Our trip started in Sydney and Embarkation was very smooth. Settled in our Cabin quickly and found it to be clean and well set out plenty of room for everything. We had a lovely view of the famous Opera House leaving on time and soon out in the open sea.
Went to the Dining Room and met our table companions and waiters Indi and Bobby who were superb and enhanced our time on board tremendously. Our food for the whole time was not repetitive and only 1 meal was not to our liking which was quickly replaced. We found the Library to be much better than any previous ship we had been on and were grateful for the many hand washing facilities everywhere on the ship not just at the Dining Room which told us they were concerned for our welfare. Buffet meals for 2 days were served with no passengers touching the food a fantastic idea and during the whole trip there were no colds or stomach viruses to be seen a terrific outcome.
We soon settled into a routine with the Gym being used daily and playing Bridge and were very glad to see that there were Bridge Directors on Board. Few children on this trip so it was a cohesive and happy group. We found the lectures both informative and interesting. We knew the Ports of Call were not very interesting but our goal was to get to Alaska by removing one set of plane trips and wished we had known more about Fanning Island as once there we found out we could have brought clothing and medications to leave with the Islands and feel this should have been pointed out by HAL when booking.
Service in the Staterooms was good always clean. The Laundry nearby was very good especially on such a long trip. Our only complaint was that the NO SMOKING in Staterooms was not adhered to and complaints did not seem to be taken seriously and I think this needs to be reviewed by HAL. In today's world this is NO LONGER ACCEPTABLE. We were tremendously impressed by our Captain who we found out seems to be active in promoting Females to the Ranks and found that all the crew thought him to be a very Fair CEO. He was most approachable and genial in manner. We were not impressed with the shops in comparison to other ships and found little to spend our money on virtually no turnover of goods. We did not book Excursions from the ship as we have found through experience we can do even better once we land at any Port in seeing what we want and find them over priced, however we were impressed that HAL did give good information on all Ports and did not try to keep this to themselves in the hope of selling Excursions as happened on other Ships we had been on. Most of all we were happy with the lack of pressure to spend money while on board. Our Cruise Director Tamryn was very good and made age appropriate decisions on entertainment she also had a clear speaking voice which could be understood by all and did not try to promote herself as an entertainer which had happened to us on previous cruises where people over 50 were largely forgotten in the entertainment area. We were sad to lose most of our companions once we arrived in Vancouver to then be invaded by a new lot of people who were only on a 7 day cruise to Alaska and found that the atmosphere changed dramatically. We found Vancouver to be the best Port for Disembarkation we had ever been too and Sydney could learn a lot from them. Tendering was well organised and clear information was given over the speaker system. We did have occasion to visit the Medical Centre and were most impressed with the Doctor and Nurse on duty who clearly had good experience rather than someone fresh from study. Entertainment from Sydney to Vancouver was very good. There was music to dance to,listen to,Karaoke, Trivia, Bingo, and plenty of IT in fact they could have had even more computers on board as this group of people were very interested in the classes, though there was a lack of games, 3 Scrabble Boards with people taking them to their Cabins left others without and I would suggest that people must sign out a form if they wish to remove games from the Library or more purchased.
The Pinnacle and Canaletto Restaurants were good and we used them for Birthdays and Anniversaries. We could have done with less Formal nights but others may not agree. However the change of Entertainers from Vancouver to Alaska was not good. Little dance music only Jazz and a complaint was made about this but had little effect the entertainer was more interested in selling his CD. The guitar player was often off key in the Piano Bar. Would like to see 1 bottle of water per cabin per day free of charge as ship's water heavily chlorinated and we could not stand the taste. Room service was good as I had breakfast in my Cabin. Only one thing was REALLY TERRIBLE - THE COFFEE - so bad that we bought Nescafe at the first Port of Call and ordered Hot Water from then on. Complained about this to Chef when he visited our table and he said all ships use the same Coffee, but in today's world this is no longer acceptable.