Westerdam Cruise Review by GYPSEA2010
- Sail Date: July 2019
- Destination: Alaska
- Cabin Type: Neptune Deluxe Verandah Suite
Definitely recommend doing the Alaska land part first - because you are in constant motion and it can be a bit exhausting. And then you get on the ship where you have more time to relax.
Our overall itinerary only included one full day in Denali - I would recommend two Full days there if possible.
Flew into Fairbanks and home out of Vancouver - highly recommend!
Part of the cruise itinerary included a half day Riverboat tour in Fairbanks - I wasn’t expecting much, but it was actually a fantastic excursion and learned alot about the history and culture. From Fairbanks, you only have to go 2 1/2 hours south to Denali....where we had Two nights and One full day. On the full day- the cruise package included an 8-hour bus ride that goes 2/3 of the way into Denali Park (62 miles) where you see wildlife and gorgeous beauty. Later on that day, we took a 2+ hour Flightseeing Tour into Denali (details below).
From Denali, you take an 8 hour Dome train ride (awesome) down to Anchorage. Spent one night in Anchorage (eat at the Glacier Brewhouse for dinner) - and next day was a 5 1/2 hour train ride south to Seward - where you board the ship.
We sprung for a Neptune Suite on the Holland Westerdam ship - it was worth it! Details below.
We really enjoyed the Holland Westerdam. It was refurbished in 2017 and is very tasteful, understated elegance and more of a quiet ship. You won’t find big theatrical productions or go-kart tracks/rock climbing etc - but we liked that. 1940 passengers and about 800 crew. Not 3000-5000 passengers.... ideally, the smaller the better, but the price points go WAY up for that. (I.e. Seabourn). The ship has an always-open Lido Cafe - with tons of different food, buffet style (they serve you, which is good - more healthy/less germy). The main dining room where you can have breakfast and make a standing reservation for either late or early dinner seating (we chose early) was very nice - we had the same two waiters at our Table 81 the whole week. The menu changes every night and the food was delicious. Then there are a couple of specialty restaurants for a slight upcharge. THE best was Pinnacle - upcharge of $35 pp, and worth it! We only ate there once and wish we had eaten there more! The ship also has a very nice spa (I had a massage, facial and accupuncture treatment!)
We did a 7 night Southbound inside passage - Seward to Vancouver.
We did Two major excursions during our trip.
1) in Denali - a flightseeing/glacier landing ($549 a person - worth it!!!!) - THE HIGHLIGHT OF MY LIFE! We flew in a 8-seater plane including the amazing pilot, Joe (Fly Denali) for one hour, into Denali park (6 million acres), through/over mountain ranges, right past the North Face of Denali - then landed on the Ruth Glacier and threw snowballs in the brilliant sunshine and took pictures with Mt Denali in the background - and then flew another 40 minutes back to base. It was incredible that we were even able to SEE Denali (all week long while we were in Denali and traveling southbound) - only 30% of people get to see it, because it’s usually covered in clouds. We took the 6:15pm departure - and with 21 hours of sunlight a day (in July) - it was still super bright and sunny at that point.
2) In Juneau - did the Tracy Arm Fjord excursion - a 7 1/2 hour day - aboard a high speed catamaran - ending up at the South Sawyer Glacier (almost in the Yukon) - watching it calve, sea lions, floating icebergs, Caribbean blue colored water, waterfalls/cascades, bald eagles
Both excursions were major WoW factor!!
Ending in Vancouver was fantastic - and so glad we chose to spend a few more days instead of hopping off the ship and flying home.
First day in Vancouver - we checked in EARLY (by 11am) to the Westin Bayshore - perfect location. Rented bikes right out in front of the hotel and biked 9 miles around Stanley Park - very organized bike and walking paths. https://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/stanley-park.aspx
Next day - FULL Day- did an All-day trip to Victoria - through Viator tours. They picked us up at 8:30am at our hotel in big bus, then picked up other people at their hotels - took us to ferry - bus gets on the ferry 1 1/2 hours over to Victoria. Did the Butchart Gardens (amazingly beautiful!), then only had 1 1/2 hours to explore downtown Victoria (had dinner), and took the 7pm ferry back, then bused us to our hotel - it was 10pm before we got back. LONG DAY. But It was worth it for the gardens.
Next day - FULL Day - we walked 20 minutes to Canada Place and hopped on a free bus over to Capilano Suspension Bridge park - beautiful! Spent most of the day there - had a delightful lunch there as well.
Next day flew home.
You might also want to tack on another 3-4 days and go over to Lake Louise/Banff/Whistler area - about 2 hours east of Vancouver, i think.
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HOTELS: let me preface by saying I travel a LOT for work and am very picky about hotels. I’m used to staying at Hilton and Marriott - good beds/pillows, clean, etc - but because of some reviews I had read before the trip, I was initially not all that keen on the hotels that were part of this itinerary. However, they all turned out to be just fine!
Westmark Fairbanks - One night - not 100% contemporary but room was big, bed/pillows clean and comfortable, bathroom fine, dining room (arrived late, cannot comment on dinner) but breakfast buffet was good.
