Year Started: 1873
Ships in Fleet: 15
Summary: A high quality upper mainstream cruise line with smaller ships and value prices. A cruise line for people who want to step up from mainstream at great value prices.
Regions:Alaska, Central America, Transpacific, West Coast, Erope
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Eastern Seaboard, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Eastern Seaboard, South America
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Value for Money. Teens. Seniors.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Oceania, West Coast
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Africa, Caribbean Southern, Mediterranean Western, South America, Transatlantic
Good for: Group. Families. Luxury Travelers.
Regions:Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western, Scandinavia, The Orient
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Overall Service. Value for Money. Seniors.
Regions:Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, South America, West Coast
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Eastern Seaboard, Hawaii, Mexico, South America
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Oceania, The Orient, West Coast
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean Eastern, Central America, Hawaii, West Coast
Good for: Overall Service. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
Regions:Alaska, Central America, Hawaii, Mexico, South America, West Coast
Good for: Overall Service. Value for Money. Foodies.
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Central America, West Coast
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Very poor customer service. Bathroom pipes overflowed. Gives new meaning to "poop deck". Toilets in cabins and common areas would not flush. There was overflow in cabins. Friends had floating material flood their cabin and were offered nothing in compensation. Our cabin did not flood, but toilet would not flush for over 1/2 day. We complained during the cruise and wrote a letter afterward and not even offered a small inconvenience discount for a future cruise. This is an older ship and not as nice as others in the fleet. I won't cruise Holland any longer. Absolutely disgusted with the company and lack of communication and concern for customers and our health and safety. Even after I was specifically requested to write a letter by an agent of Holland, nothing was done to keep me as a customer. Additionally, after requesting to be taken off of all of Holland's emails...I still get them. Good food, but no regard for customer satisfaction. Spend your money elsewhere.
This was our 22nd cruise and our eighth Holland American Line (HAL) cruise since 1995, with each cruise on a different ship, except that this is our second cruise on the Westerdam. Our cabin was a super verandah suite (Category SY) on the Upper Verandah Deck mid-ship. We sailed on a 12-day eastern Mediterranean cruise from Greece, to three ports in Turkey, to two ports in Israel, to one port in Egypt, and back to a different port in Turkey again, before returning back to Greece. Plus, there were three days at sea when going between two Turkey distant ports, from Israel to Egypt, and Egypt to Turkey. Every port was most interesting. In addition, we enjoyed a three-day pre-cruise in Athens staying at the Holland America approved hotel - the Athens Ledra Marriott Hotel.
FLIGHTS We selected Delta Airlines for the flights from Los Angeles to Athens with a change of aircraft in both directions in New York City. These flights were long (over 16 hours going and 17 returning). Because the flights were long, we upgraded to business class.
SHIP The Westerdam is one of the larger-sized ships of HALVista class. It has 11 decks with 11 elevators, four of which are glass-enclosed and located on the outside mid-ship. The ship has 972 cabins and carries 1,848 passengers with a crew of 800.
CABIN Our cabin was larger (384 square feet) than on our previous 2004 Westerdam cabin (254 square feet) when we sailed the western Mediterranean. Plus, we were on one deck higher. And like on the previous cruise, we had a nice large verandah. Our cabin had air conditioning, bottled water, comfortable king-size bed with four pillows (actually two single beds placed together, with room to place your suitcases under) with two night stands, safe, bathroom amenities, bathrobes, hair dryer, three chairs, small coffee table, two desks with eight drawers, three closets, toilet, bath and shower, a separate shower, two sinks, fresh fruit, etc. Both 110 and 220 volts electrical outlets. HAL previously provided a special luggage tags containing our cabin number and our luggage arrived in our cabins before we did.
VERANDAH The large verandah (130 square feet) had three chairs with separate footrests, and one table.
IN-CABIN TV AND SOUND SYSTEM A color TV with 18 channels including CNN, BCC, ESPN, several movie channels, views of the ship’s bow and aft, etc. A DVD player with a choice of over 900 DVDs to choose from the ship’s library (action, comedy, drama, family, horror, romance, sci-fi, and television).
DINING ROOMS The main one is the Vista (decks 2 and 3), and the others are the Pinnacle Grill (deck 2), Canaletto and Lido (deck 9), and Exploations Café (deck 10). In the Vista dining room, at our assigned table, the overall and service food was good. For some unknown reason, HAL’s famous Baked Alaska dessert was not offered anytime. The Pinnacle Grill is only available by making a reservation. Service was very good and the food was much better than the main dinning room. There is a $20 per person surcharge.
BARS There are seven bars = Piano, Pinnacle, and Sports (deck 2), Ocean (deck 3), Sea View and Terrace (deck 9), and Crow’s Nest (deck 10). We always enjoy the Crow’s Nest, especially when leaving a port before dinner, as the room overlooks the ship’s bow and the direction in which the ship is sailing. There is a minor problem with the Crow’s Nest as it is so popular, you often find all of the tables being used by non-drinking passengers either reading books or even just sleeping. HAL should correct this problem.
TIPS There's an automatic assessment of $11 per day per guest and 15% is added to all drinks.
CHECK-IN Faster than usual, during check-in before initial boarding, digital camera takes your photograph. Each time you board the ship, your cabin card is scanned and your photograph is displayed to the ship's security personnel; eliminating the need to carry a second form of ID with your photograph (driver's license, etc.). Also, every time you re-board the ship, all carry-on items (purses, cameras, etc.) will be scanned.
