1. Home
  2. Cruise Reviews
  3. Oosterdam
BOOKING BLUES: We booked our Once in a lifetime cruise on HAL via an internet website. Everything was pretty neat and fast. I booked our Alaskan cruise on one of those DAM ships that started with a Z and we were quite excited to travel on a pretty new HAL ship (2 years old). Our plans were made and the dates were confirmed in the early part of the year, about six months out. Then one day out of the blue I got the bad news from our travel agent, HAL booked a large group on the DAM Z ship, cancelled our reservations and we are now on the DAM O ship! I was so mad at the agent and HAL, we had travel plans, airline tickets already cut, time off of work and they cancel even though we had paid our deposit. The new cruise started one day later and had a slightly different itinerary. Well both the agent and HAL said to read the fine print. Well low and behold, the fine print states that they can do whatever they choose and we have no recourse. If this happens to you, dont bother calling HAL, they play pretty dumb and tell you they cant do much without talking to your travel agent. Of course they gave us and extra $100 on board credit which paid for our sodas, but other than that there was not much budging from HAL or the travel agent with compensation for a cancelled cruise. ROOM ASSIGNMENTS AND RESERVATIONS: So after a day or two of yelling and screaming, we still wanted to go on our cruise and ended up with the Oosterdam (3 years old ship). There were eight of us on the cruise all one family, grandma and grandpa, my bride and I of 25 years and our three adult children 18, 21 and 24 and our son-in-law. We booked four rooms. We paid for a VA and ended up with an aft room on the navigation level (8th floor). The other rooms were booked as inside cabin rooms. We chose to go with a guarantee room option and were not assigned rooms at the time of booking. Our travel agent told us we had a better chance of getting upgraded if we went with the guarantee room option. Being a little curious, we went ahead and played the waiting game with our room assignments. About a month out we received our room assignment on the 8th floor. Two weeks later the Grandparents received their room assignment an inside room on the 7th floor. A few days before the trip we found that our kids were assigned rooms on the 1st floor but they got upgraded to oceanview with a large porthole in their room. When we got to the pier, we found out that one of the rooms on the 1st floor was upgraded to a VA room on the 6th floor so we were quite pleased with the outcome. The biggest problem with the guarantee room option is that our four rooms were all over the ship. It really wasnt a problem and we got our needed private time because our room was so far away from everyone else. We were set to go, we booked our shore excursions online before the 10 day deadline and also filled out our immigration forms online. By the way, we found our room assignments on the HAL website while filing out our immigration forms. PRE-CRUISE TOUR: We made reservations to fly into Seattle a day early to visit some of the sites in the city but we ended up with an extra day because of the cancellation of our initial cruise. We stayed at the Loyal Best Western a few blocks from the Space Needle. It is not close to a four or five star hotel but was more than adequate for our needs. I think the room was about $89 a night which I found online. Free internet access, free parking and free breakfast and a very friendly front desk. Most hotels in the city run over $150- $250 a night. We rented a car from Alamo Rent-a-car from the airport. We really enjoyed our pre-cruise trip and enjoyed the Space Needle about $14.00 each to go to the top and toured many of the interactive attractions around the park. I was surprised how many hills were in the city and how large the Puget Sound is. EMBARKATION: The HAL pier was located on pier 30 which is on the far south side of the city close to the SAFECO baseball Field. They share a very large building with Princess Cruises, HAL on the south side of the building. Our hotel offered us a shuttle to the pier but it was on a first come first served basis so we decided to drop off the gang then return the car. We went to the Pier at 9:30 a.m. When we got there, there were lots of people all over the place. Mostly travelers heading out of the pier. However, there was a line up of early birds waiting to get their bags checked into the ship. I returned our Alamo car to the Seattle Hilton on 6th Ave and caught a cab back to the pier. There was no drop off charge to pick up an Alamo car at the airport and drop off in Seattle, however, be ready for a long line at the counter. The taxi bill was about $10.00 plus a tip. By 10:30 a.m. I was back and ready to join the rest of our group who were meeting us at pier 30. The embarkation process was a breeze. Our group had to wait for me before checking in the bags because I had all of