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4/5/04


Tamara
"Overall: 7/10 <br /><br />I think my expectations were very high, given the enthusiastic reviews of cruises in general and Holland America in particular."

TRIP INFO

Sail Date:04/05/2004
Destination:
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RATINGS

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COMPLETE REVIEW

I didn't take any tours or go to any shows, just had a relaxing time wandering about the towns and sitting on the verandah. OK, maybe a little gambling (did very well at roulette) and music trivia and was very happy to be able to watch a Stanley Cup playoff game on TV (except when the signal was lost in sudden death overtime!)

Meals: we had some great dishes and we also had some very poor quality food. This is sort of subjective, as one's impression of the food would be based on what sort of stuff you nosh on at home. I had one of the best filet mignons I've ever eaten, the fish dishes were excellent (except for the last dinner, fish and chips was ice cold and the batter soggy) and a superb salmon barbecue one afternoon. The veal was terrible, as were the Alaska king crab legs. Great taco bar for lunch. The desserts were sublime! Breakfast in the Rotterdam dining room took ages. Table steward said that the kitchen crew were not good at breakfast and apologized for them. Suggested we load up on pastries as our cooked breakfasts would take a very long time - and they did. Horrible gluttony in the Lido buffet restaurant; people taking plates loaded with food and pastries and then taking a bite and leaving most of it. Really puts one off. The Lido buffet had a sense of disorganization about it; tables not cleared, no cutlery, etc., but very helpful people working there, carrying people's trays to tables, etc.

Special Diet: One of our table-mates was on a gluten free diet and she was very pleased with the meals that she got. Every evening at dinner, she was presented with a selection of dishes for the next night. She really appreciated how it was made so easy for her, was not a "big deal" or a lot of trouble.

Cabin: really glad that we opted for the verandah, as we spent a lot of time there; had coffee delivered to the cabin every morning and sat out and watched the world go by. The beds are SO comfortable. (wish I'd spent more time there, but ended up going to bed late and waking up early). Toilets not functioning on the last night of the cruise (horrors!) but fixed after about an hour. I wonder if they take on water in Vancouver, because my hair was looking really great on the cruise, and I live in Vancouver and it doesn't look like that here. Lovely white terry bathrobes provided.

Gym: Fabulous! I used it only once, because the weather was so great that I wanted to be outside so walked miles every day. Several treadmills, a few stairclimbers and bikes. Lots of weight machines. Gorgeous space on the bow, bright and airy. Towels available.

Piano Bar: we loved this little place; felt like being in someone's home, so friendly.

Daily special drinks: really way too aggressive pushing these drinks. if I say, "No, thank you", I don't want to be asked again.

Staff and Crew: didn't see much of officers, thought there would be more of a presence. The Indonesian and Phillipino staff, very gracious, though found the female staff a bit less so. Generally, wonderfully intuitive, friendly, remembering one's favourite drink or that there should be no ice in the water. Fabulous folks.

Captain's Cocktail Party: what a joke! I talked mother-in-law into attending this, thinking that it would be a good chance to schmooze with other passengers, you know, walk around with a little drink, talk to different bunches of people, etc. We scurried down to the show lounge, dressed in our finest on formal night, only to be met by a line-up of people waiting, oh, about 20 minutes to have their photo taken with the Captain. Neither of us being particularly fond of having our photo taken, we circumvented the line and went straight to the lounge. We expected to see people standing about engaged in pleasant conversation, pictured grabbing a glass from a passing tray (or even buying a drink for that matter, as free cheap champagne was not the goal). What we did encounter was chairs set up in facing rows, and we were guided into the next available space by staff motioning with their arms saying, "This way this way come on sit here". I felt like a jumbo 747 approaching the terminal, you know with those people on the ground dressed in orange that do all the waving of their arms? We sat, dumbfounded, for about three minutes and then looked at each other, and in silent agreement, walked out. I had to buy mother-in-law a drink in retribution for dragging her to that event!

Scenery: I guess I'm spoiled, living in British Columbia and seeing the mountains and ocean every day. I can imagine that the view is great for those that aren't used to it, but it was just more of the same for me.

Dress: and I was worried about being dressed properly! Totally casual during the day but a lot of people were dressed in the sort of clothes in which I walk my dog in the morning. Wearing jeans and sweatshirt is great, but please, people should not pack the ones with the food stains on the front. If you're spending money on a cruise, go wild and buy a new shirt. Formal nights were fun, everyone in their finery. I'm probably sounding really snobby here!

Juneau: yuk

Skagway: cool, funky little place; really like how they've kept the historic buildings. I liked going through the grocery store and looking at the prices and selection. I sort of missed that on a cruise, as opposed to other types of travel, where you can just go wander about and discover things. All of the ports are very much geared to the shops at the end of the gangway.

Ketchikan: very nice, could picture spending a few days there, Creek Steet is very cool. Best hot chocolate I've ever had at the New York Cafe.

Shopping: seemed a lot of either extreme, the usual cheap tourist stuff or high-end galleries. Did manage to buy a few things, though, of course! Lots and lots of Russian stuff. If you're in the market for that sort of thing, know that a lot of the stores sell really low quality stuff. I have been to Russia many times to visit family so can spot the cheap stuff. In ketchikan, there is a store called Csar's Treasures that sells very good quality dolls, laquer boxes, etc. They are very willing to negotiate the price (don't know if that was just because I spoke Russian with them) Also in Ketchikan and not to be missed is a little shop called Ketchicandies - a chocolate lovers paradise! Handmade choccies-delicious. Wish I'd bought a larger box.

Disembarcation (did I spell that right?) in Vancouver: hmmm, not great. From the time we left the ship, got our luggage, went through customs and got a taxi, it was two hours. Most of that time was waiting for a taxi. Were told that after docking at 7 am, disembarcation would take about an hour or hour and a half. We didn't get off the ship until 9:30. They give you a number and then when it is called you can proceed to the gangway. Glad that we could stay in our cabins until that time, though. Customs was a breeze. Our customs agent asked a question that I'd never heard before, "What was the most expensive item that you bought?" And then, the line up for a taxi. I live in Vancouver, and should have tried to arrange for a friend to pick me up from the terminal, but, oh the poor folks were all working on a Wednesday!

Those are my recollections for the moment. I'll post more if I think of anything else.

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