Holland America Line's Westerdam
Explorer via Glacier Bay
by Linda Coffman
|Westerdam docked in Ketchikan,
Sept 2009: In Seattle, where Holland America Line is headquartered,
we learned that locals took an optimistic view of becoming a major
cruise embarkation port. While on a pre-cruise harbor tour, our guide explained
that their "build the piers and they will come" action has paid off.
While the first terminal, right downtown at Bell Street Pier 66,
stood idle for years, eventually it began to fill with cruise ships
bound for Alaska. A second terminal
area capable of berthing two cruise ships, Smith Cove at Pier 91,
north of downtown opened just this year.
As we prepared for our Alaska cruise aboard Westerdam, two things
stood out in our minds. First, Seattle is a great city and we
were glad we decided to revisit it by spending a few days there both
before and after our cruise. Second, we would
be flying to and sailing from a US-homeport. No hassles with
Canadian Immigration lines at the airport or pier.
After a two-day pre-cruise stay at Seattle's historic Fairmont
Olympic hotel, we were ready to put the
process for transferring from hotel to ship to the test. With
transportation arranged by Holland America, it couldn't have been
more seamless. As instructed, we made an
early morning pre-boarding check in with the Holland America rep at
the Fairmont Olympic and then we simply called a bellman to pick up our
luggage. The next time we saw it was in our cabin aboard Westerdam.
After a leisurely breakfast and relaxing in our room, we gathered
with fellow passengers to
board a motorcoach for the 15-minute ride to the new Smith Cove
cruise facility. As we approached, it appeared that we arrived at exactly the
peak boarding time and we eyed the line inside with some
trepidation. However, it moved swiftly and we were past security,
checked in, and on the gangway in short order. The process was
extremely efficient and Holland America employees in Seattle
would put their counterparts in other embarkation ports to shame.
From hotel to embarkation on Westerdam took less than an hour.
Here’s a hint for your future Holland America cruise. Be sure to
complete the online check-in procedure before leaving home. Having
done that, we didn’t even have to produce a credit card to establish
our onboard account. We also pre-booked shore excursions and the
tickets were delivered soon after our arrival on board.
Westerdam is one of four Vista-class ships, which at
82,000 tons carries 1,916 passengers. Eighty-five percent of
passenger accommodations have an ocean view and two-thirds of
outside staterooms and suites offer occupants a private verandah
with attractive wicker-look furnishings.
Light wood tones complement the jewel toned drapery, carpeting,
and bed skirt in all categories. There are basically six types
of staterooms: standard inside, standard ocean view, deluxe verandah
outside, superior verandah suites, deluxe verandah suites, and two
penthouse verandah suites. All are functional and comfortable, with
amenities including hairdryers, personal safes, refrigerators, flat
screen television and DVD player, and two closets configured for
hanging and/or drop down shelves. Twin beds that convert to a queen,
a sofa, adjustable height table, hassock, and vanity/desk and chair
round out the furnishings.
Our 200 square foot deluxe verandah stateroom on Deck 4 was an
on that deck are deeper than those located on the decks above.
Oddly, drawers are only found in
the small bedside tables; all other storage space is shelving. For
two people on a week-long cruise, this arrangement is ample,
but storage for three or four could be tight. Parents with more than
one small child might consider adjoining staterooms for additional
storage and a second bathroom.
Unpacking was interrupted by the late-afternoon boat drill and we
were on our way in what seemed to be record time.
|A chocolate eagle ready to make
his appearance in the Dessert Extravaganza
One of the most appealing aspects of any cruise is the food. Another
is learning about food and how the galley operates. So, we took the
opportunity to go
behind the culinary curtain and toured the galley to watch some of Westerdam’s chefs in action. A big favorite was the pastry shop
where cookies, pies, cakes, chocolates, and petit fours are created.
The delicate artistry that goes into the making of marzipan cake
decorations for High Tea proved to be mesmerizing.
Is it possible to cook at home like a Holland America chef? Probably
not in my home, but that has nothing to do with the efforts that go
into the cooking demonstrations and hands-on lessons presented in
Westerdam’s Culinary Arts Center.
The schedule in the Culinary Arts Center for our sailing was highlighted by “The
Flavors of Bali” with guest chef Chris Salans.