the passports in my backpack. As soon as I got off the taxi, we walked all of our bags to the guy in the red coat, a fellow Hawaiian, and in a jiffy, we were in line to check in. Because we did our immigration forms online, we went to a counter with no line. We presented our health questionnaire (checking if you have a cough or are currently sick) got our pictures taken for their security system and we ready to go. We were issued cards that doubled as our ID as well as our key to our stateroom. While we were in line at about 11:15 a.m. the doors opened and everyone started to board the ship. We travel a lot and one thing I dont enjoy is stress, however, at this point I really did not experience any pre-trip stress as the process was simple, lots of friendly help in the building and everything went very smooth and fast. When we entered into the gate, there was a table with guys selling drinks and sodas for our on board use. We chose to purchase 4 cards of soda which was about 20 soda drinks per card for our seven days. That was a little too many sodas but it worked out much cheaper than buying sodas at the regular price. Once on board we were directed to the Lido deck for lunch. It was quite enjoyable and everyone was starting to get acquainted with the Lido deck and the buffet line. Time flew by and then it was time to pull off the dock. We went to the 10th level to watch the city of Seattle go by. Shortly after we took off we were invited to go to our rooms. We were quite happy to see that all of our bags made it into our room. There were tons of bags still in the halls so we were lucky to get our bags so early. It is amazing that the Oosterdam staff can take 2000 people off the ship and 2000 more back on the ship with just a few hours separating the two cruises, an amazing feat. THE OOSTERDAM: We were happy to meet our room steward, Inda, a very nice fellow from Indonesia. He was terrific and was very pleasant. The rest of our group eventually got their bags and we enjoyed the journey out of the Puget Sound. I know I get seasick when I go deep sea fishing or on roller coasters so I went to our doctor a few weeks before the cruise and requested the patch. I was told to put a patch behind my ear the night before the cruise. It worked very well and I never felt sick during the entire trip. Some in our group felt a little woozy but not much to keep any one out of commission of having fun. I was surprised how many other travelers had the patch on during the cruise. The Oosterdam was a great ship to be on. It is approximately 3 football fields long. Three times around the deck equals one mile to give you an idea how big the ship really is. We thought the ship was in very good condition, pretty clean, the beds were comfortable, pillows better than home and the giant fluffy white towels were great! We enjoyed messing up the bed at night, going to breakfast, coming back and having our beds are made, messing up our bed again, going to lunch, coming back before dinner and our beds are made again, then going out for entertainment and dinner and coming home to find our beds are turned down and all new fresh towels in the bathroom. Before leaving on our trip I read many reviews and the most helpful were found on cruisecritic.com. Some of the most helpful suggestions was purchasing the soda cards before going on board, taking a electrical power strip (cell phone charger, computer charger, video camera charger etc.), early boarding and having lunch in the Lido before the cruise. THE AFT ROOMS: I was concerned to be in the aft room but found it to be a very nice place to be. The lido buffet was one floor up and the Vista dining room was below us on the 2nd floor. Because we were on the 8th floor, our veranda was covered. It was a long walk to the Vista Lounge (showroom) but after eating dinner the walk was great! The aft room verandas are very large and spacious. he lower aft verandas are nice and has no covering. One problem is that everyone on the higher verandas can see you when you are out of your room. We didnt use our veranda very much because it was kind of cold most of the trip. Our room was basically a bed, small couch, TV and table. We had to take turns walking around the bed because it is very small walkway between the bed and the wall. At least the large mirrors made you think it was a little larger. Our bathroom was kind of tight but manageable but what do you expect on a cruise ship? It took awhile to get used to where we were on the ship and how to navigate around the 3 different banks of elevators. There was lots to see on several of the different levels of the ship. It took me two days to finally find the store and internet room. I wasnt really looking for it but I never went on the 3rd floor until I decided to look for the store. ON BOARD ENTERTAINMENT: For entertainment we had a wide range of travelers, two in their mid 70's, two in their late 40's and four young adults. We took full advantage of all of the