TOURS There are ten ports and here is the most interesting thing in each port. Greece: Athens - Acropolis and the changing of the guards at the palace. Turkey: Istanbul - Blue Mosque, Antalya - ancient Roman city, Iskenderun - the cave church of St. Peter and the Roman mosaics, and Kusadasi - the house of the Virgin Mary. Israel: Ashdod - the tomb of the Virgin Mary and the Sea of Galilee, and Jerusalem - a museum to the Jews who died in World War II. Egypt: Cairo - the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Every port was most interesting. Many of the tours were long - some lasting up to 12 hours. Because of these long tours, we didn’t visit the spa, library, Movie Theater, evening entertainment, etc. However, the meals on the tours were very good; frequently served in the dining rooms of five-star hotels. There is a problem when the shipboard personnel are assigning the passengers to various tour buses, etc. The problem is that they gather all the passengers into the ship’s auditorium at the same time and then call them to leave by their tour name. HAL should assign the passengers to sit in designated sections of the auditorium at specified times to avoid the mass confusion and large groups of passengers attempting to leave all at once, etc.
ON SHIP ILLINESS About halfway thru the cruise, a serious illness problem aboard affecting both a small group of passengers and crewmembers was reported. The problem was Norwalk virus causing those affected to have stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The ship personnel immediately sanitized the ship, closed popular common areas - the library, some dinning areas, etc., and we were given frequently and lots of special hand cleaner. After about two days, the problem was eliminated. Westerdam did a good job on this. And we were never medically affect in any way.
OVERALL OPINION I'm impressed with the Westerdam since it was remodeled a couple of years ago. And the tours were very interesting.
Holland America Line Zaandam by Vicki Alaska September 10, 2010
Loved the ship, the food, and the service. Highly recommend the ship. Do not recommend shore excursion Fly out Fly fishing Juneau very expensive all hike no fishing
I will never recommend somebody this ship. It was the worth experience in my life. Food in “ all you can eat” buffet is like food in High School Cafeteria. The shore excursions are TURIST TRAP.
At Palma de Majorca they took us to pearl factory trying to sell. We did not come from NYC to visit pearl factory. Then we spent 40 minutes across the street on bullring, witch is place for public urinate. Nice. We spent 1hour and 20 minutes in cathedral where other people spend 20 minuets and cost for public ticket only 4 euro.
Out of 4 h we spent 1 ½ h in the bus and did not see Palma de Majorka. Shame!!!It was insult and abuse. And when you complain, they ignore you. It was like robbery. They spoiled our vacation.
Our experience and such. Age group 60 and 55, started cruising 1984, do minimum two cruise a year often three, this year four. We stopped really counting at 50 cruises and we cruise any and all lines. Generally ship is our interest not itinerary but Bermuda is exception. I will not really comment on Bermuda itself other than great island like no other! Always enjoy our time there, have sailed there many times in past years though not in recent years except as one day stop on reposition sailings.
Hurricane Daniel, Earl, and Fiona, what us worry? No problem going though didn't tender atSt. George's went direct to Hamilton better anyway in our opinion. Some rocking on way home but nothing really bad, Captain left early on Friday and fell in behind Earl.
EMBARKATION - Through the years we have sailed numerous times from Manhattan Piers, always electing to use Long Term Pier Parking. NY Parking is never inexpensive at $30 a day, paid in advance at lot arrival, it is almost reasonable but only by NY City standards.
This year construction activity is evident and continuing. I found that the parking and departureareas were reversed from what I have come to know through the years. Now upon driving up the initial ramps you are greeted with two signs and options. Parking up ramp to right and Arrival/Departure Drop off to left. The parking ramp used to be at end of drop off area. This confused me, would there be luggage handling in parking or should I drop off first then will there be another ramp to access parking? I elected to drop off luggage first. technically this is the wrong choice but in reality this particular trip proved advantageous. I say this because when we did park it was about as far away from the ship as you could and still be on upper pier. That made getting luggage to your ship's pier a bit hard as porters were few and far between in Pier 88 parking area and Veendam was on pier at opposite end. Although we will be sailing from Manhattan once again on October 6th and will go directly to parking and hopefully find an the luggage handling better. This because if you drop luggage first you must then drop back to street and head back to pier entrance from 12th Ave. Easy enough to do but traffic only allows 3 cars at a time to make left into piers for most part. Therefore returning to pier could take 15 minutes or could take an hour and a half depending on traffic situation. In this case it took about 30 minutes to make one City block or so loop around.
After all that actual embarkation on Veendam was a breeze. Desk lines moved quickly and there were more than enough staff handling all. All pier staff were pleasant and helpful. We were onboard within 20 minutes of actually getting on a line.
CABIN - We had been assigned an aft verandah suite 085 having booked this cruise late and having to take a BC Suite Guarantee. This cabin is one of the cabins added in the last retrofit of the Veendam when aft pool was removed. It is located on Deck 10, Navigator deck, the same deck as the "real" suites. Though being labeled a veranda "suite "I would consider it really a veranda Cabin. The S suites or Deluxe Verandah Suites on Deck 10 are the "real "suites. As on most ships this "suite "category does not receive the benefits offered the Deluxe Suites such as private concierge lounge, or those lovely chocolate covered strawberries they were placing in those S Suites. We peeked inside and they are vey large and nicely appointed suites. We can't really complain though since we could have booked one of those but at DOUBLE the price we elected to take our chances especially since this was really a pre-cruise cruise we threw onto our cruising year. This is an "older "ship by today's standards though not all that old by ship standards, having a verandah was reward enough. The Veendam does not have almost all verandah cabins like the later mega ships now do.
The cabin itself, design, space, and verandah, no complaints in any of those areas, Cabin was clean and well appointed featuring Queen bed, plenty of closet and drawer space, hair dryer and moveable cosmetic mirror. Bed and bedding were comfortable, cabin steward Roke ( you can call me Ralphie ) did great job. Cabin bathroom features a Jacuzzi tub but note it is one of those deep ones you almost need a step stool to get into. Water pressure and hot water were excellent no complaints from wife. I know this is important to the ladies for rinsing the soap from the hair. Also, for the ladies, the hairdryer located in a drawer at the desk was 1600 watt with a concentrator nozzle. Linda said it was fine although she had brought her own anyway just in case. She could have lived with using this one.
