming once. The pool was nice and warm, and the bathrobe in the room was good because the air wasn't that warm. We did not use the spa. Bob went to a couple of the shows, but he does not like the flat floor in the HAL theaters first floor. We had good internet access in the room, but the computer lady (who was excellent) couldn't get my computer to stay logged on so she lent me one of the ship computers. That worked for me. There are several places we visited where you don't have a port listed. After we left Seattle we went up the Inside Passage and this was beautiful. Between Ketchikan and Juneau we did Tracy Arm. It was nice weather - not too cold and there was a very interesting naturalist on board giving a narrative. We didn't get to see the glacier, but it was peaceful and beautiful. Bob forgot to get some split pea soup on deck as it is his favorite. I was sorry that we didn't get to go to Glacier Bay which is the prime location for glaciers although I did like Tracy Arm. We also did Hubbard Glacier. They had a talk in the theater before hand. The naturalist at Tracy Arm was better, although the Glacier itself was amazing and we got to see it having a lot of calves. Disembarkation - Black Mark for Amsterdam here. They failed to tell us was the breakfast hours or what would be open so we got room service. I had intended just to get a taxi to the airport and that would have worked excellently. We would go off the ship (me on the scooter) and Bob would get the luggage and then we would turn the scooter in and get a taxi. But when Bob turned in the form they persuaded him that he should buy the $19 each bus tickets to the airport. Not only did we have to wait while all the luggage was stowed but the bus dropped us off a LONG way from where we had to go to check our luggage and for me to get a wheelchair. The only airlines who were checking luggage at that location were AAA and Delta. We had to go across the loading area, and up the escalators with four suitcases (2 each) to Southwest and it was very difficult. (There were too many people with strollers and luggage carts to use the elevator.) Very much more hassle than it needed to be Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
I had the opportunity to cruise direct from Seattle (I live nearby) on HA's 7-day Alaska itinerary, which included Glacier Bay cruising, port calls at Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan. The first two-and-half days are spent on board ... Read More
I had the opportunity to cruise direct from Seattle (I live nearby) on HA's 7-day Alaska itinerary, which included Glacier Bay cruising, port calls at Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan. The first two-and-half days are spent on board ship--after embarking at 4 pm, a nice cruise to the north through the Puget Sound and a day northbound in open ocean, then another day aboard ship seeing the magnificent scenery in Glacier Bay. This is a plus to those who wish to spend time unwinding and recreating in beautiful outside surroundings. But be warned--the ship is quite ordinary, both in decor and food. Meals both in the main dining room or in the Lido tended to be overcooked, lukewarm and either too bland or spiced inappropriately. There are several attractive bars, such as the Oceans Bar on the 3rd level, with tall windows and a string quartet in the afternoons. However, the Crow's Nest, which is on Deck 10, is difficult to access (you must find the elevator aft, then go through the spa area; no other elevator goes all the way to deck 10). This is also the library and internet area, leaving little space for enjoying the view and visiting with friends while enjoying a drink or two. Bar service was less attentive than in the other bars, and most of the area was closed one afternoon for a private function. Everyone already there had to relocate over to the internet area--very cramped. All in all, I give HA and the Oosterdam points for efficiency. Fewer points for layout, decor, and even fewer for their "cuisine." I rate it below Celebrity, RCCL and especially Oceania if you are looking for a pleasant buffet and outstanding dining room. I would cruise with them again at the right price and interesting ports-of-call, but would choose the other cruise lines mentioned when looking for an outstanding on-board experience. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
Oosterdam ReviewAlaska, May 21st - 29th, 2011BackgroundWhile this was my 14th cruise, this was my first time sailing aboard Holland America (HAL). Previous cruises have been on Royal Caribbean (6), Disney (3), NCL (2), Princess (1), and ... Read More
Oosterdam ReviewAlaska, May 21st - 29th, 2011BackgroundWhile this was my 14th cruise, this was my first time sailing aboard Holland America (HAL). Previous cruises have been on Royal Caribbean (6), Disney (3), NCL (2), Princess (1), and Carnival (1). My most recent cruises have been on Disney in January of this year aboard the Wonder, the Magic the previous year, and NCL Norwegian Dawn in 2009. To further allow you to gauge this review, I will tell you that I am a college professor just shy of 40, and was travelling with my wife, son (4), brother—who has cruised with HAL twice previously, and mother.I will admit that I was excited to try HAL based on what I've read on Cruise Critic and because of interviews I've listened to from HAL personnel (e.g., captains, cruise directors, etc.) stating that HAL was a "five star" line. While I enjoyed the cruise, I personally did not feel that HAL delivered anything above and beyond what the lines I've sailed have delivered. That said, I did enjoy my cruise and will second what many others have said; the Oosterdam cruise is extremely friendly, always saying hello and going out of their way to engage guests in conversation. However, I felt that the crew on Disney was equally friendly.I was hoping to fall in love with HAL and make them my "new" cruise line of choice looking for something that was the next step up without the extreme costs of the premium lines. While this unfortunately did not happen, I will not count HAL out in the future. They provided a good product for the amount paid, had nice cabin accommodations, and have competitive third person rates. And as of yesterday, our next scheduled cruise will be aboard the Maasdam in May 2012 from Montreal to Boston for the Canada/New England itinerary. My wife liked the itinerary in a mailing we received from HAL, even though she isn't particularly fond of cruising overall.The remainder of this review will read as a daily travelogue. However, due to its length, I do provide a general overview at the end after the day-by-day travelogue for those who are not interested in this level of detail. As always, remember that these are just my opinions of this particular cruise given my age, expectations, background, previous cruises, etc. So please just take it as that and don't attack the messenger should you disagree with my opinions as they are just that . . . opinions!Saturday, 05/21/11, Pre-CruiseToday began with my mother and brother meeting at my house at approximately 7:45 a.m. so that we could take our dogs to my in-laws for the week. We then returned to my house to load the SUV with the luggage hoping that it would all fit and eliminate the need to take two cars to the airport. With some creative packing, we were able to fit our entire luggage in the cargo area and the five of us were off to the airport.Fortunately, Saturday is not a busy travel day at the San Diego Airport, so parking the car offsite and shuttling to the airport was uneventful other than the schlepping of luggage. Once at the airport, we quickly checked our bags and quickly made it through airport security. With the family settled, I went back out through security, got us breakfast and allowed my son to play before the flight.While we had a direct flight on Southwest Airlines, it was not a nonstop flight. That's Southwest language for a landing and takeoff mid-route without having to get off the plane. Thus, our air route took us from San Diego to Oakland and then from Oakland to Seattle. My son opted to sit with my mother and brother, so we had a peaceful first flight and he fell asleep during the second flight which made it that much more quite.Upon arrive at SeaTac, we collected our bags and called for a limo from the public information phones. In less than 10 minutes, we were met by STILA limo (actually a Tahoe in this case), loaded our bags, and were off to downtown all for $45. I highly recommend simply calling for a limo/town car when arriving at SeaTac rather than taking a taxi as the fare is about the same and you don't have to worry about paying for stopped traffic should there be any as the prices are fixed.Our precruise stay had us at the Red Lion on 5th Avenue. The hotel was quite nice and we got an excellent rate through Hotels.com that included parking (not needed), internet (not used), and breakfast (enjoyable). It appeared that the hotel had been recently refurbished, but was a bit modern for my liking (e.g., frosted class bathroom doors that only offered pseudo privacy). The only down sides were that bell service was extremely slow—half