4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
This cruise was a great value for the money. The food was always good, although I won't say it was ever amazing. The cabin stewards were fantastic. All the entertainers were really talented. The clients were mostly retired ... Read More
This cruise was a great value for the money. The food was always good, although I won't say it was ever amazing. The cabin stewards were fantastic. All the entertainers were really talented. The clients were mostly retired people, although we did see some families. This was definitely not a party ship. There were not a lot of extra things going on during the cruise, and usually the ones they had overlapped a lot. Most of the entertainment was in the evenings. The days in port did not have much going on, so I would definitely advise spending the money to go on shore excursions. We liked the choice of open seating where you could show up anytime between 5:15 and 9:00 and be seated in the dining room with random people each night. The dining room was very casual, even on the two gala nights. Glacier Bay was amazing. Our ship spent an extra half hour there because it was such a beautiful day. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
We loved this cruise. First some information about why we did this cruise. My wife always wanted to cruise and to go to Alaska, while I was very skeptical of cruises in general. As a long haul plane/car/bus/train/ferry/backpack ... Read More
We loved this cruise. First some information about why we did this cruise. My wife always wanted to cruise and to go to Alaska, while I was very skeptical of cruises in general. As a long haul plane/car/bus/train/ferry/backpack traveler I thought a cruise would be too boring, but she chose the one way Northbound which would sail on 5/27/2018 and I wanted to try the experience after all. She said that the best cruises sail out of Vancouver, while those that sail out of Seattle have more open sea navigation and are subject to rough weather and sea. Also, the one way cruises allows you to see more ports instead of spending time going back to the port where you left and on a 7 days cruise "time is short". We finally bought the cruise and airplane tickets with me more and more skeptical and her more and more excited as the date of the sailing approached. CHECK IN and EMBARKATION were quite easy. We dropped our luggage, but it was not immediately clear where to drop it. We eventually found the right place. We had 1 small backpack each and shared a 1 big 29 inch luggage. The terminal Canada Place in Vancouver is quite big and is near a not so good neighborhood in Vancouver. There was some waiting time inside the terminal and some briefing done in groups. Then some more waiting time standing in line for the immigration and passport check which was somewhat more than a waiting time for the TSA at JFK, ATL or major airports in Europe by my experience. We did not have priority boarding and there was a long line of people in front of us. After all, it was not that bad and we were in good mood. I did not see dramas or stress in the people around us. Actually people were very chatty and seemed very happy and wanted to meet new friends like on a school trip. SHIP and PASSENGERS: The ship is big, but not as big as one of the latest generation behemoths. Big enough to have multiple choices on board, but not so big that one feels lost. Most passengers were Americans, but there were several Europeans and Asians. The crew was international with most of the waiters and cabin stewards and hostesses from Indonesia or South East Asia. Captain was British. The vast majority of the passengers were older people, with some younger and young couples. This ship has been refurbished in 2017 and can carry about 2000 passengers. CABIN: Our suite cabin was nice and large enough. There was a queen size bed, a sofa with a coffee table, a desk, a flat screen smart TV and enough closet space. Our balcony was wide enough and we liked having a view of the sea. I also used it to take many pictures from the balcony during navigation and especially on the last day which was in open sea. We saw a lot of marine life. Weather was good and this contributed to me staying outside quite a bit during navigation. I also took a nap outside with my jacket on on one of the reclining chairs. Our two cabin stewards Subianto and Andri were very friendly, always smiling and courteous. Our cabin had a bathroom with separate shower box and Jacuzzi-like bathtub which my wife loved, double sink and big mirror. FOOD: Food was good. Portions on the MDR and buffet were small and there were only a few plated dishes available at the time, but as a couple of them were taken, a few more were added for other passengers to take. Some of the dishes were self serve and some others were served, like meats and other hot dishes. The system seemed to me very efficient and avoided a good bit of waste by making sure not more that is needed is shown to the passengers. We liked the taco bar near the pool. We tried the burgers, but with most of the better and healthier food downstairs in the MDR and buffet, we went there most of the time. Also there was quite a bit of a waiting time and they gave you a buzzer that lighted up and vibrated when your burger was ready. We tried the Pinnacle Grill (Lucy was our good waitress) and the Canaletto (very good). Dining hours were oriented towards early lunch and dinner times and there was a somewhat inconvenient; almost a food black out between 9 and 10:30 which is our usual dinner time. I know that's late! There was some pizza available and a few other items during that time. The most smiling and friendly in the MDR Vista seemed this particular server called Michael Pena and I wrote his name down. MDR was full but we always found a table for us. Line was orderly and polite. We ordered food in our cabin a couple of times and on the last day since our debarkation time was early. AMENITIES, ACTIVITIES and ENTERTAINMENT: We went to the main theater to see some shows and we liked James Cielen the magician and Mike Siegel the comic. Less the love songs Broadway show. We sat at the Piano Duel room with Trevor and Emily who entertained passengers singing and playing piano. We also listened to a classical music concert once and the blues rock live band. There is a lot of selling and some upselling, from jewelry to art, to tour packages, to photos, and souvenirs. The lectures were finalized to have people purchase something at the end. I guess this is part of the business. I spent quite some time in the main promenade walking towards my daily steps goal before dinner time, more than attending lectures. My wife spent time in the cabin resting or in the whirlpool bathtub. We watched a few movies in our stateroom during the cruise. Fun and annoying thing is that the movie "Bladerunner" kept stopping at the same point during the last part like the TV was running out of memory or something like this and we could not see the end of it. ITINERARY: Vancouver, Inside Passage (great), Ketchikan (fun lumberjack show and totems in the town), Juneau (a great whale watching tour and 2 local museums), Skagway (our scenic train ride was cancelled because of a landslide on the train tracks, so we did a tour of the town and a saw small theater show), Glacier Bay (4 hours including 2 hours in front of a calving glacier), open sea navigation (lots of marine life including whales, sea lions and a few birds) and ended in Seward. Itinerary was good and we chose this one on the one way Northbound because we could see more places than a round trip cruise. We ended in Seward and took a bus to Anchorage with ACT Transportation who stopped along the route to many places (Exit Glacier, Alyeska aerial tramway, a wildlife refuge and a tour of Anchorage). The bus company provided us with lunch. We purchased all this but the Seward-Anchorage transfer through the cruise line. Most of the tour operators are in sync with the cruise lines arrivals and departures, but it was more convenient for us having the tickets printed and delivered to our cabin and after all the price was the same. CONCLUSION: We really liked this cruise. I did not have many expectations and I did not cruise before, so I did not even have anything to compare this to. I was surprised at how much I liked almost everything. Ship was nice, our cabin was nice too, service was very good, we liked the food and dining especially at the Canaletto and Pinnacle restaurants. We really enjoyed the ports visited, the itinerary and the shore excursions, which were the main reasons for this trip. On the minus side the early dining times and all the many selling attempts were the two things we did not like. Entertainment could have been a little better, but it was fine. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
This was our second Alaskan cruise. We chose this itinerary because we wanted to see Denali and then sail one way to Vancouver rather than just the Inside Passage. We had been on Holland America before on the Eurodam and had a great ... Read More
This was our second Alaskan cruise. We chose this itinerary because we wanted to see Denali and then sail one way to Vancouver rather than just the Inside Passage. We had been on Holland America before on the Eurodam and had a great experience. The Westerdam was not as nice as the Eurodam in terms of the ship's condition. We were expecting more after reading about the refurbishment of the ship. The second deck reeked with a sewage smell. It was the worst the first two days of the cruise before it got slightly better. In fact, it was so bad that we just avoided Deck 2 around America's Test Kitchen for most of the week. All in all, the cruise was great, but the ship's condition less so. Food was delicious on all occasions at all venues, and the servers were wonderful. If you have dietary allergies/needs, the servers and kitchen take very good care of you. In terms of the passengers, it was a much older average age than we were. That was fine for us as we didn't want a wild, nightlife. However, we were mostly to ourselves because of the age difference. Embarkation at Seward was horrendous. All the buses from Denali arrived at once, along with the train. So, almost all the ship's passengers arrived at once and overwhelmed the cruise terminal. This was extremely poor planning and made for a not so nice start to the cruise. All the terminal workers were friendly and made the best of a bad situation, but better planning by HAL was needed. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