many onboard activities on the Oosterdam. The Cruise director and staff did an excellent job keeping us going with activities throughout the trip. Our two youngest played basketball on top of the ship, We participated in the Oosterdam Idol competition which was a total blast. Enjoyed the nighttime dancing and line dancing activities and singing in the piano lounge with the other guests. We also participated in some of the competitions like golf chipping, ping pong and scavenger hunt. We enjoyed the evening shows which were very exciting and professional. There were two comedians on our trip for the Vista show room. Both were totally 1st rate performers. The comedian/ventriloquist was one of the best ventriloquist I have ever seen. I really enjoyed the Oosterdam show. The dancing was great and the choreography was pretty moving as the dancers never stopped moving throughout the show. For on board entertainment we were quite pleased with the offerings on the Oosterdam. We played bingo a few times but the payouts were pretty low except for the final bingo day. The casino was fun but like normal, just fun depositing, but I must say, the staff in the casino was quite friendly. I think that our entire trip was just fun and exciting because we took full advantage of the entertainment and onboard activities. We never really had any bad experiences on board. There are bad seats in the Vista Show room with columns that block your view, but we found if we went early we could always find excellent seating. Every night we receive a notice for the next days activities. This became our entertainment guide book. At dinner the night before or at breakfast we would choose what activities we would participate in together. THE FOOD: The food at the Lido was great. Our #1 daughter thought the food was kind of bland, but the rest of us was doing what they told us at the orientation, IF YOU SEE IT, EAT IT! And eat we did, the selection of food was very good and adequate for breakfast and lunch. My wife especially enjoyed the freshly made waffles for breakfast. Finding a table for eight was a little challenging but after the first day we just sat at different tables which was just fine for all of us. The Vista Dining room was top notch. Our server was Beni, he was also from Indonesia. He had such as great personality and knew we enjoyed eating. I often had double entrees, a steak plus fish or lobster tail. You can order anything you want on the menu. On the lobster night I had two lobster tails plus a steak. It is better to order the extra items at the initial order to save time. The only draw back in the dining room was the length of time it took to finish our meal, average time was two hours. We had one dinner at the Pinnacle. We really enjoyed the steaks and seafood at the Pinnacle the service and baked Alaska was great. It was fun having all of the family dressed in formal attire in the Pinnacle. Best of all it was free, one of the perks from our travel agent (normally $20.00 each which would have been worth the money). Some of our relatives told us they didnt like HAL because of the formal nights. But we enjoyed dressing up for the two nights. TIPPING POLICY: HALs no tipping policy was okay for us. However, with eight people in our group, six of which I was paying for, the tips really added up. I think it is quite fair as long as the main people that helped us received the most of the money. According to our cruise director 100% of the money goes to the staff, 70% to the room attendants and dinner staff and 30% went to the behind the scene people. We still tipped our room attendant for his great service which was not required. PORTS OF CALLS AND SHORE EXCURSIONS: Another element that made the trip so successful was great weather and once in a life time experiences at our ports of call and shore excursions. It was stress free to book our shore excursions online before the cruise. We never had to make decisions and we had guaranteed seats on our tours. We didnt do any real expensive tours because of the size of our group and shrinking pocket book. So we didnt walk on any glaciers or take a sea plane tour. JUNEAU: Our first port of call was in Juneau. We took the whale watching and Mendenhall Glacier tour. This was absolutely one of the high lights of the trip. Being from Hawaii, we see Humpback whales quite often, but what we experienced was a thrill for everyone on board. The humpback whales were bubble feeding and we got to witness not one but three different pods of humpback whales bubble feeding on our 2 hour tour. The bubble feeding was much more exciting than one whale breaching. Some of the pods had as many as 8 to 10 humpback whales all springing up out of the water at once to catch their lunch. Along with the humpback whales, seals, sea lions and Alaska scenery, it was totally worth the cost of the tour. Mendenhall glacier was a must see in Juneau. They have a very nice new visitors center which was very comfortable but very