My wife and I cruised with Norwegian Sky in 2000 thru the Panama Canal and enjoyed it so much we decided to do it again. Unfortunately, it took us 12 years.
I was looking at the cruise line websites since May of this year and HAL was the line that offered what we were most interested in regarding dates,excursions and ports of call. I noticed that the closer to embarkation dates, prices on unsold cabins were discounted. We are both retired so we were flexible on our date of departure. I did want to go in July as I felt the weather would be better than any other time of the season. As soon as I saw the price discounted for the July 14 cruise I phoned the number listed on the website talked to a HAL representative and she told me that there were no cabins available at the advertised rate, she mentioned that there were other cabins at regular rates but I quickly declined. As soon as I got off the phone with her I called a cruise specialist on an on-line site that I had talked to previously, told him about the advertised special, he quickly checked it out, told me Yes! there still were cabins available at the advertised special and in a matter of minutes were guaranteed a VH or better stateroom with a balcony. We both feel a balcony is something we will always want.
We arrived in Vancouver on Friday July 13th, to make sure we were at the port the next day, I'm not superstitous but "better safe than sorry" . We stayed at the Coast Plaza Suites and Hotel on Denman Street and used public transport to get to Canada Place where the ships dock.
We did hear later that one couple flew in on the same day as embarkation, missed the ship for some reason and got on at Juneau. So we were glad with our decision.
Embarkation went well, there was very little confusion, I think the personnel trying to yell instructions over the crowd would be better equipped with some sort of loudspeaker as it was difficult to hear them.
As it turned out we were upgraded to VB 6049, a stateroom designed with a shower for the handicapped, the room was a nice size, the balcony as well. I had asked for twin beds but they put them together and made a double out of it, which was fine, as we have been married for 26 years.
Unfortunately, we did have an issue with no heat, only air conditioning coming through the vent, I talked to them at least 5-6 times about it, they did try to fix the problem but weren't successful so we just got 4 more blankets and that was OK. The shower drain plugged up 4 days into the cruise, they came in vacuumed the rug and used an industrial drier which all worked out but for some reason for the next couple of days we had a faint smell of sewer.
The ship could use a little TLC, I guess it is difficult to really do alot without taking the ship out of service but overall, we were happy with the ship's appearance
We took in the Trivia contest, linked up with 2 couples and won! The coasters work really well. We also went to the Marriage game, we didn't go up in front of the audience but played along in our seats. We were surprised to find out we don't know each other as well as we thought. The couple that did win had been married for close to 60 years. Couldn't have asked for better winners.
The shows were very good, we especially enjoyed the production numbers with the singers and dancers, the magician was good, we missed the comedian but we heard he was good as well.
We took the open seating plan and found out we needed to make reservations before 4pm for the Vista Dining room. We were told if we just walked in we would have to wait but we only waited a minute and they seated us promptly. The food was very good and the service excellent. Later in the evening we would go up to the Lido buffet and have a snack which turned out to be supper again..I don't know how I picked up 7 lbs in a week.
On Monday, the 16th, we talked with the front desk person and made a reservation for the Pinnacle Grill, which is an extra $25/person for Thursday and the Canteloni restaurant (no extra charge) for Friday. The Pinnacle Grill on Thursday was very nice food was Great and service impeccable. Glad we listened to the other posters who recommeded it. Friday morning we received our reservation card for the Pinnacle Grill again, when I went down to the Pinnacle, I talked to a gentleman about the mistake,he phoned the Canteloni but they told us it was soldout...after some discussion the gentleman went to the back and brought out ROBERT the Matre'D, explaining the situation to him he offered us supper on him! at the Pinnacle. This thoughtful act showed us how much the staff on Zuiderdam do try to make your cruise experience as good as it can be.
Our shore excursions were pretty tame, in Juneau we took in the Dog Sledders and Mushers camp where we were pulled by about 14 dogs in a cart on wheels through trails, we are dog lovers and my wife enjoyed being able to hold the puppies and we were told facts and info on how the dogs live and what they are fed.
In Skagway, we did the White Pass and Yukon rail to the Summit, someone narrated stories and information about the gold rush while we climbed to the summit, going up was a breeze and coming back you just prayed that the brakes would hold out 'till you got to the end. We also took a Best of Broadstreet tour, the theatrical performance about Soapy Smith and how he died was a hoot!
In Ketchikan, we did our own walking tour around Old Town and through Creek Street. We also took in the Lumberjack show and enjoyed that.
The highlight of our cruise was Glacier Bay we came in the morning and the Captain kept the ship in a slow turn so all sides of the ship could see the glacier. We did see the glacier calving and listening to the rumble and thunder of the glacier was spectacular!
During our trip we saw whales, sea otters, and bears along the shoreline, beautiful to watch, this is where a balcony off your cabin is a bonus.
Back in Vancouver disembarkation was smooth, we waited in our cabin until our luggage tag color and number was called and in a matter of moments we were on land with our luggage walking to the Waterfront Station to catch the next train to the airport.
Our flight back to Edmonton, Alberta was uneventful as was our 2 hour drive to Lloydminster, Alberta
In closing, I would rate our cruise experience an 8 out 10 and I am sure our next cruise to somewhere warm in the middle of winter will be as good if not better.