I liked the fact that this was a smaller ship than many and it suited us perfectly. The cruise was no too long but long enough to leisurely see the sights we wanted and the ports we thought the most worth seeing. The full day up to the ... Read More
I liked the fact that this was a smaller ship than many and it suited us perfectly. The cruise was no too long but long enough to leisurely see the sights we wanted and the ports we thought the most worth seeing. The full day up to the glaciers was spectacular. Our cabin was well appointed and very comfortable. The staff were all exceptionally friendly and helpful and they came from such a diverse range of cultures it was a pleasure talking to them. They seemed to have no pressure to not have the ability to stop for a chat. The entertainment, in particular with two pianists was spectacular. This was my first cruise so I was unsure what to expect. The boat was very stable and even the first night when we went through a storm, it was uneventful, although I had chosen a cabin on the first floor to avoid too much movement, and it paid off. Well worth the experience. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2018
We are from india , dr. ASHISH KOTAK AND FAMILY 1ST ABOUT CABIN THEY HAVE UPGRADE MY CABIN WITHOUT MY KNOWLEDGE AS LOCATION IS CHANGE AND FLOOR IS ALSO CHANGE WHICH I DID NOT LIKE 2nd as we are vegetarian and already we have inform ... Read More
We are from india , dr. ASHISH KOTAK AND FAMILY 1ST ABOUT CABIN THEY HAVE UPGRADE MY CABIN WITHOUT MY KNOWLEDGE AS LOCATION IS CHANGE AND FLOOR IS ALSO CHANGE WHICH I DID NOT LIKE 2nd as we are vegetarian and already we have inform them before 2 month they have provide veg meal but everyday same rice and dal , i mean they are nit interested to serve good variety of indian veg food though main chief chef was indian but not good response as on board only 2 family are pure vegetarian and indian , thumb rule is if indian family are more then they have to serve indian good veg. Food so though we have paid same cost and service or tip daily as others we were getting nothing , for non vegetarian food with so much option but for pure veg, one or two , so be prepared . OTHERWISE SERVICE OF ALL STAFF EXCELLENT AND EVERYTHING WELL ON TIME OVERALL ENJOYED MY 1 ST CRUISE Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
My husband and I traveled on the Holland America Westerdam to Alaska in May (2018). Both of us were very pleased with the trip. Though we were embarking out of Vancouver we flew into Seattle and took the Amtrak Cascade. What a great way to ... Read More
My husband and I traveled on the Holland America Westerdam to Alaska in May (2018). Both of us were very pleased with the trip. Though we were embarking out of Vancouver we flew into Seattle and took the Amtrak Cascade. What a great way to travel! We found a fun, funky hotel (Moda) near the cruise terminal which was inexpensive and had a great restaurant/bar attached. We explored some of Vancouver and would love to go back and see more. All of the advice that we read was to get to the cruise terminal, Canada Place, early but my husband works at the port here and based on his experience we waited until about 1:30 to go. It was a smooth process and took less than an hour to get on board. We did hear from quite a few people on the cruise that their embarkation took a long time and they had issues but they all got there super early. Based on our experience I would wait until later to go (and yes there were 4 ships leaving from there that day). The ship and crew were great. Yes, it was a cruise of predominantly older folks and I do not think I would recommend it for families. For us though it was fine. If you want excitement every minute you won't get that either but if you are ok with relaxing, sitting on the deck and just enjoying the ride than you will be fine. We were not that impressed with the stage shows but the talent t BB Kings and Billboard On Board were great and we spent each evening in one of those two places. Our balcony cabin (4021) was a nice size and we had plenty of room for everything. I am not sure how much other people bring when there are complaints that there is not enough room. We were taking the land tour as well so had 2 large suitcases and 2 carry on bags and we had no issues putting things away. The room had several USB ports so we did not use the extra plug adapter we brought. We did have them do laundry twice during the cruise (the all you can stuff in a bag option) and it was returned the next day beautifully pressed. My husband wishes he had that kind of service at home! Our steward was super friendly and though we never asked for anything special I am sure he would have taken care of it in a heartbeat. All the crew was very friendly. The ship never felt crowded except in the buffet areas but if you just go out by the Lido pool (and there is a roof and is climate controlled) it was easy to find a table. Much nicer than sitting inside anyway. We had open seating for the dining room and had most dinners and a couple of breakfasts there. We met new people every time which was fun. My only real complaint was that only the wine stewards could bring drinks and there were not enough of them. I don't mind waiting for food if I have my drink but waiting a long time for both was a little irritating at times. We ate in the Pinnacle grill once and they had the same issue. Disembarkation at all of the ports and the final one went smoothly and we never had any issues.Just pay attention and don't be in a hurry to be the first off and it goes easily. We enjoyed each port (Ketchican, Juneau and Skagway). We did a few excursions that we booked separately and only booked the White Pass train in Skagway through the cruise. That was so much fun and I highly recommend it.I would have liked more time in Ketchican and less in Juneau and Skagway (which is tiny!). Glacier Bay was amazing and being a smaller ship we were able to get close to the glacier. Overall we had a great time. We are not high maintenance people so we didn't ask the crew for much but anything we did ask for was taken care of promptly. We would absolutely go again (and I really want to). Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
We did this cruise coming straight off a relocation cruise Sydney to Vancouver on the Noordam. We disembarked the Noordam at 10 am and boarded the Westerdam 3pm on the same day. All went smoothly and we were able to drop our luggage ... Read More
We did this cruise coming straight off a relocation cruise Sydney to Vancouver on the Noordam. We disembarked the Noordam at 10 am and boarded the Westerdam 3pm on the same day. All went smoothly and we were able to drop our luggage in the morning which allowed us to explore Vancouver during the day. This was the Westerdams second cruise after a major refit so everything was fairly new including our cabin. One negative of the refit compared to the sister ship Noordam is the change to the Crows Nest on deck 10 which I think is a negative step as thee space is now taken up by future cruises desk,,explorers café and a lecture space. As such much of relaxing atmosphere of the old Crows Nest is gone as is most of the scenic cruising space. Moving the Explorers Café from the Promenade Deck to deck 10 was a big mistake as you have to go down 7 decks to eenjoy your coffee etc in the deck chairs on the Promenade deck. The space and associated library/games ae is much much smaller. Please HAL don't ruin your other ships with this retrograde step. Enough of a whinge. The cruise was as expected glorious scenery nice ports(with decent amounts of time to explore etc and no tenders) and a great crew. Our cabin attendants new our names from day one which is always a sign of an attentive crew. Did not attend any of the lectures etc, to busy looking at the scenery. The cruise director and assistant cruise director were not as fun as on previous HAL cruises(this is our 4th HAL cruise) and seemed to do it by the numbers. One thing I love about HALis that they go out of their way to keep the guests up to date and alert to what is going on(eg whale spotting etc) Recommend this cruise to anyone without hesitation Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2018
We have been off Westerdam on our first cruise aboard a HAL ship since 2008 for about a week as I write this in early May, 2018. In our new roles as travel consultants with we were invited on this familiarization (FAM) cruise in late ... Read More
We have been off Westerdam on our first cruise aboard a HAL ship since 2008 for about a week as I write this in early May, 2018. In our new roles as travel consultants with we were invited on this familiarization (FAM) cruise in late April/early May 2018. The FAM part of the cruise was a hello cocktail party, three 2 hour plus classes, a dinner together at Pinnacle Grille and a farewell cocktail party, plus some other out-of-class bonding. But the real reason we were on the cruise was to see if we could and would recommend to our clients that they book Holland America to Alaska. Well after a week, the answer is a resounding YES with only one major reservation. 
