Holland America Westerdam

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Insider Tips for the HAL Westerdam Alaska Cruise

May 16, 2000
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:You'll have so much to talk about when you get back, you'll entertain your friends for hours

Cons:Your friends may want to choke you into silence after the fifth telling of your trip

**This is a continuing look at my Alaska cruise- please see a general ship review and my food review also- THANKS!**

I'll just number these, since they jump from topic to topic:

1. Decide what size stateroom you can stand to live in for a week. If you're the kind of person who is going to be out early in the morning and up late in the bar or disco, go ahead and get the smaller room. I preferred the larger room on the Lower Promenade deck, with a larger bathroom with tub. The sofa in your room can be made in to a bed if you're traveling with children, but I'd suggest connecting rooms if you can afford it. How much is your sanity worth... ;) I wouldn't really recommend this cruise for children. There are too many "at sea" days when there's not much for them to do.

2. Embarking this ship took us almost two hours. You stand in a VERY long line in the Canada Place receiving area, and snake your way through the hall. Older folks may want to leave one person in line and let the other go sit down. It was grueling! At least you only have your carry-on luggage with you at this point. Longshoremen grab your bags at the curb to whisk on to the ship.

3. Pick up the coupon booklets for the various ports of call that are scattered throughout the receiving line. You'll be grateful later when you pick up your freebies and discounted items. I brought souvenir vials of gold home for free, and heavily discounted stuffed animals and t-shirts and Ulu knives. You may think you're not going to buy that stuff, but trust me, you'll wind up with something you could use a coupon on!

4. Leave your credit card number with the Front Office to expedite your disembarking. Also you can get credit for the casino with your imprint- otherwise you're on a cash-only basis.

5. Never buy anything from the ship shops unless there's a sale! Fliers will be placed in your daily room updates for each sale. Remember your "duty free" price limit, and try to imagine yourself hauling boxes of liquor through Customs at the end of the trip. Shop responsibly! :)

6. Play the Casino in the morning or early afternoon to avoid most of the cigarette/cigar smoke. Play the tournaments to win good prizes, for small entry fees. (5$ to win $1000 for instance) The slot machines that pay off the best are the ones that have a "lucky spin" spot- they keep on spinning until you win when you get the lucky diamond. Avoid the machines with the "cherry" spots, that pay out 2 coins for the fruit. These never seemed to give a bigger payout than 40 coins. Play roulette if you like losing money and just want to flirt with the cute dealer ;) Prepare to be grimly serious if you play in the blackjack tournament.

7. Don't get suckered by the Art Auction. Check out the fees for buying, and the fees for shipping. It's no bargain!

8. The Ocean Bar and Queen's Lounge have THE best appetizers. Beat the crowd and be first in line at 4:30 for the sirloin bites, shrimp kabobs, and cordon bleu balls. Remember you pay $1.70 for Cokes. Only tea and coffee and water are free onboard. The daily drink special usually runs $3.50 and has a nice variety. I highly recommend the Pisang Colada- a greenish melony sweet drink with a sneaky kick!

9. The gym features Cybex equipment and is never busy. There's a scale to weigh yourself on up there, if you feel sadistic. They have a good selection of workout wear for sale if you forgot yours, and try to work in a massage.

10. The Lido buffet breakfast and lunch was always crowded, since there's only one line. Go upstairs to the Verandah, which moves more quickly and offers more seating, indoors, and out by the enclosed pool.

11. Don't be fooled by the "no tipping" policy. That doesn't mean it's not allowed. It just means you don't HAVE to tip. But think about these people- working for a YEAR on the boat, with two months off...seven weeks of which are taken up with training for their next cruise, leaving one week to see their families! You'll feel like a jerk if you don't tip. I used RCCL's suggestion of $3 a day per person for the room steward and waiter, and $1.50 per day/person for the assistant waiter. Tipping your maitre'd and wine steward is up to you. You may also tip your bar waiters each time (in cash), or at the end of the cruise.

12. Seasickness on board the Inside Passage cruise has got to be minimal, since we hardly rocked around at all going through all the narrow passages. But bring some PeptoBismol tablets along for all the rich foods, and your own decongestants and lozenges. Four cough lozenges cost $2.50 in the ship stores! Everyone was coughing on board- whether we all infected each other, or it was just that time of year, I don't know...

13. Back to the food- try something from each section of the menu. You don't have to eat it all. Try new things. I tried caviar, and found out that I'd rather eat crunchy cockroaches than ever have that foul taste in my mouth again! Bleah!! Thank goodness I didn't pay $30 for a little taste in a restaurant to find that out!

14. You can reduce the amount of luggage you take by bringing wash and wear items. There are self service laundries available on two decks, ($2 wash/$1 dry) and things dry in the room overnight. Leave them in the bathroom with the fan on, and they dry quickly.

15. Ok, last one...(until I think of 15 more for my next review!) Go at your own pace. Don't get caught up in the MUST DO THIS EXCURSION or MUST DO (this) EVENT. The cruise director will be on the PA system, urging you to this or that next function, but just relax. Drink in the lush scenery going by. Peer in to the water for whales. Skip going in to town and just lie on the fabulously comfortable wooden deck loungers and have the ship to yourself during the day. Have a wonderful time!!


Recommend this product? Yes

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