hour wait—and avoided on Sunday morning and they needed more elevators at peak times. Also, there are no waiting cabs, so you will need to have the front desk call one for you.Sunday, 05/22/11 - EmbarkationI awoke early in anticipation of boarding the Oosterdam. I also discovered that I didn't have enough shaving cream, so I ended up heading down to the local downtown grocery store to buy some, and then to Starbucks for coffee. Then after a little walk for some early morning exercise, I returned to the hotel to have breakfast with my family in the hotel restaurant as it was provided in our room rate. Breakfast was good (breads, cereals, scrambled eggs, breakfast meats, juice, etc.) and met our needs.While eating breakfast, my son asked if I had brought his goggles for the pool, which I hadn't, so we ended up going down to the CVS a couple of blocks away to buy some. After the short detour, we returned to our hotel, called for bell service, but were unwilling to wait a half hour. Thus, we hauled our own bags to the lobby, checked out, asked the front desk to call us two cabs, and went to the curb to wait.Because there were five of us, one cab wasn't large enough for our group given the amount of luggage that we had. Thus, we opted for two cabs, which was still cheaper than a town car. Fares ran $12 for my mother and brother and $13 for us as there is a surcharge when there are more than two passengers. I'd estimate that Pier 91 was approximately 10 minutes from downtown and given that it was Sunday traffic was light.Entering Pier 91 was easy and I was actually surprised that we didn't have to show ID or our cruise documents as we always have had to in the past. Once we were dropped off, we waited for porter service, but they were all going to the private vehicle drop-off areas rather than to the taxi drop-off areas; thus, we had to haul our own bags into the terminal as there is no bag drop outside for already tagged bags. Since the signage is inadequate, be advised that you have to enter the terminal, walk past the lines heading upstairs to check-in, drop off your checked bags, and then return to the check-in lines. Also, keep in mind that HAL checks everyone in on the right side of the terminal, while Princess uses the left side.Because we had a stroller and my mom has mild mobility issues, we were able to bypass the first floor lines and use the elevator. Once in line upstairs, everyone was asked to have their cruise documents and passports available for viewing before entering the x-ray and metal detector screening area. This was also the first time while passing through ship security that I had to remove my laptop from my carryon bag. While this is common at airports, I've never had to do this before while boarding a ship and didn't know I had to since there were no signs or people stating as much. Thus, if you have a laptop, remove it from your carryon luggage for x-ray screening.Check-in was fairly efficient although we later found out otherwise when we discovered that my brother did not receive his invitation for the Mariner's Lunch and that they banded my son with the wrong muster station number. Even though we arrived early, just before 11:00 a.m., we still received Boarding Number 5. We also received a letter discussing that some of the crew had been ill and that additional hygiene measures were being taken. I really think the letter was simply meant to forewarn of Code Orange during the first 48 hours of the cruise, which is a nuisance but makes a lot of sense in reality.By 11:30 a.m., they began boarding the ship. Unfortunately, the gangway had broken so everyone had to take stairs back down to port level and then board via a ramp leading to Deck 1. This also meant taking the elevator once again, but this time we had to be escorted by a port employee as we had already passed through the security screening.We immediately went to our cabins: a Category SY for my immediately family (6069) and a Category D (1033) for my mom and brother. The SY was a nice configuration with the best bathroom I have had in all of my cruises. However, for some reason the cabin didn't feel as big as it was in terms of square footage. I'm guessing this had something to do with the size of the bathroom and that it was more square than rectangular. Even so, it was plenty of room for the three of us, and didn't even feel crowded when all five of us were gathered there for Glacier Bay. In addition, it was nice having a wider hallway in the cabin than that which is in the standard cabins.Once all of our bags were in our rooms, we headed to the main dining room for lunch as my brother is a past passenger. Unfortunately, we were met by a very rude dining room manager who insisted that my brother needed an invitation. When I asked why, he couldn't answer other than stating that the luncheon was for past passengers. When I finally pressed and asked which level of Mariner one had to be to have lunch there, the dining room manager said it was for 4 Star Mariners only, which I found highly unlikely. My brother later complained to guest relations and they stated that he should have never been turned away, and that he should have received an invitation. Further, the in-room documentation for the Mariner Society states that an embarkation lunch is one of the benefits of all Mariners, not just 2, 3, or 4 star ones. The Assistant Guest Relations Manager, Mila, handled this superbly, sending both of us an apology note, chocolates, and providing us with lunch in the Pinnacle, which later turned into dinner due to a variety of other issues that occurred throughout the week.Denied lunch in the main dining room, we headed to the Lido, which was total chaos. While I understand why HAL implements Code Orange, it doesn't work well in the Lido. Further, it was inconsistent and in some places they kept the serving utensils accessible to guests, so they ended up serving themselves anyway. And if HAL was truly concerned about hygiene, one would think they'd at least enforce hand sanitizer usage. In my last four cruises (Disney and NCL), one couldn't even enter the buffet or the dining room without sanitizing his or her hands, yet on HAL there was no such enforcement.Once we had our food, finding a seat was another challenge. Staffing was poor, the few tables that became available were not bussed quickly, and when the dirty dishes were removed and the tables cleaned, utensils and napkins were rarely left on the tables. However, it was nice to finally have a place to sit and to eat, even if the food was mediocre at best and some of the dishes that might have been good and/or worth trying weren't worth the wait in line. While I don't recall what I had, the only thing that stood out was the peanut butter cookies. My wife raved about them and she's not actually a fan of peanut butter cookies; unfortunately, they were available all too infrequently which was a major disappointment.My son was eager to try out the pool, so we returned to our cabin as we had packed our swimsuits in our carryon luggage and I wanted to get the swim in before the muster drill. As was common throughout the week, we were the only ones in the pool, which was cool although not cold. This was also only one of two days that the roof was open, the other being the last day of the cruise. As we played, several passengers, many of whom were passing by on a ship's tour, stopped to ask me if the water was heated. We also were able to enjoy the music of the HAL Cats as they played poolside today.The muster drill was rather quick and this is the first time on a cruise that attendance had not been taken. While I like the fact that life vests are not needed anymore, my wife still believes that should be worn so that people know how to wear them. I did have some concern, however, because we were assigned Muster Station 7, although my son's bracelet had the number 5 on it. When we asked one of the crew, they said it was fine and I assumed that perhaps they "shared" bracelets. That is, children in assigned to stations 1 and 3, receive a 3, those in 5 and 7 receive a 5, and so on. Logically, this made sense to me as the stations were adjacent to one another and would be a time saving strategy in an emergency. We later discovered, however, that there were bracelets for each station and that my son had been given the wrong bracelet at check-in, which I think is a gross oversight and something that should have been known and verified by the muster personnel. I will say that the guest relations staff were not too pleased when they discovered this.During the muster drill, it was also announced that Lifeboat 14 was left in Seattle for repair, but the passengers were assured that there were enough lifeboats for everyone and that those assigned to Station 14 should not worry. While I do believe this, I'm not sure how confident I'd be if I showed up to a muster station only to discover that my lifeboat was not hanging overhead.Upon returning to our cabin, we discovered that our checked luggage had arrived and we were pleased that it was placed inside the room rather than in the hallway as has occurred on previous cruises. We did discover that we needed more hangers, and although