This was our first cruise. We drove to Seattle, stayed overnight on a "park & sail" pkg at Red Lion. They took us to the port & picked us up after the cruise. Traffic was bad, glad we got to Seattle a day early.
We got to the port at 12:30pm, were on the ship by 12:45 just in time to hear the cabins were ready. I had filled out immigration form online, this saved quite a bit of time, and had all our other documents in hand when we got to the counter.
Our outside cabin was on deck 1 (Dolphin) between midship and the stern. Had a bath/shower combo, lots of closet space. Our steward was perfect, helpful but not intrusive. He brought wine glasses & on our anniversary brought an ice bucket & glasses for our champagne.
We had early upper seating for dinner (5:30pm). DH ordered 2 entrees just about every dinner so as to try new things. The food was good, soups were especially tasty. On our anniversary they sang to us and gave us a cake.
The Lido buffet was surprisingly good, both food and service. We had most breakfasts & lunches there, and 2 dinners. Oh, and the Dutch chocolate midnight buffet was a real treat. We had one room service breakfast which was also good and on time.
We went to 3 of the nightly shows and enjoyed them: a comedian,a magic show and a musical performance. We also liked the live music elsewhere on the ship, especially the piano & violins.
This cruise goes in open sea north to Glacier Bay. The seas were rough the first couple of days, we used both sea bands & Bonine and spent most of the first sea day napping in our room. We were very glad to be on a low deck away from the bow.
Our morning flightseeing excursion was canceled in Juneau due to rain & low clouds. DH did gold panning which he enjoyed & actually found some gold flakes. We did a Clover Pass kayak trip in Ketchikan which was disappointing - of the 3 hrs, 2 of them were getting there & back only about an hour of actual kayaking. However the Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest from Sitka was fantastic! We had the first morning trip, they picked us up at the ship and we spent 3 hrs seeing more bald eagles than we could count, including a nest with young eagles. Sea otters, more birds, jellyfish swimming by and then the whales - wow! Mostly humpbacks but one minke which they said is rare. In Sitka we also walked to the national park & on the totem pole trail.
On Glacier Bay day, we didn't get to the glaciers until about 3pm, not much to see until then. We were on the bow when we got there, it was the best place to get up close.
HAL had some extras we appreciated, such as hot chocolate at the dock in Sitka, and free espresso/cappuccino drinks at the Java Bar & Lido.
We didn't order many drinks onboard, we did fall prey to the hot chocolate + brandy in a logo mug on Glacier Bay day. It was nearly $30 for 2. We brought our own wine & champagne on board, and drank it in our room. We bought 4 liters of liquor onboard to bring home, we had to declare it for customs but they waived duty (US citizens allowed 1 liter each).
We didn't participate in many of the onboard activities, wish we had read our daily planner more carefully and done some of those.
Debarkation was smooth and quick. We were off the ship by 8am. It was nice to have time for breakfast before, and we were allowed to stay in our cabin until our number was called. There were long lines for customs & immigration since we got to Seattle same time as the Sapphire Princess but it went really fast.
Some areas we felt could use some improvement: we didn't get our final bill on debarkation day - we went to the front desk to find out why, oh they said it's because you have money coming back (we didn't spend all the credit for the canceled shore excursion). It would have been nice to know that beforehand, maybe a note on our preliminary statement. At the pre-debarkation talk they said only had to see the customs agent onboard if spent over $800, well we had to see him about our 4 liters of liquor too, and we didn't find that out until about 5 min before we needed to be there - fortunately DH had the customs form in his pocket. The port & shopping talk was 99% a commercial for Diamonds International.
We had a good time, HAL was the best choice for us - smaller ship, fewer people, with plenty of public areas and things to do. We had the best "parking place" at each port so not far to walk to stuff (except Victoria). The crew did a great job in all areas. Lots of stores were having end of season big sales, including the shops onboard.