 Our one reservation The service in the main dining room (and to some extent, the buffet) is HORRID! It’s not the individual servers, but the systems. Some examples: At dinner every night (we love to eat in the dining room to meet new folks) it took forever to get food once our orders had been taken. By forever, I mean 30 to 45 minutes between appetizers and entrée. That’s too long. We noticed that while on other cruise lines, servers would bring a tray of plates to place on a folding stand near our table and then serve from that stand right to the table. On HAL, servers would bring individual dishes from quite a ways away (we couldn’t see where they got it from—it was that far away). What this meant was that when our server brought food for two out of the six of us, he had to then disappear to get the next two and then the next two. Which meant that those who got their food first, either ate cold food or were rude and started eating a good 10 minutes before everyone else at the table. We ate breakfast in the main dining room three times because the food was outstanding…when it got there. On one morning at a table for six, it took 30 minutes to get any food and when it arrived, my order was wrong so our server had to reorder it. I told everyone else to eat, which they did immediately but their food was still cold. Mine arrived warm. I guess it pays to have your order wrong. On disembarkation day, the dining room opened at 6:30. Since we didn’t have to be off the ship until 8:50 we thought this was great. We were at a table for six with a couple from Japan and a nice couple from Australia who had to be off the ship for an excursion at 8:00. We ordered within 10 minutes of sitting down at 6:40. And we still didn’t have our food at 7:30. 7:30! We finally flagged down a maitre’d and he said he would expedite our orders. Within 10 minutes, our orders arrived as did those of the Japanese couple (who were not the ones about to miss breakfast to make their tour and then be dropped at the airport). A full five minutes later, the Australian couples food arrived. Three pancakes each! Seriously. The reason I am still willing to give HAL a high grade in Alaska is that the main dining room is a fixable problem. They just need someone to step in and fix their systems. Now on to the good stuff that we loved! Our stateroom We were in 4145, a balcony stateroom on deck 4. Loved being there near the stairs/elevator. Good stuff in the cabin included: The most amazing water pressure ever. So much hot water. So much. I took two showers a day because it felt so good. Great beds, lots of good storage and the most unbelievable 4K TV I have ever seen in a ship stateroom or a hotel room for that matter. Kathleen loved the fact that it is a bathtub and not a shower stall. I honestly didn't care. The plethora of USB plugs around the cabin. Not only where there three charging plugs on the desk, there was one on either side of the bed. I had brought a plug strip but by the third day, I wasn’t using it anymore. I also love having light switches on both sides of the bed so that either of us could turn them on and off and a reading light. Let’s talk about that TV I know, we were on a cruise…but there were two sea days and other down time. And since HAL has a partnership with BBC Earth, the programming on the TV was amazing. As Kathleen will tell you, I am not a big nature doc fan but these were AWESOME (I now owe Bob $1) as was the huge selection of FREE movies available. There were great films that were just out of theaters as well as a bunch of classics. They did have a hard time getting them categorized correctly but they were still good. And the navigation map is awesome. with five different levels of magnification. A note about laundry We didn’t use the laundry as we were coming right from home. HAL does not have self-serve laundries on their ships but they do have something others told us about: $49.95 for UNLIMITED laundry cleaned and pressed on a seven day cruise. OMG! We were shocked. Some of our fellow travel consultants had been in Vancouver for a week or more and needed laundry done and what a great value for them. HAL's outstanding web app HAL has an OUTSTANDING web app that you can add to your phone in your browser just by logging into their WiFi network—at no charge—which allowed us to see the daily program on the ship, our onboard account, the menus in the dining room and specialty restaurants. You could also book spa reservations, specialty restaurant reservations and more. And we were thrilled to see we could keep up with the news since HAL gave us the NY Times free. That’s better than we can get at home. Not only that, but the app gave us free chat with each other and anyone else we exchanged numbers with. I also want to add that the daily announcements that you found in your room each night were the best I have ever seen, graphically speaking. Easy and a joy to read (that's the graphic designer in me talking). The entertainment is outstanding including: The BB King Blues Club where we stopped by every night it was open (5 out of 7 nights). That band was hot. Three shows a night with a 15 minute break between them. People danced, clapped and just loved the experience. If we had a free blues (and soul and rock and more) club like this in our town, we would go every night. The Billboard Onboard dueling pianos. Pretty good stuff, just not as good as the BB King Blues Club but that might just be a matter of taste. We stopped by a couple of nights and liked what we heard. Lincoln Center Stage is a series of classical concert performances that happened most nights and some afternoons on board. They were well attended and we walked by and saw quite a few of them but once we had gone to the Blues club we never went back. Shame on us as everyone who did said it was excellent. We went to two main stage shows in the big showroom. One was a comedian who was moderately funny. The ship also had two big showcase type shows (singers, dancers, etc.) and we skipped those. We have lost interest as they tend to me the same on every cruise. The other main stage show we went to besides the comedian was worth the entire cruise to me. I would go back and I would recommend HAL just for this show. HAL and their musicians as well as the musicians from the Lincoln Center Stage combined on stage to play some original orchestral music while an incredible video screen behind the musicians showed a series of Alaska films created by BBC Earth. Combining these two amazing groups (the musicians and BBC Earth) at the end of the day when we had been to the incredible Glacier Bay is what an Alaskan cruise is all about. One other thing about this show: HAL, do this show multiple times. We would have gone again and others missed it. Maybe in the afternoon if there isn’t a problem with musical rights. Canaletto Italian restaurant was very good. It’s the ship’s “other” specialty restaurant and is located (only at night) in one section of the buffet. There is an extra charge ($15) and we felt it was well worth it. The service was excellent (if a little hovering) and the food was superb. They recommend that everyone at the table order an appetizer and then share a pasta and an entrée for each two people. The food is served family style so you pass the plates. We wish we had gone with four other people to try even more items. What we had was outstanding. Other food venues We ate most lunches and three breakfasts in the buffet and it was crowded and sometimes entire sections would close at the strangest times but there was always plenty to eat any time you wanted it. The burger/hot dog bar called Dive-In needs work on their systems as well. Food was outstanding but I should NOT have to wait 30 minutes for a hamburger or hotdog. They also supervise the Mexican food/nacho bar near the pool which was just fine. EXC–Shore Destinations HAL is now doing some amazing things with their destination talks/tours, etc. They call it EXC (Explorations Central) and it is centered in the former Crow’s Nest on deck 10 at the front of the ship. HAL has installed some pretty incredible interactive screens that you can use to plan your (independent) tours at your destinations. It is fully staffed much of the day either by EXC specialists or the ship’s naturalist (a very fine fellow). HAL seems to be all about experiences and this new EXC set up is outstanding. Summing up First, this was our sixth cruise to Alaska and three of those were from Seattle and three (including this one) were from Vancouver. We will never sail to see Alaska from Seattle again. What I mean by that is that next summer if we go to Alaska on RCL we will sail from Seattle because that cruise will all be about the ship (taking the grandkids) one of RCL’s big ones but if you want the real Alaska experience, sail out of Vancouver. Why? The biggest reason is that when you leave Seattle and get to the Straits of Juan de Fuca (between Victoria and Port Angeles) you take a hard left turn and head out to sea and that means that on your sea day getting to Alaska and getting back you are truly at SEA! You can only see land far in the distance. On the other hand, when you leave from Vancouver, those first and last sea days are spent in the glorious Canadian Inside Passage. Don’t get me wrong. All Alaskan cruises go through the Alaskan Inside Passage but that’s not until the ship gets all the way up to Alaska. And in the Canadian Inside Passage, the weather is always better. We had so much sunshine coming back, people were actually laying by the pool…in early May! And all the way we were in a narrow channel with small Canadian towns slipping by us as well as lots of incredible mountains on either side. Another reason to choose Vancouver is that with the Jones Act in full force, every Seattle ship has to stop for a few hours in Victoria to make sure they stop in a foreign port. That means that the only ship sailing near us, the Norwegian Pearl (which had sailed from Seattle) had less time in every port than we did. They had to leave each port earlier so they could be on time to stop in Victoria from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm on the last night of their cruise. Not enough time to even really see Victoria but required by law. For that reason when we have sailed out of Seattle, we have always felt like we were rushing. One more thing. To see the real Alaska, go early in the season. We were in Skagway last year in June when four ships were in port. It was slammed. You could barely walk on the sidewalks. See the pic above, no one. not a soul on the street. We were able to walk into shops and actually talk to the owners. Wonderful. And lastly, we have discovered that it is wonderful to be on the first cruise of the Alaskan season. Why? Because we were one of two ships in Alaska that week which meant that unlike when we had been here in summer 2017, we were able to walk on the sidewalks in Skagway and get lunch without waiting at the brewery. It was heavenly. It was like Alaska used to be back when we first were here on the original Westerdam in 2000. Read Less
19 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2018
This is quite a lengthy and detailed review, so I've decided to split it into two sections. The first section is a review of the ship itself, and its services, eateries, and amenities. The second part of the review will cover the ... Read More
