DH and I traveled to Vancouver a few days ahead of our cruise to enjoy Vancouver. I would advise anyone having a few extra days to do so..it is a beautiful city. A cheerful HAL greeter met us at the airport even though we were 5 hours late. She put us in a prepaid cab to the Pan Pacific which we had booked at the same time as our cruise. We had a Deluxe King room with a partial city and partial water view. The room was large and very comfortable.
On the morning of the cruise I met the HAL representative in the lobby as instructed. She asked us to check out of our room by 9:30 and meet her in the lobby at 9:45 to be escorted to the ship. Since boarding didn't begin until 11:30, DH and I decided to do our own thing and stay in our room a little longer. For us it was a good decision. We checked out around 11:00 and headed strait down to the ship. Since our cabin was a SB we were allowed to walk right on through (after all of the check points) and we were on board by 11:35!! Fantastic.
We were able to proceed right to our cabin and leave our hand luggage. We met our lead room steward Roni. He informed us that the toilet wasn't working but maintenance had been called. Sure enough it was fixed within the hour never to break down again. Because the room is on the bump out of the ship room it is configured differently than other deluxe suites. The only problem I had with that is when you open the door, you see right into the room where the bed is. This causes a little lack of privacy. The balcony is odd shaped and narrower than others..No problem there. But it does catch the wind which in Alaska is not ideal. I wouldn't choose this room again just because we love sitting out to watch the scenery...the wind prevented us from doing so on many occasions. The carpet had some stains and the bathroom counter had a large chunk broken off, the furniture was worn. Honestly these were minor things that didn't bother me. I would never let a well loved ship ruin a good time.
Juneau We went whale watching with Orca Enterprises. It was wonderful!! We saw lots of humpbacks. We even saw them come out of the water mouth wide open feeding. Capt. Larry seems to know where to take you to find great viewing. On our Alaskan cruise in 2008 we did the ships tour...I can tell you that there was no comparison..hands down Orca wins.
Skagway . We rode the railroad on the 3 Â½ hour tour. Beautiful scenery and well worth the $
Ketchikan. We went on the Deadliest Catch crab tour. Loved it. They threw fish out to feed the Eagles. They were swarmed the boat like something out of the movie "The Birds" That was a big thrill. They also showed pulling crab pots and the catch including King Crab. Snow Crab. Box Crab and a big ugly octopus! The guys that run the tour are a hoot so it is a fun tour as well.
Glacier Bay. I love Glacier bay...we were lucky enough to see a whole wall of ice calve off Margerie Glacier. I would go back to Alaska every year just to cruise Glacier Bay. It was the highlight of both of my cruises.
Pros and Just a few Cons
Pros: The staff. They are in a word wonderful. Everyone was friendly and helpful. Always wanting to please you and make your cruise special. Roni our room steward took care of our every need and always with a smile on his face. The girls in the Neptune couldn't have been more sweet and helpful. The staff is what makes HAL an exceptional cruise line IMHO.
The food. We ate in the Vista Dining room and the Lido. I can honestly say I didn't have a bad meal. The food was fantastic in both venues. We were so pleased we didn't go to the Pinnacle Grill this time.
The staff provided a very nice 4th of July picnic lunch on the Lido deck, and a nice salmon and clam bake lunch on the last sea day also on the pool deck .
Cons: The main dining room management could do a better job.We had Anytime Dining. Although we requested a window table through the concierge in the Neptune, we only got one 2 out of 7 nights. My last HAL cruise I was able to reserve the same table @ 5:15 every night. We got to know the waiters and they got to know us. Not allowed on this ship.The dining room took a dinner reservation but with no table guarantees. After dinner on the first night as we left the dining room we found the hall filled with angry guests waiting for a table. There were many many empty in the dining room. I'm not sure why they were so overwhelmed at the podium. Service is a little slow..dinner will take about 2 hours. It didn't bother us because we were with friends and enjoyed our time together, but I heard some grumbles from fellow passengers. This is in no way a reflection on the staff who I believe are overburdened because of cutbacks. We had one waiter and one wine server. The waiters really have to hustle.
The Lido is a madhouse when it is busy. Because of the numerous food stations there are no lines and people tend to just walk in front of you to get their food. I'd like them to somehow devise a better system to avoid the necessary polite confrontations.
Service in the bars was slow and at time nonexistent. On two occasions we had to get up and to get a server to take our after dinner drink orders. It didn't seem that they were that busy, just a little lackadaisical.
For some reason this ship didn't get the luck of the draw for port position. We were the furthest from town in both Juneau and Ketchikan. There were shuttles running, but it is not as convenient as being able to hop on and off the ship in town. There was a Celebrity ship tendered in Juneau so I guess it could have been worse.
To sum up, I would give this cruise a high mark. The few cons that I have expressed in no way ruined my vacation. DH and I had a wonder time being treated like royalty aboard this lovely ship. It is a problem that the food and service isn't "to go" and reality hits you in the rear as you walk in your front door!! Back to cooking and cleaning ugh!!!!!