Review Westerdam Alaska 9-1-12

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#1
California
2,125 Posts
Joined Feb 2012
We sailed the Westerdam 7 day Alaskan Explorer round trip from Seattle on Sept 1, 2012. Ports of call were Juneau, Glacier Bay, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria, B.C. I’m going to do a review just on the ship and HAL on this board, focusing only on the cruise experience aboard. It turned out pretty long, but hopefully can answer anyone’s questions. I will do a detailed trip report with lots of photos over on the Alaska board that will focus more on Alaska, if you're interested.

This was our second cruise. Our first was in 2003 with Carnival to the Mexican Riviera in an Oceanview stateroom. This cruise was in Deluxe Verandah Suite SB8147 which is a corner aft wrap starboard side on Deck 8. Obviously, it would be unfair to try to compare our Carnival experience with HAL. There is no comparison lol

We had an absolutely amazing time and HAL was fabulous. Any negatives I mention here are more observations or areas I think they can improve rather than complaints. I don’t have any real complaints. It was all great! Well, except desserts, but I’ll get to that later.

Pre-cruise service: We booked online through one of those mass market sites. After that, I dealt directly with HAL for questions, booking shore excursions and dining etc. They were great! HALs website has a poor user interface and is a pain to maneuver through, requiring you to click through multiple pages before finally pulling up your booking and purchases. They could improve that a lot. However, once you pull up your booking number and all your reservations, it’s easy to use. All issues and questions I had were easily dealt with, regardless of whether I emailed or called. The pre-cruise service was great.

Embarkation: a breeze! We arrived at the pier at approx noon. We were very impressed with how smoothly it went. Our experience with Carnival was a long line on a concrete sidewalk that wrapped around the outer buildings at the San Pedro Pier. It took us a couple of hours before we even got inside the building, followed by a long line that wrapped back and forth several times inside. At Pier 91 in Seattle, it took us all of maybe 30 minutes (and that’s generous) from the time our shuttle dropped us off to when we entered our stateroom. We basically walked through with only maybe 5 or 6 people in line in front of us through security. There was a line of 20 or 30 people for general check in, but as a suite, we went to the suite line and there was no line. We walked right up and got our sign and sail cards and were off to the gangway. This was definitely a bonus for booking a suite. Once in our room, there was the complimentary bottle of Pol Clemente as well as a bottle of water and a small vase of fresh flowers. The bottles of booze we had ordered for delivery at sea were also there waiting. There were also some bath salts and a loofah mitt in the bathroom.

Our cabin: as stated above, we were in SB8147 and I would book it again in a heart beat! The room was great, very roomy and comfortable.

We had more storage space than we needed. Outlets – there are two plug ins by the bed and one in the vanity area. We took a surge protector that we plugged in by the bed and had no problems charging everything. The blow dryer provided is pretty weak so if you have hard to dry hair it will take awhile. The bed was VERY comfortable.

The balcony was amazing!!!! It was perfect for the scenic cruising in Alaska. We were able to move around both the back and side of the ship so we never felt like we missed anything. The best part of having the corner balcony is that it was cold in Alaska. If we’d had a typical verandah on the side of the ship, we probably would not have used it much because there was always a very cold wind. With the corner, we were able to move around as needed for comfort. The back is quite protected from the wind which made it quite a bit warmer then the side and quite comfortable. It is partially covered so you are somewhat protected from rain or you can move in and out of the shade as needed. We had all types of weather from sunny and warm in Seattle and Victoria (wore shorts while we relaxed on the balcony), to very cold in Glacier Bay (bundled in multiple layers with a triclimate jacket) and a little rainy in Juneau and Sitka (wore rain gear). We never had heavy rain, so I can’t comment on that.

