This was our second cruise with HAL and our second cruise all around. We went to Alaska last year and loved it so much that we had to go back. We chose the Rotterdam because of the small more intimate size, the Lanai cabins and because there was laundrettes available for the passenger use.
We arrived in Seattle early on Friday (only flight out was really early) with a Saturday sailing. The hotel was still trying to process their checkouts so our room wasn't ready. The desk clerk (Mike at the Holiday Inn on Dexter Avenue)was very helpful in storing our bags and providing us with several flyers on Seattle excursions. We got lucky and were able to join us with a group that wasn't completely full, and had a very extensive tour of the city. The highlight of the tour was a 45 minute stop at the locks between Lake Union and Puget Sound. Highly recommend it to all. For less than $20.00 we were able to take the shuttle from the hotel directly to the pier.
A recommendation for all cruise critic members. Be sure to check the Roll Call Section under the board postings. We had a small sailing day get together at the Bar At The Retreat. We got to meet a few people from all over and were able to start the cruise with friends. That makes any cruise much more enjoyable and this one was no exception. Another tip - if you travel with youngsters, purchase a soda card. For about $20.00 you can have 20 sodas and if you like specialty coffees, purchase an "Explorations Cafe" card for about the same price and get 10 cups of specialty coffee or teas.
Saturday boarding was a walk in the park. We boarded and were able to go to the cabin immediately, dropping off our carry-on bags. We booked a (CA) Lanai cabin on the promenade deck and highly recommend that set of rooms. You have two exits and being able to step out on the promenade deck immediately was wonderful. With reserved deck chairs, we spent more time out on the deck than in the cabin. We will book this type of room on any HAL ship that has them. We did our first cruise in a verandah room and the Lanai room is a little smaller and no fridge, but still liked the Lanai better. The closet space was much better than what we had in our verandah cabin on the Westerdam. Additional note - the HAL beds are amazing. Our room stewards were awesome, in and out so quickly, we rarely saw them, but if you needed something they were very close at hand. The rooms were always sparkling clean and plenty of ice in the ice bucket.
We dined most nights in the Lido (still dressing in smart casual), but did do the formal dinner one night, All of our dinners were excellent but wish they would do more steamed vegetables rather than cooking them in oil. Did dine one night in Canaletto's and both of us had an excellent dinner (mushroom ravioli and husband had Veal Parmesan). Most afternoons we ate lunch on the Lido deck - they have an very good taco bar - and the hamburgers/hot dogs make for a nice break from the full course breakfasts and dinners. Of course you have to be sure and sample all of the desserts - the bread pudding is to die for. Try it with cinnamon ice cream - talk about an explosion in your mouth.
There were such a wide variety of activities for everyone on board, if any person was bored on this trip - it wasn't HAL's fault. I attended the towel folding seminar, how to make edible bouquets, bingo, team trivia in the Crow's Nest as well as the shopping seminars. We attended 2 of the evening shows in the theater and enjoyed them both.
While in Juneau, we did not book an off shore excursion, as we had gone to Mendenhall and the fish hatchery last year. However, we did take an independent tour to the Alaskan Beer Brewery. Very interesting - my husband enjoyed the samples. One side note from the brewery. There is no cost to the tour or in the sample room, HOWEVER should you leave tips, the employees donate the money to the local food shelf. Of course - we shopped. We didn't just go to the stores recommended by the cruise line, but checked out many of the others as well.
While we cruised Hubbard's Bay, an elder from the local native tribe and a park ranger came on board. We heard the "Creation Story" and a great deal of history surrounding the glacier. This was just one of many highlights from the trip.
In Sitka - we took the excursion that took everyone to many of the town's highlights. St. Michel's is always a must and well worth a second, third even fourth visit. We also went to the Sheldon Jackson Museum. This is a MUST SEE. Jackson collected an extensive display everyday artifacts and clothing from many MANY of the Alaskan tribes. This is such a wonderful collection and needs to be seen to be appreciated. Another must see is the Raptor Center - a none profit group of volunteers dedicated to the saving and rehabilitation of injured predatory birds.
Ketchikan has Creek Street and all of the old brothels. The sad part about this town is that there is so much more to see, but not enough time. But be sure to at least take some time to see it.
Overall the weather on this cruise was amazing. It was sunny and bright all the days that we were ashore - it fact it was t-shirt and shorts weather. Be sure to bring at least one pair of each just in case. We didn't hit bad weather until after we left Ketchikan - where we sailed in fog until we docked in Victoria and it rained there.
Victoria is a nice little town with some beautiful sights. Be sure to take some time to go in and even take the horse drawn tour of town. My husband took the Pub Crawl excursion and really enjoyed himself while being introduced to several micro brews.
The silent disembarkation is a great way to proceed. Be sure you fill out all of your disembarkation paperwork and if your airline is one of the participating airlines, it is well worth paying the extra money per bag to have your bags taken directly to the airport. Because we had a LATE flight out of Seattle we took an additional city tour and it was well worth it. Be sure and check it out.
Overall - we had a great time and would recommend the Rotterdam, especially if you book the Lanai (CA) type of room. For a couple it is more than enough and we didn't spend that much time in the room.
Lanai Cabins - Smaller than verandah rooms, but nice size closets; no fridges, but a selection of soda and water is available with ice. With the sliding glass door we were worried about hearing the runners on the promenade, but actually, it was very quiet. We could see out but they could not see in - EXCEPT at night when the interior lights were one. But then you solve that issue by pulling the drapes.