Length: 951 ft
Passengers (all berths): 1,848
One of the four "Vista-class" ships; movie theater, fine library, alternative dining, lovely staterooms.Best For People Who Want
A combination of elegant surroundings with refined music, cognac and cigars next to raucous Karaoke and piano sing-along bars. Recent release movies, large and comfortable cabins in all categories.Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Mainstream resort cruise ships with Waterslides and rock climbing
The Oosterdam is the second in the series of Vista-class ships that began with Zuiderdam (the four sister ships; Zuiderdam, Oosterdam, Westerdam and Noordam represent the four points of the compass in Dutch). Oosterdam, however, is nothing like Zuiderdam except in structure. The main difference in this class is the number of decks adding additional cabins. One thing to watch out for is the upper promenade deck is now populated with cabins rather than public rooms, and if you get an oceanview cabin on that deck you may have people walking outside your window during all hours of the day & night, or your view will be fully obstructed by a lifeboat. There are verandah cabins on that deck with no structural problems.
With Oosterdam, Holland America attempts the difficult trick of melding traditional elegance with modern pizzazz, and mostly succeeds. Because the ship's designers have filled it with intimate public areas that feel like private clubs or lounges, it's easy to forget you're aboard an 82,000-ton middle-liner, unless, that is, you venture into the casino, larger than on other Holland America ships and now with an active Texas-Hold'em table resting in the Sports Bar; behold the influence of Holland America's parent company, Carnival Corporation.
If you want to read a book and enjoy the sunshine, there are a great number of comfortable spots both inside, or even better on the line's signature teak and cushioned deck loungers on its open promenade deck. Service staff is always warm and near at hand, but very discreet.
Oosterdam benefits from Holland America's "Signature of Excellence," a program of fleet-wide enhancements the company began in 2004. New features include tableside waiter service at dinner in the Lido, a new Culinary Arts Program with show kitchen for demonstrations and classes, expansion of spa and fitness facilities, upgraded Club HAL Kids' Centers, and new shore excursions. The Explorations Cafe is a combination library, Internet center, music listening area and sidewalk cafe. Staterooms now offer the best mattresses and duvets sold in Europe, and top level suites offer flat screen TVs and DVD players. There's early boarding and a choice of four dinner seatings.
The Explorations Cafe is a combination New York Times-powered library, Internet center, music listening area, and sidewalk cafe. Oosterdam has the best crossword puzzle area ever glimpsed at sea. While there is an Internet center with typical cruise prices available ($70 for 100 minutes) the throughput speed can be so dismally slow that audible moans of frustration may be heard. Its better to wait for a port day and follow a crewmember to a nearby Internet cafe.
The final set of Signature of Excellence upgrades will be completed in May of 2009, and include a new nightspot, the Pinnacle Grill Bar, to be located in the Crow's Nest close to the newly expanded Explorations Café, powered by The New York Times.Public Rooms
The central atrium, only three decks high, would look right at home in the lobby of a small chic hotel. The attractively laid out Vista Lounge, for the most elaborate nighttime shows, is big enough to accommodate everyone aboard over two performances with tiered seating both upstairs and down and universally excellent sight lines.
The large (at least for HAL!) casino is next door to a sports bar with big-screen televisions on which to watch the big game. The sport's bar is also where you will find the Texas Hold'em Poker games. The casino has many slots and a vatirty of games including Blackjack, Let it Ride, Craps, Roulette and Caribbean Stud Poker.
The large Ocean Bar, with sea views by day and romantic lighting at night, is the most popular spot for pre- and post-dinner cocktails, not least because of the complimentary d'oeuvres it offers before dinner. The Queen' Lounge doubles as the movie theater and karaoke bar, but the Piano Bar, enlarged from earlier Holland America ships to accommodate more guests, is rather more popular. The Crows Nest observation lounge, with its 320-degree view, is the perfect place from which to watch your departure from port.
Oosterdam separates smokers and nonsmokers as effectively as any ship at sea. In general, smoking areas are located "wherever there is an ashtray," which in most cases is in the corner of any given room. Smoking is not allowed in the Dining Room or Pinnacle Grill.
