This, however, was our first trip to Alaska, and our first on Holland America. We chose the Zuiderdam because of the long hours in each of the ports, the visit to Glacier Bay with park rangers on board, the hydropool, and the embarkation port of Vancouver. We choose the end of May because of the long daylight hours, the spring flowers, the snowy mountain tops, the lack of mosquitoes (the "state bird of Alaska, we were told, that arrive in late June),the rainfall which is low at this time, and because we wanted to see bears and they are out of hibernation and hungrily eating at the roadsides in May. We chose a balcony on the starboard side as we wanted to view the mainland on the northern part of our cruise when we were most excited. The ship, the scenery, the ports, the crew, and even the weather were perfect. Holland America provides many touches that were such pleasant surprises: dvd players with an extensive list of complimentary movies, a movie theater with popcorn, warm blankets and soft chairs, CNN on TV, "newspapers" delivered to your room which varied with your home country, fresh flowers everywhere, soft, plaid blankets on all the decks to wrap up in despite the weather, fully covered balcony's with comfy chairs, chicken and steak offerings every night for dinner for those less adventurous, nature lectures, cooking demonstrations, computer classes, and the list goes on and on. The food was great; we chose the "Dine as you wish" option but fell in love with our server and ended up reserving his table nightly (thank you, Bayu - you were great). If we had to leave a complaint, it was that the pizza and poolside grilling were not up to par with that of all the Carnival ships we have been on. We attended most shows; the singers and dancers were fabulous but it was their last show. We also enjoyed the piano bar, but can't comment on the casino as we never stopped there. We spent much time in the Crow's Nest - an adult gathering place with an extensive (for a ship)library, computer center, ongoing puzzle, coffee bar (for a nominal fee), and wonderful lounge chairs facing aft. The hydropool was never crowded, and we rarely had trouble getting a chair in the thermal suite ($179 a couple for the week). Most days we showered there - it was very spa-like and relaxing. Loved it! We embarked in Vancouver, and spent four days exploring this fabulous city. Stayed at the Blue Horizon, on the 30th floor overlooking downtown and the bay. It was a mid-priced hotel with a wonderful location and within walking distance of many of the attractions, lots of shops and restaurants. The trolley stops at the hotel, and this provided much of our transportation around the city. Public transportation isn't difficult, and we purchased day passes at Waterfront Station (can use credit cards) to also use the seabus and city bus to get to Lynn's suspension bridge. We found the people of Vancouver to be wonderfully kind and welcoming. American dollars were accepted most places, and if not we used credit cards (even in the taxi from the airport). All in all, this was my favorite of the six cruises I have been on - all of which I loved. Alaska is awe-inspiring, full of wildlife, and beautiful; we can't wait to return someday. See below for port reviews.
Room 5015; starboard. Very quiet, lots of room to store suitcases under beds.
Balcony was completely covered and had 2 comfortable chairs and ottoman. Tub and shower in bathroom with clothesline. Their hairdryer overheats easily - Bring your own!! Loved dvd player with complementary movies (never did get a chance to watch)
The bow is opened on this floor when in Glacier Bay, so it was very convenient.