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Lots of little questions for a first time cruiser - can you help?

Lots of little questions for a first time cruiser - can you help?

Mar 13th, 2009, 02:40 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 80
Lots of little questions for a first time cruiser - can you help?

DH and I have traveled extensively for the past few decades, but have never cruised before. We are signed up for a HAL Alaska cruise in August 09. I have a number of questions that perhaps you can help with:

1. People recommend bringing a power strip to augment the electric sockets in the cabin. I assume the HAL ship accepts connections from US hairdryers, chargers, etc.? I have seen no mention of needing an adapter.

2. When the ship is in port, how much trouble is it to pop back on and off the ship during a long day in port? Is the security checking in and out very time consuming for simple walking on (no luggage)?

3. If we want to have lunch on the ship during a port day, is that doable? Do they close down the dining venues while the ship is in port?

4. How can you find out what the spa offerings are - the HAL Statendam is our ship, and all the info from HAL so far just indicates that they have a spa. I can't drill down further to find out prices, services, etc.

5. Do passengers have full run of the workout facilities, or must we have some sort of paid pass to participate?

6. What about the coffee service? I understand passengers may purchase a "pass" of some sort good for coffee on board. Does this apply to the breakfast buffet, or is coffee included with the breakfast? Same question for the dining room. Or is the coffee pass just required for the occasional coffee bar latte, etc?

Thanks in advance for your answers and advice! Tex Traveler
textraveler is offline  
Mar 13th, 2009, 03:12 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 757
Textraveler, I hope you lovecruising as much as we do - I'll answer as many as I can .

1. No adaptor needed for 110v appliances (US products) a hairdryer is provided in the cabin, too.
2.You can go on & off the ship as many times as you want while in port. Everyone, everytime has to show their ship's ID card at the gangway and put bags & purses, etc and person thru the scanners - just walk thru like the airlines. They keep track of us so they know who possibly has missed the ship, too.
3. Sometimes the dining room is closed while in port but the buffet is open. There are people at all the ports who do not get off for whatebver reasons.
4. I would call 1-877-sail-hal and maybe they can send you something, I do not know.
5.All the items in the gym are first come , first served. Some exercize classes are complementary and some have a small fee. Check the daily program
6. Coffe is available in the Lido 24 hours, dining room meals always have coffee. There is a specialty coffee bar where coffees have a charge and a 'coffee card' is sold to lower the price.
7. Room Service meals, snacks, coffee, etc (see menu) are no charge -

Have fun !!
maryann is offline  
Mar 13th, 2009, 03:17 PM
Join Date: Mar 2009
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I took a HAL cruise to Mexico in October so might be able to answer some of your questions:

1. Don't know anything about a powerstrip. There were enough outlets in cabin and bathroom for a hairdryer, straighter and charging my ipod. And I didn't need an adapter.
2. No problem getting on and off the ship while in port -- and you can do that as many times as you want, time permitting of course. You will get a picture id when you get on board and you'll just need to show that every time you get back on the ship. And if you have any packages, they will go through a check like at the airport.

3. They do not close down dining when you're in port. And even if they were to shut down the dining room, there is always the buffet which is almost always open! Believe me, you will not go hungry!

4. The ship we were on had a full spa -- massage, facials, manicure, pedicure, hair styling, etc. Prices are not cheap but I enjoyed a massage -- think I got a special for about $90.

5. Workout facilities are open to everyone (and on our ship, not that many people used it. I went one day and had no problem getting on any machine.) They do have classes -- those they charge for.

6. Don't know anything about a coffee pass but I assume it's for the specialty coffee bar since I know you have to pay for those specialty coffees. Coffee is available for all meals and pretty much anytime you want it from the buffet area.

Personally, we love cruising so hope you have a good time.
Kimboclay is offline  
Mar 13th, 2009, 04:01 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 22,242
You got good answers above. Specific to Alaska ports - most do not have much to do within easy walking distance of ship - a lot of cruiseline-run jewelery and t-shirt shops. We were able to do a short hike in Skagway, but much of what you will likely want to see involves paying someone else to take you someplace - by train, bus, air. So you can get on and off the ship as many times as you want - but you may not want to.

As far as powerstrips - the only problem you may encounter as far as outlet number is for recharging various devices - cell phone, iPod, laptop, camera - unlikely you will be able to charge all at once, but you just switch them around if you travel with such electronic gadgets.
gail is offline  
Mar 14th, 2009, 03:52 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 9,538
I can't add to the above. All the answers are spot on. You may want to consider bringing binoculars, esp. for Alaska. The views you know are sopectacular. They were selling them on the ramp as we embarked but you will pay more then.
jacketwatch is offline  
Mar 14th, 2009, 06:16 PM
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Thanks so much to all of you for your very helpful replies. We do plan to avail ourselves of the activities offered in the ports, such as Mendenhall Glacier by helicopter, the Yukon railway in Skagway, etc., so we will not just be milling around the dock, but on the 14 hour days we will be in port, we may want to go back aboard the ship. We are rationing our time and $ with an average of one "big" excursion per port call, and one lesser one. And I do want to spend a little time just seeing the various towns themselves, apart from the T-Shirt shops, that is!

Thanks, especially, for the answer to the coffee question! I was really obsessing over that one, thinking I'd have to pay for breakfast coffee with a passcard!!!