I called and asked for them, they never arrived, so I had to then ask our cabin steward. We also requested a child's robe, which took a couple of days to receive, and a child's life vest that didn't arrive until day 5 of the cruise even though it was requested several times. It wasn't until I finally raised a concern with Guest Relations that we received the child life vest and even then it took an additional day before it arrived.While I realize that there are plenty of life vests onboard and at the muster stations, I still wanted a life vest in the cabin. I was also troubled that it took asking multiple times and that no action was taken on the issue even though multiple crew were asked. The matter was only resolved when my brother spoke to Guest Services, and then it still took a day for the life vest to arrive.Upon returning to the cabin after the muster drill, we called to order my son a movie, but were told that there was a 1 hour wait; instead, we opted to pick up the movie at Guest Services. As an aside, HAL advertised a movie snack pack that seems like a pretty good deal for $10. It includes four sodas or bottles of water, two bags of popcorn, mixed nuts, and a choice of candy bars.After picking up the movie from Guest Services, we headed to an advertised wine sampling. Unlike wine tastings, there was a $2 charge per glass and the choices were limited to a few house wines. Unfortunately, the event started late and the bar server was new, so it took way too long; otherwise, it was a good value. I also liked that they served the nuts small glass bottles that you needed to pour from so that you knew the nuts hadn't been touched by others.Dinner tonight was in Canaletto, which we had reserved through the telephone concierge upon reaching our cabin. We were seated promptly at a nice table for 8 that had bench seating on one side and chairs on the other. My wife, son, and I were seated on the bench and were fortunate enough to have a clear view to the windows, so we were able to enjoy the view through dinner as we sailed out of Puget Sound.Overall, Canaletto was our best overall dinner onboard in terms of consistency across all courses, level of service, taste, etc. While there were excellent items in the Pinnacle and the main dining room, the quality varied from course to course as did the service from night to night. If we had it to do over again, we would have eaten at Canaletto at least one more night.Dinner started with a selection from an antipasto tray that is brought to the table, which was excellent. We also found the soups to be good, including a seafood soup that I didn't think I'd be fond of. The cod dish that my wife had was excellent, and probably the best piece of fish we had during the entire cruise. I opted for the chicken marsala, which was very good. My brother had the pasta with vodka sauce, which he said was good to very good, and seemed to enjoy very much. Dessert at the table consisted of the tiramisu sampling and the gelato, both of which were excellent. I also found the coffee to be the better here than in the main dining room for some reason.While our dinner was excellent, we later discovered that we had missed out on Alaskan king crab legs in the main dining room and were told, when I asked, that that was the only night they were served. While we were disappointed by this, we had plans to eat at Tracy's King Crab Shack in Juneau, so we had that to look forward to.We spent the evening exploring the ship while my son played with grandma. The night included exploring the shops, liquor tasting, attending a raffle at the shops, and attending the production show. The show itself was very good and the seats were very comfortable. I was also impressed with the staging, and the small size of the cruise director's staff, which was excellent by the way. The only downside of the theater was that there were several seats that had poor sight lines.While I expected the cigarette smoke to be bad from the Cruise Critic postings on the HAL board, I wasn't particularly bothered by it even though I am sensitive to cigarette smoke. However, I could smell it in the corridors when passing a room where smoking was occurring as all stateroom doors had vents on them like you might find in laundry rooms.Reflecting on the first day and what I had read on Cruise Critic, I felt that the ship was dark overall. Many of the corridors did not have windows and the overall dark color scheme of the interior made it feel darker. I also wasn't a fan of the carpeting choices. In addition, there was some noticeable wear and tear, although I expected it given that the Oosterdam is scheduled for dry dock at the end of the Alaska season. Examples included the window frame of my mother and brother's cabin showing serious rust, and a shower curtain that was too short in our SY cabin that the door frame of the bath room's door was nearly rusted through as a result of continuous water exposure.Staff was friendly overall, with the exception of my brother being turned away at the Mariner's lunch. However, this was later rectified by Guest Services, who provided us with free meals at the Pinnacle.Monday, 05/23/11 - At SeaToday, it was obvious that we were in open waters as we could feel the motion of the ship once we had left the channel. Once we had rounded Vancouver Island in the early morning, the motion started.The first of perhaps two announcements today occurred at 9 a.m., which actually woke us. Upon waking, we ordered room service for a light breakfast, which took about 35-40 minutes to arrive. We then reviewed the daily program to see what activities we might be interested in attending today. We really liked the layout of the daily program as it was easy to follow and included a nice tear-off section, although I would have preferred an insert as to keep the program intact. My wife particularly liked the daily program after Disney as she thought their daily program was like the "TV guide from hell" with various grids outlining family activities, activities by age level, etc.Lunch today was in the main dining room with the entire family. Service was fairly efficient and we were seated quickly even though there was a line when we arrived. Overall, food and service was good, but not great. For example, the waiter forgot to bring the soup I ordered and the fries served with my burger were cold. Fortunately, the burger itself was very good and the cold pear soup was excellent. My wife had the teriyaki salmon, which was fair at best, while my son had the mac and cheese that was very good. I finished lunch with a blueberry sundae and a cappuccino which were good, while my wife opted for peanut butter cookies form the lido afterwards.We did note that the dining room on HAL was very similar to that of Disney. The only difference was that as you entered and exited the dining room, there were a bunch of parked electric scooters and walkers lining the wall rather than strollers.Like most afternoons, this one was spent in the pool, which was seriously underutilized on this cruise by others, making it a more enjoyable experience than on Disney as there was never a crowd. Fortunately, the dome was closed today, making it a bit warmer than yesterday. However, the movement of the ship was very noticeable in the pool with serious wave action as the pool sloshed back and forth.Prior to dinner, we had our photos taken in the main atrium. We then headed to dinner. Overall, I wasn't very impressed with the Captain's Gala menu and this might have been a better night for Canaletto. That said, there were some good items. At the table, we had Carpaccio (poor), seafood cake (good), beef wellington (good), mushroom risotto (good) and the always available steak (very good). The standout dish tonight, surprisingly, was the sweet and sour shrimp, which was excellent. The tempura shrimp alone make this the dish to order. Desserts were good to fair overall. The chocolate trio I ordered was not as described on the menu and was fair at best. My wife order a custom made sundae using the toppings from the baked Alaska, which she enjoyed. My brother had the always available fruit crisp with ice cream, which he stated was good to very good. The standout dessert, which my son ordered, was the watermelon sorbet pie with chocolate seeds. I wish I had taken a picture of it as it was very creative and actually looked like a wedge of watermelon. While I personally thought it was good as I had to try a sample, I wouldn't have order it again; however, my son wanted it nearly every night even though it wasn't available.After dinner, we attended the production show. I also liked the fact that the Captain's reception was held in the theater and drinks were handed out as you entered. This seemed more convenient and less chaotic than those on other cruises were it took place in the atrium. Overall, the show was fair, although the staging was excellent and included the use of hydraulic lifts, turntables, etc. The big turnoff for me, though, was a song/dance number that included a mock suicide, which caused us to leave the show early as I didn't want my son exposed to such imagery at his age.After the production show, we returned to the cabin