Family's First Cruise To Alaska--Summer 2011: Westerdam Cruise Review by ORCRUISERS

Westerdam 4
Member Since 2011

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Family's First Cruise To Alaska--Summer 2011

Sail Date: August 2011
Destination: Alaska
Embarkation: Seattle
BACKGROUND INFO: We had never cruised before. We went back and forth as to whether we would like this, as a family, or not. We had several family members that have cruised before so we took their experiences to heart. As we really didn't know what we didn't know, we used a travel agent through our local auto club. Next time, I WOULD NOT use an agent. She did not add much value and I ended up calling the 800 number for Holland America several times. They were more than friendly and helpful, although they did suggest I should be calling and using my travel agent. (I got tired of not hearing back from the agent for 10-14 days at a time). Seems like every time I had a question or issue, she was on vacation, out of the office or not available. So, if we ever do go on a cruise again, I think I would either do it myself (through the cruise company or via the internet).

A BIT MORE BACKGROUND: Both my wife and myself have lived and worked overseas, as Expatriates, so we both kind of More know that things are not always as you would expect. I have traveled enough, around the world, to 'go with the flow' and again, sometimes things cannot or will not go as expected. That bit of info comes into our story later.


We live in Portland, Oregon, so we chose to drive to Seattle on the morning of our departure. It's normally about a 3 hour drive, on a good day. We ran into traffic around Tacoma, Washington and then again in Seattle. We thought we would try to get to Seattle around 1:00 PM but it actually was closer to 2:00 PM--we were a bit nervous. The city of Seattle was having a "Hemp" Festival as well as some sort of a race. The downtown core was busy/congested and it was very frustrating going block to block, just inching along.

We finally got to the Pier where the Westerdam was docked. It was a bit stressful to try and find where we needed to drop off our passengers and baggage. We had to stop and ask 2-3 parking lot attendants. Finally, got to where we needed to be and dropped off everyone and I went back and parked. FYI: If you chose to park in their 'long term parking'---it's going to cost to you about $185. It's about $26 per day plus a 9% state tax added on plus a 12.5% city of Seattle parking tax tacked on. That was the last kick in the gut---$185 is a bit steep but it's part of the deal.

Getting on to the ship could not have gone more smoothly. A porter took our bags and we went through security. Just the normal airport metal detector type of security check. We were directed to a window and got our key cards and some basic info and boom, we were on board. I would say arriving late DOES have lines, no congestion dropping off our guests at the entrance and no traffic cluster to deal with. Plus, the cruise line doesn't give out any awards for being first on board. We dropped off our 'carryon' baggage in our room---which was ready---and decided to explore a bit. It was a beautiful, glorious summer day in Seattle---sunny and about 80 degrees. The chamber of commerce LOVES these kinds of days in the Pacific Northwest. You had a fantastic view of the city, Mt. Rainier, the Space Needle---just a picture perfect day. We headed to the Lido Bar on the back deck and ordered a Bucket of Beer and bought a $50 soda card (for $25) and we were already into our vacation.

Within the first hour, they have the mandatory Lifeboat drill. Of course, we had just bought our bucket of beer so we had to slog that to our station. We were in the back, could NOT hear so it was generally a waste of time. We knew where we needed to report to and where our life jackets were located (in the closet in our stateroom) and that was about all we got out of the drill---which was over in about 10 minutes.

We went back to the room and our baggage was already there. Decided to get a dinner reservation right away and the only time we could get was 7:45 PM. We had eaten lunch in Seattle so we felt we could make it and if not, maybe a 'room service' snack could help tide us over. We were off the dock at 4 PM and on our way to a week long vacation!!