busy. There were four cruise ships in dock in Juneau at the same time. HUBBARD GLACIER: Our next visit was at the Hubbard Glacier. We came into the Yakutat bay then into Disenchantment Bay and drifted slowing though the ice and got very close to the glacier. The glacier is so large that your reference to distance is off so I really dont know how close we were to the glacier. It was very cold on deck especially when the wind picked up. With the large Hubbard Glacier in front of us, it was like being in a ice box with wind blowing. We saw the glacier caving many times as the ship made a few turns in the bay. The staff brought out pea soup but because we were on the 7th floor level viewing the glacier we only watched as those on the bow got to have the soup. For lunch I was able to have some pea soup which was interestingly green but of course very delicious. The pea soup people couldnt find us on the 7th floor deck but the ships photographer found us, go figure. SIKTA: We were excited for our next port of call in Sitka because we arranged for four of us to go salmon fishing. We chartered our own boat though www.sitkacharters.com. The owner Angela was very professional and it was easy to get our booking, fishing license and payments to her. Coming in and going out of Sitka is a very beautiful and peaceful experience. The little islands and volcano are just so scenic. Once off the tender in Sitka, a representative to met us at the dock and took us to our boat. Captain Mike was a terrific Fishing expert and knew where the fish were biting. We were out to find Sliver - Coho salmon and King salmon which were still running. It was a beautiful day with blue sky and hardly any wave action to speak of. Within an hour we were getting strikes and the excitement and trill catching large salmon was becoming a reality. We were fishing at depths at about 100 feet. We ended our four hour fishing trip with five Coho salmon and two kings which all total weighed 71 pounds. We had the fish processed and shipped home to Hawaii. It was pretty costly but if you want to create memories with your family, this was one worth every penny. The pictures we took is our evidence to our family at home that this was no fish story. The other members of our family went to the Russian dancers and Raptor Center. They got to see totem poles and were quite satisfied with their tour of Sitka. KETCHIKAN: Ketchikan was a short stop for the cruise so we decided to take a Duck tour. It is a large amphibious vehicle that can go on land and water. Well when we reached Ketchikan in the morning it was raining pretty hard. We got on our Duck tour but could not see much because it was raining. The best part was going form the parking lot into the water. It was kind of a boring tour until the Eagle showed up towards the end of the tour. Then everyone in the vehicle started to perk up again. Shopping in Ketchikan was lots of fun and we got most of our souvenirs from here. There are lots of jewelry shops in town. By the time the ship was leaving, the rain and clouds lifted and we had a beautiful view of the port, sea planes and city as we left. VICTORIA: Our final port of call was in Victoria, Canada. This was the only port of call where we didnt purchase a shore excursion. When we got to Victoria we all headed out to the waiting taxis and tour vans. We were told that there was a shuttle bus for $5.00 RT to the middle of town at the Empress Hotel. No one really wanted to see the gardens so we went to town and found a fun water front in Victoria. They have many Bear statues all over the city which were kind of interesting. Apparently they will auction off the bears later in the year and a charity will benefit from the sale of the bears. The water front was fun as was the shopping in the town area. The street performers were professional and fun. There was a wide range of entertainment on the streets, we were there on a Friday night so along with thousands of tourist, the locals were out and showing off their supped up cars along the streets. It was just quite a fun afternoon with a beautiful sunset. DISEMBARKATION: On our last night we were told to put our bags outside our doors before 1:00 a.m., we had to make sure we kept enough clothes, shoes and toiletries for the next morning as the bags were gone by the time you woke up the next morning. Our youngest, packed her IDs and HAL card in her bags and didnt discover that until she woke up the next morning. They still let her off the ship. We were to disembark at about 9:30 a.m., we were sad to end such a wonderful trip. Finding all of our bags was a trick but we eventually found our bags and were off back to the real world again. I took a taxi back to the Hilton and picked up a Alamo SUV for our post tour of Seattle. We visited relatives in the area and caught a baseball game at the Safeco field. It took a day or two to stop rocking while we were standing. It was a great experience. We are ready for our next HAL cruise!