where my son watched a ship-provided DVD while we watched some recorded TV programs brought from home. My son really enjoyed his movie as I stopped by the screening room and grabbed some popcorn on our way back to the cabin.We finished the night by enjoying our pillow chocolates—the best we've had on a ship—and turning our clocks back 1 hour. We also completed and hung the breakfast order form for the next morning.Tuesday, 05/24/11 - Glacier BayRoom service breakfast arrived today halfway through the selected time window. Unlike other cruise lines, however, there was no call prior to delivery, only a knock on the door. While I did tip, the server seemed quite surprised and I seriously believed that a tip was not expected. The order was nearly correct; however, I did not receive the hot chocolate I ordered although I did receive the carafe of hot water for it.We left the room for a little more than two hours this morning and were surprised to return to the cabin only to find that it had not been cleaned. This was problematic as we were expecting to host my brother and mother in the cabin while we cruised Glacier Bay. As a result, we had to call for service twice as we needed the extra bed turned back into a couch. While I would have attempted it myself, there was a sign stating otherwise and to call.We stopped briefly at the lido, but there were no seats available. As a result, we ended up taking the few items that we selected back to the cabin. My wife also visited the taco bar, but thought it was poorly laid out and not restocked timely. We supplemented the lido with room service and as expected, there was a 10 minute wait on hold and an hour wait for food. When the food arrived, it was good, not great, and not particularly hot.Having been on an Alaska cruise before, Glacier Bay was about what we expected and it was nice having a large balcony and a cabin to retreat to for warmth. In addition, this was my brother and mother's first time to Alaska, and they really enjoyed the scenery and long sail into and out of Glacier Bay. And although I was concerned about having a cabin on the starboard side based on what I had read on Cruise Critic, we actually ended up spending more time facing the glacier than the port side, which was good as my son fell asleep before we reached the glacier. Fortunately, though, he woke before we left and was able to see it and watch if calve. He just couldn't understand why we couldn't go ice skating on it—after all, it's made of ice—or why we couldn't stop along the shore to play in the snow.This afternoon, we received a plate of chocolates from Guest Services for being turned away at the Mariner's lunch and because of another minor issue. While we chose not to complain, the Guest Services person saw our reservation was linked with my brother's, so she sent a note and the chocolates as a result. Nice touch!Tonight's dinner menu wasn't very appealing, so we ended up in the lido for dinner. Food was okay and it would have been nice to have beverage service. In addition, my mother was told that they were out of some of the entrEes they had on display. Further, service was nearly nonexistent. I really expected more service in the lido based on experience on other cruise lines.The main show tonight was okay. The performer was an impressionist that was on one of the reality TV competition shows. What really surprised me, however, was his appeal at the end of the show to make comments on the guest survey. While I've come to expect this from the cabin steward, dining room team, etc., I've never seen a performer make such an appeal.After the production show, we attended the Love and Marriage game show, which was hilarious. We particularly liked the cruise director's personality and his ability to poke fun at the cruise line and its reputation for attracting seasoned adults.Wednesday, 05/25/11 - JuneauWe started the morning with room service breakfast as usual and as expected delivery occurred in the middle of the selected half hour time window. Today, however, the kitchen/server forgot to include spoons for our three bowls of cereal. Fortunately, we had the spoon from my coffee; otherwise, we would have been out of luck.Having been to Juneau before, we opted to take one of the blue shuttles to Mendenhall Glacier. Although we were planning on being on the first bus, our timing was a bit off so we headed out to the glacier on the second bus. Upon arrival, we headed to the view point and came across my mother, which was a nice surprise as we didn't expect to see her until lunch as she and my brother were on a HAL "Juneau Highlights" tour that they later reported liking.After visiting the view point and taking pictures of the lake and the glacier, we decided to head to the waterfall, approximately a ¾ mile walk each way according to the signage. Along the way, we were able to see pieces of the glacier that either came ashore or were pulled ashore by others. The only downside was that my son "ran out of energy" as he says on the way back, so I ended up carrying for about ½ a mile back to the bus.After spending about two hours at Mendenhall, we caught the bus back to the ship as we were meeting my brother and mother at the dock for lunch. Meeting up with them at Tracy's Crab Shack, I was excited to try the crab legs based on reviews and their menu online. Unfortunately, their prices were significantly higher than online, so we ate lightly and still spent just over $100 sharing three sample plates (1 crab leg, 2 mini crab cakes, and crab bisque).Overall, I felt that while Tracy's Crab Shack was good, it wasn't anything special and I would have been just as happy buying King Crab legs at Costco and cooking them myself. The legs were no more impressive nor better tasting. And the price, while very reasonable based on the menu that was posted online, was about one-third higher than I expected. That said, the crab bisque was amazing, so I would recommend trying it. It was fabulous, meeting, and the best bisque I have ever had; all four adults at the table were in agreement with this.Having split three meals across five people, we reboarded the ship to supplement our lunch and to regroup. We then headed to the tram up to Mt. Roberts. To expedite the trip up, we used the self-serve kiosk to buy our tickets; unfortunately, there was no definition of "child" on the kiosk or on the signage at the ticket desk, so I ended up buying a ticket for my son that I later discovered wasn't needed as children under six do not require their own ticket.The views from Mt. Roberts are fabulous and being able to see the rehabilitated eagle up there is a treat. However, our true purpose was for my son to experience snow and we weren't disappointed. Less than 50 yards from the main building at the top of the tram, we came across a trail that was completely covered in snow, giving my son ample opportunity to play.For those wishing to hike, there are hiking sticks as you exit the building, which we missed the first time. Although we didn't go far, we heard from others that the trails were very slippery, muddy, and snow covered. At one point, we saw someone nearly hip deep in the snow even at the end of May.As far as my son was concerned, the trip up to the mountain was a success and we were able to build a snowman, have a snowball fight, and the like over about a two hour period while my wife shopped for a large portion of the time. While she didn't buy anything, she thought the shop had a good selection and some nicer, higher end items that weren't available in town. And although my son wished for more snow to play in, this was the one and only opportunity he had to do so.Upon returning to the dock, we shopped a little bit before returning to the ship empty handed as we couldn't find anything that interested us. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing in the cabin and likely taking my son swimming, although I don't recall precisely. We were also excited as tonight was our night to try the Pinnacle Grill.After dropping my son off with my mother, we headed to the Pinnacle for dinner. Upon checking in, the host asked us where our little one was, which was a nice touch. When we told him it would just be the two of us, he showed us to a nice booth next to the window, which allowed us to watch the coastline as we sailed away during dinner. What I wasn't prepared for was to see that the dress code was not enforced and some dinners were wearing shorts while others were wearing t-shirts.Overall, we found the entrees to be excellent (bone-in rib eye steak and lobster tail), but were not impressed with the side dishes, except for the sautEed mushrooms. The scalloped potatoes had too much garlic in my opinion and the creamed spinach lacked flavor. As far as the appetizers went, they were good, but not great, with the exception of the seafood platter that included smoked fish. In addition, the waiter did deliver crab cakes that were not order, which were good and a nice touch for otherwise lackluster service.While I do believe the waiter tried to be efficient, he and his assistant just didn't deliver. Simple requests weren't responded too (e.g., a glass of ice requested by my wife) and water