Sunday -- Arrival
After arriving at Seattle airport, we flagged down a HAL representative to ask where we would drop off our luggage since we had purchased airport to ship transfers. Of course it was way down on the end of baggage claim concourse. The buses to take us the pier is on the opposite end, a nice hike for a healthy adult, not so good for some of the older folks. We got our ticket pass color to get on the next bus and off we went.
Since we are booked in the deluxe verandah suite, we had priority check-in when we arrived at the pier. So we had a special window to check us in when we arrived upstairs. We were assigned group 1 to first onboard. Timing is everything and it turns out the representative was just starting to put the lines together and we were the first couple to step onto the ship! We bypassed the photographers since we are only interested in the pictures from the upcoming formal nights. The ship is similar to the Carnival class ships since they are sister companies. We went to the cabin and loved the room with huge verandah. There is a Jacuzzi/shower and separate shower with double sinks. Lots of closet space and ample room to relax while we waited for our luggage to arrive. We decided to go to the Neptune Lounge which is an exclusive service for penthouse and deluxe verandah suite guests only. Introduced ourselves to the concierge and helped ourselves to some snacks. Also to redo our dinner reservation to an earlier time than what was assigned. Then time to explore the rest of the ship including the shops and of course the casino to get our pin code so we can use our cabin room card in the slot machines. Went up the Explorers Cafe towards the front of the boat to check out available square tables for our get together with a couple from Oregon later in the day hopefully. The mandatory muster drill was next so we reported to our stations while they call out each stateroom to check us off the list. The ship sets out of Seattle on time and we got ready for dinner after the late arrival of my bag while my hubby's got there fairly early. Since we receive free laundry service, hubby had shirts to get ironed for tomorrow's first formal night so we put them in the bag and had the concierge take care of it. We arranged a brief meeting with the couple from Oregon at 5:30. She wanted to learn about the live version of Mah Jong so I offered to a lesson. After some light conversation we excused ourselves to go to dinner. We got a table by the window and met a couple from Florida. It turns out we only see them twice as they were avid trivia fans so they would go that 6 pm session as often as they could. The food in the main dining room was good but nothing to brag about and the portions were a bit smaller than on Carnival. We decided to skip the old welcome aboard show and tried our luck at slots. The slot machines are open all the time while in international waters while the table games are open at 10 am. All the casinos games are closed while in port. We called it a night and went to bed.
Monday -- We woke up early to receive our room service and then head over to Pinnacle Room for breakfast. Great service and the food ah so yummy. We met the gal from Oregon in the Explorer Cafe for Mah Jong lesson. The ship has hit some rough waters and it is rocking pretty good this morning. Her husband is a bit seasick so he is on the mends in their cabin. Glad I had taken Dramamine before starting the cruise. Visited the Neptune Lounge for more snacks and then to the casino for some slots while we waited to partake in the slot tournament. Alas both of us did not even make the first cut. Darn machines! Then visited the food carving demonstration in the Culinary Arts center. We went to dinner (formal night) and decided to see Barnaby in the showroom. He is a juggler, comedian and it was pretty good. The boy from the audience kind of stole the show. Clock change back an hour before going to bed.
Tuesday -- The captain reported that there were too many icebergs still in Tracy Arms so we are going to Endicott Arms instead. It was very nice as we donned our coats and sat out on the verandah taking in the sights. Hubby spotted a golden brown bear with her cub out in the open meadow. Quite a sight. There were plenty of waterfalls as we headed towards the glacier. The glacier is pretty with its blue ice and then the ship did a 180 to sail back out. Stopped in at the Neptune Lounge to make reservations at the Italian restaurant for tomorrow night. We adjourned to the Ocean Bar to find the HALCats band playing with a pretty good female singer. We listened and was served appetizers with purchase of drinks. We went to dinner in the MDR and off to the casino to try our luck at the table games. The Broadway show is the same as prior cruises so we skipped it.
Wednesday -- We arrived in Juneau and we have a full day of excursions booked. Off the docks and waited for the bus to take us to the whale watching boat. We went shopping for a unique whale pendent for my omega necklace. Stopped in several shops but then finally found what I was looking for. Bargained until I was comfortable with the price and headed back to the dock to board the "moose" bus as the identifier to take us to the boat. The catamaran took us out with a naturalist providing narration and answered questions about the sea life in the area. First stop was a buoy with seals and a bald eagle resting on top which at first looked fake but it did move. Then off to find humpback whales which took a while but we spotted a few. We were finally able film on and it is awesome. The boat took us to Orca Point Lodge for a salmon lunch and then back to the dock for the bus to take us to Mendenhall Glacier. We are allotted 1 hour to take pictures and see the movie at the visitor center. We were not impressed with this glacier in comparison with Endicott. It is just a tourist trap in our opinion. The bus dropped us off at the ship and we headed back to relax a bit before going to dinner at Canaletto Italian restaurant. The show with Joel Mason as Elton John was pretty good.
Thursday -- Arrived in Sitka at 8 am. Another excursion to see the sea otters, bald eagles, and whales. We all gathered in the Vista lounge to get called for our tenders. As it turns out, we got directly on the excursion boat from the ship. We sailed out into fairly rough waters and a few passengers lost their breakfast but it was fun for us. First stop was the sea otters which we found a group off. They did not appear to be shy at all. Then we spotted a bald eagle in the trees and then came up on an actual nest. On the way back we spotted some more humpback whales. The boat dropped us off at Sitka pier area and we boarded the bus to visit the Raptor center where all the birds of prey that are found injured are rehabilitated at the facility and released back to the wild. They brought in a live bald eagle into the room while we asked questions. Afterwards we hopped back on the bus and went back to the pier to catch a tender to the ship. On our trip back to the ship, we hit a huge wave that gushed water into the first row of the boat, turning our tender into submarine for a few seconds! It was quite a sight on the driver of the tender. He slowed down a bit after that, as I am sure he was not looking forward to writing the incident report telling the captain how one of the cruise passengers ended up soaking wet from the knees down!! Hubby thought it was quite hilarious. (Too many hours on the water in his own boats.) The driver turned all shades from white to red after that. After dinner (2nd formal night) we went to see the comedian Julie Barr. She was ok, had a few funny lines but not overly consistent.
Friday -- Arrived in Ketchikan around 7 am. We had an excursion to the Saxman village so we boarded the bus from the docks. The weather was a bit on the wet side as we were ushered into an auditorium at the village for slide presentation. Afterwards a bit of a hike to the village gathering hall for their native dancing demo. It was ok as it is another tourist made production. We visited the totem pool carving house for another demo. The smell of the cedar logs was nice and it kept us out of the rain. A short trek to the totem pole displays which we did not stay very long and then back to the bus. We were not overly impressed with this excursion. I had the notion that we were going to see actual village people doing crafts such as weaving, pottery making, etc. But it is what it is. We went down to the photo gallery upon returning to the ship to check out our pictures from the formal nights. We decided to buy their package which comes with the pictures on CD, 8 by 12, 5 by 7, and wallet size photos. Pricey but worth it. We went to dinner and skipped the production show.
Saturday -- Sailed most of the day and arrived in Victoria B.C. late but some passengers still got off the ship for excursions. We decided to stay onboard as we had reservations at the Pinnacle room for our last dinner on board. We packed some of the clothes for tomorrow's disembarkation.
Disembarkation -- We finished packing after our breakfast up in the Lido deck and waited for our time to depart. A very relaxing cruise and our hats off to the Concierge, Neptune Lounge, and laundry service. It is so nice to have clothes cleaned every day. We will certainly have this service on the next Holland America cruise.