There's a variety of brightly lit shops onboard selling logo-wear, jewelry, knick-knacks and chocolate.Cuisine
The beautifully presented, banquet-quality, Continental cuisine in the Vista Dining Room has improved in recent years as a result of more contemporary menu selections such as seared tuna and grilled rack of lamb. Gone are the bland entrees of a few years ago. Service in the dining rooms has taken a noticable leap forward, now that the expansion of the cruise line is no longer tapping the best service people for the newest ships. On a recent cruise, the waiter was not only efficient, but engaging and warm, remembering our preferences and never missing a beat. In fact, when it was pointed out to him that his badge had the all too typical misspelling "Dinning Room Steward" he actually had it corrected by the end of the cruise.
The lunch buffet on Lido Deck, along with the separate food stations for Italian and Asian cuisine, offers abundant variety and easy access. Lines are rare except at peak times. The Deli custom sandwich bar serves its phenomenal grilled BLT on a baguette; don't even consider not trying it, while the Poolside Grill offers hamburgers and hotdogs all day with hand-stirred mayo, mustard and ketchup. There's also a taco bar immediately forward of the Grill. Unlike many mass-market cruise lines, a request for an ice tea from a bar waiter outside will not be answered with "you can get those yourself inside." They will actually bring to your table for you - no charge.
The alternative Odyssey Restaurant seats 130 and specializes in dishes featuring ingredients from the Pacific Northwest, an homage to Seattle, the home city of Holland America Line. There is a $20 per person surcharge. The food is cooked in a separate area of the main galley, and served piping hot. The desserts alone are worth the price of admission, especially the tri-flavored creme brulé sampler or the "Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake."
Watch for specialty nights such as the "Chef's Dinner" for 12 people with wine-pairing - cost $89 per person.
Also the "Le Cirque" night in the Pinnacle Grill when they serve itrems from the menu of the iconic New York restaurantRestaurants
The two-level Vista Restaurant has spacious seating for two, four, six, eight and 10, and good soundproofing. The unusual central curved staircase between the two decks creates the feel of a much more intimate restaurant. The Murano glass ceiling is well worth looking up from your food to admire.
There are four assigned seatings -- 5:15, 6:15, 8 and 8:30 p.m. The idea was to improve service, but it may not have worked, as servers can seem harried, on the one hand, or bored, on the other. That said, a staff member will greet you every time you enter, be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. From the Rosenthal china and Riedel glassware to linen tablecloths, dining is an elegant affair. Some evenings you will dine by candlelight, others to the accompaniment of a string quartet. The menu includes special "health-conscious," vegetarian, and low-salt items, as well as sugar-free desserts.
The Pinnacle Grill, Oosterdam's alternate dining venue, offers cuisine (and wine) of the Pacific Northwest in an irresistibly elegant atmosphere. Reservations can be hard to come by, but the restaurant is open for lunch on some sea days (for only $10 per person) with a different, but comparably wonderful, menu.
The buffet-style Lido Restaurant is an attractive alternative to the main dining room. Breakfast and lunch are served on a tray that a staff member will carry to your table for you. In the evening, the Lido offers waiter service. There is ample seating both indoors and out. In addition to the large main line of hot entrees, there are separate stations for omelets in the morning and for pasta, salad, desserts (including HAL's famous bread pudding) at lunch. There's even a deli/sandwich bar, and a very popular ice-cream bar, with cups, cones or sundaes at no charge. Daily afternoon tea is served and late-night (usually around 11:30 p.m.) snacks are also available in the Lido Restaurant.
Another alternative is room service, available 24 hours a day at no additional charge. Holland America has one of the widest-ranging room service menus at sea. In fact, it is possible to order dining room meals from the evening's menu to be served in your cabin, but only if you order during the first 1/2 hour the dining room is open (6:00 on most cruises, but this can vary, call room service to verify when it is available).Service
Oosterdam's gracious, ever-attentive staff are some of the best at sea in the premium class due to the line's most organized system of grooming crewmembers. With schools in Indonesia and the Philipines feeding the crew for the fleet, the average crewmember has been on board for five years and really knows his/her stuff. They take pride in their jobs and seem to enjoy the passengers' company as much as their counterparts'. You never see them congregating and ignoring their duties.Tipping
For years Holland America was known for its no-tipping policy, but today gratuities of $10.00 per person (including children) are automatically added daily to the shipboard account for dining and stateroom service. Visit the front desk to adjust that amount. There is also a 15 percent service charge automatically added to bar bills.Entertainment
/Activities: on Holland America used to be almost an embarrassment for such a quality line, but Oosterdam's serves notice that things have changed. Instead of the usual four singers and dancers in the production shows, the Oosterdam has more than a dozen, with much more elaborate sets and costumes designed by Bob Mackie. The ship's library is excellent (though book-borrowers, shockingly, are required to deposit $25 deposit on every book they borrow!). Daily activities include exercise and dance classes, bridge, bingo, Friends of Bill W meetings, guest lectures, and ice carving.