I had read on here that noise from the Sea View pool area above us was an issue for this cabin. I suspect this might be an issue in warmer climates like the Caribbean where people are really using the pool and deck chairs. In Alaska it was not a problem. Very few people used the area except when we were right in front of the glaciers. We never heard them cleaning the deck in the middle of the night as had been reported here. In Glacier Bay and during sail aways, there were people standing at the railing directly above. We had several people holler down and ask us what type of cabin we had because of the amazing balcony. It did not bother us. They can only see you if you stand at the railing. If you are sitting in a chair against the wall, they can not see you and you can not see them. While we knew they were there, we never felt they were intrusive or our privacy was invaded.

There were also reports of garbage coming down from above. We did occasionally see bits of paper fly off from above, like gum wrappers or a drink napkin, but they went on overboard and did not land on our balcony. On our Glacier Bay day we woke up to find a clump of what looked like chocolate cake that flown off the deck above and splatted on our railing. Otherwise, garbage was not a problem.

Our neighbors next to us on the side of the ship smoked. I smelled it several times when I walked close to the divider. It was just a faint scent, not an overpowering odor. I suppose if we had a standard balcony it might have been an issue, but with the aft wrap, we just moved away from it.

We spent hours and hours on our balcony, mostly on the back side out of the wind. We were out there from 7am to 5:30 pm on Glacier Bay day.

The one day our location was a problem was the afternoon we had left Ketchikan. It turned out to be a beautiful sunny day and we spent all afternoon on the balcony snapping pictures. It was about 6:30 pm and DH and I were snapping photos of an amazing sunset. There were quite a few of our neighbors that were also out on their balconies admiring and photographing the sunset.

Suddenly water started sprinkling down from above. I thought maybe someone had tossed a drink over the side, but the water kept sprinkling down and increased a lot in volume and I realized they were scrubbing down the deck above us without giving any warning. Oh nooo! Not during my sunset lol DH had had his expensive camera set up on a tripod and was not too happy about it, though the camera was fine.

DH ran up to the Lido deck, but the Sea View area was roped off so he couldn’t talk to the crew. So he ran down to the Neptune Lounge and talked to the concierge. She immediately called the crew and they stopped, allowing me to get some amazing photos. We were quite impressed with their response.

The next day, while we were packing, the concierge called us and asked if we would be in our room because they’d like to drop something off. They showed up with some complimentary cocktails to apologize for dousing us. They were our drinks of choice and were NOT stingy with alcohol lol That was an unexpected nice touch. We laughed at the timing though because we had just sat down, pen in hand, to fill out the survey lol I found it interesting that they had chosen to scrub the deck down during the dinner hour since there were complaints on CC about them waking people in the middle of the night with scraping deck chairs. Maybe they were responding to CC complaints?

Service: great service throughout the cruise! Our room stewards Nur and Achmad were terrific! Every time we entered our room, it had been cleaned up. We never wanted for anything. They were always friendly, greeting us with a big smile and friendly hello. Our first night, DH needed his dress shirts ironed and we had some laundry we dropped in a pile in the corner but there were no laundry bags in the room. We swung by the Neptune Lounge on our way to dinner and asked for bags to be sent to our room. When we returned to our room after dinner, our dirty laundry was gone. We never did see a laundry bag all week, but we put our dirty clothes in a pile and they magically disappeared every day and showed up the next day cleaned and pressed. Great laundry service!

Dining service was also great. We ate dinner in the MDR twice, once in the Pinnacle, several in the Lido, and had room service. Service was great in all locations. I can’t comment much on drink service in the MDR during dinner though since we usually just ordered water. Our water glasses were always full. If there is supposed to be drink service in the Lido, it was pretty much non-existent for lunch and dinner. I think we were asked if we wanted drink during meals maybe twice. We usually just got our own.

Drink service in the lounges and bars was great. They watched our glasses and when they were low but not empty, offered to bring another. When we said no thanks, they didn’t bother us again.

