Alaska Adventure {Holland America Cruise}

I am back today to share how we spent our time on the Noordam with Holland America!

Visiting Vancouver & A 49th State Alaska Adventure

Holland America Alaska Cruise

We spent seven nights on the ship and our itinerary was as follows:

  • Depart from Vancouver
  • Scenic cruising Inside Passage
  • Ketchikan
  • Juneau
  • Skagway
  • Glacier Bay
  • At Sea
  • Arrive in Seward

The most common questions I got on Instagram as I shared our trip were “Are you on Disney Cruise Line?” and “Why aren’t you on Disney Cruise Line?” I will address some of the differences throughout this post and have more info at the very end.

Our cruise departed from Vancouver. We boarded the ship around 10:30 AM and spent the morning and afternoon having lunch, exploring, unpacking and swimming.

We were all on the back deck to sail away, which was so much fun! Bye Vancouver!

Staterooms

Our stateroom was ready shortly after boarding. We went with a veranda, which I cannot recommend enough, especially for Alaska and no matter what line you sail. We spent hours watching wildlife from the privacy of our own room!

One key difference from Disney is that these ships (and most others out there) are not set up for families. John slept on the red sofa that pulled out to a bed and Whit slept on the upper berth OVER our bed. I normally wouldn’t share such a messy pic as below, but it was the only one I got to show what I’m talking about. Now, here’s the rub. When the red sofa is in bed form you have NO access to anything on that side of the room. You cannot use the veranda, open any of the drawers or access your luggage stored under the bed on that side. (For this reason Sister slept in her dinner clothes the first night. LOL) And, when you sit up in the middle of the night you bash your head on the child’s bed suspended above you. Our kids are older and it worked okay but this set up would have been miserable with younger kids going to bed much earlier than the adults may want to.

We all loved ordering room service during the scenic cruising of the Inside Passage and on Glacier Bay day. The food was excellent.

Entertainment

I’ll be honest here, we came on this trip to see Alaska. We were up every day by 6AM and were so tired at night that we didn’t even look at or attend a single evening activity on the ship. We really enjoyed America’s Test Kitchen and Trivia on both sea days, and a wine tasting on one. We also visited the game room every night before or after dinner. The men spent some time at a beer tasting and in the casino as well.

The kids loved swimming and lounging in the hot tubs. Here are a few thoughts on the pools:

  • The Holland America ships that sail Alaska have retractable glass tops so they are temperature and weather controlled. This was a really nice feature!
  • The air is nice for swimming, but the pools are not heated and are ice cold.
  • We did not see a single adult in the pool the entire week. (See above, haha)
  • There is no lifeguard and nobody monitoring the pool. We witnessed a LOT of bad behavior and poor choices by a few key ringleader kids – chicken fighting, diving in 4 feet of water, pushing, etc. Our kids were old enough to know better and to get out when this stuff started but I think it’s important to share.
  • Speaking of kids, there were very, very few kids onboard. I think our ship holds 1,500 and we saw maybe 20 at any given time.
  • On most days, there was a great mix of lounge chairs and actual dining tables with table cloths, napkins, etc. I loved this and thought it was a good use of space.

There is a kid’s club but it was dreary and not at all appealing. Our running joke if any of our kids complained was “fine, you’re going to kids club.” They quickly straightened up to avoid it at all costs. :-) Whit and Jay loved swimming and ping pong when we didn’t have something scheduled. CeeCee swam and hung with the adults. John holed up in the room ordering room service and DVD deliveries in his spare time. Everyone was very happy and we all had a wonderful time!

It is also worth noting that Holland America offered quite a few nature talks specific to Alaska and hosted by naturalists. Sister attended a few and said they were excellent. They also showed one movie each day and, again, something pertaining to Alaska. Disney Nature Bears was one afternoon and another day they showed a movie on whales found in Alaska.

Dining

I started every day in the cafe with a latte, a book and beautiful scenery! It was bliss!

Afternoon tea was the favorite part of our sea days for the ladies! It is served every day at 3PM in the main dining room and was wonderful.

Since we had a party of 10, we opted for a set dining time of 8:45 PM. Holland America also does open dining where you can arrive any time you like – it is just harder with a large party.