Oosterdam - Alaska

Oosterdam Cruise Review by cruzinhawn

1 person found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: July 2006
  • Destination: Alaska
  • Cabin Type: Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom
BOOKING BLUES: We booked our Once in a lifetime cruise on HAL via an internet website. Everything was pretty neat and fast. I booked our Alaskan cruise on one of those DAM ships that started with a Z and we were quite excited to travel on a pretty new HAL ship (2 years old). Our plans were made and the dates were confirmed in the early part of the year, about six months out. Then one day out of the blue I got the bad news from our travel agent, HAL booked a large group on the DAM Z ship, cancelled our reservations and we are now on the DAM O ship! I was so mad at the agent and HAL, we had travel plans, airline tickets already cut, time off of work and they cancel even though we had paid our deposit.
The new cruise started one day later and had a slightly different itinerary. Well both the agent and HAL said to read the fine print. Well low and behold, the fine print states that they can do whatever they choose and we have no recourse. If this happens to you, dont bother calling HAL, they play pretty dumb and tell you they cant do much without talking to your travel agent. Of course they gave us and extra $100 on board credit which paid for our sodas, but other than that there was not much budging from HAL or the travel agent with compensation for a cancelled cruise.
ROOM ASSIGNMENTS AND RESERVATIONS: So after a day or two of yelling and screaming, we still wanted to go on our cruise and ended up with the Oosterdam (3 years old ship). There were eight of us on the cruise all one family, grandma and grandpa, my bride and I of 25 years and our three adult children 18, 21 and 24 and our son-in-law. We booked four rooms. We paid for a VA and ended up with an aft room on the navigation level (8th floor). The other rooms were booked as inside cabin rooms. We chose to go with a guarantee room option and were not assigned rooms at the time of booking. Our travel agent told us we had a better chance of getting upgraded if we went with the guarantee room option. Being a little curious, we went ahead and played the waiting game with our room assignments. About a month out we received our room assignment on the 8th floor. Two weeks later the Grandparents received their room assignment an inside room on the 7th floor. A few days before the trip we found that our kids were assigned rooms on the 1st floor but they got upgraded to oceanview with a large porthole in their room. When we got to the pier, we found out that one of the rooms on the 1st floor was upgraded to a VA room on the 6th floor so we were quite pleased with the outcome. The biggest problem with the guarantee room option is that our four rooms were all over the ship. It really wasnt a problem and we got our needed private time because our room was so far away from everyone else.
We were set to go, we booked our shore excursions online before the 10 day deadline and also filled out our immigration forms online. By the way, we found our room assignments on the HAL website while filing out our immigration forms.
PRE-CRUISE TOUR: We made reservations to fly into Seattle a day early to visit some of the sites in the city but we ended up with an extra day because of the cancellation of our initial cruise. We stayed at the Loyal Best Western a few blocks from the Space Needle. It is not close to a four or five star hotel but was more than adequate for our needs. I think the room was about $89 a night which I found online. Free internet access, free parking and free breakfast and a very friendly front desk. Most hotels in the city run over $150- $250 a night. We rented a car from Alamo Rent-a-car from the airport. We really enjoyed our pre-cruise trip and enjoyed the Space Needle about $14.00 each to go to the top and toured many of the interactive attractions around the park. I was surprised how many hills were in the city and how large the Puget Sound is.
EMBARKATION: The HAL pier was located on pier 30 which is on the far south side of the city close to the SAFECO baseball Field. They share a very large building with Princess Cruises, HAL on the south side of the building. Our hotel offered us a shuttle to the pier but it was on a first come first served basis so we decided to drop off the gang then return the car. We went to the Pier at 9:30 a.m. When we got there, there were lots of people all over the place. Mostly travelers heading out of the pier. However, there was a line up of early birds waiting to get their bags checked into the ship. I returned our Alamo car to the Seattle Hilton on 6th Ave and caught a cab back to the pier. There was no drop off charge to pick up an Alamo car at the airport and drop off in Seattle, however, be ready for a long line at the counter. The taxi bill was about $10.00 plus a tip. By 10:30 a.m. I was back and ready to join the rest of our group who were meeting us at pier 30.