Re the binoculars some of you mentioned, we do have a really great pair. I am wondering if we should spring for a second pair of binoculars - will the wildlife and calving glaciers be coming so thick and fast that we will miss a lot by sharing binorulars back and forth?

textraveler is offline  
Mar 14th, 2009, 06:30 PM
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....And another question: About the beds on the HAL ships - if the twins are put together to make into a king/queen size bed, do they remain separately made up with twin linens, keeping the valley in the center, or are they made up with queen/king linens? Are extra pillows readily available?

On an Alaskan cruise in August, since it it daylight most of the time, are there darkening shades on the windows/verandah doors to facilitate sleeping?

Tex Traveler
textraveler is offline  
Mar 15th, 2009, 01:55 AM
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On other cruise lines (never been on HAL), the beds are pushed together and made up with large sheets - but of course they are still 2 beds pushed together. We have often found extra pillows in the closet. But my best piece of advice - your room steward is your friend - we have always left a small tip the FIRST morning when we go to breakfast with a note thanking him for preparing the cabin so nicely. We always seem to get great service after that - and your cabin steward would be the one to get more pillows ifyou need them.

As far as shades - there are sliding drapes on the balcony doors, but if you are extremely light sensitive some light may sneak thru and bug you - so you might want to bring eye shades. Do not do what I did, though. We were cruising thru a particularly lovely area and I thought it would be nice to fall asleep looking at the scenery. It was - but it was not nice to wake up in the middle of the night with light streaming in thru the same window.
gail is offline  
Mar 15th, 2009, 05:07 AM
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I think one pair of binocs should be fine. Actually we cruised Alaska in the 3rd. week of August and IIRC by then the daylight time didn't seem that long. The draperies in the cabins usually are fine to block out daylight. Now when we cruised the Baltic during the summer solstice the long days were amazing.
jacketwatch is offline  
Mar 15th, 2009, 06:03 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 9
Holland America beds are very comfortable as the line added pillowtop mattresses within the past few years. Beds that are pushed together are made up with linens sized for kings or queens. The divide is not really noticeable. Pillows are quite nice as a variety is provided, so you will be able to choose the kind you prefer for sleeping.

I have taken some longer HAL cruises, and when in port, the main dining room is usually open for lunch. You may also wish to note that the Pinnacle Grill, Holland America's alternative restaurant, is available for lunch and dinner by reservation. We very much enjoy it, and I believe the current cover charge is $20 per person for dinner and $10 per person for lunch. Additionally, if you are sailing in a deluxe veranda suite, the Neptune Lounge offers a very nice coffee machine, and the coffee is quite good...expresso, and such.

Holland America's strong point is their outstanding crews and their lovely ships. You will find teak wrap-a-round decks for strolling and teak padded deck chairs for relaxing. Best wishes for a lovely cruise.
route6a is offline  
Mar 15th, 2009, 11:25 AM
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Thanks again, all of you for the great info!

We are looking forward to the cruise - these details I was questioning were some that I could not find answers for either thru Fodors.com or the cruise line literature, so I really appreciate the help.

Route 6a: we are booked for at least one dinner in the Pinnacle Grill. Our travel agent said we'd want to do more once we tried it. We are also in the assigned seating for dining - 8 or 8:15 nightly seating. That just seemed like a no-worry plan for us, and as I understand it, we can pop into the buffet for some fruit and cheese munchies in late afternoon if need be. Or, is it like your college dining room card, whereby you could have only one meal during an assigned period of time (i.e., can't eat breakfast at 6:30 and then again at 9:15? I would think the logistics of keeping up with that would not be worth the trouble for the cruise line.

Looking forward to the wrap-around teak deck as we love to walk. It also appears in the literature that the treadmills in the gym also afford a magnificent view.

Now, does anyone have any advice about the entertainment shows on board? I fear the Cheese-factor may be in high gear!
My goal is to be too tired from glacier climbing, hiking, etc. to spend much time at the shows.

textraveler is offline  
Mar 16th, 2009, 10:08 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,020

We've not sailed with HAL yet (but certainly would not hesitate to), but on Princess a coffee card is available for fresh brewed and special coffees. I think it costs about $50.00 and is punched each time you use it. We've never used one as we find what's available adequate for us.

You might take a look at www.cruisecritic.com if you haven't already done so. You can use roll call to find others who will be on your ship. You can also find reviews of ships, trip reports, etc.

I don't think you'll have to tender at any of your ports. We had to in Sitka. The only reason I mention it is because you asked about leaving and returning to the ship as often as you wished. It might take a bit longer in a port with tenders, as you may have to wait a bit for one at either end.

We thoroughly enjoyed the train ride in Skagway. The scenery is outstanding. I actually had no desire to cruise to Alaska (had done a number of other cruises) but I was more than pleasantly surprised.

Hope you enjoy your cruise as much as we do ours!
Giovanna is offline  
Mar 16th, 2009, 11:57 AM
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Actually the coffee card on Princess is $25.00 and for that you get 15 punches for specialty coffees and unlimited amts. of the special brew. The card is reusable too so if you still have punches left you can use it on your next cruise. As for the shows you may want to consider a lounge act instead of the production stuff. However the troupe on the Island princess last month was very talented.
jacketwatch is offline  
Mar 16th, 2009, 12:28 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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You're absolutely correct. I must have been thinking about a card each for a couple. Thanks for the correction jw.
Giovanna is offline  
Mar 16th, 2009, 02:46 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
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No problem G! Yah mon.
jacketwatch is offline  
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