One thing to note is that Holland America served fresh Alaska salmon, halibut and king crab in the dining room, which we loved! Salmon was on every dinner menu, sometimes with more than one option of how it was served. King crab was also on the menu each night at an upcharge. We all loved partaking in a halibut fish and chips special lunch in the dining room on one of our sea days. I just loved that Holland America made everything so local and infused every bit of Alaska that they could.

Dinners were all quite good food wise. We did an adult dinner in the Pinnacle Grill one evening and it was excellent. I highly recommend it!

As noted, we ate our fair share of room service! A hot bowl of chili on the veranda was my favorite thing to do.

We had the chance to try quite a few cocktails over the week. We ended up with a complimentary beverage package which covered alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. This was key because only water, unsweet tea, juice and coffee are included in the dining rooms and in general. The ship also served a great selection of Alaskan beers, which were all quite good. :-) Daddy-O and Sister’s Mister did an Alaska beer tasting one afternoon which they raved about.

Our rooms were just outside of the Crows Nest and we couldn’t have loved this location more! We made it our own little living room for the 10 of us.

Cruising the Inside Passage

We spent our first full day cruising the Inside Passage, a network of waterways that snake through some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful wilderness in the world! The Holland America ships are pretty small, which was nice! We loved running back and forth across the ship to see nature and wildlife. These ships are made for scenic cruising and there are unlimited options for viewing – inside, outside, front, back. left right, etc. We loved the thick wool blankets and hot beverages in the outside viewing spaces.

At Sea from Glacier Bay to Anchorage

We spent our last day on the ship with more gorgeous scenery between Glacier Bay and Anchorage. Again, we loved using the open decks for viewing and our stateroom verandas to get away. Alaska was so incredibly beautiful and never got old. We marveled at the amount of space that was left untouched by man and became pros at spotting eagles, moose, otters, sea lions and whales. It was the trip of a lifetime!

As a HUGE Disney fan, I was really torn on going with Holland America versus Disney Cruise Line.

There were some aspects in which no cruise line can hold a candle to Disney, but there were other things that Holland America could give us seamless access to that Disney couldn’t. Holland America did an incredible job at complete immersion in Alaska – from the food to the beer to the movies to the naturalists on ship. There was no limit to how much “Alaska” you could learn and explore during this trip – even when on the ship sailing the seas, not just when in port.

When choosing a cruise line for Alaska, there is a lot to consider, including if you are doing sea only vs. land and sea, budget, expectations for entertainment on ship, personal interests, and exact travel party. I don’t have a blanket answer on which one I would recommend for Alaska but I did come home with a lot of personal insight that would inform that call on a case by case basis. For our family, I would make the exact same decision again! Many, many factors went into play here and I am more than happy to discuss with any of you.

As a Virtuoso affiliated travel adviser, I have global connections with the best hotels, cruise lines, airlines and tour companies, and I secure exclusive amenities for my luxury clients.  I have recently refocused my travel business primarily on Disney destinations, but am always happy to book and consult on destinations I have personally visited, as well as other Virtuoso resorts and all major cruise lines. Contact me to learn more and start designing your dream vacation today!

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6 thoughts on “Alaska Adventure {Holland America Cruise}

  1. We are trying so hard to decide which line for Alaska ourselves. We’re die hard Disney lovers. Our DVC homes are VGF and Poly. We compare EVERYTHING to Disney standards 😬. However the price of that Alaskan cruise; we might have to sell a child….. We’ve looked at Norwegian (Joy or Bliss) as another option but I’m just not sure I can do anything other than DCL. My boys are the exact same ages as yours. Any insights? Your blog is always so amazing. I appreciate it so much! I couldn’t wait to read about this trip!!!

  2. We have cruised extensively on Holland America ships. They are geared for people who are looking for a more refined experience, minus a lot of kids. No rock climbing walls, flow riders, etc. Just how we like it. It’s more like cruising was 30 years ago.

    1. Completely agree! They are not ships or itineraries geared towards children or families. However, Alaska does bring in more mutli-gen groups than any other itinerary that they sell. My parents LOVE HAL. We loved it for Alaska but since I primarily share and sell Disney I want to be sure to share the differences. Both are excellent in their respective categories. :-)

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