I had read several reviews about cruising Holland America as well as the ship Oosterdam, I do not know what ship they were sailing on, but it could not have been the same. On a positive note, the crew were very friendly, always smiling, and so helpful. Sometimes the language barrier was a little frustrating, but I would not trade that in as the crew was wonderful. That being said, lets start with the ship. It seems to be older, basically clean as long as you stay out of the casino, but there was not much to do unless you want to pay a couple thousand dollars just to get on the ship and spend several hundred more on shopping and activities. Everything seemed to cost. Internet usage was expensive, deoderant(my husband forgot his) was almost $8, every turn someone was trying to sell low quality wine at a price that would suggest robbery. I was excited about the movies, but there is only room for maybe 30 people-keeping in mind the ship holds around 2,000! And help you if you are caught saving a seat for your spouse, I thought one of the families who was saving a seat for her inlaws was going to have to walk the plank! Seating is cutthroat so go early if it is a decent movie that you really want to see. I went to an activity called "make a candy box", Ok there was no candy, and it involved a prefolded HAL box that took all of 15 minutes.
* Ok now the room. I had the VA, which is delux verandah. I don't know what was delux about it. I always heard HAL rooms were bigger than other cruiselines-this room was no bigger than any other cruise I have been on, and our toilent did not work the first 4 days. We were constantly calling for someone to unclog it-keep in mind my rule is always flush twice, once before the paper and once after to prevent clogging. It was never less than 2 hours to get the toilet unclogged. Half the time it wouldn't even flush-you never knew when the toilet would work. Beds weren't bad, and the one thing I can say was great was the run of free movies in the room, especially since the screening room was always full.
* The ship performances were low rate, say if you visited the old part of Branson Missouri, they were better performers. Even if you wanted to see the shows, there was no room. The only explanation I have for the tiny spaces, is they must have been trying to fit as many staterooms as possible, and no room for other spaces. The fitness center just plane sucked (sorry). It was one tiny room with a few treadmills and weights-people hovered trying to get a treadmill. My husband and I took to running the flights of stairs since working out was not working out in the fitness center.
* The ports were great. Alaska is wonderful-but I would not take HAL to visit again. Careful with the excursions. We did the zipline and it was great-all we expected. The second excursion was not very active, and I did not realize that. It was the Wilderness Crab feast. The food was great, but it is more suited for a 70 year old than a 30 year old. We did meet a couple who found their own excursions in Juneau and Sitka. They went to a glacier on foot and kayaked-we were jelous. Their excursion turned out great and they made it to port in plenty of time. Yes, the boat will leave you if you do not make it in time, but don't let that scare you from a wonderful excursion, just do your homework.
* Now I saved the best for last-the food. It was for the most part terrible. The positives- the fresh fruit is great, breakfast was just fine. It is hard to mess up 2 fried eggs and french toast, but that is where the good news ends. There were a couple exceptions. I had escargot and it was actually very tender and flavorful. That same night I had a salad with mushrooms and gorgonzolla cheese that was great. The rest of the food is typical buffet food. Tough beef-stay away from the prime rib, it is a sad waste of a cow's life, unless you like boot leather. Vegetables were super salty and full of butter, pizza was comparable to cardboard, I was given a salad that had bloated raisens and soggy apples-it was terrible. The desserts were awful, no flavor at all. We stopped eating in the dining room because it was the same food that was served on deck, and it took forever to get the food. We heard everyone say that the restaurants you pay extra for were great-but I already paid almost $3000, I should have great food. The better food on the boat is the in room dining. You are very limited on your choices, but the quality seemed a little better, and you didn't have lines of people. Oh, and you have a place to sit in your room. The buffet restaurant, you spend most your time fighting for a place to sit and eat before your food gets cold.
* I am sorry this review is so negative, but both my husband and I were very disappointed. We are not first time cruisers, but may be last time cruisers. We were not the only passengers with this opinion, we spoke with several others who were disappointed.
Yes there were people who were thoroughly enjoying themselves, but I suspect those are the same people happy with the golden coral special.
If you like chicken stuffed with prunes, bloated raisens in your salad, the excitement of not knowing if you commode will work, and fighting to the death for a theater seat, this is the cruise for you, otherwise, I would look elsewhere.
Sitka is a wonderful place to explore and hike. There were plenty of shops that sold locally made merchandise-YOU HAVE TO SEEK THEM OUT! Avoid the shopping scams by shopping only local made products. There is a lot of stuff made in other countries-what's the point. The forest is a great hike, we really had fun here. Oh, and eat at the, shoot I forget what it is called. It looks like a white house just to your left when you get to the port, there is a radio station upstairs. We had fish tacos and veggie burrito that were great.
We decided to just walk the city. It is a great walk, and don't forget to stop at the park. We walked to whole downtown all the way around by the beach in about 2 hours. This is a tricky port, not guaranteed to make it in time for an excursion. There is plenty to see if you can take a little hike.