The veranda was good sized and had two chairs and a lounge, there was room for all. A nice touch was that chairs had comfortable cushions on them. A touch you no longer see on most ships.
In fact the cabin was exceptional in many ways with one, sadly MAJOR, exception. No not AC as some reviewers have noted in their commentaries, our AC worked flawless, had to keep it set low was that cold. The problem was plumbing! As I said water was great. It was drainage that proved a problem. The sink almost constantly GURGLED, blub, blub, blub. Initially some water also could be seen pushing back out of tub drain. Do not write this off as a minor issue. Ship noise does not bother me, that creaking and groaning you sometimes get is welcomed I love it. The retreat area above us 6:30 am setting out the deck chairs sliding above no problem. This BLUB, BLUB, BLUB, loud and annoying as well as almost constant. It was noted almost immediately while still at NY pier and my first call, fearing sewer blockage and seeing gunk coming from bathtub, was met with sympathy and assurances. That said, so were all the calls about the issue during the week. I even spoke to a ships plumber who assured me he was making a part and would repair it finally in the morning, that was third day. As we left the cabin the morning of our arrival back in NY the sink wished us a fond farewell, BLUB, BLUB, BLUB. I do not know if any other cabins have a similar problem but I believe at least in this cabin it is a probably unfixable plumbing design problem. All the attention we were given was probably an every week response to a problem they can do nothing about.
Location, very aft, not great in rough seas but very convenient to dining and buffet and pool area.
DINING - HA has acceded to the anytime, freestyle, As YOU Wish, whatever dining. It does not work well in my humble opinion but I do admit we like are traditional dining. Since we booked only a month or two before sailing we were bound to accept anytime dining and be wait listed for traditional. First night we elected to not do dinner having had afternoon buffet and hoping that we would better fit into formal night attire excluding one meal. The next day I spoke to the Restaurant Manager and requested traditional dining. He told me it was very full and that I shouldn't expect it. I thanked him and went on my way. By dinner time we had received dining change to main seating table 32. So second night we had a table for six, we were alone, empty spaces everywhere. They have the tables for traditional but not the staff! Second night we were joined by a couple and a single gentleman who all reported they had been at other tables, the couple had no one at their table, the single was an add on he felt at another table. These were our table mates for the rest of the cruise. There were two empty seats. There were half empty tables all around us. Table 32 location was great right by aft windows. Service was fair at best though I am sure that the waiter and his assistant did their best. They seemed to be covering a large section with ever changing numbers. I do not think it was their problem or work ethic but never the less service, slow and uneven. NOT their fault.
Despite what lines would try to make you believe, that anytime dining is a benefit for us, in reality it allows them to use less staff. So you are left with hard pressed traditional dining waiters, and anytime dining which is anytime you want to eat if you have a reservation and if you eat early. Otherwise please take this beeper and it will be thirty minutes to an hour and a half until we can seat you. I admit some still rave about it but we just don't get it.
FOOD - In general very good and we had no complaints. We don't normally sail HA, having done so only once before on the Noordam. Then we found the food bland and desserts tasteless. On Veendam we found the food to be well spiced, presented and tasty for most part. I won't dwell on food simply because it is truly a matter of personal taste. Let's leave it that no one should have a problem finding something they enjoy to eat.
The buffet area I felt was very good. It is set up somewhat different in that each section, Asian, Salad, and such is really run as a separate little line. Initially this makes you feel like you are butting in line going around people but once everyone gets the way it works it isn't that bad except when really busy. Then all these people waiting in line in little service sections block the main aisle. First two days staff serve you at buffet which slows everything down a lot, once they are sure we are not going to have a Noro problem self serve becomes the standard.
Slices, the pizza area aft, I had read that pizza was not good. Okay NY pizza is best in country so NY passengers are never going to be happy with ship pizza. I have found really good pizza on ships, Celebrity comes to mind but long ago, I don't know about now. The Veendam pizza is passable, not as bad as reported in my opinion but it will not satisfy your pizza cravings while at sea. Makes for a quick acceptable snack while lounging in retreat area.
While we didn't bother, a couple of our table mates did finally get seated one evening at the Canaletto Italian dining area for dinner. This is a section of the Lido buffet that is turned into a small Italian dining room each evening. While no extra charge reservations are needed to get seated for most part. After waiting all week to get in our tables mates were not happy with the food finding it the same as Italian dishes offered in regular dining. However I do think it is more for the small Italian restaurant atmosphere it mimicks than the food that makes it popular.
We never go to pay additional dining as we firmly believe that this detracts from the normal dining experience provided on ships. Simply we are believers that eventually if the lines find it possible, virtually all dining will become ala-carte added cost restaurants, at least this is their dream from the accounts point of view. We will have no one to blame but ourselves if this ever happens. So I cannot speak to it.
ENTERTAINMENT - As we expected on a smaller ship, it was not the gala major shows but was good none the less. It was not the showroom that struck me but the small lounges, intimate and comfortable. I found myself sitting and enjoying a string quartet nightly at the Explorers Lounge. This being remarkable in that I normally do not listen to any music. I found their playing remarkable and enjoyed having a cocktail there awaiting dinner time. The only annoyance was those When You Wish dining beepers announcing your table is ready now making you suddenly feel like you were at the Outback in the mall.
I heard the doo wop show and the crew show were excellent, we did not attend either and apparently we should have.
ODDS & ENDS
Having giving up cigarette smoking for over two years now I do still enjoy one cigar a week most weeks. I Still try pay attention for the current smokers and I found the Veendam about as friendly to smokers as you can expect now a days. An ashtray was available in cabin if needed. Smoking is allowed on verandah and cabin.
