Both security and check in were accomplished quickly and efficiently. We were able to board at 11:30 and our rooms were ready by then. We dropped our bags and headed out for lunch. Unfortunately the Mariners' lunch was over in the dining room and it was being used for some visiting travel agents but the Lido was open and not crowded.
The first 48 hours our food was served to us in the Lido. This was managed quite well and we never encountered any lines or any problems, neither then nor once we were able to serve ourselves.
The mandatory safety drill went off without a hitch. We waited until about 5:20 pm before we left because some people were delayed boarding. They must have had HAL flights. Our sail away was smooth and the sun was shining in Seattle. The sun then went away and did not reappear until we were leaving Tracy Arm. The fog followed us every morning, however. We had mostly cool, cloudy weather for the whole trip, luckily no rain except for a brief shower in Homer.
The crew is as friendly as HAL crews always are. Our stateroom attendants (1841, Dolphin Deck) are Aris and Tedi and they are doing a great job, although I do believe they have more staterooms than normal. Just one of the cutbacks.
The Cruise Critic meet and greet was well attended and we have seen each other around the ship and in port. It was great fun meeting the people that have been conversing on the roll call. The Cruise Director, Michael Harvey, a Canadian from Saskatchewan, was there for most of the time. The Hotel Manager, Henk Mensink, came by briefly, as well as another officer. The question posed to the Hotel Manager was why HAL was dropping the 14 day cruises and the honest answer from him was that it was financial -- the 7 day cruises earn them more money. I hope they arrange the 7 day cruises so that some of the ports visited on the 14 day cruise continue to be on the itinerary. This was my first time arranging a meet and greet and I was very satisfied with what Holland America did to accommodate us. I hope to be able to arrange more meet and greets on other cruises with HAL.
Amsterdam Singers and Dancers -- Day 2, Dancing Under the Stars was well done.
The Neptunes -- Jazz trio, not bad.
Piano Bar -- Roy Kassel
Kat and the HALcats -- not bad
Jeff Tracta -- comedy, singing and impressions, OK
Guitarist -- Inbar
We did not go to most shows, just a matter of choice, but we did listen to all the performers at one time or another.
Filipino crew show was well done as was the Indonesian crew show.
Food : always subjective. We were very happy with the choices -- good variety. The presentation is also excellent. The wine steward has appeared every night and even though we didn't order wine, he was quite friendly and kept appearing (Erwin). The new vegetarian menu which HAL emailed about has not started yet but there were enough choices on the current vegetarian menu and the daily menu to satisfy my BIL.
We had ordered a bottle of whisky as an indulgance and it was in our stateroom when we arrived. And yes, the bottles are one liter sizes and actually an excellent value for Canadians considering our booze prices at home.
Formal nights were Day 1 Sea Day, Day 5 Icy Strait Point, Day 9 Kodiak, Day 12 Sea Day. The rest were smart casual. Day 11, Sitka, was the International Dinner. The menu was interesting but we ate in the Pinnacle Grill that night to celebrate DH's birthday. Our waiters in the dining room were very attentive and remembered our desires after the first night. They had olive oil for dipping waiting for my BIL and water,no ice, for my SIL.
We bought no ship excursions so I cannot comment on any of them. In Juneau we took the Blue Bus out to the Mendenhall and that worked well for us. It is $16 round trip per person and we boarded and disembarked right at the ship. All the rest of the ports we simply walked around and visited various sites in town.
Wifi -- Free wifi with purchase at Ketchikan Charter boats right out front of the ship. Fairly fast and the coffee wasn't bad.
Free at the Juneau Public Library, after 11 am. It was slow once more people showed up to use it but it served my purposes well. I wrote my blog page every night and only posted when I was able to access free or reasonably priced wifi.
Wifi at the Starbucks near the Egan Center was very fast for the price of a coffee.
Wifi at McDonalds in Kodiak would have been good if they had not been down. McDonalds is easy to find, about 1.5 miles from the ship on level ground.
Sitka had free wifi all over town, courtesy of Radio Shack but the best place for access was in the library since it was also warm.
Next time I will purchase an internet package. I did all my blog pages offline and would not have needed too many minutes just to post them even at the slow speed on the ship.
General -- We enjoyed Icy Strait Point immensely. The display in the old cannery was well done, the shops had some unique Made in Alaska gifts and the people were very friendly. If you come here in the next couple of weeks, make sure you check out the native carving project. It is taking place in the grey metal building across the street from the Presbyterian church and the town shuttle drop and pick up area. It is not well marked but very worthwhile looking for. The carvers are working on a screen, house poles and totem poles for the tribal house to be placed at the entrance to Glacier Bay. The screen is pretty much finished and the house poles are being worked on. You can check out the website, too, on Facebook. Search for Glacier Bay National Park Tribal House project. The presentation was well thought out and very informative and when it was finished, the two carvers and a tour guide did the dance that will be used when the house screen is dedicated at Glacier Bay.
My least favorite port was Kodiak -- this would be a port for a tour. The ship is in on a Sunday and not much is doing. We did visit the Russian Orthodox church. Kodiak did have a free shuttle into town, on a school bus, but I am not sure were the drop and pick up points were.
The Mariners' Lunch was done in stages. My SIL and BIL who are two star mariners went for 11 am on the 22nd and we, who are one star, were invited for 1 pm on the same day, (last sea day). We enjoyed ourselves and met 3 other couples who were also having a great cruise.
The Yum Yum man has been available every night after dinner. In fact, if you dine on Deck 4 and Victor is the Yum Yum man, say hi to him from Madame Eva!! He will love it. He has taken us under his wing at breakfast and knows, not only our names, but also what we eat and drink.
As another cost cutting measure, the port pages that have been traditionally passed out at the gangway or left in the room each evening have been consolidated into an Explorer book that is in each cabin. The front page lists the ports and the dress for each evening and then each port has at least one page devoted to it. I actually like this much better since you can plan ahead a port or two. I am sure this saves them a lot of paper and ink. We did get a page for Icy Strait, but I think they must have had some stock left for that since it was the only port where we got a separate page. This is a win for all, as far as I am concerned.
On the second last day, one section of the ship had problems with the toilets -- some pipes in the bowels (pardon the pun) of the ship started leaking. Captain Mercer acknowledge the issue in his noon message, explained what was going on and approximately when the staff expected the issue to be resolved. This was a bold move and from what I could tell, well received. Always better to know than to guess. Those cabins that were affected for several hours were sent a bottle of wine for their troubles. I nice gesture, I thought. In general, though, there were no issues with toilets or with air conditioning or heat, which we actually needed more than air!! Alaska after all!!
We had an excellent cruise as did my SIL and BIL and those of our meet and greet that I met around the ship. I am already looking forward to the next time I can be on a Holland America ship.