We didn’t use the Neptune Lounge all that much, but they were always friendly, knew our names, and were ready to help. When we did have an issue such as the laundry bag or the cleaning on the Sea View deck, they responded immediately and took great care of us. We stopped in a few times for coffee and snacks. Their little pastries and chocolates were yummy! Much better then anything we got in the Lido. We also like the coffee served both in the Neptune and for room service. I don’t think we ever got any in the Lido, so can’t comment there.

We had room service quite a bit. We ordered coffee and breakfast each morning and had lunch on Glacier Bay day. Their timing was very good. Even on Glacier Bay day when a lot of people were ordering, they had good timing. We called around 12 noon for lunch and it was delivered about 45 minutes later. We did have a few issues where we did not get everything we ordered or we received items we did not order. It was not a big deal though.

Lines in the Lido were not very long. At the busiest times, there were maybe 4 or 5 people in front of us but the line moved fast. We did often have to wander around to find a table. There were many tables taken up by people just sitting there for hours enjoying the view and not eating. It would have been nice if the dining tables were kept for people actually eating. There were plenty of empty chairs by windows in the lounges and by the pools. However, we discovered we could grab flatwear and take our plates out by the Lido pool. We always found a table quickly and had drink service immediately so it was a great alternative.

Food – it was ok to good, but nothing to write home about. DH thought the steak, filet mignon, and lobster were not great quality, though I thought they were fine but not fabulous. They were cooked as we asked. I ordered rare and it was not overc-cooked. Everything could have used more spices. I used a lot of salt trying to find some flavor. Even in the Pinnacle, it was only ok. Their crab cakes were very good though, better than Tracy’s Crab Shack in Juneau.

I will say the desserts were not very good. I was quite disappointed, though I’d half expected it thanks to reports here on CC. HAL could really improve in this area. The cakes had a weird soggy consistency and were quite bland. On the second formal night, they did serve a chocolate tartlet that was very very good. The dessert extravaganza was not worth the crowd and lines. I tried several different desserts and basically only took a bite of each and left the rest. They weren’t worth the extra calories. The ice cream in the Lido was great though. The pastries were good.

Formal nights - DH and I are pretty laid back and didn’t really care one way or the other. We don’t get excited about dressing up or feel others attire affects our experience, but we also don’t mind dressing up for the dress code or out of respect for our fellow passengers. It’s just not a concern for us one way or the other. I did bring 2 cocktail dresses and DH brought a suit.

1st formal night was our 1st sea day. We dressed in a cocktail dress and suit and ate in the Pinnacle. Everyone was dressed up in the Pinnacle. We did not wander about the ship much afterwards as I was feeling quite queasy, so I don’t know how people were dressed around the rest of the ship. In the public areas between the Pinnacle and our cabin, we saw quite a few people dressed casually, but we had dinner reservations at 6pm so likely many hadn’t dressed yet.

Our 2nd formal night was a big oops. I honestly thought the 2nd formal night would be the 5th night after Ketchikan. On the 4th night after Sitka, neither one of us noticed anything in the daily activities in the Explorer. We looked later and noticed on the top of the front page in very small print, it gives the date, the port, and the dining attire: formal. There was nothing anywhere in the rest of the Explorer. It would have been helpful if they’d had it in big bold print somewhere lol We had open dining and went to dinner around 5:30 dressed in smart casual. I was in black slacks and casual suede flat knee-high boots, and a dressier lace top that could go either casual or “Sunday” wear. I would say I was dressed more for a night out, but definitely not formal. DH had on black dress slacks and a dress shirt that was open at the collar, no tie and no jacket. When we talked to the 2 hosts and asked for a table for 2, they didn’t bat an eye. They gave absolutely no indication that we were not properly dressed. I actually would have appreciated a warning and we would have gone back to our room to change lol We had no clue it was formal night……..until we were escorted to our table and we noticed people dressed up. When we were seated, we sat and debated whether it was formal night because many were dressed in clothing that could go either way. As people were seated, we noticed a couple of tuxes and many suits, but a few men had sweaters on or were dressed like DH with open collar, no tie or jacket. There were a lot of cocktail dresses, more casual “Sunday” dresses, and women in slacks and dressier tops. It was an odd mix of everything. Anyway, I took a 2nd formal dress for nothing lol DH and I joked about braving the walk of shame as we left the dining room, but honestly we didn’t feel anyone shooting us looks to kill for our dress code offense. We went to the Queens Lounge after for trivia or karaoke or something and again, a mix of people dressed up and some in jeans. We didn’t feel out of place at all. I did note I only saw one long formal gown the entire trip, though there may have been more that were seated in the dining room.