glasses went unfilled even when a request for more water was made. Finished plates were also left on the table for much too long and the waiter did not check on us during dinner to see how the meal was or to ask if anything was needed. Further, when we stated that we weren't fond of the soufflEs as they lacked flavor, he seemed insulted and then whispered something to his assistant at the bussing station who then looked back at us. We then waited too long for a replacement dessert and I was never asked if I wanted coffee, which I would have liked.Given the large portion sizes, I did ask to take the remainder of my steak back to the cabin, but I was told that I couldn't as it was against policy. Even so, he did wrap it in foil, but said "he didn't do it," if I was caught. This was extremely surprising since it was almost encouraged and Disney at the waiters there even insisted on making an entirely new plate to take back to the cabin. While I could understand this if it were a second entrEe, given that it was the only entrEe ordered, I just didn't understand why this was the case.Thursday, 05/26/11 - SitkaToday started like most days with room service breakfast delivered halfway through the desired delivery window. Unlike yesterday, though, the order was complete.As we had a ship's tour, we were scheduled to meet in the Vista Lounge at 8:45 for a 9:00 tour. As usual, though, we ended up waiting in the lounge until almost 9:30. And while CNN was playing on the big screen as a diversion, the news stories weren't always child friendly.When we were finally called, we boarded directly onto the Allen Marine vessel for the Sea Otter and Fortress of the Bear tour, which lasted about 3 hours and was excellent. During our time on the water, we saw hump back whales, bold eagles in their nests, sea otters, a harbor seal, a bear, and perhaps one or two other animals. I would, however, suggest bringing along a snack as what was served as the included snack was a cracker with some smoked salmon, although small scones, coffee, and hot chocolate were served earlier. There were other snacks that could be purchased onboard for those less prepared.The tour itself was excellent overall with a naturalist onboard providing audio commentary and cabin assistance to provide help to guests. In addition, a map was provided in addition to binoculars for those who didn't have them or didn't bring them. There were also bathroom facilities onboard for those who needed them. I'd also suggest the upper deck for the best viewing. While a bit colder, it is enclosed on three sides with a large open deck on the back half of the vessel for taking unobstructed photos.Upon arriving at the dock, we waited for a bit before boarding a bus to the Fortress of the Bear. While I really enjoyed our visit here and really appreciate what they are doing, I personally wouldn't go out of my way to go there. However, it was a good place to see bears up close and the commentary provided was excellent. Of course, my son was more interested in the petting zoo than the bears.On our way back to the dock, my son made friends with a girl who was on the bus and who also had the cabin next to ours. As they talked, they began comparing their past cruises and I think it was at this point that my son developed an interest in the kid's club because he knew his "new friend" would be there. We also discovered that my son had been given a wrist band with the wrong muster station based on the number the girl had on her wrist band, even though we had asked at the muster drill.Before returning to the ship via tender, we shopped a bit, picking up a couple of inexpensive t-shirts for my son. We also stopped at Del Sol as my son wanted another "free color changing ring," but none was offered at this location.After returning to the ship, we grabbed a bite to eat and were surprised to discover that my son's life vest had still not been delivered. After some time in the pool, we returned to the cabin to get ready for dinner.We arrived at the dining room at 7:00 p.m. only to be told that we'd have to wait until 7:45 p.m. as it was the Master Chef menu. Somehow, I didn't realize that anytime dining didn't apply tonight. Thus, we asked my son if he'd like to go to the Club Hal for a half hour, which he did, and then we headed to the lounge for a drink and visited with each other. Then shortly thereafter, I headed up to Club Hal and returned to the lounge with my son, who then decided that he'd rather go back to Club Hal than to dinner.After one more trip to Club Hal, we headed off to an adult only dinner. I must admit that I wasn't fond of the Master Chef menu or the "show." I'll admit that it was different, though. My wife also didn't like that they wanted to bring things to the table that weren't ordered, so she graciously informed the waiter that she only wanted what she ordered so that food wood not be wasted.The only item that I can say was very good to excellent was the Oxtail Soup en Croute; and although the shrimp were good, the sauce was terrible. Everything else was fair at best, including desserts. Service also suffered tremendously tonight.Feeling unsatisfied with dinner and not really having much dessert, we headed to Club Hal before hitting the Lido for dessert. However, to our surprise, our son was not there as they were on a Pirate Adventure. So, we headed to the Lido for ice cream, only to see my son and about six other kids come marching through looking for pirate clues. While I feared my son might want to leave upon seeing us, he was having a blast and simply said hello and goodbye before heading back to Club Hal as that is where the clue sent them. Once he returned there, he and the rest of the kids found the "pirate chest" and each were able to take two "treasures" from it.With Club Hal closing at 10 my son went to my mother's cabin so that we could see the main show with my brother. Tonight's show was magician Leo Ward. His show was fabulous and probably the best cruise show I have ever seen, including those on Disney.Upon picking up our son and returning to the cabin after the show, he asked if he could go back to Club Hal tomorrow. While it took awhile, it was nice that he had now taken to the club.Friday, 05/27/11 - KetchikanAs usually, we started today with breakfast from room service, but this time it was delivered at the beginning of the delivery window rather than halfway through as on the previous days. The server today was particularly efficient and verified that we didn't want coffee, stating that he could get us some if we wanted it; I appreciated the thoughtfulness of the offer even though it wasn't wanted. While I tipped a couple of dollars as usual, the server seemed surprised by the tip as did most of the servers. Thus, while I felt it wasn't expected it was generally appreciated. The only thing missing today was the jam for the bagel.Today we had a 9:00 a.m. Duck Tour scheduled with the whole family. My mom wasn't initially going to go, but we convinced her otherwise. The tour was longer than advertised and provided a good overview of Ketchikan and was better than the horse drawn trolley tour we did previously. My only disappointment is that we didn't get closer to town when on the water. Afterwards, my mom returned to the ship with my son as he wanted to go to Club Hal while we went off to shop.I noted a lot of seafood shacks along the pier and would have tried a couple if I had had more time. In addition, the crab was a lot cheaper than in Juneau and some of the shacks offered some of the biggest shrimp I have ever seen. We would have definitely tried one or more of them if we had time.Personally, I believe that Ketchikan deserves a longer port stop. There's a lot to see and some excellent shopping to be had here, and there simply isn't enough time to do much of either. I would have preferred a shorter stop in Sitka in favor of a longer stop here. And while it rained, it was more of a drizzle and I did fine without a jacket, although I would have worn if I hadn't given mine to my wife. I had another in my backpack, but it wasn't bad enough to take off to get another jacket.We enjoyed the emporium (Tongass Trading Company) right at the dock and purchased a number of items at an excellent price using the coupons we received in Seattle while checking in. They offered a number of freebies in addition to excellent prices on socks, t-shirts, etc. They also offered glow in the dark and color changing t-shirts, although the coupon ones were cheaply made and it was worth purchasing those that weren't on discount. They also offered six packs of soda and water at a very reasonable price with coupon for those interested. And while they have three stores, the largest is right there at the dock making it very convenient.Upon returning to the ship, which was more efficient than in Juneau thanks to two gangways, we met my mother, after she retrieved our son from Club Hal, and brother at the main dining room for lunch. We were given a table in the aft at a table next to the rear windows, which provided an excellent view during lunch and allowed us to see as we sailed away and the Celebrity Century move in to take our spot at the