Here's my take on this very well organized Cruisetour:
*From Vancouver Airport to Canada Place-There is no need for any other more expensive type of transfer...the Metro is amazingly easy.
*Check-In-We walked right up to each counter, with no waiting at all. We arrived at about 2pm. Maybe the "crowds" that I was dreading had all shown up at the very beginning. The luggage area was confusing. There were not clear directions regarding this drop-off area. The staff were all sitting on the luggage carts chatting, and we had to wave them down to come to the counter to help us.
*The Ship-A very nice ship, decorated for the more mature adult, I would say. I saw staff everyday sprucing up the ship (painting, washing down decks, re-varnishing, etc...). I have read about HAL ships looking worn...nah.
*Our room-The space and storage were outstanding! The bathroom was large, and we had a bathtub. Very impressed with the room. I did notice some signs of aging (cracked grout in places, chipped paint, nics in wood), but it was not a bother at all. No problems with toilet flushing at all. Had very hot water.
*Staff-In general, a very friendly staff. No complaints.
*Entertainment-There was a variety of options. The singers were very good. The shows were just fine. The piano player and the string quartet were very good! Very enjoyable all around.
*The food-We only ate in the Buffet, by choice. There were, at times, very long lines to get food. I didn't like this. I think the quality of the food was average to very good. Not great, and not bad. Was I impressed with the food...no. I will say that the breakfast omelets were very good. I didn't like that it took a long time to get a piece of bread toasted.
On the 4th day we exited the ship and began a wonderful land tour. The entire trip was very well organized. HAL owns a large stake of the touring in Canada and Alaska.
*Hotels-We stayed at Westmark hotels (HAL owned). These were nice 3 star hotels. All clean and safe. The staff at each hotel was very friendly and helpful. In Beaver Creek we stayed at the Beaver Creek Inn. There was no TV in the room! At first I couldn't believe it, but by the end of the night, I slapped myself with the realization that life isn't about all the electronic gizmos. This stop was a wonderful part from the norm of our hustle-n-bustle life. The show at the Beaver Creek Inn was really good and fun! All in all, it was a great place to visit. The Hilton in Anchorage was very nice!
*Trains and Buses-We took 2 different trains. They were very well kept, and very nice and clean. We took 2-3 different buses. They were also nice, and comfortable.
*Food-The included meals were all good. Not great and not bad. When we had to purchase our own meals there were good options. Food in Alaska and Canada is a bit high-priced!
*Sales-Pitches-Only thing that was a bit bothersome were the sales pitches everywhere we went. We were prompted to try the "ice cream, coffee, buy postcards, take a picture here, etc...". At every stop we heard this. I am a big gourmet coffee nut, so I did try the "great" coffee at 1 stop, and it was just an average cup-of-joe.
*Highlites on the land tour-I enjoyed everything we did, but I really liked the ride on the Sternwheeler, and the panning for gold. I didn't feel too enthused about either before the trip, but I was proven wrong. Both were highlites!
*Baggage Handling-This was done with amazing organization. We never had to worry about handling our checked luggage (1 per person). The bus driver took the luggage from the curb, and the bag showed up in our hotel room each nite with amazing speed! Outstanding!
*Land tour Guide-Our guide was new. This was her first contract. I think we lucked out in this respect. She was amazingly willing to go out of her way to assist us with anything needed. She had a great attitude, and was always smiling and pleasant. Job well done Kacie!
Overall I rate this trip as a VERY good trip. The way that HAL took care of the itinerary was exceptional. We got to be taken around and didn't have to worry about anything. Everything was taken care of. When we leave our terribly busy work-a-day life, and go on vacation, this is just what we need.
Great job HAL.
*Just a small addition...If I chose to have a critical eye, I guess I could come up with some negatives. But, there are certainly enough "critics" on CC. I don't need or want to be one of them. Nothing is ever perfect, but overall, this was a great vacation! I never thought that I would choose HAL, because it is known to cater to the "mature cruiser". We didn't have much choice with an Alaska cruise, since HAL has a big share of the market...so we chose HAL because the itinerary and timing worked for us. I am not sorry at all. Well Done HAL!
I am happy to answer any questions...