Entertainment – for the most part, we had a great time. The juggler and magician were great. We didn’t care for the singing and dancing though and we walked out of both of the 2 shows we went to. We didn’t walk out in a huff, just went to look for entertainment that better suited us. We felt the singing and dancing were on par with a high school production and seriously needed some updating, though I suppose it appeals to an older crowd. Most of the music was from the 60s and earlier. I think the most recent song we heard was The Age of Aquarious and the groovy costumes and long-haired wigs were cheesy lol We enjoyed the trivia games, the karaoke competitions, the Battle of the Sexes, and the Love and Marriage game. Jason the cruise director and Mario the DJ did a great job and were very entertaining. Lots of laughs!

We found the ship basically shut down and was very quiet after 9pm. Most of the lounges we entered were mostly empty. However, we did not go down to the Casino, the Sports Bar, the Piano Bar, or the Northern Lights Disco because of the cigarette smoke. We could smell it down in the Queens Lounge. I am asthmatic and smoke triggers attacks. It could be that that’s where everyone was lol The rest of the ship was strangely empty and quite. 2000 passengers and we wondered where everyone was lol

Children – there were very few children on board, or at least we saw very few, mostly on the Lido deck. I would say we only saw a handful over the course of the cruise and most were under age 5 but very well behaved.

Disembarkation was a breeze. We had room service for breakfast then around 8am headed down. The saddest sound I’ve ever heard was that very last dee de de de of my card being scanned for the last time. We really didn’t want to leave.

Overall, we had a fabulous time. HAL offers a great experience that we truly enjoyed and I would book with them again without hesitation.
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#2
San Diego
468 Posts
Joined Nov 2007
Such a well-written, detailed report- thank you for your time and effort. It sounds like the suite life suits you well. Guess there would be little to compare to your previous Carnival cruise!
#3
New Brunswick
45,750 Posts
Joined Jan 2009
Wow - thanks for taking the time to share your espereriences with us - hoping to be on the Queen of Horns shortly if I can lure DH

Great service by the way IMO at your sunset. Nice review - thanks so much
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#4
Montreal Canada
7,129 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
From your pix I can see we had the basic same cabin on Noordam I must agree it is great not to bump into anything if you need to get up at night
I too enjoyed the wrap around balcony on Noordam Very nice in the Med Wish I had such a balcony right here ..plus of course an ocean view ...which might be a tad hard in Montreal...LOL
I agree with service in Neptune lounge I also agree about desserts BUT the chocolate ones were FABULOUS
I enjoyed the Cappucinos in Neptune I too found our ship very quiet at night
Gald you enjoyed yopur cruise because we did too
Going back in Jan
#5
Florida
17,789 Posts
Joined Jan 2007
Enjoyed your very thorough and well written review. Thanks for sharing your cruise with us.
#6
Orange County, Calif
22,010 Posts
Joined Mar 2005
Thanks for the nice review of your Alaskan cruise on the Westerdam. Sounds like you had a good time.
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#7
85,675 Posts
Joined Aug 2000
Wonderful review. Thanks for it.... I enjoye reading it.
Makes me eager for our upcoming Westerdam cruise.
Welcome back.
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#8
Beautiful British Columbia, Canada
2,662 Posts
Joined Aug 2009
Enjoyed reading about your experience-thanks for taking the time and also sharing some photos. Love that the Neptune lounge took care quickly of the "water" incident so you could get your photos-impressive.
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#9
Oahu, Hawaii
843 Posts
Joined Jul 2012
Awesome! Thank you. I wonder if we will have the same cabin stewards? I'm really looking forward to our trip now . Glad you had a good time.

