For longer than I can recall, I've wanted to honor a long time friend. So for his 79th birthday, I invited him to sail to Alaska. Wanting to celebrate the birthday while on board, I looked at the last weekend in July for a departure. There were several from the west coast, I began the search back in late December 2012 and was close to booking on Norwegian when I read a review here on Cruise Critic with the headline saying something like "I would NEVER go on HAL". In reading this I learned that it was due to his being s student as was his sister. This lead me to an understanding of a mature cruisers oriented ship. Called HAL and began to build the journey.
Choose the Oosterdam leaving on a 7 day Seattle round trip on July 28th. I originally booked a veranda cabin (5032). Two months out, the price for a SS category superior suite dropped to what I'd paid, when I called about this, I was immediately offered the upgrade, the final room assignment wasn't set until two weeks before departure.
It was a big special weekend in Seattle so the hotel prices were up there for the night before stay. HAL suggested I stay at the Sheraton which was convenient ad the room was standard.
The next morning we took a cab to the pier, bags were given to a porter, lots of hellos and smiles, ship card given and id photo taken, brief wait for those having their formal photos, and then on board. From hotel to pier to cabin (which was ready) took about 45 minutes.
Cabin was clean with lots of space. We went to lunch in the Lido which was already really full with folks who either regular cruisers or folks waiting for their cabins. As expected, there were lots of options.
To summarize the next week on board, we had sunshine every day, no rain, temperature in the high 60s. Alaska was magnificent. Ships crew went out of their way to be helpful,We had room service breakfast most mornings which was delivered on time each day, once there was no salt or pepper - but that's the only flaw.
Had two lunches in the Main Dining room, food was good to very good. Enjoyed the mixed seating. Dinners were either in the Pinnacle or Canaletto. Pinnacle food was superb, though the "special"Le Cirque night was a bit over rated. Great wine steward, Ronald, who made excellent suggestions. Ani and Ricky were the stewards and took great care of use remembering preferences, names, etc. neCanaletto was fun and the Italian food was spot on. Alex and Ian made sure that everything was right.
The stateroom ninjas kept the cabin spotless and checked regularly if we needed/wanted anything.
Cruising was smooth.
Negatives: the showroom entertainment was bland or tacky. The HAL Cats band was
fun, the classical piano and violin duo was excellent though the violinist tended to look bored. Piano bar was always crowded and was usually fun.
The fitness center is less than exciting and always seemed disorganized. The only fresh equipment were the treadmills which would have had a great view of the ocean except for the televisions stuck on top blocking the view. Limited weights which were always disorganized. Staff was too busy selling classes to help adjust a weight bench.
So two complaints, lots of praise
I chose the option to have my bags picked up and send directly to my final destination (SFO). It made disembarkation very smooth, I was at the airport and through the HAL expedited security in less than an hour. When I got to SFO my bag was the fifth one shot out of the conveyor.
Great trip, relaxing, five pound weight gain, fantastic views and lots of whales. Looking forward to my next HAL trip.