The embarkation process was a breeze. Our group had to wait for me before checking in the bags because I had all of the passports in my backpack. As soon as I got off the taxi, we walked all of our bags to the guy in the red coat, a fellow Hawaiian, and in a jiffy, we were in line to check in. Because we did our immigration forms online, we went to a counter with no line. We presented our health questionnaire (checking if you have a cough or are currently sick) got our pictures taken for their security system and we ready to go. We were issued cards that doubled as our ID as well as our key to our stateroom.
While we were in line at about 11:15 a.m. the doors opened and everyone started to board the ship. We travel a lot and one thing I dont enjoy is stress, however, at this point I really did not experience any pre-trip stress as the process was simple, lots of friendly help in the building and everything went very smooth and fast. When we entered into the gate, there was a table with guys selling drinks and sodas for our on board use. We chose to purchase 4 cards of soda which was about 20 soda drinks per card for our seven days. That was a little too many sodas but it worked out much cheaper than buying sodas at the regular price.
Once on board we were directed to the Lido deck for lunch. It was quite enjoyable and everyone was starting to get acquainted with the Lido deck and the buffet line. Time flew by and then it was time to pull off the dock. We went to the 10th level to watch the city of Seattle go by. Shortly after we took off we were invited to go to our rooms. We were quite happy to see that all of our bags made it into our room. There were tons of bags still in the halls so we were lucky to get our bags so early. It is amazing that the Oosterdam staff can take 2000 people off the ship and 2000 more back on the ship with just a few hours separating the two cruises, an amazing feat. THE OOSTERDAM: We were happy to meet our room steward, Inda, a very nice fellow from Indonesia. He was terrific and was very pleasant. The rest of our group eventually got their bags and we enjoyed the journey out of the Puget Sound. I know I get seasick when I go deep sea fishing or on roller coasters so I went to our doctor a few weeks before the cruise and requested the patch. I was told to put a patch behind my ear the night before the cruise. It worked very well and I never felt sick during the entire trip. Some in our group felt a little woozy but not much to keep any one out of commission of having fun. I was surprised how many other travelers had the patch on during the cruise.
The Oosterdam was a great ship to be on. It is approximately 3 football fields long. Three times around the deck equals one mile to give you an idea how big the ship really is. We thought the ship was in very good condition, pretty clean, the beds were comfortable, pillows better than home and the giant fluffy white towels were great! We enjoyed messing up the bed at night, going to breakfast, coming back and having our beds are made, messing up our bed again, going to lunch, coming back before dinner and our beds are made again, then going out for entertainment and dinner and coming home to find our beds are turned down and all new fresh towels in the bathroom.
Before leaving on our trip I read many reviews and the most helpful were found on cruisecritic.com. Some of the most helpful suggestions was purchasing the soda cards before going on board, taking a electrical power strip (cell phone charger, computer charger, video camera charger etc.), early boarding and having lunch in the Lido before the cruise.
THE AFT ROOMS: I was concerned to be in the aft room but found it to be a very nice place to be. The lido buffet was one floor up and the Vista dining room was below us on the 2nd floor. Because we were on the 8th floor, our veranda was covered. It was a long walk to the Vista Lounge (showroom) but after eating dinner the walk was great! The aft room verandas are very large and spacious. he lower aft verandas are nice and has no covering. One problem is that everyone on the higher verandas can see you when you are out of your room. We didnt use our veranda very much because it was kind of cold most of the trip.
Our room was basically a bed, small couch, TV and table. We had to take turns walking around the bed because it is very small walkway between the bed and the wall. At least the large mirrors made you think it was a little larger. Our bathroom was kind of tight but manageable but what do you expect on a cruise ship?
It took awhile to get used to where we were on the ship and how to navigate around the 3 different banks of elevators. There was lots to see on several of the different levels of the ship. It took me two days to finally find the store and internet room. I wasnt really looking for it but I never went on the 3rd floor until I decided to look for the store.
