Our 7-day cruise to Alaska on Holland America was fabulous. The ship, Ms. Volendam started in Vancouver; ports of call were Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay & Ketchikan. We paid extra for a suite which had a nice verandah on which we spent much of our time. I will blog about the pros/cons of the suite and paying more for that option and family packing in separate blogs… As far as our vacation, here are my opinions in these areas:
- Motion sickness
- The boat
- Room size
- Kid’s activities
- The food
- Shore excursions
- Cherish your time on board
Motion Sickness…or lack of Motion Sickness!
This was our first cruise and since my husband tends to get motion sickness, we weren’t sure what to expect: would this be fun & relaxing trip or stressful & agony. He was a trooper to even try, and I’m so happy he did. It turned out to be fun & relaxing. Phew!
As we went through security to get onto the dock, several other passengers of other ships were wearing the small “patch” behind their ear for motion sickness. My hubby put his on just as we boarded, and it was like a miracle! Even through the more movement of the week he was fine. Thank goodness for this patch!
The first & last nights of this particular cruise have the most motion as it’s on more open ocean between Vancouver and the inner passage into Alaska. This was also fine for him. The boat vibrates a bit, which you get used to. The first night around midnight, my daughter shot up in bed asking firmly that her brother STOP shaking her!! It was cute.
On the last night, we could barley tell nor care that it was vibrating again.
As far as the Whale Watching boat and motion sickness, he was fine. It was a smaller boat and there was choppy waters with lots of jumping up and down with the waves and he was fine.
When you first get on, its fun to look around and get acclimated with all the different areas. Plus, your bags aren’t in the room to unpack yet, and there are many people in the lunch areas, so this is a good time to discover all the cubbies and areas offered.
For the Ms. Volendam, there is a nice walking track with wooden floors on the third deck which was 1 mile per 3 laps. No running is allowed as the corners are a bit sharp and a runner could possibly harm those walking. There is a kids area called “Club HAL” which seemed fun but small, a nice theater, 2 small pools, several restaurants, a shopping area and small casino, lounge areas with different styles of music, a library, a cafe and the decks.
Though there is so much to offer with many planned activities, like Dancing with the Stars, nightly movies in the theater, and shows, we ended up spending most of our time on the pool deck playing ping-pong or in our room on the verandah. Either way, it’s hard to get bored.
We paid extra for a suite with a king size & a queen size bed. This room had a large verandah, with 2 lounge chairs and a “kitchen table” with 4 chairs where we could sit and watch the incredible views and wildlife. All the verandahs have glass as the wall to the ocean, so you can sit and still see outside. There is a large bathroom with a jet tub adjoined to a dressing room with a second sink & vanity. The sitting table was large enough to hold our Room Service Breakfasts in the morning and High Tea in the afternoon. With the upgrade price, laundry service was included, which was awesome. We had our laundry done every day. 🙂 We also had a concierge who made appointments and reservations for us, and checked on all of our shore excursions even though they were not with Holland America. We had quicker luggage service (a vey nice feature), plus the use of the Neptune Lounge, right across from our room, with nice snacks, cakes, drinks, tea, candy & sandwiches! That was very helpful…to making this a “weight gain cruise”.
My cousin’s rooms, which were smaller would have been too tight of a squeeze for a family of 4. There is enough room to sleep, shower & relax without moving around too much, and there is so much going on the boat, that many people don’t spend much time in their rooms anyway. I could be in one of the smaller rooms with just my hubby, if there was a verandah. With kids, though, it would be a tight squeeze for us.
I was concerned that there would not be enough for the kids to do, since this is not a “kid’s boat” like a Disney Cruise. Holland America is geared for older couples, and we were younger than most of the people there.
But, we were happily surprised by the kid’s area, Club HAL. It was run by a guy who really loves kids and was very playful with them. The planned activities were something the kids really looked forward to. They would watch the time to get to Club HAL right when it opened.
On the rest of the boat, for the kids and adults there is ping-pong, large chess, basketball, tennis & movies available. There is also a library with board games, and plenty of places to sit quietly or with a group. Plus, there are plenty of places to sit inside and watch the gorgeous landscapes outside.
My daughter and I took a cooking class together which was spectacular. She really enjoyed it and the food was fabulous. There were no other kids, but it was ok, and the Chef was great with her. That was our favorite part of the cruise.
Breakfast in the “cafeteria” Lido was ok. We ended up not eating in there very often, instead we had our food delivered for breakfast. For lunches, we had been snacking most of the day, so we didn’t have sit down lunches very often. The sandwich making area is great.
Instead, there were also High Teas! Wonderful! We also had some of these delivered to our room. These were so fun and delicious.
Dinner is very good. It’s the only time our little group of family was able to meet altogether. Plus, the boat takes Dinner very seriously. They are proud of what they serve and how they serve. I really enjoyed the dinner’s each night. The menu is different each night and very yummy. My kids & I tried all types of different appetizers, soups, entrées & desserts each night. Chef Alberto would walk around and check on everyone, and we really appreciated his attention.
All in all, we loved the food!
I researched shore excursions on TripAdvisor.com to use the local tours instead of the boat tours. Visit my blogs on “Whale Watching in Juneau”, “Private Tour in Skagway” and “Sea Kayaking in Ketchikan” in these separate blogs.
We were happy that we chose private tours instead of the larger boat offered excursions. I was limited by my husbands motion sickness & he also didn’t want to fly in a helicopter or float plane. Also, my son was too light to try any zip-lining. Be sure to check on the ages and what is expected of each participant when you are researching.
Cherish Your Time Onboard
The time goes by very quickly, and I wish I had sat on the verandah just a bit more. My suggestion is to cherish your time onboard and come back to the boat early and leave late.