The aft retreat area starboard side I believe had ashtrays prominent on most all the tables you didn't have to hunt for them. Smoking was allowed in the casino. The Casino is open to a couple lounge areas. NOTE smokers, a separate questionaire was incorporated in the end of cruise survey. They asked one if you were currently a smoker, NO. They asked if HA banned smoking in the cabin and the veranda would I still sail HA, NO. If smoking was banned completely on ship would I still sail HA, NO. My answers are simply because some friends are smokers and we group cruise and they will not sail on any ship that bans smoking hence neither will I despite no longer smoking myself. Second although I can do without it I do enjoy a couple cigars during a cruise as do several of my friends that I sail with many times. Finally despite giving it up myself I still feel that smokers have been unfairly set upon with using many made up excuses. But maybe now that obese people and perfume wearers are targeted more and more with taxes and nose wrinkling the righteous wrath will be spread out more.
We chose Veendam to sail to Bermuda because it was smaller and more intimate than the latest offerings. Also because she docked in Hamilton and we wanted to enjoy that again having sailed many times to Bermuda years ago on smaller ships like Celebrity Zenith. We experienced what we wanted in the Veendam, more intimacy with passengers and crew, nicer small gatherings in lounges. With the exception of dining room experience all was far more intimate and enjoyable than todays large ships, which we also love for most part. Larger offers better amenities usually, smaller offers more of a previous years cruise experience.
Ice cream lovers will rejoice that it is available in the Lido most hours of the day by dessert section and features cone or dish, soft or hard, fixings help yourself all at no extra charge. I am not a big ice cream eater but had a soft serve cone and it was very good.
Coffee lovers will rejoice that capucchino and such is still offered at dinner and at no extra charge. It is also available at the Explorations coffee bar where it is charged for. It also takes some waiting while each cup is made. They offer a coffee card for I think they said $26 but while I normally take it when ship charges at dinner for brewed real coffees it didn't make sense here. I simply paid for it as ordered. They also have a small selection of cookies and baby sandwiches at coffee bar. I saw a gentlemen ask for one as he passed by and the coffee guy said sorry only with coffee purchase. Of course same are available and free upstairs in Lido. But come on give the guy the cookie, they are free after all no matter. Coffee bar on quota for how many he can bring down or what? Was poor call on his part in my opinion. And not reflective of the fine service we found elsewhere.
Room Service, always early by 15 minutes of night before ordered times but always good and accurate. Often a followup call to inquire if order was correct and okay. Also larger menu than most ships now have including omelette's and such available from room service. Do not know if in all cabins or if because of purported "suite. “
Service exceptional staff throughout. One obviously having a bad day guy handling beverages only notable staff problem. He was approaching level of actually being nasty to passengers. This as very far from normal service with a smile we found for most part.
Passenger mix, older than usual and to be expected on end of season time frame and HA. There were certainly some kids on board and some young family members. Most probably traveling with grand parents. As one lady at pool area announced to me, my husband is 91, but I am only 80. Must have been trophy wife ha ha. I am 60 and I will admit I felt a lot younger than my years by the second day. It was like being a kid again. This is not a bad thing. Still as I said we booked Veendam knowing smaller ship and often a tad older cruisers. We enjoy their perspective and conversation for most part. My motto has been lately, every 100 years new people. Knowing my replacement is on order, I can enjoy all ages now for most part.
Also more foreign passengers than I expected, Europe and Latin America I suspect from languages heard. Americans many from Long Island and Manhattan.
Bermuda still our favorite island and we still do it via moped. Taxi's expensive as always but bus ferry reasonable and not a problem. People still great but they have their share of drug crime and such now as do we all. Not something you really see however as a tourist there. It is very safe to go out and about on your own but as anywhere you should pay attention to your environment.
Expensive island, but always has been. We noted little things like Bermuda Chowder still maybe $6.50 but bowl much smaller. We enjoy a small lunch or two on island but check prices, you may be shocked at a $4.95 iced tea. Gratuity added on bill even for couple at lunch so look at bill before you add tip. Bermuda is a place to just go and see forget paid excursions for most part unless looking to go fishing.
DISEMBARKATION: Here again its the little things. Something few lines offer but that all should! Day of disembarkation in cabin morning room service, total room service menu. No running to Lido or dining room while trying to get ready to be thrown off! Also no bums rush out of cabin....enjoy cabin until your color code is called.
Veendam is in early docked by 7am and I would bet everyone pretty much off by 9:30 am or close to it. But disembark was smooth and they do offer that 7:30 walk off with your own luggage if you have it all with you and can carry it yourself. We put ours out and took late disembark having our own transportation at pier. Still we were off by 9:30 found luggage and got into porter line which wasn't long. I apologized up front to porter but advised him we had a long walk ahead. I felt bad since these guys obviously make their real money in tips and the more runs they get in the more they make. Still not my fault pier operation parked me two piers away. He was very pleasant and gracious about it. He did get an extra tip because of his nice demeanor. Still I wish they would be able to park you closer and I do hope this is a temporary thing because of continued construction. Still better than flying now a days!
So disembark early and smooth enough!
I am sure their are many things I didn't answer about ship and you can feel free to email at email@example.com please note Veendam in subject area. I dump a lot of mail, this way I won't think you are spam.
George in NY
HAL Nieuw Amsterdam – Quad Cabins Dangerous!
HAL built a beautiful new ship but blew it for families of 4 with the design of their QUAD cabins which could be described as Dangerous. The pull down bunk is not over the sofa, but directly over the main bed with about 16” of clearance from the pillow to the underside of the bunk = you will hit your head and possibly crack your head open on the exposed bunk bracket.
Left = drop down bunk bed directly over the beds.
Right = Narrow bracket directly above pillow where you can easily bang your head – watch-out the clearance is dangerous especially at night in the dark!
As frequent cruisers we have never experienced such a terrible design and tight quarters for a QUAD Cabin. Families of 4, do not book a Quad on HAL you will regret it. Other than the room, HAL offers good service, food and entertainment, so if you must go, book 2 cabins.