A highlight is the dessert buffet, presented late night sometime in the middle of each cruise. Picture taking is as good as the tempting delights, with the abundance of ice carvings, pastry statues, fruit carvings, and sugar and marzipan creations.
The new Culinary Arts Center, with overhead video monitors for those seated far from the action, is set up very much like a TV Food Channel set, and must be adjudged a marvelous addition. A number of demonstration classes are offered at no charge. Hands-on classes, limited to about a dozen students, charge modestly. As these classes are very popular, be sure to sign up early.
There is no dedicated onboard cinema, as on the S-class of Holland America ships, but the Ocean Bar is transformed into a movie theater at least twice daily and you can still find the free bags of popcorn, though they have gone from hot to lukewarm. The movie selection is surprisingly recent releases and refreshingly intelligent in content, favoring good plots over mindless action flicks.
An adjunct to the Internet center are the computer classes on a few basic topics mostly having to do with digital photography. There are two classes offered for free, with follow up classes for $20 per person for those who want to become advanced users.Cabins
Oosterdam's staterooms are larger than most mass-market cruise lines', with balcony cabins bigger still. Standard inside cabins are 182 sq. feet, outside staterooms 197 sq. feet, and standard balcony cabins 284 sq. ft. Balcony cabins have a spacious veranda with two chairs and a table. Be forewarned, though, that staterooms have few shelves and no drawers.
The verandahs on Holland America are quite adequate for two. The well-equipped staterooms offer wonderful new pillow-top beds, better pillows; fluffier towels; duvets and high-thread count sheets; a stocked mini-bar (with charges for all beverages consumed); hair-dryers; safes; functional storage space. Staterooms always feature fresh flowers; a filled ice bucket; and a bowl of fresh fruit that's replenished regularly.
Television service includes several stations, such as CNN, ESPN, television shows, shore excursion presentations, and shopping presentations. There's no self-service laundry, but several laundry packages are available, the $45 unlimited laundry package seems a good deal, though it doesn't include dry cleaning.
Suite passengers have access to the Neptune Lounge on Rotterdam Deck, a private room that serves various snacks (from light breakfast fare in the mornings to hors d'oeuvres at cocktail hour). The concierge therein can book dinner reservations and shore tours.
There's no self-service laundry on this ship, although several laundry packages are available through your room steward.Fitness/Spa
Oosterdam has one of the most spacious gyms on the high seas, with cardio equipment and weight machines arranged in tiers, and a large hot tub in the center. The Greenhouse Spa and Salon's reception area is situated in the midst of a hallway between the main pool and an elevator bank, making the fitness center purposely difficult to locate. Despite the name, it's still run Steiner's, which means that its treatments are somewhat pricey, though the staff is not quite so relentless about sales.
An nice alternative to a massage is a day pass to either the thelasotherapy pool with extremely strong water jets to soothe your muscles ($20/day), or you can go to the steam and aromatherapy center and relax on heated loungers and take steambaths infused with essentail oils. Day passes to this are also $20/day. Or you can buy a weekly pass to both for $250 unlimited.
The Oosterdam has two outdoor swimming pools, one with a Magrodome roof that can be closed in case of inclement weather. There are also several hot tubs available at no charge. The large gym has state-of-the-art strengthening and aerobic equipment, and there's a jogging track on one of the upper decks. There's a nominal charge for some of the exercise classes.Attire
On the two weekly formal nights, half the men opt for a dark suit rather than renting a tuxedo. Casual on these ships means comfortable, but T-shirts, jeans, swimsuits, tank tops and shorts are all forbidden in the dining rooms and public areas. It isn't allowed, but also not unusual for people to change back to casual after dinner on formal nights. As long as you stick to the deck areas or casino, no one will frown at you.