STATEROOM: We had read a lot of reviews and most said make sure you get a balcony. I guess I would have gone stir crazy if we DID NOT have a balcony. Just getting out and getting some fresh air was a huge relief. Our room, SS Veranda 8054 was nice/pleasant. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law were in the room next to us, SS 8052, so we just opened the deck door and had an extra large deck to move around on. I didn't have high expectations so I was not let down. My wife has a bit higher expectations so she was a bit disappointed. There was supposed to be a picture hanging over our sitting couch that had either fallen off or was removed because you had four screws in the wall, where the painting was supposed to be, with a dark line outlining where the picture was supposed to be. We asked the room steward and he said the frame fell/broke and they had not had a chance to fix it yet. Seemed a bit weird to us. We had the beds pushed together to make I guess would be a king. My younger daughter was on the couch, which made into a single bed at night. There was plenty of closet space to put all of our jackets and nice clothes. We had more than enough room under the bed to put our large luggage---out of sight for the week. The bathroom was adequate. I took a shower in the shower on the first day and DID NOT use it again, the rest of the week---it is pretty tight/compact. I am 6'1 and I felt cramped in the shower. I took a shower in the bathtub the rest of the week---a bit more room to move around. I am not very picky---just get me clean towels each day, make my bed and make sure I have clean sheets and make a general effort to make sure the room is picked up/cleaned up and I am okay. Our room stewards, David and Kris, were fine. They always seemed to know when we were out or gone and our room would be made up, when we returned. A couple of times, they came by to clean and we were in the room. They just came back later. They were helpful/pleasant/friendly. My mother and older daughter were in the room directly across from us, 8056, and it was an inside room, no windows. It was pretty tight/small. We all used our room as the main room so they just used 8056 to sleep in. It was fine for that.

DINING: We had gone back and forth, back and forth, all spring as to whether we wanted a 'fixed' dining time or 'free-style' or 'dine as you wish' dining. Originally, we had decided on a fixed time of 8 PM. As the summer wore on, we decided that time frame would be way too late. We have two daughters and we NEVER eat that late at home (we live in the Pacific Time Zone) and we just didn't think we could do 8 PM dinner every night. I called our travel agent the first part of August to see if we could go back to 'dine as you wish' and she said no, it would be too late since we were sailing in about 3 weeks. I said could she please try for us? She got back to me about 10 days later, saying yes, we could do 'dine as you wish'---so that worked out. Now, for the joke that is 'dine as you wish'----If you learn anything at all from this: Dine as you wish basically means you call each morning and make a reservation and you either get 5:45 PM or 7:45 PM----we felt that was odd---you only got 2 choices. I asked for 6:30 PM--nope, not available, 7:00 PM, not a chance, 7:15 PM, nope. So, it was just a complete joke. The other thing that frustrated us about the main dining room: I called ahead and Holland America specifically told us NO JEANS ALLOWED---they said they have 2 formal nights (meaning a sport coat or suit for men and a dress or nice outfit for women)---NO JEANS. I cannot tell you how many folks we saw coming in with jeans on. I guess what frustrated us the most is that we took the time (and baggage space) to bring nicer clothes and it really DID NOT matter. Either the maitre'd didn't want to cause controversy or it really DOES NOT matter. Next time, if we cruise on Holland America, I would NOT bring a sport coat/jacket. I wear a suit EVERY SINGLE day to work and when I go on vacation, I DO NOT want to dress up---I want to relax and enjoy my week. I would NOT wear cut-offs or shorts to the dining room but again, I guess they are trying to go back to that 'golden age' of cruising. For our family, dressing up just is not that important but then again, we DO NOT want to eat at the Lido Buffet every night either. My wife celebrated a birthday the week of our cruise and I tried to get a reservation at the Pinnacle Grill for a special night/birthday treat. I called on Monday and COULD NOT get anything except for Friday at 8 PM---We were going to be on an excursion in Victoria at that time so that did not work. I tried to explain, stating it was a special occasion and they really DID NOT seem to care nor were they helpful. I even went down one morning and spoke with the manager and he just shrugged his shoulders and really didn't even seem to care. Oh well...that was a downer. Lido Buffet---it's buffet food, what more can you say? You get a variety of hot foods for breakfast, cereals and fruits and rolls/danish for breakfast. For lunch, there is a pizza station, an Asian noodle station, with sushi, and a hot line. Dinner, same thing, a hot line, a salad bar, ice cream/cookies/cake. Nothing spectacular, nothing fancy. The food wasn't awful nor was it great. They had a 'taco bar/Mexican station' by the Lido pool. You could also get a burger cooked to order or hot dogs/brats too. The burger was good--although I waited to the last day to try it.....wish I would have tried earlier in the week. One piece of advice: Get a reservation at Canaletto--it's their Italian place. DOES NOT cost anything extra and it's a chance to at least have something different. I had Chicken Marsala. Some in our party had the lasagna and a couple others had the spaghetti w/meatballs. We all felt it was a nice change of pace and are glad we did it. We did order room service a couple of times. They were fast and efficient. We mainly did this for a mid afternoon snack. We just felt we could not make it to 7:45 PM so we would get a few things to help to tide us over.


