We had so much fun! Although not the 100,000+ ton size and not the newest, this ship packed in excellence all the way. Now we know why it was rated the highest of the several HAL ships going to Alaska. What a difference an excellent Hotel Manager and Cruise Director makes.
The staff went out of their way to do extra special things for us, such as bringing an extra chair for our veranda.
The music and shows were top notch. Every night we cycled between dancing to the HAL Cats (top tunes from all the recent decades) in the Crows Nest lounge, and to the Neptunes (30/40s songbooks) in the Ocean Lounge. The "Northern Lights" and "Roadhouse" stage productions were the best choreography, singing, and cleverness ever--and well executed by very gifted professionals. Both the magician and the comedian had extensive resumes and well-worth attending--definitely not 'B class.'
The food menus were extensive, and well-prepared/presented. Instead of shifting special foods to the extra cost restaurants like some ships, they've retained some in the main dining room, such as the traditional escargot.
Little extras made this ship stand out. (1) In the suite, each person had 3 pillows, with 3 different levels of hardness/softness--literally nice touch! (2) We each had personalized stationary in the stateroom. (3) The chef came to each table in the dining room to check the quality of the food. (4) The 'customer service' desk called us every day to find out if we needed anything. (5) You could wait for disembarkation in your room [most cruise lines require you to wait in a public area].
The professional photographers were excellent (we bought all the photos), but alas, still VERY pricey.
Since this was our 4th Alaska cruise, we didn't do any excursions this time (we did the spa package instead), but recommend the dog sled and the Skagway train excursions. The national parks gold rush museum in Skagway is interesting, and the Totem museum in Ketchikan (both within easy walking distance of the ship).
Some tips: (a) if you have several electrical devices, bring a power strip; the room only has one, one-hole electrical outlet; (b) both Skagway and Ketchikan now carry very extensive amber jewelry [haven't seen this good since the Europe Baltic cruise]; (c) there are good 'midnight rations' (food) on the Lido, but only from 10:30 to 11:30pm (after that the ship completely wraps up for the night).
The 'easy off' independent disembarkation was great!
We don't like repeating ships, but this ship we will go on again.
The town is pretty much just a government capital town.
This was 4th Alaska cruise, so no excursion (we did $175 thermal spa package instead [well worth it]). However, recommend touring the 'red light' historical district [next to dock] then walk up the road that follows the river and go to the totem museum. Very good museum.
The national park 'gold rush' museum is worth a visit, and free. Easy walk of dock. Lots of very good amber, good prices too. The railroad trip to the gold rush fields is well worth it. Tip: the new library has free WiFi, but doesn't until 1pm on weekends. If you sit by the front door you can pick up a moderate signal, however.