Zaandam's 7 Day Glacier Discovery out of Vancouver made for a great introduction to Alaska. We took advantage of both the Misty Fjords float plane and Mead Glacier helicopter excursions. They exceeded our expectations...worth every penny! Glacier Bay, specifically the John Hopkins Glacier, was a fantastic site to see. The early September sailing date allowed the captain to sail very close to the glacier since the harbor seal cub rearing season had expired. The pea soup was excellent followed by al-fresco dinning on the rear-Lido deck with food from the salmon bake. Great food and beautiful scenery...we were spoiled.
Having sailed Holland America before, we found food quality up a bit from the generally very good offerings. On the first night we ate at the Pinnacle. I had a tender porterhouse so big it barely fit on the large oversized plate they served it on. Being one of only 3 or 4 couples in on this first night at the Pinnacle, service was outstanding and we were sent-off with a small ad hoc aluminum foil basket of assorted chocolates to finish in our cabin. We've done both Pinnacle and Le Cirque and these specialty dining experiences always leave me feeling like I get more than my money's worth for the upgraded dining experience.
We like to relax and enjoy the sit-down breakfasts, lunches and dinners and generally skip Lido buffet dinning. Here again, service was generally excellent with one minor lapse on a breakfast that forgot to include the "whipped butter" with the pancakes. That was quickly corrected by the next day's breakfast. Cappuccino is now charged for, but I found the coffee flavor much improved over past offerings when it was included in the price. For me, it was worth it at less than $2 per cup.
Room service was used for appetizers before dinner and afternoon snacks. The grilled chicken sandwich was really good with juicy slices of avocado. The assorted cheeses had nice variety, but they could include a slightly higher quality cracker in place of the saltines...minor point. The smoked salmon appertizer was just right with generous amounts of capers.
The shipped never felt crowded, and the Adagio (classical) and Neptunes (jazz) musicians were top notch...made for very enjoyable, relaxing after dinner entertainment. These venues were never crowded.
We took the train up to Anchorage which offered great scenery. HAL definetely knows how to do Alaska. Next time, we'll add the excursions up to Denali and will probably cruise south-bound enjoying the great food and service.
If sailing out of Vancouver, I would recommend coming in a few days early. Vancouver is one of North America's most beautiful cities. Take a day trip to Vancouver Island and visit Victoria and Butchart Gardens.