McKinley Chalet (Denali) - reviews I had read had complained about no AC. You DO NOT need it! I get hot very easily - and we were in Alaska during a major heat wave - i.e. in Denali, it was high 80’s, low 90’s each day! The river flowed right behind our Cabin unit (Building P, Room 105) and there was a great cool breeze of mountain air flowing all the time. Left our windows open and frankly, I got a bit cool at night! The rooms are rustic - think Ski Chalet - don’t go expecting Four Seasons and you will be A-OK! The rooms had a small living room/sitting area, bathroom and smaller bedroom with King Size bed. Everything was comfortable and clean.
Westmark Anchorage - One Night - reviews I read said REQUEST HIGHER FLOOR - Agree! We requested - were on the 9th floor - and it was fine. There is a lot of street/traffic noise down below. The room was HUGE, king sized bed comfy and clean. Big bathroom. Again, not 100% up to contemporary standards, but it was all good. There is a fantastic restaurant across the street where you can have dinner - HIGHLY RECOMMEND - Glacier Brewhouse (upscale brewhouse - not just burgers - with great variety including fantastic seafood). The hotel also has a restaurant - good for breakfast, or grabbing a drink/salad at the bar.
Westin Bayshore (Vancouver) - AWESOME! Perfect location overlooking the marina - and adjacent to shoreline walking/biking trails. 20 minute walk to Canada Place (where the cruise ships disembark and where it’s a central stopping place for buses/transportation to take you on excursions. You can rent bikes right in front of the hotel - (the little three-speeds are free, but in limited QTY - otherwise we rented the 21 speed for $20 each.) - and ride through Stanley Park - which is right there! Stop at the Totem pole area in the park, see sailboats and beaches.. great sights. It’s only 9 miles around - and very organized - everyone walks/bikes in the same direction - there is a bike path and a pedestrian walking path. Actually, this is how Vancouver is everywhere - very bike/walking friendly!
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Suite was BIG and Beautiful - most comfortable bed and pillows, ever! The position on the boat was fantastic! Last suite on the port side - with a huge wrap around (!) balcony! Big king sized bed, sitting area, makeup area, big bathroom with double sinks, tons of closets, wet bar area and refrig. Desk overlooking balcony. Two room attendants available to meet your every need. It was a Neptune Suite and with that comes access to the Neptune Lounge - with private concierge to help you with bookings/reservations, coffee and light breakfast in the morning, refreshments all day long, a nice quiet place to read, relax away from any crowds.
We had a couple of small issues with the plumbing - but they were quickly attended to and fixed. Not a big deal.
Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
Glacier BayBeautiful - relaxing day. Used the spa and we sat on our deck enjoying the views!View All 714 Glacier Bay Cruise Port Reviews
View Cruise Critic's Glacier Bay Cruise Port Review
HainesA bit of a boring small town - just walked around the town ourselves - and took the opportunity to get on cell service and get emails. Spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the ship.View All 81 Haines Cruise Port Reviews
View Cruise Critic's Haines Cruise Port Review
Tracy Arm Fjord CatamaranFANTASTIC!!!! 7 1/2 hour day but goes by quickly, The catamaran is great, comfortable - you learn a lot. Made it to the South Sawyer Glacier (almost in the Yukon!) - saw it calving - Caribbean blue waters, blue ice floats, Sea Lions, bald eagles, waterfalls and cascades - it was the coldest part of our trip (not freezing, but glad to have a puff jacket, light fleece hat and gloves) - they served hot cocoa, coffee, tea and a nice box lunch (if you are vegetarian, make sure to request that before hand with the ship and they will accomodate)View All 47 Tracy Arm Fjord Catamaran Reviews
KetchikanIt looked like a really cute town - but we chose to stay on board and relax there. Friends of ours did the Lumberjack show (one hour) - thought it was fun - and they walked around the town and enjoyed it.View All 1,756 Ketchikan Cruise Port Reviews
View Cruise Critic's Ketchikan Cruise Port Review
Pinnacle Grill - THE Best - food was delicious, with great presentation and professional service - wish we had eaten there more than one night
Canneleto - Specialty restaurant (Italian) - $15 pp - not bad but nothing to write home about - we thought the service in the Main Dining Room with our regular waiters was much better, with far more food variety in MDR as well.
Main Dining Room - Excellent - our waitstaff were all very professional and personable - and the menu changed every night - very good variety and beautifully prepared
SPA: Had a few services (massage, facial, acupuncture) - which were all good - however, there is a LOT of upselling and pressure to buy additional products, which I did not like at all. Also paid for the full week of the Hydrotherapy Thermal Pool for my husband and I - he only used it once and I only used it twice. You are busy doing other activities - my suggestion would be just to pay as you go unless you think you'll use it every day.
MEDICAL FACILITY: My husband contracted the flu while we were on the land part of the vacation (pre-cruise). The doctor and staff in the Infirmary were efficient and good at explaining things. They gave him an instant flu test (swabbed his nose - it burned a LOT - not fun) and then put him on Tamiflu, Throat Lozengers, Cough medicine - and put me on a lower dose. They quarantined my husband to our cabin until he had three normal temp readings (two days, essentially) - the timing was good, because those were our first two days on the ship where we were at Sea/in Glacier bay and didnt get off the ship.