I like breaking my review into sections rather than day-by-day so that you can peruse what is most interesting/relevant for your research.
Overall: We had a great trip and loved HAL, Alaska, and all of the people we met on board or on excursions. I entitled my review (and included) lessons learned not to complain, but to help others in their research. While I was researching Alaska, I had a lot of this advice available to me (and listened to most of it) but made choices based on our entire group and what I thought was right for us based on our travel preferences and history. There were SEVERAL things I would have done differently if I had it to do over. But overall I would say that this was a fantastic trip and I would HIGHLY recommend Alaska, HAL, and the Oosterdam to all! Thanks to all of the Cruise Critic family for your help in planning our trip!
About Us: A family group ranging from 20s to 80s. First Time for HAL and Alaska! We set sail on the Oosterdam out of Seattle on June 13th, 2010. Ports of Callwere Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria, B.C. - with a day of scenic cruising in Glacier Bay National Park. Some first time cruisers, most of us have a couple of cruises under our belts on Carnival and Royal Caribbean. We are from Colorado and Wyoming.
Comparisons of HAL with CCL & RCI: This was a topic I was very interested in myself. As usual there are more similarities than differences, but HAL shone in several areas above the previous cruise lines.
Food a. MDR: HAL definitely won out in the main dinning room and the lido buffet over other lines, but especially in the seafood area (salmon, shrimp, lobster tails), as these were plentiful in selection and reliably good to great. Beef was very similar to Carnival and below par to RCI, which we feel, is RCI's food strong suit. The hours for MDR for breakfast and lunch are miniscule so plan ahead to eat here. We had anytime dining and this worked well for our Alaska schedule but I missed having the same waiter. We never had anyone fantastic enough to warrant a special request for his or her section. It was also difficult to remember everyone when it came to give extra tips at the end.
Lesson: If you are anytime dining - tip a small amount extra in cash on the table each night that way no one misses out. b. The Pinnacle Grill (we ate here twice for dinner) was very good but only slightly better than the Main Dinning Room for seafood (lobster tail, shrimp, and salmon) while the beef was worth the $20 surcharge. Of the filet minon, ribeye, and ny strip steak, the ribeye was the standout. The Golden Fleece Super Club on Carnival is much better in terms of both service and food quality - however, it is a $35 surcharge - so that may not be a fair comparison.
Lesson: Eat Beef here for your money's worth.
Drinks a. Compared to CCL and RCL the drinks here are MUCH better - stronger, hand mixed, better selection (can you say Mojito!) and the cocktail card, which was given to us by our travel agent, worked really well for us (especially since it was complimentary). We would not get a cocktail card usually though, because the drink prices are just so darn reasonable. There was only one cocktail waitress (who shall remain nameless) in the Queen's lounge who was extremely rude about the cocktail card and always forgot our drinks and gave us constants scowls and eye rolls. The only negative to this was that we loved the Queen's lounge and were there a lot and as she was so rude to my Grandma we were all reluctant to order drinks here. However she was an absolute exception to all of the other drink servers who were fantastic!
Service We had heard a lot about the quality of service on HAL surpassing other lines. This is absolutely true. The staff was all soooo friendly and engaging and helpful. This is a definite stand out for HAL and as we were doing a family trip with many different age groups and abilities - this was the absolute right choice for us. I swear my Grandma had a smile plastered on her face 95% of the time (see Queen's lounge waitress above). You will be spoiled all week by smiling and cheerful faces.
Live Music The quality and availability of live music on board was excellent! We absolutely loved this! We thought that Jenny and the HALcats were a blast. We loved the Neptunes and the Adagio Strings. The piano bar was also fun but needed to have less trivia and more sing along time. There was definitely something for everyone here.
Ports of Call/Excursions:
1. Cruising Glacier Bay National Park: We definitely endured extra costs and scheduling constraints to make this a part of our cruise, as there are limited permits into this area. WORTH IT!!!! Although I have not been to Tracy Arm or Hubbard - this may have been one of my favorite days. We saw 4 Glaciers (several calving events), probably about 20 whales, seals and eagles on icebergs, Dahl porpoises and beautiful scenery. I would rate this as a 10 out of 10 - it far exceeded my expectations (I thought it would be boring).
Lesson: Hold out for Glacier Bay on your itinerary.
2. Juneau: As we had a 13-hour call here, our plan for Juneau was to go fly-fishing all day with Luke of Sea Runner Guide service that operates out of the Juneau Fly fishing shop. My husband loves to fly fish and he has always wanted to go in Alaska. We knew that July was a better month for this, but with a family trip and his brother's wedding in mid July we thought we would give it a try anyway. Even though salmon aren't in the streams in June this is prime time for Dolley Varden and since it is catch and release we were just looking forward to having some fun fly-fishing in scenic Alaska. Luke was on time at our meeting place and took us to Auke Bay to get the boat - we saw lots of humpbacks and eagles en route to the site. As we got closer, the water became extremely rough and he said that there was a storm coming in and we would have to turn back or we might get stuck. He said that because of the time of year that there were really no other options for places to go for fishing. He took us back to the fly shop. We were out with him about 2 ½ - 3 hours total. The fly shop refunded our entire fee and apologized. We were not unhappy with them but severely disappointed, as this was our expensive big ticket Alaska item. We had backup plans of course, but were soooo disappointed that we went back the ship and ate lunch to regroup and find a plan B, such as the shuttle to Mendenhall or taxi to the Brewery. We ate and couldn't rally so we went to the spa for massages (great package) and to hang out in the Thermal Suite. It was nice and relaxing with great scenery - especially because we were both SO depressed.
Others in our group did the Grand Tour of Juneau through the ship (Glacier, Gardens, Salmon Hatchery) and loved it - they thought the Glacier and Gardens were spectacular where the hatchery was so-so.