dock.Lunch today was enjoyable. My wife and I split the salmon and a white fish dish, which were both good although neither was excellent. The standout item of this meal was the whipped sweet potatoes. My mom had the honey glazed short ribs, which were good, and the buttermilk mashed potatoes, which were excellent. My brother had the chicken sandwich, which he said was good as well. The other standout item that my son loved was the cold grape and cranberry soup. Sadly, the desserts were only fair, lychee sundae and chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. Overall, service was sluggish, which made us late for our Black Label photo shoot that we had reserved a few days earlier.While getting changed for the photo shoot, we received a phone call for the Assistant Hotel Manager asking if my son's life vest had been delivered and I informed her that it had not. It did arrive later today well into the cruise. While I wasn't worried about the life vest as they are plentiful at the muster stations, it was disappointing to see how slowly HAL responded to this issue.We had high hopes for the Black Label Photography session, but we found the experience underwhelming at best. The photographer seemed to lack experience with children and spoke to our 4 year old at a level well beyond his understanding. She kept telling him to "just relax," and I'm not sure any 4 year old really knows how to do this. In addition, he has a lot of experience with photographers and has been used by some in photo competitions because he's very cooperative and photogenic, so we were really surprised when there were only three or four shots that we really liked. And the price alone, $595, was really revolting given the limited amount of time that the photographer spent with us and the fact that the photographer didn't listen to what we really wanted from the photo shoot.After the photo shoot, we allowed my son to nap and then spent some time walking around the ship as my brother took our son swimming. We stuck mainly to the 9th and 10th decks as we wanted to be able to check on our son periodically and were surprised at how underutilized the pool was yet again. At no time during the entire week were there more than 3 or 4 people in the main pool.During our walk, I finally made it up to the Crow's Nest which was very popular at this time because of happy hour. All of the tables were full and everyone seemed to be having a good time. And although we weren't partaking, the service was excellent and we were immediately asked if we wanted something upon entering. If I had it to do over again, I would have made a point to visit the Crow's Nest more and would have planned on partaking in happy hour. Perhaps on the next HAL cruise.Upon returning to the pool, I was surprised to find that my son, brother, and an older gentleman were all playing catch with a small soft ball and they all seemed to be having fun. With some coaxing, I was able to get my son out of the pool so that we could get ready for dinner.On our way to dinner, we had a few pictures taken in the lobby by a younger American photographer we took a liking to. Afterwards, we took my son to Club Hal and later reported that he enjoyed the "unbirthday party" that they had there.Upon arrival at the main dining room, we had to wait approximately 15 minutes to be seated. However, when finally shown to a table, I was left wondering why we had to wait as there were a large number of empty tables, many of which remained empty throughout our dinner. However, given the quality of service we had tonight, it was probably a good thing that all of the tables were note occupied. While service wasn't bad, it was inconsistent with a couple of courses coming timely, and then long pauses between the main course, simple requests, and dessert.As for the actual meal, the escargot, which is a dish I order on every cruise when it is available, was very good and the most tender I have had on any cruise. It would have rated excellent had it had more garlic; even so, it's worth ordering again. While I had high hopes for the cream of four mushrooms soup, it was terrible and probably the worst soup of the entire trip. Tonight was also "lobster night" in the form of a surf and turf option. I order the surf and turf, which I thought was very good, but would order the sauce they serve with the lobster tail on the side next time. In addition, the filet mignon was the smallest I had ever seen, so take note if you're a huge beef fan. My wife ordered the same thing, but asked for the turf to be held. She was pleased when her plate arrived with an additional lobster tail in place of the steak.Although the service was inconsistent tonight, the server was very attentive otherwise. For example, when he removed my lobster tail from its shell, he noted how small it was and insisted that he get me another one without being asked. We finished off the meal with the brownie hot fudge sundae for dessert, which was excellent even though my sundae was missing the brownie.After dinner, we went to the "Liars Club" game show in the Queens Lounge. The cruise director, someone from marketing, and Leo Ward, the magician, were the contestants. The show itself was hilarious and I laughed throughout the entire show. I highly recommend attending, although I am sure that the quality of the show depends on the contestants.Just before 10 p.m., we picked up our son from Club Hal; this time, he didn't want to leave and we had to explain that they were closing. We ended up going to the production show, which was good, but we left about halfway through as we had seen enough.Tonight was also the "Dessert Extravaganza," so we headed up to the pool deck to check everything out. Personally, I thought the event was overstated as it is on most cruise lines. While the displays were pretty, many of the items lacked flavor. In addition, half of the items that they advertised would be served were nowhere to be found, including chocolate covered strawberries which are my son's favorite. Fortunately, I had ordered a couple of plates throughout the cruise, so he was satisfied there. In addition, the "ice cream" parlor that was advertised was no different than what was traditionally offered in the lido.Saturday, 05/28/11 - VictoriaWaking up earlier than planned, I tried to attend the disembarkation talk, but when I arrived the show lounge was packed and there was no way to get in. Have cruised before, I wasn't too worried and simply headed to the coffee bar instead, which offered good coffee at an extremely reasonable price.Today was also the Mariner's Brunch, which we attended. The menu was quite limited (2 appetizers, 3 entrees, and 1 dessert). Complimentary wine was also served. Among the table, we had the quiche (good) and the braised short ribs (very good). A cold pear and apple soup was also served, but in my opinion it tasted more like applesauce than a soup; even so, my son enjoyed it.With only one dessert choice, we decided to hit the Lido for dessert and ended up with the standby (ice cream and cookies). And while HAL makes the absolute best peanut butter cookies, which were extremely popular, they were rarely available—a big disappointment in the end.With our dessert cravings satisfied, we went to the shops to buy our nieces a gold-by-the-inch bracelet we had liked for their birthdays. What they don't tell you in the advertised price is that there is an additional $5 charge per bracelet for the clasp. I also made the mistake of suggesting that it was plated gold to my wife and ended up receiving a lecture from the clerk regarding the "golding" process and how it is better and guaranteed for life. In reality, I didn't care as it was a gift I thought my nieces (6 and 9) would enjoy and something I didn't want to invest too much in as the likelihood of them getting lost was high.With Club Hal reopened after lunch, we dropped our son off there before returning to the room to pack and complete our customer comment forms. Although I had anticipated questions about smoking from the Cruise Critic boards, none were asked probably because a decision regarding the smoking policy had already been made as announced after we returned. What was odd, though, is that the questionnaire asked about the ports of call, including Victoria, which we hadn't yet visited. While I understand why they want feedback, HAL wanted the forms returned by 6 p.m., which was the time we were scheduled to dock.Afternoon was spent in the pool then to dinner as soon as the opened so that we would be ready for our tour of Butchart Gardens. Dinner tonight was the first night that we ordered for my son off of the children's menu, which was a huge mistake and delayed service tremendously. While our waiter kept us posted, he explained that they only have one chef for "specialty meals," which includes the kid's menu and that he was inundated with orders; as a result, we had to wait. Given that it was spaghetti and meatballs, I didn't think it would be such a hassle especially since they could have sent someone up to the Lido in less time. I had the always available steak with mashed potatoes (both good) and my wife had the chicken and beef sautE, which she rated as