This was our first cruise and we choose it because we wanted to see Alaska. After researching the different cruise lines we choose HAL because of traveller reviews and because it went to Glacier Bay. We also wanted a real looking ship and not a floating hotel.
We didn't know what to expect as it was our first cruise and we weren't sure that we would be 'cruise people'. However we were won over the minute we stepped aboard. The cruise company went out of its way to make people feel welcome and everybody was so friendly and helpful. Every little detail seemed to have been thought of from the supply of bottle water and fruit to the cabin to the strict hygiene procedures onboard. The service staff are mostly Indonesian and were always smiling and helpful and very efficient. The staff work extremely long hours and I would imagine that their pay is quite low but my impression is that HAL do treat them better than many cruise lines. I certainly didn't begrudge the $11.50 daily automatic gratuity that the cruise line charged each passenger.
We had a outside stateroom on the Dolphin deck. We choose this particular cabin as it was midships which we were told was less likely to be affected by the ships motion or by engine noise. We certainly had no problems although we never encountered rough seas so it wasn't a big test of our choice. The cabin was fine with comfortable beds and decent size bathroom. There was plenty of storage space and the air conditioning worked well (although not sure what it would be like if the weather was really hot). The only thing missing was a kettle so we could make a cup of tea first thing in the morning. But that is because we are English!
One of the nice things about this ship was the fact that it was classless and if you paid more all that you got extra was a better cabin. All passengers could go to any restaurant as long as they wore smart clothes in the main restaurant for the formal nights. We tended to go to the self-service Lido restaurant for breakfast and lunch and the main dining room for dinner. The food in both these restaurants was amazing not just in the quality but in the quantity. In the main restaurant the food and the service was definitely 5-star. There was no pressure to buy the expensive wine and in fact many people seemed to be just drinking water. The only issue we had with the main dining room was that when we booked a table each night we were only given a choice of 5.30 or 8 pm. We normally prefer to sit down around 7 as 8 is a bit late and 5.30 too early. On reflection what we could have done is not book but turn up at the time we wanted.
There were lots to do on the ship and we never got bored. The formal evening entertainment was what we expected -- a bit upmarket Butlins! However generally it was of good quality and worth spending an hour before retiring to one of several bars where musical entertainment was provided. For those who like going to classes there was a good choice during the day. There was also a good sized gym with amazing views. There was a couple of heated pools but they weren't used much on this trip mainly due to the cool weather (it was the last sailing in September).
The shore excursions were expensive and we only went on one which was a whale watching one. This was an excellent trip and we saw many whales and other wildlife. However I believe that many 'seasoned' travellers book trips on arrival at a port which are considerably cheaper. Apart from Skagway we weren't that impressed with the ports we stopped at.However the main reason for going on this cruise was the amazing scenery. We werent disappointed although the fog spoilt things to some extent.The icing on the cake was the cruise into Glacier Bay. The captain took us close into John Hudson glacier which was simply incredible. We have hundreds of pictures but no picture can do justice to the sights and sounds of the glacier calving.
All in all a wonderful trip and we are now thinking of what other cruise to go on with Holland America!