Lesson: If we could do it over again we would have booked a tour that did a Glacier walk or at least stop at the visitors center and combine with a whale watch - for the cost of fishing we could have done these two things which are much more reliable, recommended on these boards, and representative of things you can see in Alaska and not in Colorado/Wyoming. I should have realized this, but I hope it will help future cruisers. I would rather know that we are going to get to do something fun than take the chance that if everything falls into place we might have a fantastic experience. We loved Juneau and would consider this as a week long stop for a future trip. We are also hoping in the future to do a fly fishing trip to a more northern part of Alaska.
3. Sitka We walked around town in the morning and saw the Russian Bishop's House, St. Michael's Cathedral, and shopped. In hindsight, I would have gone to the Park first (we ran out of time and could not go) and then if we had time visited these two stops. I despise shopping in port and only did this to accommodate the shoppers in our group ;). I do not want to spend time in Alaska in a store. In the afternoon we took a three-hour marine wildlife watching tour with Captain Davey. This was fantastic - we wish that we could have booked the four-hour tour but it was taken over 8 months in advance, so book as early as you can for this one. Because of the three-hour tour we had to pick between puffins and whales - be upfront with Davey and let him know your preference - we went with puffins as we had already seen a bunch of whales in Juneau and Glacier Bay, but it would have been nice to do both. I cannot say enough about Davey - he made it really special and my Grandma and Mom had the best time - he was really good at questions and such a knowledgeable and passionate guy. One of the reasons we chose this sailing was the opportunity to stop at Sitka - which turned out to be the most authentic of any of our calls.
Lesson: Book popular independent tours AS SOON AS you know your date. Even an 8-hour call is short enough that you need to plan your time very carefully. If others in your group refuse to do so - make your own plans without them!
4. Ketchikan Hubby, MIL, and I booked with Ken of Northern Lights as our trip was in primetime King Salmon season. Ken picked us up right at the pier and we went out on his boat, which was parked right next to the ship. He took us out to see an eagle, which would catch fish that he threw in the air. He warned us that the Orcas had been in the bay three days before and that the Salmon were being a little weird the day before and he only caught 1 King, 1 Halibut, and 1 Rockfish. We went out several places and were excited to see the king salmon jumping out of the water everywhere the whole time we were out. Ken and his buddies kept in contact all day and basically no one was having any luck including us. Hubby got one bite, which dropped the hook. That was the only action we saw. Ken worked so hard for us to get a fish and we could tell that he felt so bad that we did not have any better luck. He said that it was incredibly rare for him to not get a fish at this time in the season and that he wished we would have not gone out. He also said that he would tell the people tomorrow that maybe they should go hiking or to Saxman instead. As this was a very short call (6 hours) by the time we got back we just had time to make a loop around the shops and get back on board. No fish the entire trip - what a let down! See Lesson from Juneau. If we could do it over again we would have gone to Saxman.
5. Victoria, B.C. Another short (6 hour) call. To add to that we were about an hour late getting into port (but at least we didn't get in at 9pm like last week). Knowing the common complications of this port we booked the ship's tour to Butchart Gardens all together, mainly so that Grandma could see it (I thought it would be boring!). Getting off the ship was a cluster**** and took almost an hour (excuse me but there is nothing else strong enough to describe it). By the time we got to the Gardens we only had 1 hour and 30 minutes to see it. That was kind of a let down because this place was AMAZING!!!!! I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED IT! Totally worth it! I could easily spend all day here. We had to rush but I would highly recommend it!
Lesson: Booking the ships tour was worth it for this short and often shortened port of call.
Entertainment: Shows were pretty similar quality to other ships, but I thought the themes were a lot more interesting (movies, Broadway, ballroom dancing) and relevant to pop culture than other ships I have been on. We also sometimes opted for the Spa or Live Music at night - a mix of these was perfect for us. The Ventriloquist and Magician were just fantastic - best shows I have seen at sea - hands down!
Oosterdam: Great ship, all of our cruises have been on ships of this general size and we really like it - enough going on not to get bored, but small enough to get the layout down quickly and have quaint, relaxing areas to gaze at the sea. Until 11pm there was lots to do, afterwards, really only the casino and northern lights, but for us that was plenty!
Equipment: We bought Nikon Trailblazers ($125) and Bushnell Perma Focus ($50) binocs - both 10x 50 both Fog free/waterproof and were glad to have them. The Monarchs are of noticeably better quality but for the difference in price and how often we use binoculars this was a good choice for us.
As for cameras we have a nice Panasonic with a 12x optical zoom with interchangeable lens and filters and a small Canon. We bought a few filters and such for this trip, but I regret that we did not take the plunge and buy the SLR camera we have been drooling over. We brought lots of cards, extra batteries, and our Dell mini to unload the cards frequently and we used everything we brought. Lesson: If you are considering upgrading your camera before this trip - DO IT. Also: keep your binocs (everyone should have their own) and camera on you all the time - it's worth lugging them around - trust me!
Pre/Post Cruise Seattle: Port Choice: We chose this itinerary for several reasons - we wanted Glacier Bay, Sitka, and Victoria. Also we wanted to be able to fly nonstop from Denver due to one in our group being wheelchair bound and having extreme difficulty flying and especially transferring planes (we almost always miss our connection or have a terrible experience with the aisle chair).
The Tradeoff: The first day at sea was the worst I have ever experienced - strong motion for about 24 hours straight - it's a good thing there are handrails in the shower! We knew that this was a possibility and took Bonine a couple of days before and were lucky enough not to get seasick. Others in our group did NOT take this precaution (or used Dramamine) and were sea sick for about a day and a half. The rest of the trip was smooth sailing. Lesson: Prepare your self by taking seasick meds ahead of time!