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#10
Civitavecchia, Italy
4,366 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
Thanks for your review.
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#11
California
2,125 Posts
Joined Feb 2012
Originally posted by Rebel54
Awesome! Thank you. I wonder if we will have the same cabin stewards? I'm really looking forward to our trip now . Glad you had a good time.

I left you a note tape to the bottom of the nightstand. Let's see if it's still there when you sail lol

I'm getting photos sorted and re-sized right now. I'll be posting on the Alaska board in the next day or so. I hope your weather is as good as ours. We had rain in Juneau and a little drizzle in Sitka, but not a lot of rain. While we were sailing, it only seemed to rain in the evening or early morning when we didn't want to be out there anyway. We had a lot of sunshine

Take everything from shorts to multi layers with jacket. We were bundled up like the Michelin man for both whale watching in Juneau (they cancelled our Tracy Arm Fjord and Glacier Explorer tour due to weather) and Glacier Bay (sunny most of the day). Glacier Bay we started bundled up. I had on thin longjohns top and bottom, a sweater, a North Face triclimate jacket

http://www.rei.com/product/841419/th...1-001b2166c2c0

and some thick fleece pants that were as thick as the north face fleece, rain pants to block the wind, knit gloves and beanie with my jacket hood on - and I was still a little cold. However, whale watching we stayed out on the deck the entire rain, even when it was raining and the boat was going fast. I had to put my sunglasses on because the rain was hitting my eyes lol In Glacier Bay we slowly peeled off layers over the course of the day until we were in short sleeved tshirt and jeans, then slowly added them back on until we were bundled up again. It was very cold in front of Johns Hopkins glacier. I was cold even as bundled up as I was, but we were outside the entire day. We only went inside to layer. We saw some amazing calving! It made waves big enough to rock the whole ship!
#12
112,920 Posts
Joined Jul 2001
Great.

Thank you for taking the time to write your review.

Glad you had a wonder Alaskan cruise.
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Stopped counting a few years ago -- have done over 140 cruises.
#13
Beautiful Southwest
8,083 Posts
Joined Aug 2005
Thank you for the well balanced review. We are most anxious to get on board for 30 days.

You didn't say much about the condition of the ship. Is she in good shape on the inside?
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#14
Southwest Florida
10,452 Posts
Joined Jan 2002
What a great review..Did you happen to try the bread pudding in the Lido..That has always been my downfall!

Thanks so much for sharing your cruise experience with us..

Cheers...Betty
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#15
California
2,125 Posts
Joined Feb 2012
Originally posted by kakalina
Thank you for the well balanced review. We are most anxious to get on board for 30 days.

You didn't say much about the condition of the ship. Is she in good shape on the inside?
We thought she was in great shape! At least we didn't note anything that really needed attention. A couple of the cushions on our deck chairs were a little faded from the sun, but they were otherwise in great shape. That is the ONLY thing I can think of. She's beautiful, very elegant. I remember our Carnival ship feeling like a Vegas casino with it's color scheme and lights.....tacky IMO lol The Westerdam is not like that. I had expected the color scheme to feel louder from the pictures, but when you're actually there with the lighting, it just feels classy. You'll enjoy her very much!
#16
California
2,125 Posts
Joined Feb 2012
Originally posted by serendipity1499
What a great review..Did you happen to try the bread pudding in the Lido..That has always been my downfall!

Thanks so much for sharing your cruise experience with us..

Cheers...Betty
Sorry Betty! I never saw any out and didn't think to ask. They may have served it, but after the first couple of days of disappointment, we just went straight for the ice cream lol I love dessert, but the taste has to be worth the calories lol There's no point in taking in all those extra calories if you're not really enjoying it.