Originally from Washington, DC, Chef Salans attended the prestigious
Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. After stints in Europe and New
York, his appreciation of Asian cuisine led him to Bali, Indonesia
where the Modern Balinese Cuisine served in his restaurant Mozaic
has earned worldwide accolades.
Our class was introduced to exotic ingredients from Asia as Chef
Salans prepared Sesame Crusted Tuna and Cherry Tomato, Carambola and
Rosewater Apple Salad. With some of the traditional ingredients of
Bali not available in the United States, Chef Salans encouraged us
to experiment with substitutions. His recipes are only guidelines
and he stressed that we should be creative with ingredients. The
resulting dishes should be a medley of flavor, color, and texture.
For dessert, we were treated to a Lemongrass Sorbet with
strawberries and lime leaf that Chef Salans also prepared for us.
I may not be able to make the sorbet at home (sadly, my kitchen appliances
don’t include a sorbet maker), but I do look forward to trying to
prepare the tuna. Truthfully, not being talented in the kitchen, the Westerdam’s Martini Mixology lessons and wine tasting sessions were more my speed.
While cooking is not my thing, eating certainly is. Aboard
Holland America's Alaska sailings, the expected fare is featured on
dinner menus (Surf 'n Turf, Rack of Lamb) and "available daily"
items include classics such as French Onion Soup, Caesar Salad, and
Grilled Chicken or NY Strip Steak. However, in honor of the region,
offerings such as Alaska King Crab Legs mixed it up with two nightly
offerings of "Wild With Salmon" dishes (Pan-Crisped with Mango
Sauce, Grilled with Ginger-Cilantro Pesto, Mediterranean Spiced en Croûte, and my favorite, Apricot Glazed Salmon).
Westerdam's Pinnacle Grill
Upscale dining in the Pinnacle Grill is a Holland America Line
signature event that's too good to pass up. Try the Steak Diane, or
any other cut, and it will be prepared to your specifications. Lunch
and dinner are a bargain at $10 and $20 respectively.
We were fortunate to be able to participate in a Chef's Table
dinner aboard Westerdam. Prepared in the Culinary Arts Center, it's
a new concept for Holland America Line and one that "foodies" won't
want to miss. Offered weekly for a maximum of 24 diners, the special
five-course meal is prepared by the Executive Chef in the show
kitchen and each course is accompanied by premium wines selected by
the ship's Cellar Master. These outstanding dining events will
eventually be introduced fleetwide.
For casual dining, the Lido Restaurant also serves items from the
dining room menu with tableside service and dining room menu items
can be ordered through room service for leisurely dining in your
stateroom or on your balcony. Yes, it's chilly in Alaska, but it's
not the North Pole!
While in Alaska, one would naturally expect an
emphasis on the state's natural beauty and the culture of its native
inhabitants. You wouldn't be disappointed on Westerdam. As on all
Holland America ships, enrichment programs and lectures are an
important part of the total cruise experience, and I'd venture that
none are more popular than those on ships sailing Alaska waters.
Twelve years before Alaska achieved statehood, Holland America was
bringing visitors to the territory, so they have a lot of experience
in the area.
Presentations by our on board Alaska Travel Guide were
supplemented by National Park Service Rangers narratives in Glacier
Bay and a Huna native who shared stories and customs about life in
the area. While in Glacier Bay, only the whir and click of cameras
National Park Service Rangers' commentary over the public address
Aside from Alaska-specific enrichment opportunities, the most
popular seats aboard Westerdam were those in the Digital Workshop
classes where the techspert led complimentary classes in digital
imagining, creating slideshows from vacation photos, creating a
webpage, and even offered free time to work on personal projects
using the skills learned in class.
While it would be impossible to take in every activity and show
aboard Westerdam, some of our favorites were a 50s & 60s Sock Hop,
singing along in the piano bar, and the production shows featuring
Westerdam's Singers and Dancers. We also enjoyed before-dinner music
in the Ocean Bar and late-night musicians in the Explorer's Lounge
and Crow's Nest.
More to come in
Part Two: Ports of
Stage — It's Show Time! and we
ventured behind the stage after the performance to find out what
goes into Holland America Line's production shows aboard Westerdam.
— Fine dining aboard
Holland America Line's ms Westerdam.