I am going to lump both entertainment and activities together---just because I felt they kind of go together.

There are more than enough things to do on the ship. Many did not cater to us or our family. A lot of things are geared to the older set (Bingo, basic computer classes, wine tastings, how to mix a cocktail, etc)---I am on a computer all day long---the last thing I want to do is learn how to edit a word document or learn photo-shop. Not my cup of tea. The Cruise Director, Jason, was fine. He is young, energetic, funny and has a good sense of humor. (My mom traveled with us. She's in her mid 70's and has been on 8 or 9 cruises and she said she honestly felt he was one of the better cruise directors, basically due to his personality). As I mentioned, there were lots of things going on. You could get as involved as you wanted. We like to walk/exercise. You can walk three laps on the 3rd deck and it equals 1 mile. We would go down there and try to get 3-4 miles in every day---just for exercise/fresh air. I DID NOT want to pay to have to use the gym. Spa treatments don't appeal to me. I didn't need/want a massage or a facial. So, again, some of this stuff just doesn't mean much if you don't use it or do it at home. I know and realize that some folks want to get pampered or that's the reason they go on a cruise or the reason that they do this. One thing we did like to do was the daily trivia contests. They were hard (a variety of topics from sports, to history to current events to politics to geography---very challenging)---Jason would do these, usually in the Crow's Nest. There would usually be a fairly good crowd---maybe 40-60 folks playing each day. They would give away a basic prize like a set of coasters, or something similar but we felt like it was something fun and we got into it.

We did the Joel Mason Elton John show one night. It was good/funny/entertaining. We DID NOT do the comedian. We did do the Broadway musical tribute show---a cheesy "Glee" knock-off show. We walked out about 1/2 through the show---just not that entertaining nor that good. My wife and in-laws went to the "Dating Game" show---they said it was funny and entertaining.

My favorite area to be in during the whole week: The Crow's Nest--I just liked the laid back atmosphere, the view and just hanging out up there. The first couple of days, it was very easy to get a seat. As the week wore on, it was very tough. I think folks either figured out where to go or they just ended up going there because it was a nice place to relax and chill. There was a coffee bar up there as well as a regular bar too.

Best part of my week: I won $1800 in the casino!! I essentially paid for our excursions/drinks and other room charges. I hit a $500 jackpot on the "Wheel of Fortune" slot machine. I hit a $1000 progressive jack pot and another $300 or so. I walked out with more than I came on board with That was the best part of my whole week!!

CHILDREN'S CLUB: Both of our kids poked their heads into the HAL Kid's Club and decided it was a bit too childish/baby-ish for them. They DID NOT participate. Our older nephew did use the "Loft" which is for the teen set. He liked it and made a few friends and seemed to spend some time up there.

SERVICE: Overall, I felt the crew and support staff were fine. Everyone was friendly/nice/pleasant. They all seemed to be helpful or wanted to help. The bar staff was the week wore on, they would remember my drink, would come by and ask how I was doing, if I was having a good week, etc. Sure, you get asked every time you walk by if you want a drink, a cocktail, a glass of wine, etc. They are just trying to push more drinks, ergo, more money for the ship. We liked our room stewards---they were nice/friendly and were attentive to our needs but not smothering or in our face. We had a couple of issues here and there, through the week, but nothing out of the ordinary.