This is quite a lengthy and detailed review, so I've decided to split it into two sections. The first section is a review of the ship itself, and its services, eateries, and amenities. The second part of the review will cover the itinerary, our experiences in port, and the shore excursions we went on! Having already experienced the best of Alaska courtesy of Celebrity Cruises in 2014, we decided to return to the Pacific Northwest for a second adventure, this time with Holland America Line. After our voyage on the (then) ageing and since retired Celebrity Century, we'd gained some useful knowledge, and wanted to travel on a more modern, better-appointed ship, with more amenities and a wider range of dining options, and so we booked onto the Westerdam for a seven night cruise to Glacier Bay, on a round trip from Vancouver. We also took a step up in cabin class, from an ocean-view stateroom to a verandah stateroom. The first impressions of our cabin (number 8029) were positive. Reasonably spacious and well-located close to the forward elevator shaft, it contained lots of storage space, a well-appointed bathroom, and of course, the verandah (ideal for the Caribbean: maybe not a must-have in Alaska). A major plus point is the addition of USB charging sockets: very handy if you don't want to use your own power adapter. However, on closer inspection, I was shocked at how worn, tired, and seemingly poorly-maintained the stateroom was. Stained curtains, a loose hinge on one of the overhead cupboards, and a badly-fitted ceiling panel all came as a major surprise to me. I also found that the mattress on the sofa bed was perhaps too hard, and that the curtains didn't quite close fully. Perhaps I'm naive about this, but is it unreasonable to expect a ship of only fourteen years' service to be maintained to the highest standards? I didn't feel that was the case here, sadly, although, when we reported the loose hinge and the loose ceiling panel, an engineer was promptly sent to fix it. Another flaw is that announcements from the ship's in-house PA system could not be clearly heard in the cabin, I'm guessing because speakers aren't installed in all staterooms. A major positive, however, was how powerful a water flow you can get from the shower. I was expecting it to be little more than a trickle, but it was more than good enough to get yourself a very good shower on a morning! An important point to note is that if you have cruised before and have been able to access your room bill from your stateroom TV, the Westerdam does not allow for this. Machines located near guest services require you to swipe your key-card and you will able to view and print your bill as it stands at any point. For such a large ship, the Westerdam is surprisingly easy to navigate your way around. Signage is present at all elevator shafts and passenger stairwells, and the ever-friendly cabin crew are always available to point you in the right direction. Looking at the service provided onboard as a whole, the standards are very high. All of the staff we met were polite and very courteous, the housekeeping staff were friendly and welcoming, and if you need to ask questions at guest services, as we did, you can expect them to be answered swiftly and satisfactorily. Although we didn't make use of it, the swimming pool on deck nine is one of the ship's most impressive features, with its retractable roof, separate hydro pool. Also worth a visit is the fabulous Explorer's Bar, located on deck ten. Here, large windows offer views of the outside world, and. This is also where you will find EXC Central, your go-to place to book shore excursions, should you wish to wait until you're onboard before choosing. From a food point of view, your options are many aboard the Westerdam. The main eatery on board, the Lido Market, is always well-stocked for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a wide variety of foods, some of which are cooked to order. You are sure to find something that you'll like! Downsides include a regular lack of seating space at peak times (I would definitely advise arriving early if you want to find your ideal seat), a lack of variety when it came to drinks from the dispenser, and, cereal bowls that are far too small, and bizarrely, a lack of trays. It should be noted, however, that there is additional seating available alongside the lido pool, which, when the roof is closed, is a very pleasant place to sit and eat. The two-story main dining room, located aft also offers a good selection of good quality food, while the other two main restaurant, Caneletto and the Pinnacle Grill, are slightly more high-end. Having purchased drinks packages on our previous cruise, we decided not to do so on this occasion, having felt that we didn't get value for money. That said, the Westerdam does offer a variety of drinks packages, and if you purchase an alcoholic beverage package, you may find some value in it, if you wish to live a little more freely and really 'cut loose' whilst on your cruise. It's horses for courses, but we found that purchasing sodas and bottled water as and when we needed to gave us good value. The subject of shipboard wifi is something that people will doubtless be interested in. Having relied upon the appallingly slow and unreliable internet terminals on the 'Century', I was extremely pleased to find that the connection was reasonably fast and reliable. Definitely something worth considering if you want to stay connected! A definite highlight on our cruise was the fabulous piano-playing duo of Vinnie and Anderson, who made the Billboard lounge a very lively place. On the second night of the cruise, we decided to bypass the stuffy gala dinner and head to Billboard for a raucous evening, which was much more fun! Our itinerary After a smooth and stress-free boarding at Canada Place, we proceeded straight to our cabin, which was a nice bonus: no waiting around in the dining room while the stateroom was made ready. Monday April 30th was a full day spent at sea. We took breakfast in the Lido, spent some time in the Explorer's Bar, and participated in the trivia quiz held in Billboard Onboard. For days at sea, a full programme of events and activities will be scheduled, and the chances are that you'll find something that you'd like to participate in! Be prepared however, to have to deal with what I called 'forced socialisation'. It is almost certain that fellow cruisers whom you have never met, will ask to join your quiz team or attempt to engage in conversations with you out of nothing. Not good if you're part of a group who enjoys their own company. At 12:30pm on Tuesday, we docked in Juneau. For some reason, I had an inkling that this was going to be a bad day, and it turned out to be completely accurate. Maybe it was the weather, or the fact I'd only managed to grab five hours of sleep in two days. The shore excursion we had booked combined a visit to the Mendenhall Glacier and a ride on the Mount Roberts tramway. We met in the MainStage theatre as our tour parties were called out, and one thing that didn't sit right with me was the cancellation of all seaplane and helicopter tours with barely ten minutes notice. Surely, if regular weather reports were being received, it would've been possible to inform the passengers with plenty of time to spare? Adding insult to injury, the people whose tours had been cancelled were told to proceed to the dock where they 'may have been able to he accommodated on a different tour'. I found this to be, frankly, shabby. It left people with no next to no time to make alternative arrangements, and would doubtless have left them feeling deeply annoyed. Everyone knows that the Alaska weather can be unpredictable, but surely Holland America Line should not offer excursions that are liable to cancellation if the weather does not cooperate? Something to consider. After the announcement about the seaplane and helicopter flights, some tours began to be called out. In all, around six tour parties departed, before things came to a grinding halt. And then we waited. And waited. And began to lose our tempers. Eventually, after forty five minutes, we were allowed to disembark and head to our tour buses. The reason given was a bottleneck at the gangway, something that was surely avoidable? If Celebrity Cruises can do it (and they did, in 2014, in Juneau) surely HAL can too? In all honesty, the shore excursions arrangements in Juneau were less than impressive, and, dare I say, slightly chaotic? Nobody really seemed to have an idea as to what was happening, and we sat in the theatre for a long time before anything happened. For my money, the organisation of the shore excursions on the 'Celebrity Century' was better organised and more professionally executed. Updates were almost non-existent, and you could feel a sense of dissatisfaction among the people who were seated. To be perfectly honest, the horrific start to the day in Juneau kicked things off negatively,and things never really recovered, which was a real shame. The atrocious weather didn't help. The Mendenhall glacier, however, was a spectacular sight, and the ride on the Mount Roberts tramway was certainly memorable. Overall, however, not a day I will remember fondly, and I now understand why only one Inside Passage cruise departed from Vancouver in the month of April; the weather in Alaska at this time of year is simply atrocious. Wednesday was our day in Skagway. This was a very early start, and we took breakfast in our stateroom in order to save time in the morning. We only ever had one tour in mind for our day in the Gateway to the Yukon, and that was a journey on the White Pass railroad. Defying the forecasts, the weather was beautiful! We met our tour guide and driver, CJ, at the dock, and the whole process was smooth and stress-free. CJ was a wonderfully engaging and friendly guide, and she really enlivened the whole experience for us all! I can honestly say that this excursion was the undoubted highlight of the entire cruise. The 27-mile journey from Skagway to Fraser, BC took us through some of the most spectacular scenery. As we climbed higher, the snow became deeper and the scenery even more beautiful. The train itself featured an outside viewing platform, which gave us some incredible views! A running commentary was also provided, which gave us a real insight into the history of the region, the Klondike gold rush, and of course, the railroad itself! We disembarked the railroad at Fraser and reboarded the coach for our trip to Caribou Crossing and then the town of Carcross. Both were great places to visit, and we were given plenty of time to explore. If your cruise includes a visit to Skagway, please, PLEASE make sure you put the White Pass Railroad at the top of your list, and ideally an excursion that combines the railroad with a visit to Carcross & Caribou Crossing. It really is an experience not to be missed. Book it in advance online as well; this tour, I'm sure, is immensely popular! Thursday took in the magnificent Glacier Bay National Park and the many inlets, fjords and glaciers that make up this vast expanse. In 2014, we visited Hubbard Glacier, which did not disappoint, and this was arguably even better! It is on days like this, when the views are at their best, that securing a verandah stateroom really comes into its own. This way, you