fair. Unfortunately, by the time my wife got the sour cream for her baked potato, it was cold, although the waiter did offer to get her another baked potato.Seated near the window, it was nice to be able to see us sailing close to Vancouver Island. However, it was also obvious that we were running late as we finished dinner before we had even entered the harbor. While this was a blessing in terms of not being rushed, we knew it would impact our time at the gardens. Fortunately, we had been there previously and this was mainly a trip for my son to enjoy the gardens.After a brief stop to the cabin to grab my backpack and my son's stroller, we headed to the Vista Lounge to wait with everyone else. The staff there did keep us updated and quickly cleared us out of the lounge as soon as we were docked. From there, we went through the terminal building to a number of waiting busses. Unfortunately, because of our late arrival, we didn't reach the gardens until 8:30 and thus only had 90 minutes to enjoy the gardens, which is about 1/3 the amount of time that you need. Therefore, we only got through the "sunken gardens" and not through the other three or four that are there. If it weren't for my son, we would have stayed in the harbor area given the short amount of time in port. In fact, on our last Alaska cruise, we didn't even bother to get off the ship as it wasn't worth the hassle for such a short amount of time ashore.We were fortunate to have a very good bus driver who provided us with a tour and overview of Victoria on the return trip. Unfortunately, due to our late return, the only thing we had time for was the small souvenir shop at the terminal building that Princess and NCL were docked at as the HAL terminal was undergoing renovations. Finding nothing of interest, we reboarded the ship; however, the elevator situation was pretty bad given that they had locked down some of the elevators for luggage collection purposes.Hungry, we headed to the Lido to grab a bite to eat and were grateful that HAL had an fairly substantial offering at this late hour as in days past. I was concerned that they might close things up early because it was the last night onboard. While there was a bit of a wait for food, it wasn't terribly bad. However, there was no seating to be found, so we headed off to our cabin to eat and to put our bags out. We also needed to get our son to sleep.With a request for all luggage to be in the hallway by 1 a.m., we ate and then quickly finished up the limited packing that remained. I then put the bags in the hallway, where they were quickly collected. Then packing as much of our carry-ons for the next day, my wife discovered that she had not placed a jar of pickled kelp from Sitka in our checked bags. Not wanting to deal with it in the morning, I found our luggage in the elevator lobby and was able cut off the zip tie, repack the bag, and rezip tie the bag without ever being noticed, which was a bit concerning for me and why I like to secure my bags with zip ties so that I know if they've been tampered with.Finally ready for bed, we hung our breakfast order on the door for the morning and got a few hours of sleep.Sunday, 05/29/11 - DisembarkationDisembarkation was excellent overall. We had the 8:30-9:00 a.m. departure window and it was nice being able to stay in our cabin until called. There other plus was the ability to order room service breakfast. Overall, I would say HAL provides the best disembarkation experience of any cruise we've been on.Waiting until almost 9:00 a.m., we were able to simply walk off without any wait. The cruise director was also at the gangway to bid farewell to passengers, which I thought was very high class and a nice touch. Unfortunately, once we were off the ship, the port building was a bit of a mess with two ships disembarking at the same time; however, we were able to locate our luggage and eventually made our way through U.S. Customs and then waited for my mother and brother to make it off the ship.The lines for taxis and busses were incredibly long and we ended up taking a "gypsy" van to the airport for $10 per person. While the driver was part of a registered limousine service, he wasn't authorized to pick up at the port. In the end, it worked out and we arrived at the airport quickly.If you are flying out on disembarkation day, I highly recommend a flight no earlier than noon, and 1 p.m. for comfort as three ships disembark on Sundays. The lines to check luggage were incredibly long, particularly at Southwest Airlines, with a line wrapping around the entire check-in counter building. Despite the length of the line, we still were able to get our bags checked within an hour of getting in line, probably closer to 45 minutes. That said, there were several who were shocked at the length of the line and concerned about making their flights. The line at curbside check-in wasn't much better.Once we had checked our bags, we were lucky enough to find that Sea-Tac offered a family security check line that was relatively short. For those interested, the airport uses backscatter x-ray machines for the full-body scans. What was nice about the airport, though, is that they have a number of eateries and a child's play area, so we were able to enjoy lunch and allow my son to burn off some energy before boarding our flight, which was uneventful overall.General ThoughtsThe sea view elevators were a big hit with my son. I particularly liked that the doors were also made of glass, so they served as windows when the elevator car wasn't there.The ship is in need of dry dock. While the wear and tear did not take away from our vacation, it was obvious that some things needed to be attended to, particularly rust in our bathroom and around the window frame in my mother's cabin. In addition, some of the soft good, including our verandah furniture and couch pillows, needed to be redone. However, I purposely looked based on what has been stated on Cruise Critic, so it's possible such things might not be noticed by others and that other cabins are in better condition.I wasn't a huge fan of the ship's overall design. The general layout seemed darker and more crowded than other ships I've been on, many of which were of similar size. I believe this resulted from the dark color scheme of the interior, lack of a grand atrium with skylights, and mostly interior corridors as small lounges took up most of the windowed areas. That said, if you are someone who enjoys lounging in the public areas, this is the ship for you. However, I did like the design of the daily program as it was extremely easy to follow and to see what was being offered throughout the day.The Crow's Nest was a fabulous place. Definitely go there at least once and keep in mind that happy hour is from 4-5 p.m. The coffee bar is also located nearby and had very reasonable prices compared to land-based coffee shops and other cruise lines.The seating in the main theater is very comfortable; however, be careful when selecting seats as there are many seats that have obstructed sight lines.The lido is too small—at least in terms of seating capacity—for the size of the ship. However, the selection was very good overall and they served the best peanut butter cookies I have ever had and I'm not a particularly big fan of peanut butter cookies compared to other flavors. The pool grill was mediocre at best and never served a decent order of french fries all week and were typically served cold. Disney's pool grill wins hand down in terms of selection, quality, and freshness of items served.Room service was good and offered a decent variety of items particularly for breakfast. We were able to write in a few things on the breakfast order form and always received them. It was particularly nice to be able to enjoy room service on disembarkation morning. The downside is that there was usually a 45 minute wait when ordering off of the in-room menu. As for other food, the dining room was hit and miss with more fair to good items than very good to excellent items, although I realize the food is subjective. What surprised me, however, is how much we liked Canaletto, both in terms of food quality and service. We'll definitely be dining at Canaletto on future HAL cruises.While HAL does not offer an "unlimited" soda card like other cruise lines do, I actually liked the $50 for $25 better as service was always good. One of the complaints on other lines is that the servers are not motivated to serve soda as there is no tip in it for them. HAL's system eliminates this entirely as the waiter is receiving the traditional auto tip that he/she would receive otherwise.The crew seemed very friendly overall and went out of their way to say hello, carry on conversations, etc. However, I wouldn't say they were any friendly than Disney nor would I say they were less friendly. I also really liked the crews' uniforms. Service was mostly efficient in the main dining room even though we had anytime dining.While we never had a chance to watch an entire movie in the Screening Room, we did stop by. The seats were extremely comfortable, but the screen was much too small. The seating layout also seemed like a waste of space and only offered seating for about 30 people. I would say it was on par with what I've experienced on NCL and I won't make a comparison with Disney as Disney has a real movie theater onboard. Personally, I would have preferred different movies playing throughout the day rather than the same movie playing all day long.I wasn't thrilled with the security of the kid's club. Check-in and check-out consisted of simply signing on a roster and indicating where you might be. There were no pages are phones issued in case there was an emergency. In addition, the door to the club was not secured in any way making it possible for a child to leave unnoticed as there are blind spots when the adjacent room is used. That said, there were only about 8 kids in the club at any given time, so I'm sure it was easy to keep track of everyone. And whn ile we were supposed to give a password when picking up, it was never asked for. Surprisingly, however, I think HAL did a decent job with the limited space and staff that they had and I actually think my son preferred HAL's club over Disney's.I enjoyed having a DVD player in the room. The DVD lending library was an additional bonus. We only had this available to us once before and that was when we were staying in a suite on NCL. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
