My husband and I traveled HAL on the Volendam to Alaska with our 4 kids as part of an extended family celebration of my dad's retirement. Here is how I will remember my experience: of our 2 staterooms on deck 2, both always smelled like a port-a-potty and at least one toilet was clogged every day and required a call to the plumber by our steward. My husband says that almost all the men's public restrooms smelled of urine and in general there often were stalls out of service (leaving me to run down half the ship with my 4 year old to make it to the potty in time). The interior of the ship is dated and really needs a makeover. The chld care staff were very nice, very welcoming to our kids and the kids loved the kids club, Club HAL (when it was open) . That said, sometimes it seemed that just when you dropped off the kids it was time to pick them up because the open hours are fairly limited. Overall, the cruise caters to older passengers and definitely not to kids-- not really even to 30-somethings. For example, we wanted to participate in a marriage game show and they only invited up 3 couples: a newlywed couple (the couple was on their 2nd marriage and in their 40s or 50s) and 2 couples who had been married for 30+ years. I tried to get chosen (from the front row) as an 8 year married couple but they ignored me. Also, dinners take 2-3 hours so if you have your kids in childcare you should have dinner with them at 5 instead of 8 so you can drop them of from 7-10 (or later for a fee) in order to get grown-up time.
The cruise is not exciting for kids really at all-- both because the cruise line caters to older passengers (ie. 50 plus) and because the excursions are for older kids and the ones that sound really fun often exclude kids under 8 or 12. It was so hard to keep our kids entertained when the child center was closed. My kids (ages 9, 7, 5 and 4) wanted to be in the pool and didn't really understand the excitement of seeing a dorsal fin 300 yards away on the rare occasion that we saw a whale; you cannot whale-watch and also watch your kids in the pool. Besides, the pool is only fun for kids because no matter how warm the water is, the air is cold!
As for excursions, the whale-watching in Juneau was good for adults and OK for kids over 5 (once you get over the fear that they'll fall in). The train in Skagway was fun for all but the 4 year old who slept through it. Not much to do with young kids in Ketchikan.
Also, my daughter and I require a gluten-free diet and we sometimes ran into problems with this depending on the waiter. Waiters sometimes seemed bothered by our request for GF foods. The breakfast "waffles" were partially toasted toaster waffles. Also, we had to order our dining room dinners 24 hours in advance which was a bit of a nuisance (on NCL I have previously been treated like a princess with a gluten sensitivity and they gladly made almost anything gluten-free on the spot--which was incredible). On the Lido deck buffet line one of the sandwich makers was so sweet and knew all about the gluten free bread while another sandwich maker knew nothing about it and on 2 occasions told me that I was unable to have gluten free bread rather than ask other staff where to find it. One day I finally insisted he find it when my daughter needed to eat and he (slowly) found the other sandwich maker who gladly found the bread for us.
My husband and I would love to cruise again as I have really enjoyed my experiences on NCL and my husband has enjoyed Royal Caribbean. I would definitely discourage anyone from taking kids under 12 on an Alaskan cruise and would also discourage anyone with kids (or trouble with the port-a-potty smell) from choosing HAL. If I could do it all over again we'd do a Disney cruise to somewhere other than Alaska.
Took out a boat with a crew of 2 and we had a nice time, saw several whales within reasonable distance. Boat was scary with kids but overall this was a nice excursion. Tourist trap town but Tracy's crab shack was great!
Not Not much to do besides watch salmon jump. Our family members say they saw sea lions. The town was another tourist trap but cute.
Excellent on a beautiful day. My favorite excursion. The town was cute but like all the rest was very shopping-oriented, a tourist trap.