ON BOARD ENTERTAINMENT: For entertainment we had a wide range of travelers, two in their mid 70's, two in their late 40's and four young adults. We took full advantage of all of the many onboard activities on the Oosterdam. The Cruise director and staff did an excellent job keeping us going with activities throughout the trip. Our two youngest played basketball on top of the ship, We participated in the Oosterdam Idol competition which was a total blast. Enjoyed the nighttime dancing and line dancing activities and singing in the piano lounge with the other guests. We also participated in some of the competitions like golf chipping, ping pong and scavenger hunt.
We enjoyed the evening shows which were very exciting and professional. There were two comedians on our trip for the Vista show room. Both were totally 1st rate performers. The comedian/ventriloquist was one of the best ventriloquist I have ever seen. I really enjoyed the Oosterdam show. The dancing was great and the choreography was pretty moving as the dancers never stopped moving throughout the show.
For on board entertainment we were quite pleased with the offerings on the Oosterdam. We played bingo a few times but the payouts were pretty low except for the final bingo day. The casino was fun but like normal, just fun depositing, but I must say, the staff in the casino was quite friendly. I think that our entire trip was just fun and exciting because we took full advantage of the entertainment and onboard activities. We never really had any bad experiences on board. There are bad seats in the Vista Show room with columns that block your view, but we found if we went early we could always find excellent seating.
Every night we receive a notice for the next days activities. This became our entertainment guide book. At dinner the night before or at breakfast we would choose what activities we would participate in together.
THE FOOD: The food at the Lido was great. Our #1 daughter thought the food was kind of bland, but the rest of us was doing what they told us at the orientation, IF YOU SEE IT, EAT IT! And eat we did, the selection of food was very good and adequate for breakfast and lunch. My wife especially enjoyed the freshly made waffles for breakfast. Finding a table for eight was a little challenging but after the first day we just sat at different tables which was just fine for all of us.
The Vista Dining room was top notch. Our server was Beni, he was also from Indonesia. He had such as great personality and knew we enjoyed eating. I often had double entrees, a steak plus fish or lobster tail. You can order anything you want on the menu. On the lobster night I had two lobster tails plus a steak. It is better to order the extra items at the initial order to save time. The only draw back in the dining room was the length of time it took to finish our meal, average time was two hours. We had one dinner at the Pinnacle. We really enjoyed the steaks and seafood at the Pinnacle the service and baked Alaska was great. It was fun having all of the family dressed in formal attire in the Pinnacle. Best of all it was free, one of the perks from our travel agent (normally $20.00 each which would have been worth the money). Some of our relatives told us they didnt like HAL because of the formal nights. But we enjoyed dressing up for the two nights.
TIPPING POLICY: HALs no tipping policy was okay for us. However, with eight people in our group, six of which I was paying for, the tips really added up. I think it is quite fair as long as the main people that helped us received the most of the money. According to our cruise director 100% of the money goes to the staff, 70% to the room attendants and dinner staff and 30% went to the behind the scene people. We still tipped our room attendant for his great service which was not required.
PORTS OF CALLS AND SHORE EXCURSIONS: Another element that made the trip so successful was great weather and once in a life time experiences at our ports of call and shore excursions. It was stress free to book our shore excursions online before the cruise. We never had to make decisions and we had guaranteed seats on our tours. We didnt do any real expensive tours because of the size of our group and shrinking pocket book. So we didnt walk on any glaciers or take a sea plane tour.
JUNEAU: Our first port of call was in Juneau. We took the whale watching and Mendenhall Glacier tour. This was absolutely one of the high lights of the trip. Being from Hawaii, we see Humpback whales quite often, but what we experienced was a thrill for everyone on board. The humpback whales were bubble feeding and we got to witness not one but three different pods of humpback whales bubble feeding on our 2 hour tour. The bubble feeding was much more exciting than one whale breaching. Some of the pods had as many as 8 to 10 humpback whales all springing up out of the water at once to catch their lunch. Along with the humpback whales, seals, sea lions and Alaska scenery, it was totally worth the cost of the tour. Mendenhall glacier was a must see in Juneau. They have a very nice new visitors center which was very comfortable but very busy. There were four cruise ships in dock in Juneau at the same time. HUBBARD GLACIER: Our next visit was at the Hubbard Glacier. We came into the Yakutat bay then into Disenchantment Bay and drifted slowing though the ice and got very close to the glacier. The glacier is so large that your reference to distance is off so I really dont know how close we were to the glacier. It was very cold on deck especially when the wind picked up. With the large Hubbard Glacier in front of us, it was like being in a ice box with wind blowing. We saw the glacier caving many times as the ship made a few turns in the bay. The staff brought out pea soup but because we were on the 7th floor level viewing the glacier we only watched as those on the bow got to have the soup. For lunch I was able to have some pea soup which was interestingly green but of course very delicious. The pea soup people couldnt find us on the 7th floor deck but the ships photographer found us, go figure.