We chose this ship/itinerary due to the fact that it was to go to Hubbard Glacier. We worked with the travel agent and a few others. The first thing we had to narrow down is what cruise line? We DID NOT know the pros and cons of all of the various ships and their reputations. Everyone has an opinion. My mom likes Princess. Some like RCL, some like Norwegian, etc, etc. We finally decided we wanted Holland America because of the Hubbard Glacier option and Sitka. Do your homework. Figure out what is important to you and your family. We had thought we had done A LOT of homework but there is so much more we learned by just going and traveling this past week. I had bought two books ahead of time. I would suggest both: "Inside Passage" by Nancy Thalia Reynolds and "Alaska Cruises and Ports of Call--2011" by Frommer's. The Frommer's seemed to be a bit more helpful to us. Ask, ask friends, ask family, ask a travel agent. Do as much homework as you can.

Pros of Holland America:

1). Seems to be a bit smaller ship (only 1800 passengers as opposed to the Princess ship that sailed by us all week). Those extra 400-600 passengers could make a difference.

2). The service and staff were friendly/nice/helpful---but I guess most would say this about any ship.

3). For the most part, it seemed clean and orderly. As mentioned, I am NOT that picky and I had read some folks said the ship looked worn out, tired, in need of repair, etc. Folks, there are 2000 people on this ship, week in and week out. There will be some signs of use/wear and tear. It was not awful, by any means. There always seemed to be service staff vacuuming, cleaning, wiping, washing, etc. I DID NOT find it to be that worn down. But again, this was my first cruise.

4). A good variety of activities. Not all appealed to our family but you could find something to do, if you wanted.

5). The ports were interesting. Seemed to be enough choices of excursions.

6). The food was fine. I have read and heard complaints but I could not complain. For all those that complain, there sure were/are a lot of folks that HAVE NOT missed many meals.

7). The room sizes were fine. Again, not any major complaints.

Cons of Holland America:

1). This cruise line really, really skews to an older demographic. I would say the average age would be 65...if not older. Folks, this really is geared towards the older crowd. The retired crowd. There were lots of wheel chairs, walkers, motorized scooters. I had to really try hard to maintain my patience in lots of instances. I was behind an older/mature lady one morning in the waffle line. You have a choice of a plain waffle, mixed berries or strawberries----this lady COULD NOT decide what she wanted and held up the line for at least 10 mins. It's NOT that hard---plain, mixed berries or strawberries----chose one and get on with your day---that kind of stuff drives me crazy!!

2). The primary reason we chose this cruise and this line was to see Hubbard Glacier. WE DID NOT get to see Hubbard Glacier---due to weather and rough seas. This was a HUGE disappointment and let down. We were at sea for 1 1/2 days to get to Juneau and then another 12 hours to get to Hubbard and we DID NOT get a chance to see it. Captain said it was for our safety. I realize he had hit an iceberg earlier in the season so I am assuming he was a bit gun shy or maybe the company had him on a tight leash due to the incident earlier in the year. Our group was really, really bummed and very disappointed. We felt like we got short-changed or a major part of our trip was missing. Again, a major bummer.

3). The first 24 hours is just straight cruising, in the open water. We had a storm so the seas were very choppy. Most of our group got a bit sea sick. It DID NOT affect me but my wife was a bit green for a day as were my kids and my relatives. You should decide if you want an inside passage (calmer waters) or the outside passage (rougher and open seas)---remember, you ARE going to Alaska---you could get storms and rough weather. This was a bit of a bummer the first 24-36 hours. DID NOT see to many folks out and about. I saw several folks using 'air sick' bags and there was evidence of folks not making it to the toilet in time, in the hallways. The service staff did their best to get these 'accidents' cleaned up quickly. We had heard that a couple of folks actually got off the ship and flew home. They COULD not handle the seas and rough weather. Don't know if that's true or not, just what we had heard. You know rumors and how they swirl on a ship.