Five years is a long time to go without any kind of vacation. That's what my husband and I have to look forward to. Given this prospect, we decided on a final hurrah . . . going out with a bang, if you will. After much discussion with ... Read More
Five years is a long time to go without any kind of vacation. That's what my husband and I have to look forward to. Given this prospect, we decided on a final hurrah . . . going out with a bang, if you will. After much discussion with friends and travel agents, reading reviews and listening to referrals, we were confident that cruising with Holland America would be absolutely amazing. We were told that HAL receives the highest rating possible for vessels that aren't all suites. This sounded promising. I've cruised with Carnival (underwhelming but really on par with HAL if the truth be told), Princess (very impressive), and Royal Caribbean (surprisingly extraordinary). I felt that HAL would be yet another step up. It was lateral, at best - even a step down, at worst.Wanting to spoil ourselves, we booked a deluxe verandah suite, and it was on a back corner, so we had a balcony suitable for dance parties. Very huge. Absolutely loved that part. Enjoyed it every day. The bed was particularly comfortable, our room attendants were the best, the view incomparable, and the bathroom and closet space were impressive. But - the carpet was stained, curtains torn and stained, and furniture was crammed and was too much for the space allotted. These things aren't cruise busters at all, but for the price we paid, I want clean curtains, by golly! And I don't think carpet replacement is too much to ask, when it appears as though it's never been replaced. And I believe the Westerdam was refurbished only four years ago. Really? Hmmm.Many reviews state, and the buzz out there is that the dEcor on HAL ships is "elegantly understated." I think better to say "definitely unplanned." Nothing matched. Some of the "art" and furniture was tacky and cheap. Many wallpaper tears, wall chips, mismatched decorations, etc. This isn't by any means future-cruise-prohibitive, but worth noting when there are many other cruise lines out there, that leave a much better aftertaste.The Vista Dining Room and Pinnacle Grill offered superb dining and service. Apart from the wine attendant in the Vista. We don't drink alcohol, but it was still his task to get our soft drinks. He was slow, unpleasant, and somewhat reticent. On the other hand, the Lido Buffet was really amateur. I hate to say it but I've had better cafeteria experiences on college campuses. The Lido was always overcrowded, never had enough seating, the drink waiters wouldn't wait on us, the food temperature was most certainly below health department regulations . . . had to be. The selection was great, but that's where the greatness ended. The counters were poorly set up, given the necessary traffic flow in and out of the dining room. More than one line would start and stop at the same counter and it was very confusing and the staff did not offer any guidance. We tried alternatives: Terrace Grill - burgers (snore) - very slow service. Poolside taco/nacho bar - seldom replenished - often out of plates and utensils. All that to say, breakfast and lunch options were lacking.Photography was way overpriced and conducted by very young photographers who obviously were not terribly skilled in lighting or composition.Entertainment was alright, but the seating was uncomfortable compared to all other cruise line theaters I've been in.Staff direction and interest was simply non-existent when it came to embarkation and disembarkation. The worst of that being on initial embarkation in Seattle. People were wandering onto the ship like sheep and no one was telling them if staterooms were ready or if they needed to proceed to the Lido or where to find alternate elevators. That part was seriously unimpressive and offered a bad first impression.In hindsight, the primarily outstanding elements of this trip were the ports of call, which had nothing to do with HAL. As far as HAL goes, the outstanding elements of the cruise itself were the big balcony, the bed, the bathroom, and the Vista Dining Room food and waiters.By comparison, a previous cruise to Alaska was a far more pleasant experience on Princess. My Mexican Riviera cruise on Royal Caribbean was outstanding, and even Carnival's Mexican Riviera cruise at least had better dEcor, if nothing else more impressive than HAL. HAL would benefit greatly by exploring the Lido on Royal Caribbean, the service on Princess, and the refurbish rate of Carnival.Will we cruise with HAL again? Hard to say. Would probably do it only if price point was more favorable. I seriously don't know what all the fuss is about. I think the three other lines I've cruised on beat HAL on various levels. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
Arrived in Seattle the day before embarking on the Rotterdam for our seven-day cruise to Alaska, via the inside passage. This was my 5th cruise to Alaska on as many cruise lines. Embarkation was a breeze. Absolutely smooth as glass. We ... Read More
Arrived in Seattle the day before embarking on the Rotterdam for our seven-day cruise to Alaska, via the inside passage. This was my 5th cruise to Alaska on as many cruise lines. Embarkation was a breeze. Absolutely smooth as glass. We were directed to our room and our luggage arrived about 2 hours later which was no problem. We enjoyed a cocktail on deck while waiting for the ship to sale. The first night of the trip was rather rough so I popped a couple Dramamine......oops! I was out like a light for about 13 hours. Be sure to check the milligrams on the label. The beds on the Rotterdam and very comfortable, much better than the beds on RCC. The service was excellent in every area of the ship. The Pinnacle Dining room was absolutely amazing. Literally the best steak I've ever had in my life. This is no joke. Here's where it gets a little dicey! The food in the Lido is mediocre to good, depending on what time you get there. I think the main problem is the way they have it set up. You don't just stand in line and go through and select what you want. They have various stations from which you get different courses. For instance, they have a line for "starters", a line for "Entrees", etc. It's inconvenient and everyone is crawling all over each other. One night we had dinner in the Italian restaurant, the Cannelloni, I think it's called. It was the pits! Service, as usual, was beyond excellent. Food was awful. Really the worst! It was truly the polar opposite of the Pinnacle Grill. The ports of call.......typically beautiful. The presentation at Hubbard Glacier was excellent, the gentlemen who boarded the ship to give history of the glacier, etc., were quite good and the whole glacier experience was wonderful. Our excursion in Sitka was the best of the best. Overall, the cruise on Holland America's Rotterdam was adequate. The service was top drawer, the food overall was very average (with the marked exception of the Pinnacle Grill which was great). The main disappointment on this cruise was the entertainment. It was by far the worst on any line I've experienced. The cruise director was a nice guy and did the best he could with what he had to work with. The other entertainers and emcees were just awful. They were condescending and disinterested. We made it through two shows and gave up!! Really bad. Getting off the ship was easy, no problem. Royal Caribbean has Holland America beat hands down in the entertainment area. Now on mattresses, they could take a lesson from HAL. Service on HAL was probably better than RCC. HAL beats Carnival, NCL and Celebrity and Princess without even trying. Overall, good. Not exceptional. Will go RCC next time. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
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