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CGARR

Age: 45

Occupation:Attorney

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Westerdam

Sailing Date: 2009-05-31

Itinerary: Alaska

My husband and I greatly enjoyed our Alaskan cruise on the Westerdam. The itinerary was very good and we went on fantastic excursions to enable us to capture a true Alaskan experience. The service on the Westerdam was excellent. We enjoy Holland America cruises. Although Holland America offers programs for children, Holland America is primarily a line that caters to adults that are not cruising with small children. We prefer this to cruise lines that offer more of a young family atmosphere that create a noisy "Disney-like" experience that we choose to avoid.

The food in the main dining room was very good. We also ate at the Pinnacle Grill for 5 nights. They have a good menu with a great staff and we enjoyed that experience very much. The Lido buffets for breakfast and lunch were good too.

We were upgraded from a verandah room to a small suite and it was great! It was very roomy with a double balcony and separate tub and shower. Our cabin stewards were the absolute best.

I took 3 pilates classes that I loved and also used the fitness facilities on a daily basis. They have excellent fitness equipment and I never had trouble getting a machine. We also took both of the wine tasting classes which we enjoyed very much. We attended a cooking class that was good too. We enjoyed an Alaskan wildlife seminar prior to arriving in Glacier Bay that was very informative and educational. We enjoyed the entertainment, which is typical cruise entertainment, but the HAL singers and dancers were good and the comedians were good too.

Don't miss the Mendenhall Glacier and whale watching excursion in Juneau! We also enjoyed the high speed rafting and 4x4 adventure in Sitka where we saw numerous sea otters, whales and brown bears. The crab excursion in Ketchikan was unbelievable! We ate the best dungennes crabs you can imagine after taking a beautiful boat ride to the crab pots where they showed us how the crabs were caught. I would recommend these excursions to anyone.

We had a great trip from beginning to end. We arrived in Seattle the afternoon prior to embarkation and stayed at the seafront Marriott just down the street from the port. This was a nice hotel with a great seafood restaurant directly across the street (Anthony's) that was a treat in itself. Embarkation on the boat was fairly quick. We had a nice lunch on the Lido deck and the room was ready by 1:00. I was able to sign up for my Pilates classes when we embarked and check out the fitness facilities. On sea days we spent a lot of time in the Crow's Nest with fabulous views of porpoises, whales and beautiful scenery.

The Lido buffet was a bit crowded during lunch hours. Honestly I don't think I ever saw a larger group of obese people in my life. HAL doesn't dispense trays any longer probably to avoid people loading up on everything in the buffet line so if you want seconds you can go back to the buffet line for additional food. This seemed to be an issues for folks with huge appetites. It wouldn't be a problem for people who eat healthy portions of food. There was an eclectic array of food to choose from each day and everything was fresh and well-prepared.

The main dining area did a good job. We elected "as you wish" dining and we made our reservations each morning for a table for 2 and we never had any problem getting a table for the time that we chose. We elected to eat at the Pinnacle for 5 nights because we really enjoyed the great staff there and we liked the menu. It's a very good steak house and it's a very quiet and refined atmosphere.

The cruise through Glacier Bay was fantastic! We had awesome clear weather and we were treated to expert commentary by members of the National Park Service throughout the Glacier Bay experience. We witnessed numerous glacier "calving" and I'll never forget the thunderous sound! We also saw many species of wildlife in and around Glacier Bay. It was an unforgettable site!

Juneau was a fun port. We enjoyed some of the interesting shops there and then went on our excursion to the Mendenhall Glacier an whale watching tour. We took a bus from the port to the Mendenhall Glacier, which is truly spectacular. We had ample time to hike out close to the glacier and the beautiful waterfall next to it. We then got back on the bus an we arrived at the seaport to get on the whale watching ship in a beautiful small harbor in Juneau. This trip was fantastic! We saw a whale before we left the harbor! We saw at least 2 dozen humpback whales which was highlighted by a baby whale who continuously breached for about a half an hour to our delight. We then were taken to lunch at a beautiful resort on an island in the harbor for a fresh salmon bake lunch that was delicious. This was a great tour and well worth the $.

Sitka was a very pretty small city surrounded by islands with beautiful homes located on the islands. It was distinctly Russian in appearance with much Russian influence readily seen in the building architecture. We went on a very fun rubber raft and 4x4 expedition for 1/2 a day. We saw whales, many gorgeous sea otters with their offspring and when we were on the 4x4 expedition we saw a mother bear with 3 cubs and 2 half-grown brown bears! It was fantastic! When we got back to port we had lunch at a nice restaurant that offered fresh (I mean very fresh) Alaskan King Crab. What a treat! I never had such delicious crab.

We next went to the charming town of Ketchikan. We booked a crab feast excursion. We went by bus to a lodge about 20 minutes from the port and then boarded a boat on a beautiful tour of a pristine waterway. They took us to an area where they place the crab traps. They pulled up the crab traps and about 20 very large dungennes crabs were trapped. It was very interesting. They bait the traps with salmon. When we got back to the lodge we were treated with a lunch of fresh, right out of the water, dungennes crab. It was so unbelievably good that I didn't put anything at all on the crab. It was naturally sweet and tasty. There were about 10 tables of 4 and they had a contest of which table could pile the crab shells and claws the highest. We all ate a lot of crab that afternoon! After eating crab in Alaska as fresh and as good as it was I don't think I'll eat anything quite like that again. This was a fun excursion and it also was well worth the price.

We elected not to disembark in Victoria. It was after 6:00 p.m. and we decided to have an early dinner and pack because we were leaving the next morning.

We enjoyed the shows after dinner. They were typical cruise line performances as to be expected. I'm not sure why people think that they will see Las Vegas style and quality performances on a cruise ship but the Westerdam entertainment met my expectations for cruise line performances. I think that the HAL singers and dancers were better than other cruise line singers/dancers I've seen on other ships.

Disembarkation was a bit slow. We figured out why when we got off the ship as we saw two police officers escorting one of the passengers off the ship in handcuffs. There must have been a myriad of paperwork for the ship and the police department to sort through which slowed us down a bit. However, we took advantage of the HAL service that sends the luggage from the ship directly to the airline so when we got off the ship at about 8:00 a.m. we got a taxi very quickly and efficiently at the port and went to the airport without worrying about our bags. The bags were checked through to our final destination and they were there when we arrived home.

I truly enjoyed this cruise and I think that the Westerdam is a beautiful ship with a great crew. We are Mariner Society members and enjoyed a very nice lunch with the Captain and the other Mariner Society members on the final day of the cruise. HAL does a very good job of taking care of their frequent cruisers.

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