The Oosterdam has been criticized as being a little "worn" but it was absolutely immaculate and well-cared for. We had the Superior Veranda stateroom and were able to sit comfortably on our own balcony while the magnificent Alaskan glaciers and mountains slid by. I've never experienced such breathtaking views, made all the better by not having to battle for position with 1900 other passengers. The veranda is well-worth the extra expense. The room itself was very large, extremely comfortable with enough storage for 3 adults. We both had our own closet plus two "vanities" with drawers. The bathroom had 2 sinks, a stall shower plus tub and shower. Lots of room, very comfortable.
Holland America doesn't miss a beat, from the second we disembarked from the plane in Seattle right to the moment we left for home 10 days later, there was a HollandAmerica rep taking care of details. As for the crew, you couldn't find a finer, happier, more attentive group of individuals. The dining room staff actually remembered our names when we passed in the halls. Room service is complementary so we could choose to dine in the restaurant, the buffetsor our room..and nothing was ever too much for the crew. They are an amazing group of kind, sweet, dedicated professionals. We'd do this again in a heartbeat!
We recently returned from a Cruise on RCI’s “Enchantment of the Seas” sailing out of Baltimore. This was a last minute thing for us but we wanted to get away for a week or so, we enjoy cruising and since Baltimore Cruise terminal is only about an hour from the house it seemed like a good choice. We have sailed about 9 times previously we knew what to expect and not expect from a cruise. I will go chronologically as to what we experienced and I will try to make valid comparisons as to what we experienced on this cruise compared with others we have been on. One thing I must say since our experience cruising spans a 16 year period the industry has changed (not for the good) over that period so my criticisms may be valid for other cruise lines as well in 2012 but I can only judge by my experiences.
The Baltimore Cruise terminal at its present location is very convenient and the parking is adequate and close to the terminal. We previously sailed from the Old Curtis Point location on Celebrity this much better.
Check In Thecheck in process was very chaotic they had about 20 check in clerks 15 of which were for non-preferred customers 10 for preferred (suites and loyalty club members). The ticket stated we were to check in at 1:00 PM and not to come before 12:00 (not true). There was one line that was wrapped around back and forth 6 times over a distance of about 200 feet and the line went beyond those rope barriers. The line moved well enough but it still took about an hour to get to the desk. Once at the desk it was straight forward and easy. On Cunard we received a colored ticket and were told to sit in a waiting area until our color was called you could sit and get snacks while you waited and not have to stand for an hour.
Greeting Once on board we were basically told go to the back elevator and find it for yourself. On other lines we have been escorted to our cabins by a uniformed steward.
Room The room, 3156, is and outside window cabin. We usually have a verandah or mini-suite but had an outside window on the SUN PRINCESS and were satisfied with it. This room however was the smallest by far of any cabin we have had. The set up with the window above the bed offered no view out the window unless you knelt on the bed and looked out. The steward must have been aware of this as he always closed the curtains when we were out. There were also no toiletries in the bathroom. There was good storage space, however.
They also had so called mini-bar items laid out at the usually extraordinary expense but NO REFRIGERATOR how you can sell cold drinks that aren't cold!! When I asked to have the items removed one Steward told me it was not allowed but our room steward just hid them away so we did not see them the rest of the trip.On the SUN PRINCESS we had a similar outside cabin that was at least 50 square feet bigger with a window that was so large it went from my ankles to above my head. The couch was next to the window and you could enjoy the views while sitting. It also had a refrigerator which was, emptied of the mini bar, at my request.
Dining (dinner) Recently we have started requesting early seating we were unable to get it and were not offered a chance to change once we were on board. The food in the main dinning room at dinner was very good I would give it 4 out of 5. The waiters were very good and properly attentive without being in the way. The food was served hot, of good quality and without any undue waiting. While ostensibly there was a dress code and the two formal nights were supposedly at least a jacket and tie. The dress code was totally ignored with equal disdain by both the staff and passengers. A table of about twelve people showed up on formal night with matching logo tee shirts and shorts alongside a table with guests in gowns and Tuxedos.The dinner experience was good and comparable to our other cruises.