On the bright side, neither one of gained weight lol
#17
Beautiful Southwest
8,083 Posts
Joined Aug 2005
Thanks so much for the information. Won't be long and we will be on her. Yay!
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#18
Spokane, WA
441 Posts
Joined Feb 2002
Great review, really enjoyed it!

We are getting very excited for our Sept. 22nd sail on the Westerdam. We have a corner aft on deck 4, hope it's everything that yours was (I have no doubt about it!). We had the same cabin on a Mexican cruise and loved it, we've always found we LIVE on our verandahs, regardless of the weather. Excited to spend all day there on our Glacier Bay day. Hoping for sun, preferably the REAL stuff and not the "liquid" variety that we Northwesterners are so used to!

Anyway, thanks for a thoughtful, well-written review!
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Dana

Alaska/Inside Passage, Westerdam, Sept. 2015
Alaska/Inside Passage, Westerdam, Sept. 2012
Southern Caribbean, Noordam, March 2010
Panama Canal, Zuiderdam, Dec. 2008
Alaska/Inside Passage, Amsterdam, Sept. 2007
Pacific NW/Inside Passage, Mercury, Oct. 2006
French & Italian Rivieras, Wind Surf, June 2006
Mexican Riviera, Oosterdam, Oct. 2005
Pacific NW/Inside Passage, Mercury, Sept. 2005
Alaska/Inside Passage, Oosterdam, Sept. 2004
Alaska/Inside Passage, Amsterdam, Sept.2002
#19
Oahu, Hawaii
843 Posts
Joined Jul 2012
Hehehehe! I feel like a kid on a scavenger hunt!

Can't wait to see your pics. I hope we get good weather too. Coming from Hawaii, I am not as tolerant of cold as I used to be (growing up in Oregon). I'm just so excited to see Alaska, I'm sure that alone will keep me warm. I'm glad you had the good weather. Just hope you didn't use it all up.

Thanks for sharing and I'll be sure to check in and let you know if I found the note or not.

Originally posted by NoobCruise
I left you a note tape to the bottom of the nightstand. Let's see if it's still there when you sail lol

I'm getting photos sorted and re-sized right now. I'll be posting on the Alaska board in the next day or so. I hope your weather is as good as ours. We had rain in Juneau and a little drizzle in Sitka, but not a lot of rain. While we were sailing, it only seemed to rain in the evening or early morning when we didn't want to be out there anyway. We had a lot of sunshine

Take everything from shorts to multi layers with jacket. We were bundled up like the Michelin man for both whale watching in Juneau (they cancelled our Tracy Arm Fjord and Glacier Explorer tour due to weather) and Glacier Bay (sunny most of the day). Glacier Bay we started bundled up. I had on thin longjohns top and bottom, a sweater, a North Face triclimate jacket

http://www.rei.com/product/841419/th...1-001b2166c2c0

and some thick fleece pants that were as thick as the north face fleece, rain pants to block the wind, knit gloves and beanie with my jacket hood on - and I was still a little cold. However, whale watching we stayed out on the deck the entire rain, even when it was raining and the boat was going fast. I had to put my sunglasses on because the rain was hitting my eyes lol In Glacier Bay we slowly peeled off layers over the course of the day until we were in short sleeved tshirt and jeans, then slowly added them back on until we were bundled up again. It was very cold in front of Johns Hopkins glacier. I was cold even as bundled up as I was, but we were outside the entire day. We only went inside to layer. We saw some amazing calving! It made waves big enough to rock the whole ship!
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My blog: http://rebelsouladventures.com/
4-3-2019: Avalon Siem Reap (Hanoi to Bangkok)
4-14-2019: Myanmar on the Myanmar (Cancelled )
7-18-2016 Avalon Artistry II (Prague to Paris)
09-22-2012 Westerdam (Alaska Inside Passage)
01-04-2010 Pride of America (Hawaii)