4). I realize that Holland CANNOT control the weather but it was a bit dreary/rainy/foggy the first 36 hours (outside of Seattle)---we learned from others, mostly locals, in Alaska, that the two best weather months seem to be May/June. Wish we would have known that before. So, if you are going later this fall---good luck. If you are planning for next year, maybe see if you can try for May or June. Again, weather cannot be controlled so take that with a grain of salt. My mother had been on this same Alaska cruise about 8-9 years ago, in early September and she had fantastic weather the whole week she was up there. It's a crapshoot.

5). The time in ports is very limited. We would have loved to have a couple more hours in both Ketchikan and Victoria. I realize that they are on a tight, tight schedule but take into account what is important to you and your family. Do you want to really see and experience the ports or just have a quick run through? We felt that 4-5 hours in Ketchikan was NOT enough time and only 5-6 hours in Victoria was NOT enough. Wish we could have had more time!!

6). Jewelry is not my style nor my wife's either. We could NOT figure out the infatuation with jewelry, diamonds, etc. The ship really seems to push their on-board jewelry shop, their high end watches, etc. I DID NOT go on a cruise to shop and even if I was looking for jewelry---I am not gonna buy it on a ship or from a cheesy jewelry shop in Juneau, Ketchikan or Sitka. I am buying from a reputable jeweler, in my home city, that I know and can go back to, if I had any issues or troubles. We could just not figure this whole jewelry thing out.....maybe we are not the target market/demographic??

7). Finally, remember, you are going to be with 1800 folks, in a fairly tight/confined area for a week. Some of these folks will drive you batty but you get that anywhere (Disneyland, any other resorts, etc). Just go with the flow---the ship is big enough so if you see the guy that is the loudmouth 'know it all' ---just go to another area. Or the little old lady that doesn't know how to order waffles: Just avoid the waffle line that morning

If I had written this after the first 48-72 hours, I probably would have said we would never cruise again. We were upset with the rough seas, the sea-sickness, the boredom of being at sea for almost 2 days. We were busting at the gut to get off the ship when it hit Juneau. A bit of cabin fever. By the end of the week, we had changed our tune a bit. I don't know if I would sign up for another cruise in the next 6 months or so but maybe, down the road, in the future. It DID get better as the week wore on. We loved Sitka and Ketchikan. The weather did improve and we started to enjoy ourselves. I had chatted with another couple in Sitka and they have been on 10 other Holland America cruises. They had expressed disappointment with not seeing Hubbard Glacier either but they said this was one of the worst Holland cruises they had been on. They said keep a good attitude----it will get better. And it did. They said that this was NOT the best 'first cruise' to be on. They said the weather and the seas were not normal and that we should not give up.

I would say overall, maybe a 7.5 out of 10 total. There were things that could be improved. We did not have our socks blown off by any means but we would probably go on a cruise.......maybe......someday again. We would do a LOT more research. We would use these reviews and then do some more homework. I realize that this is getting late in the Alaska cruising season so it may not be all that helpful to most but maybe to those that are going to cruise next year, take a bit from this and maybe it will help?? Less

Published 08/31/11

Cabin review: SS8054 Signature Superior Verandah Suite

We had cabin 8054. Similar size to a smallish hotel room. I would say take out the middle table and take out one of the extra chairs....a bit cramped with that extra furniture. We were under the Lido Pool so could hear chairs scraping across the floor once in a while. There was a picture missing from the wall which we found to be weird but the room was clean, lots of space, we were able to get all of our clothes put away (in closets, drawers and some left in the bags, under our bed). The bathrooms were clean and we had clean towels and clean bedding. The shower is a bit small but I was able to shower in the tub, no problem. We liked the fact that there was a tub but we DID NOT use it that week. The hall was quiet and we never once heard any of the other folks on our floor or did we even see others. Overall, the rooms were fine. We were not disappointed.

