We had a great time. Our party was three older teens, my wife and myself, my sister and mother in law. Seven total. We flew in to Seattle the day before, from Detroit and stayed at the Holiday Inn Downtown. I was not familiar with Seattle, I found it easy to get around. I used a car service, A Plus Town Cars, booked ahead, to get from the airport hotel, to ship, and back to the airport and the service was Excellent. It was maybe a couple of extra bucks but no waiting in lines, loaded and on your way in seconds, door to door service.
Embarkation - We got to the terminal just after 11, checking in was quick and we had a 30 minute wait to board. The rooms were ready when we boarded, which is excellent if you have ever boarded and waited a couple of hours to get into your room. The room was smaller (we had two, one for the girls, one for the guys) but serviceable, once the Murphy bunk was lowered and the fold a bed unfolded, space to walk was a premium, but we always had the veranda to escape to. We had staff open the partition between our verandas, which made for more room and a 'connection'. We brought aboard water, pop (soda) and some wine for the stateroom and never a mention was made from any one. To save some money, we purchased in advance beverage cards for liquor/wine and pop, this gives you some feeling of a 'discount'. Bar prices were typical to other cruise lines but HAL seems less high strung about the process. You could buy a bucket of beer, five for four pricing AND if you didn't drink it all at once, you could take the unopened bottles back to your room. Other lines will open all five of the bottles right away.
Our cruise crowd was 'older'. Our kids enjoyed the opening icebreakers so they could meet their peers. A good touch on HAL was "Generation Next" for 18 to 25 year old to meet up. After two days, we didn't see too much of our kids, they were always heading off to meet someone somewhere.
At Sea Day. Good, cool weather kept most folks in side.
Juneau. We rented a car and toured. The Mendenhall Glacier was good, the boys went swimming in the melt lake, which gave a good photo op for some travellers. They then drove out the highway to Eagle Beach State Park, well away from the ship masses. Excellent wildlife spotting.
Glacier Bay. Awe some. Awesome. Amazing and amusing. Whales, otters, eagles, blue ice, calving glaciers, seals. A mandatory item on any one's bucket list.
Sitka. We took a Wildlife Adventure to see the local fauna. Captain Robert and crew were great, lots of otters, eagles and a spectacular breaking whale. Highly recommended. Sitka itself seems not as tourist-ed up as the other stops, certainly more quaint and less like Niagara Falls Tourist World. I enjoyed a hot dog at the hot dog cart.
Ketchikan. The boys and I had booked a snorkeling adventure with Alaska Snorkeling, through the HAL excursions desk. THIS WAS BY FAR THE MOST INTERESTING SHORE EXCURSION I HAVE BEEN ON OVER SIX CRUISES. Bus pickup and travel to their offices. Suited up with wet suits/fins/snorkels. Back on the bus to a beach and into the water. I thought it would be a cold thing, it was cool for a minute. We swam with the guides but allowed latitude. At one point, a bald eagle landed on a rock not five feet away. We free dove, swam in the kelp forest...just a wonderfully time. Sunny. Well managed and we felt safe. We are good swimmers and were at home with the demands on our abilities. I have snorkeled in warm water, which is great, the cold water added a fun level. I would do this again in a minute.
Victoria. Beautiful port. We had six hours, which I felt was just about enough.
Seattle. Disembarkation. All seven of us chose to self disembark, we left the ship at 810am and were in our A PLUS TOWN CAR by 830am, at the airport by 930am for our 1120am flight. I will walk off with my own bags all the time, every time, until I can no longer carry my own bags. It is just easier.
Food. Good. No complaints.
Service. Good. I didn't spark up a relationship with our cabin stewards, which is fine with me, we tipped them, they did their job, mostly unseen while we were out and about.
Pool. The outside pool was open and wonderfully refreshing, with next to no one using it.
Entertainment. Cheesy in the big lounge, good music in the bars. One must spend an hour in the Piano Bar one evening.
Holland America, our HAL second cruise, good value for the money, no surprises (surprises usually cost money) and a good relaxing time. My problem was trying to figure out how to unwind and which activity would be best, there are so many things to do. Good family adventure.