Mid-June Alaskan Cruise
Westerdam Cruise Review to Alaska - Inside Passage
Sail Date: June 15, 2013
Cabin Type: Balcony
Traveled As: Family (older children)
Reviewed: 4 years ago
Review SummaryWe had a group of 14 family members take this cruise this past June. First, the hi-lights. Speaking for just my spouse and me, we most enjoyed the trip up Glacier Bay to view the calving of the Marguerite Glacier. Once we left Glacier Bay and headed out to sea, we seemed to have the entire rear observation deck to ourselves. For a few hours we enjoyed spectacular scenery. The scenery from that same location on the Westerdam while moored in Sitka was also spectacular. Our favorite shore excursion was to visit Burchart Gardens during the Victoria, BC, stop.
As a family group, we dined most every evening in the Pinnacle Dining Room and took our breakfasts and lunches at the Lido Buffet Dining area. The meals at the Pinnacle were a decided upgrade. Desserts alone made that dining experience worth the effort.
After our evening meal, our group always headed to the Lido Lounge for the evening's entertainment. The Texas Tenors and the magician were our favorite shows.
Now for the negatives. While we understand the ship has to travel considerable distances between stops, it seemed we spent a bit too much time traveling and had such small windows of time for shore excursions. When preplanning our trip, we anticipated enough time to take a seaplane trip and to kayak. Once at our destinations, we soon realized that there'd not be enough time to enjoy those outings. Instead, we were dumped at docks and the tourist-trap shopping that immediately greeted us. We didn't take this cruise to buy cheap t-shirts and other tacky paraphanelia. The stops in Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria were much too brief. We looked forward to our planned visit to Burchart Gardens and were allowed only 90 minutes to tour this remarkable destination. This was a shame. Can't the ship travel faster between stops and thus allow more time at each destination?
The HAL singers and dancers were talented. We generally enjoyed their nightly productions. However, there was lewd and suggestive content in almost every show. Holland America should tailor these shows to the family audiences that attend.
We had a horrible experience with the Roberts Tramway in Juneau. We bought tickets aboard the Westerdam just to avoid the long lines we were told to anticipate a shore. Unfortunately, the day we stopped a storm hit Juneau that led to the tramway being shut-down. We have friends who spent 3 hours at the top of the tramway waiting for clearance to restart. We finally made our trip up at about 8pm, knowing we had to be back aboard ship by 9:30pm. However, once we arrived at the top, we were told by tramway workers that we had a 1 hour 45 minute wait to get down. This was clearly poor management. Tramway operaters at the base of the ride should have informed potential riders that the crowd up top was considerable. Or they should have stopped selling tickets or provided a warning. Thus, we rode up, got back in line, and did not enjoy any of the experience. We were able to get off the mountain rather quickly and back to the ship on time. It did seem the workers up top did get the message from many travelers in line that we had a need to severely hurry up the descent process. My sister-in-law purchased tickets for five. She was incensed that she'd spent close to $150 for nothing. She immediately started to contact management to seek a refund. They argued back and refused to take responsibility for selling tickets they should not have. Since I purchased my tickets aboard the Westerdam, I returned to the excursion desk, complained politely, and was refunded my money.
The tramway experience could be a wonderful excursion. The views we were briefly able to enjoy were amazing. And there was so much more to view up top but we were unable to. However, I believe Holland America should let travelers know that Roberts Tramway is a money-grubbing, selfish, operation. They seem only interested in maximizing their number of travelers and not their travelers' experience. I feel it is the Tramway's responsiblity to deliver a quality product to their customers. They clearly do not. If the weather is disagreeable, the customer suffers because the tramway offers no refunds.
Much is made about the food on the Westerdam. I was deployed into the Middle East by the Army in 2006-07 and ate as well in dining facilities on my base as I did on the Westerdam. The food is vastly over-rated.
We were tendered a shore in both Juneau and Sitka. The Juneau tender aboard the Westerdam was a mass of confusion. It seemed totally dis-organized. When travelers have so little time to be a shore, the ship should do its best to get its passengers off and running. Although Holland America does its best to provide for a great experience while aboard, you should understand how important it is for your travelers to get a shore and off the ship. Simply, its nice to have solid ground underneath your feet.
We, as a couple, cannot recommend this cruise for others. The enjoyable aspects of the trip are overcome by the many negatives I've listed above.
Food and Dining
Service and Staff
Cabin / Stateroom
We were far forward on deck 4. We were very close to the anchors. We were wakened early in the mornings of arrivals at a couple of destinations by the noise of the anchor being played out.