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Port and Shore Excursions

First and foremost, after you have been cooped up on a ship, that has been through rough seas for 24 hours, the first thing you want to do is get off the ship. Seemed like everyone was ready to get off. It was raining cats and dogs when we hit the dock. A bit of a disappointment. It seemed a bit disorganized and chaotic. Everyone was trying to find their excursion and their group. We finally found our excursion director but she said we were not leaving for another 20 mins so she had us stand under an awning/tent like structure. Thankfully that was there, otherwise, we would have been soaked!! We did the "Whale Watching & Wildlife Quest Tour with Mendenhall Glacier"----this was listed as a 5 1/2 hour tour and it's every bit of that 5 1/2 hours. This is operated by Allen Marine and it cost $159 for adults and $94 for kids. (Allen Marine also did the excursion we did in Sitka). You get on a tour bus right there at the dock and you head out of town, maybe 20-25 mins to catch your whale watch tour boat. Our driver is a student at BYU in Utah and she was up in Juneau, as summer job, as a driver. She was personable and tried to give some of the local flavor and high lights, on the way out to the docks. She was pleasant and by the time you read this, she will probably be back in college. My only complaint---she seemed to drive out there in low gear---or did not know how to change into a different gear. We plugged along at 30 mph. It was a grind. It was a dreary/rainy day. We got onto the boat and there was another tour bus that joined our group from Holland America. I assume it was a group from the Princess ship but I am not 100% certain. It was another full bus. I would guess we probably had a total of 100 folks on the boat. The windows were a bit steamy and we had to wipe them down constantly, from the fog/condensation. Every other chair or so had a pair of binoculars for use (the ship's binoculars). We had a couple of 'naturalists' on board to help explain what we were seeing and give a bit of the history and local flavor. We headed out on our search for the first whales. Along the way, the captain pointed out a few seals, some sea-lions and a few other birds. We finally came upon a few whales. It was fun to see but they were not nearly as active as I would have guessed. The naturalist said that they are just about to head to Hawaii for winter---maybe end of September or first of October, they start their migration to Hawaii, for the winter. As we have been in Hawaii and actually seen the whales off Maui, after about 15-30 minutes of this, we were sort of bored. The highlight, at least for me, was seeing a Bald Eagle, sitting on shore, just pristine and and looking over the shore. That was very cool. We probably had a total of 3 hours on the boat. I would have said that 2 to 2 1/2 hours would have been sufficient. There were times of boredom, while looking for whales or other nature. They did offer free coffee/hot chocolate and donut holes and brought around smoked salmon towards the end of the journey. They did sell beer and soda on the boat too, so I had a couple of beers----they were cold and tasted good. Unfortunately, they ran out. We were back in port and our driver was waiting and we headed to Mendenhall Glacier. By the time we got to the Glacier, we really only had 45 mins total. Way too short of time to take this in and see everything. Because we DID NOT get to see Hubbard Glacier on our trip, I would have wished I could have stayed here longer. I would have cut one hour off of the boat trip and added one hour to the Glacier. We just basically got off the bus, took a few pictures, got a quick trip inside the visitor center and then back on the bus. As I mentioned, not nearly enough time to take it all in. We left the docks at 1 PM and we were delivered back by 6 PM. I chose to walk around the streets by the docks. Just a bunch of jewelry shops and souvenir/trinket shops. I was disappointed as a lot of the 'native Alaska' product actually had 'Made in China' stickers on the bottom of them. I picked up a miniature totem pole that was about $75 but it had a 'Made in China' sticker of course!! Frustrating...... The only other thing I wanted to do is take the tramway but it was so drizzly/foggy that it would have been a waste of time and $27 so I skipped it. Overall, I would say Juneau was our most disappointing port/stop because as the week went on, the stops/ports got better and better. It went uphill from there!!

