Our trip began with an hour wait for our airport shuttle despite their advertised claim of usually no more than a twenty minute wait. We will accept their excuse of a road closure causing the delay but it is frustrating to see over six vans pull out while you are waiting for yours. Our driver was very nice and informative. However, I would recommend other means of transportation if your time is limited.
We stayed at the Travelodge at the Space Needle. The room while a little worn was very clean and that mattered most to me. The staff were friendly and helpful, the breakfast was very good, the location was excellent, and there was a shuttle to the pier for $7 per person that arrived on time! I would stay there again.
We ate dinner at the Space Needle. We were seated promptly. The view was spectacular and the service was very good. Our meals were also fine but I had higher expectations given the prices. Our grandson's volcanic ice sundae was a big hit and every table should order one. The white chocolate macadamia bread pudding was a big disappointment- much too dry- do not order. All in all, it was a very pleasant dining experience. If cost is a factor, I would do lunch.
Our embarkation went very smoothly and we had access to our rooms immediately. We dropped off our carry ons and had an excellent Mariner members' lunch at the Vista Dining room. Then everyone split up to do their own exploring of the ship. Our luggage was in our rooms early so we could unpack before dinner.
We had adjoining cabins with our son's family. The steward opened the closure between the two balconies. The rooms had plenty of storage for the three of us including a drawer under the bed. While the rooms were nice, they are due for renovation. The sofas in both cabin were torn and their mattresses were very poor. Ours looked like a 900 pound gorilla slept in it and was unusable so our daughter slept in the loft above our bed. We changed our position and slept with heads at the opposite side so we wouldn't bump our heads on the loft and our excellent cabin steward made it up that way each morning. Our grandson's mattress was almost as bad, maybe a 500 lb.gorilla had slept there. My daughter-in-law said he slept on the very edge of the mattress. His brother slept in the loft. The loft was comfortable. Our cabin location was excellent. It was a quiet location but not far from the forward elevators. I would book this room again if there were just two of us. If renovated, I would book it as a quad. The rest of the ship was beautiful and well cared for. Most importantly, everything was clean and many precautions were taken to avoid illnesses.
Like past HAL cruises, the service everywhere was outstanding. The food in the Vista Dining Lounge was excellent with many choices. Our grandson preferred the Lido where he could get pizza. He spent dinner time with the family but ate very little. I think he probably went to the Lido afterwards for pizza and ice cream.
We only ate at the Lido once for lunch and once for snacks. When we missed our regular dinner time due to an excursion, we went to the Lido which had the same menu as the Vista but went back to the Vista's second floor for Anytime Dining because the Lido was just too crowded and noisy.
We did eat at the Pinnacle.While the service and setting were lovely, the harsh,loud music from the lounge across the way was very disturbing. Between their songs, you could faintly hear romantic piano music from the other side of the dining room. Unfortunately, that was only for about 30 seconds. Because we had read such great reviews of the Pinnacle, we were disappointed in the menu and the food. I guess our expectations were too high. The food was very good but not necessarily better than the food in the Vista Dining Lounge.
The weather on our cruise was terrific. This made our days at sea very enjoyable. The Captain and his crew did a great job,especially at Tracy Arms.
Everyone had a great time at our ports of call. In Juneau, our son and grandson did a private glacier climb and had a wonderful time. Be aware,you must be in excellent condition to do this. The two hour hike out was a killer after the hike in and the climb on the glacier. Our daughter did the helicopter/dog sled tour with a private co. with three initials starting with E. She made this reservation on the Internet and would recommend this tour. Its cost was about $60 less than the cruise lines. My daughter and grandson booked the land/dogsled tour with HAL. She said while my grandson loved the dogs, she thought the guide spoke much too long, there wasn't enough time to interact with the puppies, and the ride was way too short. She thought the tour was overpriced. Since my husband and I had already done the helicopter tour on another cruise (my very favorite tour), we took the white bus shuttle (vendor is outside of the dock) up to the glacier visitor center and walked around. Later, we met with our daughter and went shopping. Our daughter-in-law and grandson took another HAL tour which she said was much better.
Sitka is a beautiful little city. In Sitka, my son rented a private boat for wildlife viewing. The whole family went except for my daughter and me. We walked through Sitka instead. Later, she and my 13 yr. old grandson went Kayaking (HAL tour) and had a good time but she said it was strenuous.
The others went to view the totem park to the right of the ship and then did some shopping to the left of the ship. We all wish we would have had less time in Sitka and more time in Ketchikan.
In Ketchikan, most of the family went on a private fishing boat with Salty Seas with Josh as the Captain. They had a great time and got lots of salmon which they had processed and sent home. My daughter and I did HAL's Lumberjack and Bight Totem Park tour. It was fun and very informative. Ed,our driver and tour guide was very knowledgeable and shared many interesting facts with our group. I would recommend this tour. The only negative thing was that we had no time to shop and Ketchikan is the place where you want to shop. It is also the place where you better keep an eye on the clock as three people missed our ship. That is why I always booked a ship's excursion if the time is tight. They don't leave without you when you are on a ship's excursion. Our family's private fishing boat got back at 11:30 which allowed an extra hour in case something delayed them.
Our last stop was Victoria. Because our ship was delayed leaving Ketchikan (I think they waited some time for the missing passengers who I heard were seen running down the dock loaded down with shopping bags) and because of heavy fog, we did not arrive in Victoria Until 8;30 and disembarked around 8:50. All shore excursions were cancelled and they had free shuttles to take us to town and back. Victoria is a beautiful city and charming at night. However, beware of shops that take US dollars. The one shop we went to and I don't remember the name of the shop, rounded out the cost for the purchase. For example, my purchase was $9.99 but the total with tax and exchange fees was $11.14. I was giving her the exact amount. She said she didn't accept coins so the amount was $12 which I paid. The lady after me gave her four $20 bills for a $72 purchase. The cashier told her she had to charge her $75 because she didn't have change and gave her $5. Remember, I had just given her two $1 bills. Just check before you pay. Maybe the other shops did not do this. I did not buy anything else in Victoria.
We had room service the next morning which arrived promptly and disembarkation was very easy. We carried our own luggage off since our son's family's flight was early. My son used the ship's $19 per person luggage service which also included boarding passes. I had hired Metropolis Car Service (206-755-8363) to take our group to the airport. They were very prompt, the van was clean and comfortable, the driver was very professional, and the rate was great. I would highly recommend them.
I forgot to mention the HAL's kids club. My 13 year old grandson loved the Loft and had a blast. Our 11 year old thought his group was too young. I do agree that the developmental span is inappropriate. Third graders have much different interests than six and seven graders. There is a different maturity level as well. We convinced him to give it a try but he came back disgruntled because the female counselor "talked down to us and they did little kid's activities." He did hook up with some friend who he met playing ping pong and they loafed together the entire trip enjoying ping pong,the giant chess board,and the hot tub and pool. They had a great time together.
At one of the boy's father's urging, they went back to the HAL's Club for an evening activity. They again were upset because the female counselor had made fun of them and "ridiculed" them. They said the male counselor was nice but they didn't want to go back. Maybe HAL should consider making the age group 7-9 and 10-12 with the female working with the younger group and the male with the older group.
I should also mention the excellent cooking classes, the great Microsoft sponsored computer photography classes with John Roberts, and the wonderful on board religious services. Super job, Holland America!! What a wonderful cruise our family had!!!