This being our second HAL cruise and reading the reviews of the ship, we travelled with somewhat lower expectations than our previous HAL cruise.
Overall the cruise exceeded our expectations; however we were deeply disappointed on several counts but mainly by an incident regarding the final port of Victoria.
HAL seem to be making cut backs and its starting to show.
Found this a great place, very clean and friendly. Well worth a couple of days pre or post cruise. The highlight for us was a tour of the Boeing factory. Highly recommend this tour even for no aviation fans like us.
Things seemed a little hectic and messy but this was expected as this was the first cruise out of Seattle this season There was poor signage (towards the suite check in) and the checking of Non US ID took a bit longer as staff had to refresh their memories and check which nationals required VISAS. Not all the security screening points were operational. The line for the remainder of the cabins seemed long. Security check took around 20 Mins and the suite check in took around 15 mins after security.
Nice and easy as always on HAL Ships. Cabin ready on arrival and baggage fast and ready on return form an excellent buffet in a very busy Lido. ( The Lido seemed very over crowded compared to normal, this put down to Roof open in pool area and weather fairly cool)
Cabin and Ship Condition
Many of the reports on this site mention the poor condition of the ship, we found no evidence of this other than a small amount of rust on a small number of pillars on our aft corner balcony. The balcony furniture was fine and the cabin well maintained and clean as always. The cabin team do a great job.
Overall the Food was excellent as always.
Although food was excellent, some choices ran out early both at lunch and dinner. Late buffets seemed more to the benefit of the ships officers and ended too early.
As always the food and service were second to none. Well worth the $25 surcharge for dinner and $10 for lunch. Breakfast for Suite guests also proved the upgrade in cabin well worth the additional costs.
The only real food disappointment. Service was far to slow and waiters did not seem to know what was going on. The highlight of the meal was watching the Whale just off the ship.
Main Dining Room
Only ate here once (On disembarkation day), Open dining did not seem to work without a reservation. Had to wait in line for over 30 mins, but after that given a buzzer and about 15 mins later seated.
Breakfast always delivered to room earlier than booked, could not fault the service otherwise. Would like to have Fries available with the main meals rather than just chips ( Crisps). Just be prepared to wait about 45 -- 60 mins, which is reasonable.
Entertainment & Facilities
Overall ok, but not much need for entertainment with the Scenery outside.
Only went to 2, but the ones we went to were the usual standard for cruise liners. Disappointingly they seemed to be the same as over 14 months ago on the New Amsterdam.
Well worth the visit (and in our case the hangover the next day!)
Again proved much more entertaining than the Main show
Representative not very helpful ( probably as like others in the crew had throat infection). Inventory for next year not yet available other than Holiday season.
Great service as always
Very well informed and gave great talks. Shame the tour desk was not of the same standard ( when open!)
Sad to say HAL are letting themselves down. Either not working or very Smelly!
Ports, Scenery and Tours
Tracey Arm Fjord - Fantastic Scenery, great to get to the front of the ship. Shame the ship was unable to go the full distance, but must have been a very cautious captain! Watch for the amazing blue ice floating by and glaciers.
Juneau -- An amazing place, make sure to visit Mendenhall Glacier and the Whale watching trip. Did the combination tour through HAL. The Glacier was a slight let down, you don't get up and close, just seem from the distance. Would have liked more time to walk the trails. This was more than compensated for by the excellent crew who took us out to watch the whales and other marine life.
Sitka -- Not much around port, more on offer for the sporting type. Very scenic though.
Ketchikan -- Love the old style and History of this port. Did a tram bus tour arranged off ship and well worth it to get more of the history and background of the town.
Victoria -- Did not get to see, please see my big whinge further down the report!
We made a big mistake by not booking the Airport transfers earlier! They had sold all space available half way through the 7 days! This has never happened to us before, luckily 3rd party shuttle busses available at pier, but again as first cruise of the season this was a bit chaotic and had to wait around for about an hour. The general disembarkation for guest well organised an fast. Sorry to say they did not offer early morning of departure pick up of luggage for suite guests as in the past.
Finally the Big Issue! -- Only if the Crew had been open and honest with the passengers this would not have escalated into a major issue for us and our fellow passangers!
I have contacted HAL and are awaiting a response on the below, but this really has left us regretting paying deposits for 2 future cruises with HAL.
Having left Ketchikan on the cruise for the final port of call in Victoria, we were followed out of dock by a NCL cruise ship. On arriving over 3 hours late in Victoria the NCL cruise ship had already docked next to us. On disembarking the ship we asked the passengers of the NCL cruise ship as to what time they arrived. NCL had docked on schedule at 6PM.
During the journey on the Friday nothing had been communicated to the passengers by the ship's crew. There was noticeably no update from the captain during that day on the progress of the journey.
On Saturday afternoon there was eventualy an update on the cruise from the captain, during which he mentioned that as the ship was running behind schedule and would arrive late in Victoria. He mentioned that all the tours in Victoria would be cancelled and credited to the room accounts. We note this was not mentioned until after the disembarkation brief and the customer surveys had been completed.
No mention was made to the reason for the delay.
To add to our suspicions we had found is strange that in the Morning that the tours desk had been closed and that the Neptune lounge were very vague when we tried to book an excursion in Victoria in the morning for that afternoon / evening.
Eventually on disembarkation in Victoria, there was dangerous overcrowding in the stairwells leading to the gang way to shore, as most of the ships passengers attempted to leave the ship quickly to make the most of the 2 hours we had remaining in Victoria.
Speculation was rife amongst the masses of passengers. The most common theory amongst others was that the ship had failed to take on enough fuel prior to departure.
On questioning the crew about the delay at this time the only answer given was "Only the Master Knows". Many passengers were asking if the ship would still be leaving on time and were disappointed with a very blunt "Yes" response. Later on returning to the ship and asking other crew members for the reason for the delay we were told it was due to "Operational Reasons". It is also worth noting that the ship did finally dock early on its return to Seattle.