can avoid the hustle and bustle on other outdoor viewing areas of the ship, and enjoy the beauty from your own balcony. Photograph opportunities were plentiful, and it was fascinating to see how the captain and his crew manoeuvred the enormous ship through the ice-studded waters. Friday was our final day on shore, in Ketchikan, before we embarked on the inbound voyage to Vancouver. We decided to slow down the pace and take in 'The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show' for our shore excursion. Located ten minutes' walk from the dock and held in a heated outdoor grandstand, this was a raucous and fabulously entertaining show! Four world-class timbersports athletes, and a couple of guest stars, competing in a series of different wood-chopping events. It was a brilliant show to watch, with lots of crowd participation, and the perfect final excursion of our cruise! Overall, this Alaskan cruise was one of contrasts. Certainly, were we to repeat it in the future, we would give serious consideration to the time of year and to the cruise line we used. I cannot stress enough that I do not recommend undertaking the inside passage cruise in late April/early May, as we did. The weather is simply too drizzly and too bleak to get the most out of your cruise. I can't recommend Alaska highly enough as a cruising destination, but do yourself a favour and sail from mid-May onwards. If, like us, you had an 'ideal ship' on which you'd like to sail, you will be forced to compromise on date. It's a balancing act, but personally, I would rather sail on a less-.well appointed vessel and have better on-shore experiences and better weather. As to the Holland America Line experience? There was some exceptional service, fabulous amenities, and good food on board, but their organisation of the excursions, particularly Juneau, was nothing short of a disgrace, and the standard of the accommodation was not particularly overwhelming. Overall, it was a cruise of contrasts; some great days, great entertainment and good food, tempered by some issues that prevented me from giving it any more than a 7/10 rating. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2018
picked this cruise because of start and finish in Vancouver rather than flying one way. 99% of passengers were retired, staff were very attentive, dining menus were varied. went to Rudy's Sel De Mer one evening , the meal was ... Read More
picked this cruise because of start and finish in Vancouver rather than flying one way. 99% of passengers were retired, staff were very attentive, dining menus were varied. went to Rudy's Sel De Mer one evening , the meal was excellent as was the waitress, only fault was that we felt rushed when the entree came minutes after the appitisers. After asking the waitress to slow down dessert came when we wanted it. cabin 6085 was a signature suite with tub and shower stall, the hot water control and the shower diverter in the tub was not working when we boarded but was fixed shortly after telling stateroom attendant. embarking and disembarking was a breeze. Our luggage was at our cabin within an hour of boarding. overall the cruise was great, weather to and from Hawaii was not good. i would recommend Holland America. in fact we are doing a transpacific cruise on the Noordam. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2018
We sailed from Vancouver on April 12. It was cold for the first 3 days and the last 3 days. Even the Canadians were wearing their coats outside. Many people hung out on the aft pool deck because there is no smoking on the ship except ... Read More
We sailed from Vancouver on April 12. It was cold for the first 3 days and the last 3 days. Even the Canadians were wearing their coats outside. Many people hung out on the aft pool deck because there is no smoking on the ship except for a designated area on the aft pool deck. There is no cigar lounge. Many people were seasick the first day due to rough seas. The mid-ship pool is in a large atrium that can be opened, a great feature for a ship especially one sailing through varying weather. It was warm in there when cold outside. In warm weather, they did open it. We had fixed dinner reservations for 5:45. A 7:45 seating and walk-in dining were also available. The dinners were all very good. Portions were right-sized but they would be happy to bring you seconds if you wanted. We ate at each of the specialty restaurants once. There were certainly good too but we thought the value proposition is questionable given the quality of the main dining room. At the Lido buffet, the food is put on plates by servers, as opposed to the self-serve we were used too. Their lunch time taco bar and hamburger stand was very good. It was hard to find a seat during breakfast and lunch, they could definitely use more tables in the public areas. Drinks were about $7 for a beer and about $8 - $9 for a cocktail. But, they have two happy hours, one from 4 - 5 pm and one from 10 - 11 pm. During happy hour, you can get a second drink for $2 more. Happy hour is only valid at two of the bars. They are named on the daily itinerary sheet that is placed in your cabin. Fountain sodas are $2:30 each. The entertainment was good. The main stage was typical cruise ship entertainment, mostly singers and one magician that was very funny. We especially enjoyed the BB King Blues Club. They have a laundry service that can be unlimited, by the item, or by the bag. The by the bag option was $20 per bag and we could stuff about 3- 5 days of clothes in a bag. Highlights of the trip included the Capilano suspension bridge in Vancouver, the Old Lahaina Luau on Maui, the Arizona Memorial, and hiking Diamond Head. Try to get your tickets to the Arizona memorial in advance or you may not get in. Hiking Diamond Head requires the ability to walk 2 miles and climb many stairs. On days the ship tenders, be sure to pick up your tender tickets early or you may be waiting a long time to get off the ship. It seemed to take forever to get anywhere on the public bus in Honolulu. We finally gave up and used Uber. The gym was large and in good shape. It had several treadmills, ellipticals, bikes and weight some weight equipment. They offered several classes for additional fee including spin, stretching, yoga, etc. Computer classes were offered daily, but they filled up quickly. You had to be there well in advance to get a seat. All are listed on the ship's daily itinerary. Classes from America's Test Kitchen were offered daily in the BB King Blues Lounge. They were informative and entertaining. You don't get to eat the food though. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2018
For perspective, we have cruised over 50 times starting in 1981 and are now in our mid 60’s. We are 4 star mariners with HAL and Elite with Princess. We have also cruised with celebrity, crystal, Oceania, Royal Caribbean and a bunch of ... Read More
For perspective, we have cruised over 50 times starting in 1981 and are now in our mid 60’s. We are 4 star mariners with HAL and Elite with Princess. We have also cruised with celebrity, crystal, Oceania, Royal Caribbean and a bunch of lines that have been incorporated into other lines. The great and good. We were impressed with the consistency of the quality of the meals in MDR. We were on select dining rather than fixed. At 7:15 we did not have any wait for a table for 4. We sat in a number of different areas and the service, both wine and dinner were consistent. No wrong steps if I asked the server what was recommended that evening. Wine service showed great improvement since last year. Stewards were knowledgeable and able to recommend comparable and complimentary choices. Very good job. Lunch in Pinnacle Grill is well worth $10 pp. excellent service and selection. The Dive in burgers and fries always good as is the use of pagers. We appreciate that there is no self serve in the Lido - food consistent again - enjoyed creating fresh turkey sandwiches when the carvery had turkey. Freshly prepared eggs, omelets in morning, fresh pasta bar at lunch. We did nit visit for dinner. The entertainment was good, not fantastic but good enough to sit through. The singers didn’t seem to have synergy which affected the performance notwithstanding good voices. I guess they didn’t seem to be enjoying their jobs. The classical quartet at Lincoln centre was excellent. The piano dual were extremely popular as usual. B.B. kings was same as always. Worth a visit. Our cabin service was excellent - the hair dryer “died” on formal night of course and we had a replacement in under 10 minutes. Darn good when he was rushing to get his turn down service completed for early diners. The ship was in good shape with the promenade deck chairs seeming quite new. Everything seemed to be in very good repair. Not so great and good. Having sailed on holland just 12 months previous, the increase in prices for drinks, happy hours, wine packages, wine tastings, sip and savour were surprising, not that there were increases but how large the increases were. Normally, price increases kind of sneak up on you, these increases slapped you in the face. Very limited daily programs - many days at sea and we expected to have morning and afternoon guest lecturers. Basically there was just not enough enrichment offered. It was a problem because we had very poor weather and a nasty Pacific Ocean — so with no library, no morning movies, no matinees at a convenient time yo7 were either forced to stay in your cabin to watch tv. I looked forward to trivia at 1:30 - hadn’t played before so that says something. Minimal inventory in the shops and no fun sales. Duty free was anything but with the prices exceeding what we would pay in a government liquor store. We bought vodka at Walmart in Honolulu and had it checked until we got home. Servicein pinnacle grill for dinner was not up to standard. We were seated at a table just outside the galley door at the service station for a large area. The back of the banquet we were seated a5 held the water jugs for the area. The wine server gave us a bit of snark for firstly not ordering wine off the pinnacle list (we had wine package) and our friends asked to have their bottle brought from diningroom. It arrived but then the steward divided the more than half bottle into their two glasses. It was the lady’s wine. And that was the last we saw of him. We still enjoy the formal night aspect of cruising and we don’t expect everyone else will but I don’t understand why some guests make no effort what so ever. I have never seen such a motley group of travellers. I guess I don’t understand the issue of a gentleman wearing a pair of slacks and a shirt and a lady wearing a sundress or pants and a nice blouse. Something you might wear to a church wedding or special dinner out. Undershirt style t shirts , perhaps not. It’s a part of the tradition. Lastly, and in my opinion only, cruise lines in general need to reassess their policies on tendering. The mobility challenged create an unreasonable risk to themselves, the crew, and other passengers. Our tenders were full of wheelchairs and walkers presenting a hazard should we needed to evacuate the tender., the crew basically are lifting a lot of people on and off. It is not fair to them particularly if there is an accident. And one guest died after falling while trying to get onto a tender. The tender ports are well advertised and it should be acceptable that walkers/wheelchairs and those requiring the same be denied tender service. Everyone knows upfront and may gear 5heir cruises to itineraries with no tendering required. It is just plain scary. An average experience . Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