SIKTA: We were excited for our next port of call in Sitka because we arranged for four of us to go salmon fishing. We chartered our own boat though www.sitkacharters.com. The owner Angela was very professional and it was easy to get our booking, fishing license and payments to her. Coming in and going out of Sitka is a very beautiful and peaceful experience. The little islands and volcano are just so scenic. Once off the tender in Sitka, a representative to met us at the dock and took us to our boat. Captain Mike was a terrific Fishing expert and knew where the fish were biting. We were out to find Sliver - Coho salmon and King salmon which were still running. It was a beautiful day with blue sky and hardly any wave action to speak of. Within an hour we were getting strikes and the excitement and trill catching large salmon was becoming a reality. We were fishing at depths at about 100 feet. We ended our four hour fishing trip with five Coho salmon and two kings which all total weighed 71 pounds. We had the fish processed and shipped home to Hawaii. It was pretty costly but if you want to create memories with your family, this was one worth every penny. The pictures we took is our evidence to our family at home that this was no fish story. The other members of our family went to the Russian dancers and Raptor Center. They got to see totem poles and were quite satisfied with their tour of Sitka.
KETCHIKAN: Ketchikan was a short stop for the cruise so we decided to take a Duck tour. It is a large amphibious vehicle that can go on land and water. Well when we reached Ketchikan in the morning it was raining pretty hard. We got on our Duck tour but could not see much because it was raining. The best part was going form the parking lot into the water. It was kind of a boring tour until the Eagle showed up towards the end of the tour. Then everyone in the vehicle started to perk up again. Shopping in Ketchikan was lots of fun and we got most of our souvenirs from here. There are lots of jewelry shops in town. By the time the ship was leaving, the rain and clouds lifted and we had a beautiful view of the port, sea planes and city as we left.
VICTORIA: Our final port of call was in Victoria, Canada. This was the only port of call where we didnt purchase a shore excursion. When we got to Victoria we all headed out to the waiting taxis and tour vans. We were told that there was a shuttle bus for $5.00 RT to the middle of town at the Empress Hotel. No one really wanted to see the gardens so we went to town and found a fun water front in Victoria. They have many Bear statues all over the city which were kind of interesting. Apparently they will auction off the bears later in the year and a charity will benefit from the sale of the bears. The water front was fun as was the shopping in the town area. The street performers were professional and fun. There was a wide range of entertainment on the streets, we were there on a Friday night so along with thousands of tourist, the locals were out and showing off their supped up cars along the streets. It was just quite a fun afternoon with a beautiful sunset.
DISEMBARKATION: On our last night we were told to put our bags outside our doors before 1:00 a.m., we had to make sure we kept enough clothes, shoes and toiletries for the next morning as the bags were gone by the time you woke up the next morning. Our youngest, packed her IDs and HAL card in her bags and didnt discover that until she woke up the next morning. They still let her off the ship. We were to disembark at about 9:30 a.m., we were sad to end such a wonderful trip. Finding all of our bags was a trick but we eventually found our bags and were off back to the real world again.
I took a taxi back to the Hilton and picked up a Alamo SUV for our post tour of Seattle. We visited relatives in the area and caught a baseball game at the Safeco field. It took a day or two to stop rocking while we were standing. It was a great experience. We are ready for our next HAL cruise!
cruzinhawn’s Full Rating Summary
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Shore Excursions
Rates
Service
Free Price Drop Alerts
Get Holland America Oosterdam price drops
250,000+ people have entered their email