I will be the first to tell you that I wasn’t sure what to expect from the cruise we took to Alaska’s Inside Passage aboard Holland America’s Eurodam. We don’t typically gravitate toward cruises, but everyone had told us that cruising to Alaska is a good way to cover some serious ground for your first trip. Before we left, Dane and I had been researching traveler reviews and to be totally honest – they weren’t glowing. We had both only been on a cruise ship as teens, so our memories were hazy and didn’t include food/bars, transportation logistics or excursion packages. We remembered them being great, but for different reasons than we would probably consider great as adults, if that makes sense. We were young, so our parents had handled all of it! Today I’m sharing how our trip panned out and what I really thought about our 7-day Holland America Cruise to Alaska. Let’s dive in…
What I Really Thought About Our 7-Day Holland America Cruise To Alaska
We took a red-eye out of Honolulu to Seattle and board the Holland America Eurodam on Saturday for their 7-Day Alaska Inside Passage cruise. We had stops in Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria, Canada, before heading back to Seattle for disembarkation. To be totally transparent, it’s one of the worst passenger-rated cruises you can take according to a few popular travel review sites. We were incredibly nervous to say the least, because people complained about condition of the ship, the food, the tours, the staterooms – basically, anything you can complain about was mentioned which left Dane, myself and our family and little bit like…well, shit, even though Holland American generally gets really high ratings. We know ourselves enough to recognize that we like nice amenities when we travel, but it was booked, we were all in at that point and we went into it with incredibly low expectations.
To say we were blown away would be an understatement. Holland America knocked it out of the park for us and we all kind of looked at each other at the end like – “What the heck were we so worried about?” A true example of every traveler being different and having different perspectives!
First things first – the state of the ship. It’s clean, obviously well taken care of and the staff is more than willing to help you. Nothing seemed dated and there weren’t obviously old things like ripped cushions or stained carpet that we noticed. One thing that made me laugh, though, was that the throw pillows in the lounges are chained to the chairs. Maybe Holland America has had issues with missing pillows in the past? LOL
The staterooms were decent in size (we had two suites, one with a balcony for viewing Glacier Bay) and clean. It’s a cruise ship, so don’t go into it thinking you’re going to get some massive abode and you’ll be golden. I cannot emphasize the word clean enough though, because I will be the first to tell you it’s one of the very first things I notice about any hotel or resort property. The entire ship was kept very clean, but it was especially apparent in our room.
One review I read said that the bathrooms in the rooms were “pint sized and you couldn’t turn around”, which had me thinking I’d be stepping into some sort of time machine, except when we arrived, we realized that the bathroom was the same size as the one we had at home. It’s not huge, but you can comfortably shower (in a full size tub/shower), brush your teeth, go to the bathroom, do your makeup, etc. This is also a really good time to mention that the shampoo and conditioner were TOP NOTCH. I typically travel with my own conditioner because hello – this mane doesn’t tame itself – but not only were they quality toiletries, they were plentiful (we had a pump on the wall that was refilled daily). Obviously not a huge deal in the grand scheme, but a welcome perk.
Now let’s chat food, which to be honest, was my top level concern. We are eaters and we are picky, so take the following to heart if you’ve booked this cruise and read the similarly grim reviews….the food is good and I’m not being paid to say it. First and foremost – you have options. The dining rooms and lido were where we ate, but there were also 3 different fancier restaurants we could have made reservations at for a small fee each night.
The lido deck was a huge buffet that offered any type of food you might imagine – fresh salad bar, pasta bar, Mexican nacho bar, international cuisine (it changed daily), dessert bar, drink station, coffee station and then an entire section that was dedicated to people with food allergies. I thought that was great, because the lido deck was a good place to grab lunch when we were on the boat and obviously food allergies are big concern for many people these days. The seating there was plentiful and although it was usually pretty crowded, I never waited longer than 5 minutes and the fresh salad bar is what my dreams are made of in terms of buffet food. I should also note that even though it’s a buffet, you still have people serving you and there is thick glass between you, other people and the food, so no one is sticking their potentially unclean hands into the food.
The dining room was open for breakfast, lunch or dinner and you could walk in at any time that suited you while they were open for each meal. I believe for dinner we could have made a reservation for a specific meal time if we wanted, but we liked keeping it flexible. The menus were always robust and filled with things like lobster tail, crab cakes, salmon, ribeye, filet mignon and seabass. I will say that some of the entrées are on the smaller side, but all the food is included in the dining room, so you could order more than one entrée if you still felt hungry. I had salmon for nearly every meal and each night I paired it with something different. I think the truffle polenta with asparagus was my favorite. Oh and dessert – I ate at least 2 each night, because I have a sweet tooth and make zero exceptions while on vacation 😉
The attire on board for meals was mostly casual, but there were 2 gala dinner nights, which encouraged fancier attire and while that may sound annoying to some, it was a nice excuse to bring dressy clothing and get a few good family photos together.