Read 1187 Juneau Reviews

We arrived in Ketchikan at about 7 AM and our excursion started at 9:30 AM. We ate quickly and got off the boat so we could at least walk around a bit. Same stores (jewelry and knick knacks and trinkets). We did the "Alaska Rain Forest Sanctuary and Raptor Center Tour"---I think it was run by the Alaska Zipline Company---anyway, the folks that were zip-lining were in the same place we were. We were picked up by a tour bus right at 9:30 AM, on the dock. Our driver was a young gal that came up to work one summer and actually like Ketchikan and is living there now. She was fine---gave a bit of the local history, some highlights and some local flavor. The bus ride out took about 20-25 mins. Once we got to the Rain Forest, we were assigned a tour guide. Our group had about 10 folks and the other group had about 12-14 folks. I liked the fact that they wanted us to be in smaller groups---we could hear our guide fine and it gave us a chance to interact and ask questions. We did a mile long loop, through the rain forest. I DID NOT know this but this rain forest is the second largest, in the world, after the Amazon rain forest. The guide did an excellent job of pointing out the various flora and gave us examples of different types of plants, etc. The best part of the entire trip was seeing a juvenile bear, pulling fish, out of the stream. We were no more than 75 yards away. He had us be very, very quiet and not make any moves/motions. I got several good pictures of the bear just swiping at fish. He seemed bored and walked off into the bush. That was a highlight, for sure. We saw a few eagles and came out by a fish hatchery. Saw several salmon going up the fish ladders as well as hundreds more in the river, waiting to go up the ladders. You get to see some tame reindeer---pet them, feed them some lettuce. You see an eagle that cannot fly (broken wing) and a horned owl (broken wing) and get to see a man working on an actual totem pole. That was cool----the amount of hours and time that go into this. Of course you finish right at the obligatory gift shop. They want you to buy their trinkets/knick knacks. Our bus driver on the way back was different. His name was Ed and was funny and had a great sense of humor. He was able to tell a few jokes, give some history and tell a bit about the area of Ketchikan. He was much better than the driver on the way out. The total time for this excursion was about 3 hours. We got back to the ship right at 12:15 PM and the boarding time was 12:30 PM so no time to see much more of the city. If they say final boarding is 12:30 PM---be there. They DO NOT mess around. We were back on the ship and a couple of folks DID NOT make it back. They had already pulled the gangway back and those folks DID NOT make it on the boat. We were told that they had to pay their own way to Victoria to catch back up with the ship. DON'T MISS THE FINAL BOARDING!! The cost for this trip was $75 for adults and $39 for kids. Maybe about $25 too much, for adults but we liked seeing the bears, in their natural environment!! Good excursion for our family as we like nature, animals and being outside.

