We picked up the Statendam in Seward after a week in the interior (independent travel). Our B&B host (Walk About) dropped us at the rail station early in the morning. As we were standing in line to check-in, HAL people walked up and asked us if we were on the Statendam. When we answered "yes" they took our bags to a separate area and told us we would see our bags in our room. We didn't expect this since we were not on a cruise-tour with HAL. What a pleasant surprise, we just went in doors and got our tickets.
The train ride to Seward was very pleasant. The guide pointed out animals and points of interest along the way. We even saw some Beluga whales in Turn Again Arm - a first for us. When we got off the train, we found Major Marine for their tour. By this time it was starting to get drippy but we took off anyway. The gray clouds were very low so although we saw anything in the water (sea otters, humpback) or immediately on the shore (seals, eagle) we didn't get to see the mountains. By the time we got to the glacier, the weather was getting pretty bad (rain, wind, cold), so most people didn't go out of the main cabin. Going back was very rough (they wouldn't have sailed if it had been this way earlier). Several people were getting seasick which kept the staff busy. They did a great job cleaning up after those who got sick. When we got back, a bus took us to the Statendam. We had to make a pit stop but a bus was still there for transport.
Boarding for the Statendam was OK. On previous cruises we've boarded from major cities, not a small town. I guess they were as well organized as possible since most everyone got to Seward by bus or train, arriving about the same time. Our stateroom was ready when we got on so we settled in after living out of a suitcase for over a week. It's nice that we don't need to take our life vests to muster before we sailed.
Our first day was a bit rough, but we were going through the Gulf of Alaska with unprotected waters. It was quite chilly, gray with rain at times. Good day to explore the ship. Weather improved for the rest of the trip allowing us to see Glacier Bay. Didn't see many animals but heard others say they saw whale, bear and seal. While parked in front of Marjorie Glacier got great pictures of ice calving.
In Haines we went on the ship's excursion Alaskan Wildlife Tour. Steve is amazing with the animals. We had seen him on TV before so were anxious to see Banff and/or Jasper, the wolverines. Steve was able to hug and kiss these normally vicious animals. I got to feed a banana to a moose and willow to reindeer. After that tour we took a bear watch (privately booked, just 2 of us). We did see a brown bear near the river as well as salmon swimming upstream. Later our guide took us to see a bald eagle's nest (with all 3 in the nest).
In Juneau our private tour never showed (Corey Mann/Stories & Legends). So we asked one of the vendors at the end of the pier if there was something we could do and still be back in time for our scheduled salmon bake. We ended up on Last Chance Tours for a city and Mendenhall Glacier tour. The glacier has really retreated since I had been in Juneau 28 years ago. The Gold Creek Salmon Bake was just as good as I remembered. If you don't like a sweet sauce for your salmon, you might want to try a different on.
On our last port call, we were supposed to take the Adventure Kart trip (privately booked with 2-4-1 coupon). This was the same tour that HAL had listed as one of their tours. I guess everyone on the ship decided it was too pricey because we were the only two to book it. Too bad they didn't let us know until we got to the pier and asked around for it that they canceled it. We had an afternoon tour booked and most of the other tours had departed so we asked one of the vendors (Jimmy) if he had anything that would get us back in time for our 2nd tour. He made a phone call to Ketchikan Site Seeing. Amber & Vicky picked us up for a two hour sea cycle tour. These are two women just starting up to do tours and were willing to do very last minute tour for just us. It is like sea kayaking only you don't sit with your legs straight out. You pedal like a paddle boat. We saw eagles, a black bear and seals. It was a beautiful day - sunny and about 62. Think I even got some sun on my face. Our afternoon tour (booked privately) was a nature/city tour. This also turned out to be just the guide/owner (Rita) and the two of us.
The rest of the trip to Vancouver had clear skies and calm seas. Very nice.
Entertainment on board: we missed the first night. First comedian was quite good (impressions). We enjoyed the Broadway night with the regular dancers and singers (and special male singer). The second comedian (ventriloquist) was also entertaining. We also showed up the last night when everyone performed.
Food: We had sailed HAL previously but it had been a couple of years. In between we did Princess and Oceania, so my memory is a bit rusty. But I think HAL has dropped just a notch. Their cold soups are still great, but some of the meals seemed salty to me. This is not to say the food wasn't good, just not as good as I remembered it. It would not be a reason to sail or not sail on HAL in the future.
The staff was good although we didn't require extra attention except to bring us two wine glasses. We soon learned to hide them after use because they didn't replace them, they just took them. Beds are still good.
Yes, we will most likely sail HAL again.