We were advised that Holland America was the only way to cruise. This is a smaller ship which was just what we wanted and the Panama Canal had been on our bucket list for some time. We extended our cruise up to Vancouver bringing it up to ... Read More
We were advised that Holland America was the only way to cruise. This is a smaller ship which was just what we wanted and the Panama Canal had been on our bucket list for some time. We extended our cruise up to Vancouver bringing it up to 19 days in total. The crew were the best we have ever encountered on any cruise line and couldn't have been more helpful and friendly. Unfortunately the ship disappointed right from embarking in Fort Lauderdale. The first thing we noticed was the rust all round the glazed areas, not just the usual mooring scrapes that all ships suffer. The floor of our veranda was rusted and pushing up the non slip surface. Hand rails in corridors were falling off, the thresholds at fire doors were sticking up and frequently caused people to trip. Sections of the decking were either rotting or the steel floor beneath was rusting away. Deck furniture had wonky arms and legs though in fairness some of them were replaced during our journey. The wash basin in our cabin was badly cracked, the shower leaked and ran out on to the floor. The silvering was fading off the mirrors. General maintenance appeared to be virtually nil, even down to simple things like faulty lighting. Wall coverings were worn and shabby. The overall appearance of the ship was of a one time grand old lady in her death throes and her owners were not prepared to spend any money on maintaining her. Virtually every passenger complained about the cold in the public areas. Passengers would sit in the stage and bar areas with pullovers on and rugs around them. The food was excellent with a very good menu and was very well cooked. Unfortunately it was always cold by the time we were served and this was exacerbated by serving on cold plates. This would have been a wonderful cruise if it had been run by anyone other than Holland America. They couldn't even be bothered to clean the glass on the observation deck so the passengers could see the Panama Canal. This was despite their being a decked access area directly below it. They ask you to tell them about your experience so they can improve it yet they don't even offer an excuse never mind correct the problem. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
We took this cruise for a chance to see the Panama Canal and all it's greatness. We arrived late at night the day before our cruise and stayed at the Hampton Inn. We checked in online so our room keys were waiting for us. The ... Read More
We took this cruise for a chance to see the Panama Canal and all it's greatness. We arrived late at night the day before our cruise and stayed at the Hampton Inn. We checked in online so our room keys were waiting for us. The Hotel was clean and the bed was compfy! We ate breakfast and took a taxi to the ship about 11am. The was no one in line, we went to the check-in counter, they took new pictures and we received our cabin keys. We only waited about 15minutes and our number was called to board the ship. After a little walk and an elevator we were in our cabin! The ship is in great shape! The Crows nest is gone :( was only negative we found. The Illusionist and John Denver group were the best. Entertainment was great the first couple of days and then was mediocre. The Room stewards, Sea View bar servers and Main dining room stewards were the best we have encountered on HA!!! Day 4:Cartagena, Colombia, too short a visit but Cartagens is nice (Hot always) Day 5: Panama Canal Was FANTASTIC! Day 7: Puerto Caldera (Puntarenas), Costa Rica took a coffee tour, it was really nice.Tour guide was great. Day 8: Corinto, Nicaragua. Nicaraguan Treasures: El Viejo & Chinandega Our tour guide sucked, talked politics, hardly mentioned the country side. The meum was a few artifacts in a small building. Day 9: Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. Guatemalan Rum, Aged in the Clouds; and Antigua Sightseeing Tour was nice. Tour guide was informative and nice Day 10: Puerto Chiapas, Mexico. Chiapas through the Ages: Izapa Ruins & Tapachula tour was great once again, the guide was very informative and cared about the tour. The ancient Mayan archaeological site of Izapa is allot better than some reviews say. It is from 1500BC. Day 13: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Clean and no one pushing junk. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
My husband had always wanted to cruise the Panama Canal, so this time was his choice. This was our 4th Holland America cruise and it was a decent one, as they all have been, but the overall impression was of mediocrity. The food was OK, ... Read More
My husband had always wanted to cruise the Panama Canal, so this time was his choice. This was our 4th Holland America cruise and it was a decent one, as they all have been, but the overall impression was of mediocrity. The food was OK, the room was clean, our room stewards (Made and Rosa) were excellent, the entertainment was fine, although the Mainstage area was very cold. We also had a problem with dirty glassware in the Lido - something we had never experienced before. By the end of the trip, we were checking every glass for lipstick smudges or dried orange juice! I guess I was most disappointed with the offshore excursions. The only ones worth the time and money were in Huatulco - we went to the Zapotec ruins, which were interesting, and the coffee plantation in Guatemala, also extremely interesting, plus the lunch there was delicious! (coffee mousse, anyone?) They cancelled our snorkeling excursion on Half Moon Cay - they said the weather was too rough!??? - so that was a major disappointment. The trip to the old capital city of Leon in Nicaragua was also disappointing - they coupled it with a trip to the home of the poet Ruben Dario, and we spent far too much time there and not enough time in the small but very nice art museum. I could have easily spent another half hour or more in the museum as we only got to see a small portion of the artwork. It will be a while before we take another Holland America cruise. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
WE decided to spare Captain Mark Rowden’s blushes. The gallant Yorkshire-born skipper of the Holland America Line’s Westerdam had probably had enough after his vessel was apparently, as the late Frankie Howerd might have said, ... Read More
WE decided to spare Captain Mark Rowden’s blushes. The gallant Yorkshire-born skipper of the Holland America Line’s Westerdam had probably had enough after his vessel was apparently, as the late Frankie Howerd might have said, verily thrice whupped by the Island Princess. Yet earlier, the Island Princess had been the butt of the jokes around his own ship. One of Westerdam lecturers was rash enough to show a map, pointing out: “The Island Princess had to go all the way round South America to reach Panama Canal. Yet it was almost on their doorstep in Fort Lauderdale.” But cliche though it might be ... it is still true that he who laughs last etc. So what happened? Well, the first hint of a reprisal came on the evening of March 16 when we were advised by a letter “there will be two ships in port and we will be sharing the same narrow pier to dispatch the tours”. Followed by a list of what NOT to do. So what happened? Although the Westerdam arrived first next day, the Island Princess had thoughtfully and craftily nicked all the best parking spots in advance for their tour buses in Puntarenas, Costa Rica. The net result was that our tour was dispatched 45 minutes late. The following day, on the run in to the Panama Canal, the Island Princess whipped past us like Lewis Hamilton overtaking a backmarker. This meant, of course, they were tantalisingly ahead of us all day during the passage itself. And all the while there was great honking and tooty fruiting of sirens from both sides. Don’t know enough about ship points scoring even after 20-plus cruises to judge who won that battle. They were at it again in Cartagena, Columbia, where the best someone could do in the face of taunts from the Princess vessel was a rather pathetic sign saying: “Our balconies are bigger than yours.” Which was, fortunately, true. We had sailed on the Island Princess in 2015. The morning after our departure from Cartagena was accompanied by one of those freak weather scenarios where the wind was blowing so hard that it felt as though our balcony door was permanently locked. It took a massive heave from one of our cabin stewards to force it open. The floor of the balcony was littered with bits of detritus, including a pair of knickers. That very same morning Captain Mark was giving a sort of “My Job” talk in the theatre, followed by a question and answer session. Given the proximity of our forward balcony position virtually below the bridge we wondered whether it might be prudent to ask him whether any of his crew might claim ownership of the said undergarment ... or alternately, know who the owner might be. Eventually, after a discussion, we decided to spare him any further embarrassment. The excursions themselves were generally acceptable with the exception of the first rather humble one in a very crowded and noisy Puerto Vallarta. But, annoyingly, all the guides insisted on leading from the front at a pace which would have made them genuine contenders for a 10km walk medal in the Olympics, completely ignoring the average age of their charges. We were reminded of that on the very first day when we entered the Lido Market casual dining area to be greeted by a flustered senior woman steward, busily mopping the floor with tissues and informing us: “Please be careful where you tread. A lady has just peed on the floor.” Or the couple who arrived an hour late for an excursion, blissfully unaware that the time had moved another hour foward the previous night. The ship travelled 4,301 miles from San Diego where boarding was amazingly rapid. Less than an hour after being picked up at our pre-cruise hotel we were in our cabin. Praise was slighly tempered when the ship departed an hour late without a proper explantion. The odyssey ended in Fort Lauderdale where chaos reigned supreme and we parked next to a building site. On the way we visited Puerto Vallarta and Huatulco in Mexico, Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala, Corinto in Nicaragua, Puntarenas in Costa Rica, the Panama Canal, Cartagena (Columbia) and Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, where we might have created a record by catching one ferry out and the next but one back. We admit we’re not beach people and there was no wi-fi on this private Holland America island. And talking of wi-fi ... we were sent pre-cruise data with their prices. The offer of $100 for 250 minutes seemed a fair deal but when we rang the desk to book it, we were told the offer had now been withdrawn. Yes. Thank you. Other niggles: Complete confusion over departure arrangements. We were sent Pink 1 luggage tags and told our approximate departure time. It was just as well we rang the information desk to check something. They then informed us we had been sent the wrong tickets. They should have been Red 1 and new ones were duly supplied with an apology and a different departure time. Plus note: We were were allowed to stay in our cabin and have breakfast there until we got the call. Departure from the ship was amazingly fast, too. It then took an hour to clear customs and and a further hour waiting in broiling sunshine for the coach to take us to Fort Lauderdale airport. Bad one Holland America! Good points: 1.) Sya, the ship’s towel folding star, and his mate Alan were our pleasant and capable cabin stewards. Hope they were happy with their tip. 2.) The courtesy throughout the ship was impeccable. 3.) Top-class live band in B.B. King’s theatre. Fair points: 1.) Entertainment quality rather mixed although we only once used those “bummer” seats next to the aisle in the Mainstage Theatre which enable people to leave without disturbance if the show is a bummer. 2.) We always eat in the Lido-style establishments. It’s quicker and there is a wider choice. It was on the whole, though, only marginally above average in quality. 3.) As so often happens on cruise ships, the temperature was far too cold in some places, particularly the Mainstage Theatre and some of the bars. *The ship was nicknamed the “Westerdram” by the heavier whisky drinkers in Gallery Bar. Not guilty, m’lud! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2018
