Westerdam Cruise Review by lordaiur
- Sail Date: June 2012
- Destination: Alaska
- Cabin Type: Large Ocean-View Stateroom
Having said that, let's start from the beginning...
Our group : 3 young ladies in their 50s and 60s plus me in my 30s, all first-time cruisers
Weather : everybody hit the jackpot this week, almost no rain for the whole cruise.
Embarkation : arrived at Pier 91 in Seattle around 11:30am. There were maybe 6-7 baggage handlers from Princess helping their customers unload their luggage into carts. Nobody from HAL anywhere to be found at the same drop-off area. Were we too early ? Oh well, we had a small group so DIY is not a problem. Check-in was very organized and efficient as most people mentioned. We were on the ship in about 20-25 mins. The sea of people on the other side of the building for Princess looked mighty intimidating in comparison. Our room was already prepped for us (thumbs-up to housekeeping) so we were able to drop off our stuff before heading to the Lido for lunch.
Ship : exterior looked great. Obviously not brand new, but definitely well maintained. The black and white color scheme made it look like it's wearing a tux. Very classy compared to the all white paint job of the Golden Princess. Inside the Westerdam, signs of wear-and-tear were noticeable if you're looking, but hardly enough to be a bother. The fact that she is one of the more "green" ships is also a big plus. On the flip side, the library doubled as a cafe and was relocated right next to the Crow's Nest where some loud activities were often held. As a result, folks looking for a quiet place to read got screwed at times. This is probably a temporary arrangement as there is remodeling going on at certain parts of the ship.
Captain, PJ van Maurik : nice gentleman with a sense of humor. pointed out interesting scenery along the way. got our ship within 100 yards of the glacier. won the drag race against the Golden Princess on our way to Victoria just so we could dock first. Sir, I salute you.
Crew : wonderful, friendly, helpful. They made you feel like family and made the ship feel like home. About 95% of the time, we were greeted with a smile when we walked by. They handled the ship's cleaning, vacuuming, repairing, re-painting all day, everyday. Simply amazing.
Cruise Director, Jason Venner : agree with everyone else that he was a great host / comedian / dance instructor. He's incredibly talented for his job and he does it well.
DJ Brett : didn't go to his nightly dance parties but he's also good as an MC (ex : bingo).
Darlene & The HALCats : band rocked, singer was so-so.
Piano Man, Glenn-Michael : excellent with the piano & keyboard. Very experienced entertainer.
Violinist : average. played with the sheet music in front of her which made it seem like amateur hour.
Party Planner, Amber : really nice lady and clearly enjoys doing her job. we liked every activity that she hosted (culinary arts, making greeting cards, flower arrangements, towel animals)
Westerdam Singers & Dancers : a group of hard-working professionals who put on quite a show. Vegas-quality but just smaller in scale. Vista Lounge was packed for every performance so we had to go 15-20 minutes early for good seats. Rockin' Roadhouse was their best show.
Lifestylist, Clare : homegirl looked like she needed a vacation. saw her smile only once for the entire cruise. her tai-chi could use some work too.
Filipino Crew Show : for non-professional entertainers, they did pretty well. once they got over their nerves, they gave a very heartfelt show.
Vista Dining Room : exceptional. for most part, the food was seasoned just right, not overly salty/sweet like at most restaurants. we never had to wait for a table of our own or make reservations and usually were seated right by the window. service was stellar except for one breakfast when the omelet orders got backed up.
Formal nights : only attended the second of the two nights and only because they were serving lobster tail (not available in the Lido, I checked). i didn't bring a suit but they were nice enough to let me and other violators borrow a jacket, a nice gesture also previously mentioned by fellow cruisers.
Lido buffet : slightly better than the average buffet. it does get crowded sometimes (ex : first 2 days when crew does all the serving; lunch after everybody comes back on the ship at Ketchikan) but usually not too bad. Some folks just took their food back to their rooms to eat. Also agree that staff was not excessively pushy with alcohol/beverage sales. Salmon bakes by the pool were the best meals they cooked up. saw one waiter perform random magic tricks for diners.
Afternoon tea : highly satisfactory. i'm a sucker for fruit tarts and cream puffs and they had a mountain of those. we usually stayed until they kicked us out so they could setup for dinner, haha.
Glacier Bay National Park : I now understand why people said this day was the highlight of their trip. Words fail me, just go.
Comedian / Magician, Jeff Peterson and "Indy" : not bad. might be a bit boring for those who are used to seeing fancier tricks.
Jazz band : again, the band itself was pretty good, but the singer was no bueno. dude was a young caucasian who had a voice like a black woman, bizarre as that sounds. people got tired of his falsetto pretty quickly.