Flights: We flew direct from Denver on Alaskan Airlines for $180 each RT with taxes - Great Value. Great airline! Some in our group flew Delta from Wyoming and had to connect - their connection was canceled and their flight delayed - glad we flew in a day early or they would have missed the ship. Delta also lost their bags on the way home. Lesson: Fly in the day ahead ESPECIALLY if you have a connecting flight.
Hotel: We price lined a 4 star in down town and won the Grand Hyatt on Pine Street for $95/room. LOVED this hotel! Close to Pikes Place and beautiful accommodations. They even let us check in early at 11am! Great service and great location! Luxurious rooms! Lesson: Priceline and Downtown are good choices for Pre Cruise Seattle.
Transportation: Used a mix of cabs and town car services. Nothing fantastic and cabs were pricy! Lesson: We did not plan ahead and wished we had prearranged the same town car service (and preferably a better one) for all of our transportation.
Sights: Pike Place, Etta's, Space Needle, Hiram Chittenden Locks. All fun - could have spent the whole time at the Market and would definitely do a food tour next time! Did not have enough time to ride the ferry system or do the wineries, but will make time next time!
The next morning we got up and went to the airport and boarded the Planet Air plane. They served breakfast during the two and one half hour flight. We arrived in Liberia, Costa Rica, and got on a bus for the two and one half hour trip to the ship. The bus was not very comfortable. The seats were too close together so there was no room for my knees.
It was a very long and tiring two days of travel for us. We were lucky we were not delayed by weather as many of the other passengers were. We spent a lot of time in the "hurry up and wait" mode. I do not know how HAL could have done better as they had so many passengers to deal with. We were glad we did the difficult portion of the traveling before the cruise as we had the cruise to look forward to. We knew we could recover on board.
The ship was a welcome sight. She is beautiful and classy. The port, Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, is nothing but a dock and a warehouse. It remindedme of the port in Seward, Alaska.
When our luggage arrived in our stateroom we noticed that two of the padlocks were missing. When we opened up the suitcases we knew someone had gone through them. They had opened up a carton of cigarettes and taken two packs. They put a big greasy hand print on one of my white tops. I haven't been able to get it out yet. We had brought eight little boxes of chocolate for Christmas gifts. They unwrapped one of them and left it.
Although this was an annoyance I was glad we heeded the warning to carry your medicine and your jewelry with you. At least one lady was not as lucky. She was filling out a claim form at the front office for jewelry that was stolen.
We left about two hours later than scheduled as we had to wait for some passengers who were late. We picked up more passengers over the next two days. Many passengers had been delayed by winter storms. On day two, while we were cruising Golfo Dulce, a tender went to shore to pick up 19 passengers. We were wondering how they got out to where the ship could pick them up. Costa Rica does not have a lot of highways or public transportation that would get them to us.
The first day of the cruise we were in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Several tours were offered but each one required a one and one half hour bus ride to get to the place that is featured. After the long bus ride the day before, I was glad I did not take one of these tours.
We were in Cabin 6173 on the Verandah Deck. The cabin was the same as on the Ryndam except the panel under the railing on the verandah is made of Plexiglas. You can see out while sitting in your chair. There is more space between the rail and the divider so you can more easily talk to the people next to you when you are both hanging over the rail. You can take out the back half of the barrier that is between the cabins. This would be great if you have a friend in the next cabin and want to talk or go between cabins without going out into the hall.
The elevators on the ship have lots of mirrors. The first few days I would step back so the person in the elevator could get out. Then I realized that I was just seeing a reflection of myself in the mirrors. Once I got confident and walked right in I would run into someone coming out. Thank goodness they were not crowded very often.
Others have written reviews about the look of the ship so I will not go into that. If you do not take a tour of the ship you want to stop by each of the pieces of art and read the plaque. That will give you some idea of its importance. Also, be sure to look for the little bear playing with the stick in the area of the Lido pool.
We got up early to see the Panama Canal. They were serving "Panama rolls," coffee, and juice on the outside decks. They opened up the "crew only" area on the Promenade Deck. There was plenty of room for everyone to see the Canal. The Canal was as impressive as I thought it would be.
There were lots of families on board. The children dominated the pools and the Jacuzzis. There were 168 children during this Christmas cruise and only 8 children the week before. Overall the children were well behaved. Santa came Christmas morning. He did not seem to like children, but the children liked the presents he brought for them.
The Christmas dinner was good. I had the biggest lobster tail I have seen on any ship. My husband had the turkey dinner. He was disappointed as it did not taste like the traditional turkey, dressing, and gravy we get at home. We had dinner at the Odyssey Restaurant one night. We thought the food was better in the dining room. I had seen pictures of intimate tables for two nestled into a nook in the restaurant. The nook ended up being windows onto the inside hall. If you get one of those tables you also get everyone going by the restaurant stopping and checking out what you are eating.
There were very few lines. If there was a line, as in the Lido during meals, they moved fast. They have the food arranged so you can enter the line at several places depending on what you want to eat.
Our last stop was the private island, Half Moon Cay. It was beautiful. The water was too cold for us wimps from Tucson, but many people were swimming. We went on the Glass Bottom Boat tour and enjoyed it. They have some permanent buildings on the island such as a church, a bar, stores for souvenirs, Ben and Jerry Ice Cream, and a few others.
The only problem was that the Volendam was there the same time we were. The island is perfect for one ship but was very crowded with two. We went to get some lunch and the line was so long, we didn't even try to get anything. All the chairs on the beach were occupied. I feel that HAL should re-think having two ships there at the same time.
Overall, it was a wonderful cruise. I would highly recommend the itinerary and the ship.
This was my 13th cruise, 4th on HAL. While I've not superstitious, perhaps I should have been. Embarkation was very smooth and things were fine, until we got to our stateroom. The refrigerator did not work and although checked twice by maintenance, was never fixed. Also, the light on the cosmetic mirror was out, the shower curtain was about a foot short and some of the drapery hooks were broken. The toilet stopped working the 2nd day, but was quickly fixed. However, it seemed the vacuum system had several hiccups during the two weeks. Taken separately, these are small concerns. Taken together, it adds up to lack of maintenance oversight.
