June 13, 2021

Holland America Line’s Westerdam

Westerdam anchored in Sitka Sound

Few cruise lines have been in business for as long as Holland America Line. Founded in 1873 as the Netherlands-America Steamship Company and headquartered in Rotterdam, this line carried thousands of European emigrants to America in the late 1800s and early 1900s. These Dutch-run ships became known as the Spotless Fleet because of their high standards of cleanliness – a reputation Seattle-based Holland America Line enjoys to this day.

Since entering the cruise vacation market in the early 1970s, the ships of Holland America have become ever more modern and luxurious while retaining traditional features evocative of a classic ocean liner. Easily recognized by their marine-blue hulls, HAL ships feature a teak wrap-around promenade deck lined with steamer chairs and appointed with brass finishes. Inside the ship the elegant public areas are decorated with Dutch paintings and nautical antiques. Fresh flowers are everywhere.

Holland America's devotion to wrap-around teak decks adds a sense of serenity to the cruise experience.

HAL’s current generation of ships includes its Vista-class series: Zuiderdam, Oosterdam, Westerdam and Noordam. The 82,000-ton Westerdam, built by Fincanteri and launched in 2004, homeports in Seattle each summer where it operates seven-day, roundtrip cruises to Alaska. This itinerary features a day at sea northbound, with port calls at Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan, and a day spent cruising Glacier Bay. On the final southbound day at sea, an evening call is made at Victoria before returning to Seattle the next morning.

Sea days onboard the Westerdam are the perfect opportunity to enjoy its Signature of Excellence amenities. HAL is a premium cruise line and the refined atmosphere onboard its ships has earned the company a loyal following. The Westerdam’s European-style Explorations Café is a quiet spot to enjoy an espresso while accessing The New York Times online. Or stroll over to the well-stocked library where overstuffed chairs invite you to sit and leaf through a book.

Competing for your attention are the onboard digital workshops led by Microsoft-trained experts and cooking classes held in the ship’s Culinary Arts Center, including those for children, who are well looked after with organized activities in the Club HAL youth center. Other adult attractions include a casino, Internet center, and fitness classes at the Greenhouse Spa & Salon with its thermal suites, hydrotherapy pool and heated lounge chairs.

Enjoying Glacier Bay from a private verandah

The Westerdam carries 1,916 passengers and staterooms range from spacious suites to comfortable inside cabins. Quad cabins are available, and on our recent cruise to Alaska we booked ourselves a verandah stateroom that could accommodate our family of four. Our youngest boy enjoyed sleeping in the bunk bed that was hidden in the ceiling and pulled down by our steward each evening while we were at dinner. Our older boy slept on the sofa bed and the parents got the queen-sized bed. This made for a cozy cabin at night but it was roomy enough by day. We enjoyed viewing the scenery from our private verandah, especially when the ship pulled into Glacier Bay for a close look at the tidewater glaciers.

Dining on board the ship was in the elegant main dining room where passengers can dine at a traditional pre-set sitting in the dining room’s upper level or opt for a flexible open schedule in the lower level where dinner is served anytime between 5:15 pm and 9:00 pm.

On one night of the cruise we treated ourselves to a multi-course gourmet meal at the Pinnacle Grill, an intimate restaurant serving succulent steaks and fresh seafood. The Grill’s haute cuisine and flawless service made the small surcharge seem like a bargain.

Captain Henk Keijer of the Westerdam

Another evening, after a full day ashore, we felt too tired to dress up for dinner and headed to the casual Lido Restaurant to enjoy made-to-order dinner entrees and tableside waiter service.

HAL’s Indonesian stewards provide a high level of attentive service to their cruise guests, and the line’s Dutch officers have upheld the company’s reputation for running well-maintained ships – a tradition that began more than a century ago.

About Anne Vipond

Anne Vipond is the author of several guidebooks to cruising destinations around the world. She draws on an extensive sailing background to impart her enthusiasm for cruise travel. From her home port of Vancouver, she travels by cruise ship to a wide range of destinations to keep her books current and useful for her cruise readers. Her cruising articles have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and over seas.