We had not cruised with Holland America before so we gave it a try. The ship was quite, the bathroom was bigger than the shower rooms on other ships. There were no lectures or line dancing for my wife during days at sea which if it had of ... Read More
We had not cruised with Holland America before so we gave it a try. The ship was quite, the bathroom was bigger than the shower rooms on other ships. There were no lectures or line dancing for my wife during days at sea which if it had of rained there would not be much to do. The shows were not very good only the ventriloquist was worth seeing very funny. the food in the main restaurant in the evening was disappointing not much choice on the menu, the onion soup was disgusting. they only had one specialist coffee which was on deck 10 no coffee card. The on board shop was boring we had $300 dollar on board spend. The crew were excellent always polite and smiling. Very good embarkation/disembarkation but got us to the airport far too early 8 hour wait for our flight and 4 hour wait to book in. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
This cruise represented a couple of firsts for us; it was the first time we had booked air and transfers with the cruise line, and the first time we had a verandah stateroom, both of those proved to be nice additions to the cruise ... Read More
This cruise represented a couple of firsts for us; it was the first time we had booked air and transfers with the cruise line, and the first time we had a verandah stateroom, both of those proved to be nice additions to the cruise experience. As this cruise started out of San Diego we took a risk and booked our flight for the departure day as it is only a two hour flight from home and there are a multitude of flights everyday. We had the quickest check-in experience we have ever had, perhaps because we were later in the day. It was a little odd that some of the online check-in information such as credit card info and the request for twin beds had not come through, but those things were taken care of quickly. Our stateroom was a good size for two with enough room to unpack our things, though slightly more counter space might have been nice. The verandah was more enjoyable and useful than we had anticipated. We used it as a quiet place to read and for bird watching during the day, and for stargazing at night. We were at the stern and just one deck above the Promenade. The stern of the Promenade is closed to passengers during the canal transit so it was a great advantage to have this verandah as it provided an up close rear view going through the locks. The ship has beautiful and interesting artworks throughout, I particularly loved the floor mosaic which was slightly damaged but still very beautiful, although I cannot now recall whether it was on the Promenade or Lower Promenade deck. Some new touches since the last time we sailed with Holland America that we enjoyed were: Lincoln Center Stage where there were 45 minute classical music concerts by a piano quintet five nights a week at 7:00 and 9:00 (and sometimes in the afternoon); EXC Guides, whose job is to tell you how to enjoy the port on your own, not the shopping stops or a big upsell for the shore-excursions, but facts about the country and area you are visiting and practical tips for how to get around and sights you might like to visit (some of the presentations were more helpful and informative than others); America’s Test Kitchen presentations which are a lot like watching a semi-live episodes of the show. We did not attend many of the evening shows, just the Planet Earth II in concert which was marvelous, and an Argentine group which was quite good. The food was, on the whole, excellent. We ate breakfast and lunch (when on board) in the Lido and dinner in the Dining Room each night. We had free seating and went to dinner between 5:15 and 5:45 every night which meant we never had a wait, but there were some long waits for those arriving later, particularly on gala nights. At breakfast the waits for omelets could sometimes be longish but generally not too bad and it was, as usual for Lido on every ship I have been on, often difficult to find a place to sit. At lunch there was a great variety in what was offered. The best were often the asian dishes, (the Indian food was amazing!) but they also offered some excellent vegetarian sandwiches. The taco bar was probably under-utilized and so offered a quick tasty lunch if you did not feel like standing in line for something. The burger/hot dog counter seemed to always have a huge wait, they even gave you a buzzer so you could sit while you waited, if you could find somewhere to sit. Dining room service could be slow, but the food was beautifully presented. There were a couple dishes that I did not like, but most were tasty and a few were excellent, including an amazing chocolate dessert which had a long name we had never heard of and cannot remember, so be sure to ask what something is on the menu if you don’t recognize it. For disembarkation we did not put our bags out as we only had carry-on sized luggage and we had booked an excursion and transfer (our flight was in the evening) so we were in the third group called after the expedited passengers and those who took advantage of the ships luggage direct service which transferred checked bags to the airport and checked them for you. The times were slower than expected so rather than being called at 7:45 we were called at 8:25 so we got a bit worried that we had somehow missed the call, It is the first time we have been on a ship that did not allow persons with only carry-on bags to depart whenever they wished. Puerto Vallarta Took “Two if by sea” excursion by motor Catamaran. The morning was cool and the water somewhat rough. On the way out we were given breakfast and an introduction to the area. We paused briefly at Los Arcos, small rocky islands, to see nesting Blue-footed Bobbies, Pelicans and Cormorants. We then suited up with snorkel, mask and fins for the first stop Majahuitas Cove. Our guide, a marine biologist, led the snorkeling bringing up sea creatures like urchins and sea cucumbers from the bottom for everyone to experience. Visibility was good near the rocks where we entered the water and there was a lot to see, then as we swam toward the beach where the boat tied up, reduced to almost nothing. It was a fair distance swimming and one man became exhausted and had to be towed back to the boat. The water was quite cold and the boat apparently had wet suits available, but I did not learn that until I was already in the water. There was a chance to kayak for those interested. After the water activities, brunch was sandwich fixings, including some really awesome roasted vegetables, more fruit, a macaroni salad, water and juice, and the bar was open for those so inclined. At the second stop, Yelapa we walked through town and up to a waterfall the guide went sometimes a little too quickly as some people got behind and did not get to hear some of the commentary about local plants and etc he shared along the way. It was a pretty little waterfall and a cute little town. We then had an hour on the beach with lounge chairs and umbrellas. On the way back to the ship the captain took a route further out to sea and we spotted a sea turtle, several Manta Rays, and we were very lucky to spend several minutes with Humpback Whales, a mother and baby. The crew put on a fun and rather silly lip sync show to keep us entertained when not spotting wildlife. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2018
My wife and I wanted to celebrate our 55th wedding anniversary by going to Hawaii to escape cold weather without a long airflight. We have taken numerous cruises with Holland America and enjoyed all of them except that we can notice ... Read More
My wife and I wanted to celebrate our 55th wedding anniversary by going to Hawaii to escape cold weather without a long airflight. We have taken numerous cruises with Holland America and enjoyed all of them except that we can notice cutbacks in many areas. First, the good: The staff, in general, was very friendly and helpful, (more on staff heads later). We didn't need much extra, but when I contacted the front desk for minor things, they were very helpful. The food was excellent with a reasonable number of choices. The exception was that the soups in the Lido were almost all purees that didn't have much taste. The service in the main dining room was sometimes very slow, but they were really working at it (probably a result of staff cutbacks). The staff in the Lido was always ready to help or bring drinks or anything else that was needed. We did not take many shore excursions because we had been to Hawaii several times and had taken most of the tours we were really interested in, and it seems that they have gotten considerably more expensive. Now the bad: The ship was recently refurbished and has a brighter look and some high tech displays on deck 10 where they now sell land tours and future cruises instead of the night club where it should be to avoid continually frigid throughout the hallways and especially the main showroom. Many passengers wore jackets (not sport jackets) throughout the day. There was a scarcity of onboard activities, especially for 5 sea days each way, although they had plenty of art auctions. The computer classes were good, but the internet was very slow and unreliable even though it was expensive. The average of the passengers was close to 80 and most of the main stage shows were totally inappropriate to the passenger age level, except for shows put on by "Hawaiian Ambassadors" on the ship or those who came on at Honolulu. The sound was unbearably loud (decibel level over 100 as measured by a fellow passenger; anything over 85 is detrimental to hearing ability) in all the venues, including the Lincoln Center Stage (classical music) even when they were accompanying a BBC Earth film. When complaints were voiced about the cold and the volume at the "coffee chats" (there was no coffee involved) with staff heads, the responses were " Thanks for the input", "it's hard to control the temperature" and not that the volume would be turned down, but "the volume has been turned down from what it used to be" and nothing was done, As one passenger put it, "if the sound has been turned down, I can't imagine what it was like before". The Cruise Director seemed to only be around to introduce acts or conduct afternoon trivia or "coffee chats": we did not see her mixing with passengers. The staff heads were unresponsive to input from the passengers. We've taken numerous cruises with Holland America, but we've had about enough and no longer recommend HAL to our friends. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2018
