It was with some trepidation that my wife and I booked our trip to Alaska on the Westerdam. We had previously been on two cruises (Galapagos and Japan), both on small ships with only 100 passengers and we really like being with a small group of well traveled folks.
We chose HAL cause we wanted to go to Sitka and we thought most of the other ships looked more like carnival rides. Anyway, I got a great last minute deal on a SC Deluxe Veranda. I liked the idea of the huge wrap around veranda in the aft facing suite. We ended up being upgraded to an SA suite which was great. My wife loved the Neptune and the concierge made us really feel at home by learning our names and providing lots of help (and we needed it being newbies).
We had near perfect weather, enjoyed all the dining venues, service was great and we did our own thing for shore excursions. Took the Blue bus in Juneau to the Mendenhall and went hiking. Rented bikes in Sitka and rode to Blue Lake. Took a nice hike in Ketchikan and took a sunset stroll on the harbor walk in Victoria. Didn't get eaten by a bear.
Liked it so much we've booked the Panama cruise in October also on the Westerdam and I scored my aft wrap around confirmed this time! Will do shore excursions this cruise since hiking alone in Central America may be more excitement than we need.
Cabin 7091 - Deluxe Veranda
Really nice! Plenty of room, we only travel with carry on and there where at lots of closets. I put one shirt in each.
Nice layout - really liked having the window over the desk.
This is a cabin that is at the place where the ship bulges back out so the veranda of the cabin to the right has a view o your veranda, although on an Alaska cruise no one ever sat out there while the ship was underway because that angled veranda makes it exposed to the wind.
Took the Blue bus to the Mendenhall Glacier mainly because we just wanted to go for a hike and not be bothered by having to stick with a group. Bus is $16 and leaves every 20 minutes from the dock. It was a beautiful day! When we got back to Juneau we went over to the tram (the line was gone by then) and went to the top of Mt Roberts where we took a short walk and had a drink on the deck in the Gondola building.
We were going to sign up for one of the bike tours HAL offered but we weren't sure about what we would do if it rained. We got to Sitka on a beautiful day so we just went to the Yellow Jersey bike shop and rented two bikes for $27 each and he gave us a map and told us how to get to Blue Lake which is where the bike tour was going (for $119 each). Anyhow it was a great ride, beautiful scenery and for those less adventurous the is a paved bike path along the coast east of town, that since it is along the coast, is relatively flat.
After our ride we turned in our bikes and had a nice walk around town visiting the Bishops House and the Russian Church.
Took s nice short hike above town on a relatively flat trail (once you walk up a pretty step hill to get to it). It's called the Rainbird trail and is on most visitor maps. It was nice because to get to it you walk for a ways west of where the cruise ships are and even though there where four ships in town we didn't see anyone almost all morning.
After the walk we stopped by Creek Street and had a nice look around the SE Alaska Discovery center before returning to the ship.
Our cruise arrived at 6PM and we thought we might not have much time to do anything, but customs was not an issue and we got a cab to drop us off in front of the Empress Hotel. From there its a short walk to the Harbor walk that goes around the north side of the harbor. It's a very nice walk wit lots of great views back to the hotel, Parliament and the harbor in general. When you get tired there are numerous places where you can get on to a little harbor ferry that will take you back to a house boat marina just a few blocks from the cruise ship dock. Great way to spend an evening and enjoy the sunset over the harbor.