A few other things onboard worth noting include:
The gym – Dane and I went every single day, because it was on the very tip of the boat so we always had the most amazing treadmill views! We also did a spin class one morning and it was an extra $12, but worth it for an hour long class taught by a certified trainer.
To be honest, the gym was also a great break from the constant snacking I felt myself doing onboard #realtalk and the space was large and well-equipped with machines and weights, plus a large open area for yoga, core work or stretching (with mirrors on the ceiling!).
The casino – There is no gambling in Hawaii, so it’s always a little bit of a treat to see a casino somewhere. We threw a couple dollars into the machines each night (never more than $20 at a time, because otherwise my stomach hurts) and ended up winning around $300. Not bad!
Dueling pianos – There as a piano bar across from the casino that offered a couple shows per day by some exceptionally talented musicians (at least in my opinion!) They had little cards where you could request songs and they could pretty much play anything, which was really impressive to me.
Nightly entertainment – Anyone who has cruised before will tell you that each night there is entertainment, whether it’s singing and dancing or live music, a movie, etc. The Eurodam singers and dancers were super high energy so the couple shows they performed while we were onboard were awesome. I only wish they had done more, but Holland America made up for it with a pretty sweet collaboration with BBC Earth to create an editorial video about Alaska put to a live orchestra. Now, I know what you’re thinking because I had the same thoughts and feelings initially, but hear me out. It was AWESOME! I was actually considering skipping out that night in favor of a nightcap in my room, but I’m so glad I didn’t. The video footage is remarkable and the musicians are incredibly talented. The other two nights included a magician (meh) and a man/woman duo who could pretty much impersonate any person or singer you can think of, which was impressive to say the least.
Our itinerary included one full day at sea, one full day at Glacier Bay (which meant you were entirely onboard the full day) and one day cruising toward our last stop in Victoria that was nearly all day at sea. At first glance, that might be worrisome, because AGH – an entire freaking day trapped on a ship?! The first day at sea (our first full day on the ship), Dane and I slept in after dealing with our red eye flight and me battling a horrendous sinus infection and it was glorious. We took it slow and watched a movie in our room, got room service (free) and just generally hung out. Our day at Glacier Bay we stood outside for no less than 6 hours just staring at the beauty of nature. Incredible, magical, serene, beautiful — I cannot even think of words to do it justice. And on the final chug to Victoria, we all hung out as a family and the short downtime was appreciated after being go-go-go in Alaska and needing to pack for disembarkation.
Random things worth noting:
The drinks on the ship are pricey, but strong. We went to happy hour nearly every day for the $5 wine specials and the BOGO drinks. My in-laws also graciously purchased a wine package, which offered us 1-2 bottles of wine each night with dinner and I think we all agree that it was worth it for the 5 of us traveling. Otherwise – we didn’t have the all-you-can-drink cards, because after doing the math we would have needed to drink 12-15 drinks per day, per person, to make it worth the money, so we passed on that.
There aren’t irons in the room and we were never able to track one down without paying for it, so if you want crisp clothing each night, iron your stuff before you leave home and say a prayer it looks good when you pull it out of your suitcase.
Our stewards were exceptional and never hesitated to hop on whatever request we made, so don’t be afraid to just ask if you have a question or need. A couple days we needed a few extra towels and some pillows and they were more than happy to accommodate us.
I was afraid I was packing way too much for our trip, but I wore every single thing I packed, which was a vacation first for me. If you’re also heading to Alaska on a cruise, you’ll want layers and different types of outfits for all the microclimates you will experience. I have a full post coming on what to pack, I promise!
If things aren’t to perfection, say so. One morning I ordered breakfast to our room before we got off the boat for a super early excursion. We needed to be some of the first people off, so heading to the dining room wasn’t an option based on timing. When the food was delivered it was the wrong thing and when I bit into it, it wasn’t cooked. When they asked how it was, I was honest and they were super apologetic. When we got back on the boat, the kitchen had sent a bottle of champagne and strawberries to apologize, which was completely unnecessary but of course very appreciated. Customer service that goes above and beyond goes a really long way with me, so this stands out big time in my mind!
Whew, I feel like I could go on and on. If you can’t tell, we had an amazing trip and the boat was probably 50% of that – the atmosphere, the food, the experiences – all of it made our family vacation memorable. It definitely helped that we didn’t have a single day of rain during our entire 7 days, an Alaskan miracle from what we’ve heard! If you’re considered a cruise to Alaska, let me help you….BOOK IT! While it might not be true Alaska, you’ll definitely get to see some beautiful coastline, glaciers and wildlife, plus enjoy the amenities of a cruise ship as you go.
So let’s chat – are you a cruiser? Have you cruised Alaska? What are your thoughts? Also, as always, happy to answer any and all questions you might have! For ease, I’ve linked everything you saw in this post below!