Dining (Breakfast) Breakfast was open seating as usual with out being overly crowded. (I believe most people went to the buffet on the 9th deck). The selection was limited to eggs to order, pancakes and hot cereal. They have however, introduced a new "feature" they put all the cereal, fruit and pastries on a BUFFET IN THE MAIN DINNING ROOM! With some cajoling a waiter with trepidation would get you something off the buffet but it was obvious they did not like it. My point is if I wanted the "buffet experience" I would go up to the 9th deck and make believe it's Hoss's Steak house. They also tried to hawk "fresh Squeezed orange juice" for $2.25 a glass (tacky). The service at breakfast unlike the dinner service was lack luster at best... Food 3 out of 5 services 2.5. Perhaps the like of any tips may have induced this situation.Every other cruise I have been on had an attentive breakfast service with a greater selection of items and no "go and get it yourself" requirements.
Dining (lunch) Lunch was open seating and unfortunately very similar to breakfast with a Salad bar (feature) in the middle of the main dinning room with the same comments as above. The menu selection was very limited to one or two featured items and maybe a burger and vegetarian dish but was generally good. The major fault I had with the lunch was it was only available at sea the 4 port days it was closed. You were forced to go to the overcrowded buffet on the 9th deck. I would like to mention how small and overcrowded the 9th deck was (Windjammer Market). The ship was designed to have about 1800 passengers. They cut it in half and added space for about 600 additional passengers but did not increase the size of the public spaces to accommodate the increased load.I have never seen buffets in the main dinning room on other ships and the selection was considerably better than on the RCL ship. The Buffet restaurants on other cruise lines were not overly crowded and the staff on Holland America or Celebrity would even carry your trays and get you drinks if you liked.
Entertainment staff and Shows This was the high point of the cruise. A high energy cruise director and staff worked very hard to provide varying activities during the day. The shows were varied and the performers were excellent and diverse.
The entertainment was defiantly geared towards the 40's and younger crowd which was not a bad thing. The casino was good, although smoking was allowed it was restricted on formal nights and there were no smoking areas. The payouts were reasonable on the slots while still loosing giving a lot of play for your money.Here the Enchantment is in the top two or three cruises I have been on. Nothing more pathetic then some guy doing impressions of people who have been dead for 30 years or more. RCI did not have that I would give entertainment 4.5 out of 5.
Facilities In a word overcrowded. The aforementioned increase in size of the ship made for a very crowded pool and activities area. I try and swim every day and was able to only by going at 6:45 am and getting my laps in. After 9 and for the rest of the day till 7 or 8 in the evening the pools were literally standing room only folks simply talking to one another while standing elbow to elbow.
Shore Excursions Hugely overpriced they wanted 40 dollars for a shuttle bus from the pier to downtown Boston for two people. I took the "T" for $10 for two all day and it was only about a twenty minute walk to the Commons from the pier. Similar overpriced excursions in the other ports. We took one a glass bottom boat cruise with "cocktails" good enough but the cocktails were a plastic cupful of rum punch and twice as many people on board as there was room to see the glass bottom you had to take turns looking.I have never been on any excursion booked through any ship that has offered any value for the money. We have booked many before and I have always been underwhelmed by the trips.
Tipping The ship has an automatic tipping plan which we participated in. As usual drinks and services had tips automatically added at 18% however when you get the bill there is still a line to add a tip onto the bill when you get it when I asked if the tip was included the waiter said I could include an additional tip if I wanted. This reminds me of Europe were the bill is always "service compris" and they try and get the rube Americans to add it again. Also at the end of the trip even after we participated in the tipping program we received envelopes to give something extra. It should be either one way or the other not both.My most recent experience on Cunard while not overt was the same as far as the staff tipping. I thought I would give a little extra to my room steward and dinning room waiter thinking this special but everyone seemed to do the same.
Overall assessment I don't believe we will be sailing on Royal Caribbean again. The small cabin, self service food, generally poor staff are not what we have come to expect on our cruises. We like the convenience of sailing out of Baltimore and hope more Cruise lines will try the market. We may even try Celebrity again as we had a very good experience on that line even though it is a RCI subsidiary I believe the Royal Caribbean Brand is just too mass marketed.
Overall assessment 2.75 out of 5
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!