A destination we've always wanted to try and it didn't disappoint. Embarkation was as easy and quick a always. Arrived by 11 on board before noon. Ship is absolutely beautiful. Crows nest is reconfigured. Didn't ... Read More
A destination we've always wanted to try and it didn't disappoint. Embarkation was as easy and quick a always. Arrived by 11 on board before noon. Ship is absolutely beautiful. Crows nest is reconfigured. Didn't have a problem with it but - there is plenty of room for a larger library, dance floor and a quiet dance group. EXC is ok where it is but there is lots of unused space. New seats were nice as far as I am concerned. They took the dance space out of the Ocean Bar and people danced on the carpet where they could find room. One more small, quiet group that you could enjoy and/or dance too would have been nice. Cabin was ready and nicely redone. Bathroom is small and needs a little updating but everything worked well. Bed was comfortable and bedding wonderful. Room steward was beyond accommodating as on any HAL ship. Dining in MDR was very good and service great - I do feel there has been a cut back on staffing and that makes it tough. Dinners did not take as long as some people have said. Lido was delish and if you can't find something you like, well..... I loved the 'pre-made' sandwich which gets a bad rap. Fruit was yummy and breakfast is always good. Pinnacle Grill was over the top. Dive In has great burgers and fries. Entertainment was so so in the main stage area. BB King Blues band is beyond good and the dueling piano bar was packed every time they played. Biggest issue is - happy hour only in two spots and not nearly enough staff to man the stations. Not enough Drink staff by the pools either. The Ports were great - didn't do any HAL excursions - pricey! Booked a 10-1 tour in Costa Rica with Thumbs Up tours !!!!! Will never forget it. ATV tour with Amigos tours in Cabo - also good. We ended up on a 'tour' with a local in Nicaragua - great - $10. Chiapas was not needed and not enough time in Cabo. Had a minor problem with the Greenhouse Spa charging mandatory 15% gratuity and not telling you till you were done ( it was printed in fine print in a couple of places) Would consider it again as there is lots to see but there are lots of other cruises to take also. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2018
The Westerdam Circle Island cruise was a perfect choice as it was literally round-trip from our hometown.... Also, we'd heard good things about Holland America and figured we would give it a try...as we are in the process of shifting ... Read More
The Westerdam Circle Island cruise was a perfect choice as it was literally round-trip from our hometown.... Also, we'd heard good things about Holland America and figured we would give it a try...as we are in the process of shifting travel gears to do more cruising in the future. Two thousand passengers is a whole lot of people to confine in close quarters for a lengthy sea voyage, but with a balcony as respite from the 'Madding Crowd' we were OK with that. The ship is lovely, well appointed, after removal of the atrium concept others have, felt more like a real ship. The 2017 refurb left things very spiffy looking and well functioning. As it was a longer cruise the travelers were all adults...no kids or teenagers and mostly the crowd was 50+ in age. While that made for pleasant company, it also meant more passengers needing quite a bit of assistance and slower elevator times. Again, not a problem but a consideration. I felt there could have been more staff available to assist in the buffet area, however. Not easy leaning on a cane or pushing a walker with a plate of food!! Just a minor note! If I have any criticism at all it is this: the entertainment was in most cases not what I would assume an older crowd (and I am in that group) would appreciate. The shows generally were very "Las Vegas" meaning loud, glitzy and over amped. We attended those which were a bit more aimed at our taste. Also, the enrichment programs were scanty and poorly done. One major exception: THE HAWAIIAN AMBASSADORS aboard ship were amazingly knowledgeable and presented fascinating lectures and programs for us all. The trip home offered nothing along the lines of 'enrichment'. The staff in the MDR seemed overwhelmed at times with the amount of work. I frankly don't know how they coped, so despite what other reviewers may say, I found the food amazingly good: properly prepared, professionally served, and pleasantly tasty. I honestly believe most of the severe criticism I read is based on some assumption that the MDR is supposed to be a five star experience. You honestly cannot expect that when it comes to feeding 2,000 people a variety of foods. The food in the buffet was tasty and offered a wide variety. I was, however, chagrined to see passengers filling their personal coffee and water bottles/containers at the urns, despite a prominent sign asking them not to do so. A crew member standing guard and making sure it didn't happen might have helped. The whole concept of doing this is, to me, a bit outrageous. All the staff were very helpful and ready to fulfill any request....there just didn't seem to be enough of them...that is HAL's failing as I don't think it is limited to the Westerdam. Over all, would I sail again on HAL. Yes, depending on the itinerary and ship size--the smaller the better. Thanks for listening! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2018
Greed seems to be the drive for Holland America and the parent company (Carnival). The internet service was worse than the old dial up system in the 90's, and at $25. a day or $179. for the cruise, it was definitely not worth it. We ... Read More
Greed seems to be the drive for Holland America and the parent company (Carnival). The internet service was worse than the old dial up system in the 90's, and at $25. a day or $179. for the cruise, it was definitely not worth it. We signed up, but had to wait for emails and or Text, finally just waited until the next port to answer emails and other communications I liked the Idea of paying gratuities up front, but it took the encentive away from the service personal onboard. Of course some strived to please while others just did as little as possible to get by. Service suffered in the main dining room as it was 30 to 45 minutes between courses. Weather prevented us from going to one Island (one I was really looking forward to visit) and only port charges were refunded. We spent an extra day on Oahu which we had already been on for two days, I realize all costs for the cruise line remained except for fuel cost to travel to the other Island. I believe some restitution is in order, after all we paid to visit four islands and only visited three. Ship problems occurred on the way back and had to stop the ship to keep ballast from banging the hull of the ship. You could hear and feel it throughout the ship. Lots of shuttering and vibrations at night prevented a good nights sleep and we were as far away from motors as possible. Not all was bad of course, ship was well appointed, and we watched some good movies on sea days (very expensive way to watch movies I might say) All in all the cruise was average at best, and the ships sells people did there best to sell you everything possible. Photos were fuzzy and expensive, the whole experience reminded me of "Hey Lady Beach" in Mexico, if you catch my drift. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2018
Excellent value and an excellent ship. We opted for a Signature Suite 6045 which was well worth the money. Room Stewards (Nyoman and Yusep) were attentive and always accommodating with a smile. We had thoughts of opting for the upscale ... Read More
Excellent value and an excellent ship. We opted for a Signature Suite 6045 which was well worth the money. Room Stewards (Nyoman and Yusep) were attentive and always accommodating with a smile. We had thoughts of opting for the upscale restaurants, but elected not to do so since the regular food service and quality were very good. Our Wine Steward, Yohan, was exceptional and most helpful. Being that the cruising itinerary has almost 7 sea days, the entertainment and ship-board amenities have to be good. The Lincoln Center Stage quintet was excellent, and, although we did not see all the stage presentations, the few that we saw were very professionally done. Land tours were good, and the bus lines were not long, given that there were several handicap people on board. The several tour guides that we experienced all spoke with different levels of English competency, which is to be expected. All in all, they were knowledgeable and had good senses of humor. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2018
14 of us book a cruise from our bridge club. We notified HAL we needed a table and bridge supplies and they said "no problem" Had we known they wouldn't supply anything we could have brought our own stuff. This where the bad ... Read More
14 of us book a cruise from our bridge club. We notified HAL we needed a table and bridge supplies and they said "no problem" Had we known they wouldn't supply anything we could have brought our own stuff. This where the bad started. LIES, LIES, LIES after they get you money your just screwed. At one point of the cruise at port the closed the kitchen for hot foods saying the power went out. MORE LIES. There was hot food available for people willing to pay extra. The port times were really short and to far away from most things. Best way is to buy the excursion from the ship and shop on the internet before you go. They DO guarantee price matching. It was by for the best part of the cruise. Sad to say. The entertainment was crap. A talking dummy, ventriloquist. That's the best they could do. One night they even made the crew put on a show. SAD The pool in the back of the ship often got blasted with black blobs burnt oil from the diesel engines. Read Less
Westerdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.4
Dining 4.5 3.9
Entertainment 4.5 3.7
Public Rooms 4.5 4.3
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.8
Family 2.5 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.9
Enrichment 4.0 3.6
Service 4.5 4.3
Value For Money 4.5 4.0
Rates 4.0 4.2

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