We also had issues with the liquor bottle service. There was complete inconsistency in ordering. I wanted to upgrade the scotch from Cutty Sark to a single malt (the answer was no) and they finally agreed to JW Red at no upcharge. Our traveling companions next door wanted to upgrade from Bacardi Light to Bacardi Gold (sold at the same price in the bars) and were told no, period. If HAL is going to offer a bottle service, why make it difficultand not customer friendly?
As to the cruise itself, it was fine, except for the dreaded Novovirus (see end of review). The ship is still in good shape, the staff was very friendly and the entertainment (HalCats & Daryl @ the piano bar) were great. Cruise Director Gene was very friendly and always visible.
Ports: I'm not going to review any ports, except Puerto Chiapas, Mex.: I ask, WHY? this place is a complete waste of time. The town is about a half-hour bus ride from the port and there is nothing there. The ship offered two tours.
Food: typically good HAL fare. Salad choices were strange, but soups and appetizers were inspried. Except for one night when they couldn't seem to cook a steak correctly, entrees were usually well prepared. I don't do dessert, but they looked pretty good.
Disembarkation in San Diego (the ship continued on to Vancouver) was a mess. A few hundred passengers had chosen the expidited program to take their own luggage and HAL completely botched it, leaving most of us queued in the passageway for about a hour after the announcement. I'm 59 and well below the median age on the ship. Imagine a bunch of seniors jammed together and trying to negotiate a couple of narrow ramps with 50 lb. suitcases!
Now the dreaded Novovirus: more than 200 people came down with it. While HAL continues to blame the passengers, I think the cruiseline is more to blame. According to several blogs, HAL has had more breakouts than any other cruiseline. It's either the crew or a sanitation problem and it wasn't the first time on the Zuiderdam.
In summary, while HAL continues to run a class operation and I like the basic ship design and itineraries, the Novovirus problem (and the way they handle it) has me looking at other lines in the near future.
This was our 6th cruise on the 4th different cruise line (RCL, NCL and Carnival). I must admit, I was a little hesitant about booking a HAL cruise for my family of 6 (2 grandparents, 2 parents and 2 girls ages 14 and 10). I had read stories in the past about HAL catering to “older” seniors and not being a good line for families with kids. But, because my ultimate goal is to try all the major cruise lines at least once before I choose a favourite, I booked the Eurodam. What a pleasant surprise! The picture I had of everyone being in their 80s was all wrong. It was March break and there were people of all ages (including over 200 kids).
As everyone says, the embarkation was a breeze.
Food - The food was the best I've had on any line – hands down. Each line has areas where they excel and Holland America's is the quality of the food. The Lido Buffet had a wide variety of choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner and it was all excellent. The freshly squeezed orange juice, waffles, eggs benedict station, fruit,etc. were delicious! Lunch was equally as good. We also tried the pizza and the 5 different burgers from the Terrance Grill - all excellent. Best turkey burger I've ever had!
The Tamarind was everything you've read about and more! I had the filet mignon and it was perfect. My daughter tried duck for the first time and liked it too! The chocolate dessert was one of the best, if not the best, dessert I've ever had!
The Pinnacle Grill was excellent too. My mother and father-in-law are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year and they surprised us with a special chocolate mousse cake – very nice. Again, the beef was excellent!
The Canaletto was equally as good. The reviews I read said it was average but the antipasto, lasagna and veal parmesan were as good as any top rated Italian restaurant I've ever been to. I guess HAL's average is better than most!
The dessert extravaganza was unbelievable. It was set up around the pool and there was a huge turnout but we had just eaten at the Pinnacle and were too stuffed to try anything. Have a light dinner on that night!
I also went against the grain and finally ordered room service for breakfast which was also very good. I don't know why people write complaints about the delivery being 15 minutes late or they get extra food with their order??? I loved sitting on the balcony in my pajamas watching the waves go by (or whales which we saw a few times!).
Ship – The ship is beautiful – very tastefully decorated instead of being overly lavish or bordering on tacky. We had a balcony room on the 5th deck which was great. Lots of storage space for 4 people. When the 2 extra beds were pulled out it was a little tight but that's to be expected. The beds and linens were the nicest we've had on any cruise. Our cabin steward was great – I hardly saw him but the room was always done perfectly. We never made it to many bars but dropped by the Explorer's Café on the last night and wished we had found it sooner!
The only thing I think the ship could use is a bigger pool or a 3rd pool. Both pools got pretty crowded on the sea days. We found it easy to get chairs despite the private cabanas taking up space but a bit more pool room would have been nice!
Entertainment – the shows were as good as any other cruise line and the Magician was the best I've ever seen (and it's not because he was a fellow Canadian either!). The kids loved him too!
Ports – Turks and Caicos was devastated by a hurricane 2 years ago but it doesn't mean that there's nothing to do on the island. The guys rented a golf cart and went geocaching and the girls walked the beach and sat by the pool at Margaritaville which was very relaxing.
San Juan is always fun. We took a taxi to the Coronado hotel/beach area which was beautiful. Next cruise may be a southern one leaving from San Juan!
St. Thomas was as picturesque as usual. Rented a car and went to Megan's Bay for the morning. The guys went geocaching around the island while the girls shopped in the afternoon and bought some jewelry of course! You never know when you're going to be back there again!
Half Moon Cay is the nicest private island I've ever seen. Beautiful beaches with sand like white flour and lots to see and do. If I ever go there again I'm definitely going horseback riding in the water! The BBQ they served was good and it was fun to spend a day on the beach for a change!
Summary – Overall, I would recommend HAL and the Eurodam to anyone and everyone. I will definitely try it again – and I can't say that about all of them!