Pools and hot tubs : brought my swimming trunks but unfortunately didn't get to use it. saw a lot of folks enjoying themselves though. would've been awesome to relax in the jacuzzi with the spectacular scenery going by.
Room service : we only ordered tea several times and it takes them anywhere from 10 minutes to 1.5 hours to bring it. meh.
Disembarkation : again, smooth as everyone said. we opted for the last group (9:30am - 10am) because we were in zero hurry, which meant that we got to have one last breakfast in the Lido. True to their word, we were allowed to hang out anywhere on the ship until it was our time to leave. In fact, most of the crowd got off the ship so fast that our group was able to disembark about 10 minutes early. Whole process took even less time than embarkation.
Sooooooo as you can tell, my family and I had a good time. We felt we really got our money's worth and yes, we would sail with HAL again to other destinations. A big thanks to everyone on the Westerdam for making our first cruise so memorable.
* plenty of storage space
* great views on port side
* comfy beds
* can hear bass playing at around 10pm to midnight
* sofa bed not as comfy as regular beds
* complimentary soap/shampoo/conditioner but no toothbrush/toothpaste
Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
JuneauFor the Mendenhall Glacier, you can take either the Blue or White bus (same locations, same price of $16 RT) to see the glacier (free admission). the drive takes only about 10 minutes and the driver is kind enough to point out landmarks along the way. agree that you should definitely check out Mendenhall glacier + Nugget falls. only went to the visitor center to use the restroom.View All 1,253 Juneau Cruise Port Reviews
Didn't care for the shopping or the Red Dog Saloon so we had some nice coffee at a local cafe and used their free wi-fi. went to the Juneau library and got a great view of the harbor with the 4-5 ships parked there.
View Cruise Critic's Juneau Cruise Port Review
KetchikanTook the city bus (blue line) north to Totem Bight State Park as advised by fellow CCers. Round trip was $2 each and also served as a nice tour of the city. The park itself was a let-down compared to the one in Sitka because it was tiny. We blazed through the totem poles, wooden structures, and gift shop all in less than an hour. The same group of people who came with us also went back with us on the same bus.View All 1,428 Ketchikan Cruise Port Reviews
Didn't care for shopping so didn't care for Creek Street. took some pictures and that was it. the funicular ride ($2 all day) up to Cape Fox Hill was kinda cool but there's not much of a view from the top. you have the choice of a couple trails down the hill or just take the funicular again.
Ketchikan library next to Creek St offers free wi-fi and both are a 5-min walk from the pier.
View Cruise Critic's Ketchikan Cruise Port Review
SitkaI like Sitka because it was the least commercialized of all the ports and the national forest was a joy to walk through. The town is small enough for walking, but there are buses / shuttles / bicycle carriages to help you get around.View All 268 Sitka Cruise Port Reviews
Sitka National Historic Park (free admission) is full of great trails. We saw bald eagles everywhere, it was ridiculous. Wonderful scenery that should take you about 2 hours to fully enjoy.
The Raptor Center ($12) is right across the street north of the forest and houses at least 30 different eagles, hawks, falcons, owls for you to check out. Good for kids and animal lovers alike.
The Bishop's House is supposedly more than 100 years-old but the restoration made it look totally new, which made me kinda disappointed. First floor exhibits are free but 2nd floor costs $3 if i remember correctly.
I had a reindeer hot dog (about $5) from one of the street carts and it tasted EXACTLY like a regular beef hot dog. It was good, but i was expecting reindeer to taste different, oh well.
Castle Hill offers a good view of the town, harbor, bridge, and snow-capped mountain in the background. a good place to swing by real quick before heading back to your ship.
View Cruise Critic's Sitka Cruise Port Review
VictoriaRight at the pier, there are detailed maps giving you transportation options into downtown. Walking is very feasible, but it was rather cold that day and all the horse carriages were booked by excursion operators so we decided to take the CVS shuttle bus ($8 all day) which took us about 2 blocks north of the Empress Hotel on Government St. Ride itself was less than 10 minutes but waiting in line for the shuttle took almost 30 minutes due to somewhat sloppy crowd management.View All 958 Victoria Cruise Port Reviews
Arriving at 7pm made it too late to attend most of the famous tea times, plus we've been to Victoria before so we just walked around aimlessly. sad that a surprising number of shops were already closed by then. we spent maybe 2 hours and made our way back to the ship.
on a side note, Canadian officials were incredibly lax with security. we brought our passport but nobody asked to see it. our room card was all that was needed. hrm.
View Cruise Critic's Victoria Cruise Port Review