Read 1342 Ketchikan Reviews

Because we were not able to see Hubbard Glacier (due to weather, Captain's decision) we were actually given a couple of hours in Sitka. We were supposed to arrive at 9 AM but we actually arrived at 7 AM. Our excursion was set to start at 1 PM so we decided we were going to walk around a bit before our excursion meeting time. It was raining hard but my brother-in-law checked his weather application on his iPhone and it was set to clear up by about 10 AM or so. We decided rather than go on shore and get wet early, we would wait it out a bit and go over a bit later. We boarded the tender at 10 AM and by the time we reached shore at 10:30 AM---it had actually started to clear a bit. We were glad we waited. I ran into a couple of folks later in the day and asked how they liked Sitka and both said 'it was okay' and I asked why and they said because they were wet and cold all day. I told them we had a great day and actually liked Sitka....A LOT. We walked up and down the main drag, by the Russian Church. My kids picked up a few trinkets/knick knacks and we decided we were actually hungry for something other than ship food. We stopped at the Victorian hotel right on the main drag and I actually think the restaurant was called "Victoria's"?? Anyway, we got three orders of the Halibut & chips. It was pretty spendy ($24 for 4 pieces of halibut and a healthy portion of fries)----we were hungry and the fish was fresh. There isn't much seating and we sat down at 11:30 and beat most of the other ship lunch crowd. We were glad we ate. The excursion we chose in Sitka was the "Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest"---again, operated by Allen Marine. The charges for this tour were $119 for adults and $84 for kids. By far and away, our best tour/excursion on our entire cruise!! We LOVED this 3 hours! They promise that you WILL see wildlife or you will get a $100 per adult refund. We hadn't been on the boat more than 10 mins and we saw a whale. As we had already been on a whale tour out of Juneau, we were NOT that interested in seeing the whales again. We were kind of 'whaled' out by then. The captain was informative and interesting but not to the point of being over-bearing or boring. We watched the whale for about 15-20 mins but that was about 15 mins too long for our group (again, we had already seen whales earlier in the week)---but he did move on to the next group. We were essentially after sea otters. And boy did we ever find sea otters.....whole 'rafts' of otters--just floating and playing and sunning themselves. We stayed around the otters for about 1/2 hour to 45 mins. My kids LOVED seeing the otters and getting lots and lots of pictures, from a lot of different views and angles. We had two naturalists on board and they both did a great job of explaining about the otters, their habitat, lifestyle, etc. Again, not to the point of over-bearing or boring us. We also saw a few seals and a few sea birds too. But, the best part of the whole day was still to come. We went down a few miles more and saw lots and lots of Bald Eagles, in their natural habitat. Some flying, some in nests, a baby bird, in a nest, and a lot on shore, either just sitting or eating. This was my favorite part of the trip---just seeing the Eagles in their natural setting and habitat. They are such a majestic and pristine bird and just to get to see them was such a treat! We got to see a mother bear and her two baby cubs. This was a very rare and special treat. The naturalists say that you just don't see bears every day and maybe once in every 10-12 trips do you get lucky enough to see a bear. We sat and watched the mama bear eat and the two cubs play and frolic around. We were very, very lucky!! This was indeed the highlight for my kids!! It made their whole trip and their whole week. We headed back to the ship and the boat took us directly to the ship as the ship was due to sail at 5 PM and we were dropped off, right at 4:30 PM. Overall, a very worthwhile trip and it just very cool to see all of the wildlife we did that day: whales, seals, eagles, a couple of deer, otters, salmon, bears, and several other sea birds. I would say that this was our favorite excursion and we all thought it was well worth the money and worth our day. We liked the captain, the naturalists and the boat and itinerary. A 5+ type of day! And to top it off, it was a clear, sunny afternoon!! We lucked out!

Read 251 Sitka Reviews

A beautiful sunny summer night. We pulled into port at 6 PM and we were off the boat by 6:15 PM. We chose the "Victoria Highlights" excursion. We met our bus driver, Norm, right out in the parking lot and were on our bus at 6:30 PM. This is a two hour guided bus/coach tour around Victoria. $44 for adults and $19 for kids. Norm, our driver, is a native Victorian and loves his city and is very proud. He's a government postal worker and does this to supplement his income and he likes showing off his city. The first hour is basically driving around some of the outskirts and high end neighborhoods. I would say that they spend about 45 mins too long, showing off million dollar homes along the waterfront. 15 mins of the fancy neighborhoods would have been sufficient for me. You have seen one fancy, gated $1 million dollar neighborhood, you have seen them all...every city has a fancy, high end neighborhood....I think that the 15 minutes would have been sufficient. There is only one stop on this trip. You get off the bus for about 10 mins at the top of a city park called Tolmie Park (spelling)?? It's about long enough to get a couple of city pictures and that's about it. I would have skipped this and rather had a stop in the downtown core area. After the first hour or so, you head towards the main downtown core area. You get to see the famous harbor, the Empress Hotel, the Parliament building, Chinatown, and a few other famous monuments/buildings. We only had about 1/2 hour in this part of town. As I mentioned, I would have rather spent more time here and less out in the suburbs. You cannot get off the bus. If I had to do it all over again, I would have walked to the main core, from the ship. It was only about maybe 1 or 1 1/2 miles. I did not know this at the time we booked this excursion. I would definitely go back to Victoria. Very cool, modern, clean, fun city (from what I was able to see). We docked at 6 PM and had to be back on the boat by 11:30 PM---again, I wish I would have had more time. I would like to go back to Victoria again some day! Norm was fine but I got tired of seeing where his first job was and the pizza parlor that he used to go to and the bowling alley that's now a movie complex----I really didn't care much about his personal background---would have rather seen the downtown and famous sites and buildings!!

Read 875 Victoria Reviews

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