We just returned from a 7-day Alaska cruise and were very satisfied with the experience. Our party was made up of two adults and our daughter in a wheelchair.
We arrived the night before and stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Renton. The price was under $60 and the room was quite nice. We arrived late and left the next morning so our impressions were limited. They did charge $12 for breakfast though--I would have expected a much lower amount for a buffet.
They did arrange a limo to take us to the pier the next morning and to pick us up the following Saturday. The charge was $75 one way (I have no idea if this was reasonable) and the driver and convenience level was great.
Embarkation seemed a bit disorganized but they did pull us out of line for special attention due to the wheelchair. I saw a large crowd (several hundred people) milling around waiting to board but we were told to sit in the disabled area. A few seconds later someone came along and told us to just go ahead and walk through the double doors to board unless we wanted our pictures taken. We did so and were on board in minutes. It was about 11:30 and we had immediate access to our stateroom. We immediately went to the Lido for lunch and it was not very crowded. By the time we finished eating it was filling up.
The stateroom (5049) was a bit larger than with earlier cruises on Royal Caribbean. Unfortunately the couch was close to the verandah rather than the door. When traveling with a wheelchair its best to have the extra space near the door.
The Lido was great for breakfast. Scrambled eggs were not over cooked which is rare in a buffet. I had an omelet one day and it was OK. Lines tended to be long and slow especially in the first few days when they insisted on serving you. Even later they served most of the dishes. I would have preferred to build my own sandwiches and scoop up my own breakfast selections. They tended to put less then I wanted on the plate (one slice of turkey for a sandwich, two slices of bacon, etc.) but were willing to add more. Tables in the restaurant were hard to come by.
The Main dining room was great. Excellent food and a great selection! We ate at 5:15 every evening and were seated at a table for six next to the windows at the stern each night. This made for a fantastic view (especially the last night when they snagged a crab pot on the propeller coming in to Victoria). We were used to the food and service on Royal Caribbean and this was a definite step up. Service on the first nights was a bit too slow though. We needed to be out by 7:30 to get a handicapped seat for the show and one night had to skip dessert to make it.
The Pinnacle Dining Room was great. I had the Filet Mignon and was very pleased. The Lobster Bisque was a little off in taste. They added cream and some liquor. I think this really ruined the taste. They added the lobster at the table (about four tiny pieces per serving. The other dishes we ordered were well prepared and tasty. Given that the price was $25 apiece, I think I would skip this on future cruises. The main dining room is more than adequate.
The ports were mildly interesting with Ketchikan being the best. If it weren't for the mountains in the background it would have been easy to mistake any of them for a Caribbean port--nothing but souvenir shops and, of course, Diamonds International. Generally speaking, I thought the native art for sale was obscenely priced. I found 8" totem poles for sale at over $100. We would have bought several items if the prices had been reasonable.
Glacier Bay was the high point. The scenery was fantastic and they had Park Rangers on board to give a commentary. One gave a very informative presentation on the history of the region.
There was a fine array of activities ranging from Trivia to Culinary Presentation and even one hour computer classes. There was more than enough to keep you entertained.
I thought the shows were great and the comedians and magicians were OK. The music for the production shows was canned. Jason Venning, the cruise director, did a fine job of introducing the shows. On the last day, he gave a presentation on the disembarkation process that was helpful. I did feel his comments about filling out the surveys were a bit out of line. Basically he pretty much insisted that we rate everything a 9 (there were no 10's). It seems this invalidates the whole point of a survey--why do they have numbers between 1 and 8 if they don't want to them used.
Disembarkation was, like embarkation, a bit disorganized. We were held on board an extra 25 minutes beyond our scheduled time to get off. Once off we waited in a long queue next to the area 2 and 3 pickup points (we were 3) with no luggage in sight. After ten or so minutes an aide walked by and asked to see our luggage tags. She instructed us to go to area one (??????) where we found our bags. Hardly anyone was picking up there but the area was jammed with bags. This definitely needs some reorganization and control. Once we had our baggage we were on our way in minutes.
All in all, we found the cruise to be a lot of fun and quite well done. We will be back with Holland America again (unlike Royal Caribbean where they don't seem to realize that it is easier to keep an existing customer then to land a new one or to win a disgruntled one back).