Background: There were twelve in our group. Ages 7-80+. I have been on two other cruises and my Mom and Aunt have been on several. This was the first for everyone else.
Embarkation: Embarkation went great, it took about ten minutes. Coordinating twelve people was a challenge; however everyone eventually made it on board with ease.
Public Rooms, Cabin: All were exceptional, the best I've ever seen. I was upgraded to D1089 from a GUAR HH. I was very happy with my cabin. It was spacious, clean, quiet, had a gorgeous view, and it was in a perfect location.
Recreation/Fitness: I took part in every sports challenge except for Ping Pong which I was disappointed to miss while I was in Juneau. They were fun, although challenging in 40 mph winds. The trivia/song/TV challenges were fun and we also participated in most of them, as well.
Dining: Since I booked ten of us and two others were booked separately, we had separate dining times. HAL was able to seat us together by giving us a two person table adjacent to the ten person table we were assigned to. This allowed us all to dine together. All and all, the dining was great. We celebrated my mom and her twin brother's birthdays during one of our lunches. My request was initially denied by the steward, stating that we could do it for dinner, however after I told him that we would not be dining together that night, he obliged and they provided two beautiful cakes as well as singing for them. No one could complain about the food as it was always delicious. Four of us opted for the Pinnacle Grill for dinner on Victoria night. It was a nice experience, I especially enjoyed the amuse bouche and the chocolates that were brought with coffee. The volcano cake was incredible. Walter was our wine steward—definitely an asset to HAL. Even though only a couple of people in our group ordered regularly form him, he did some type of magic trick or paper napkin creation at our table every night for the kids. He did a reveal of his tricks on the last night.
Entertainment: Anyone on the ship who went to the illusionist show or the singing competition knows about my brother, Patrick. He and his sons were all called up on stage or talked about during the shows. This really made the cruise for our group. Patrick and the kids soon became celebrities and were flagged down in every port by tons of passengers who "knew" them. Even several members of the crew commented about them and always wondered where they were.
Service: Everyone and I mean everyone was fantastic. The only complaint would be about Club HAL, the kids program. This was a joke. I must state that there were only a total of 17 children on the ship, and only two others in the age ranges of my nephews. There were several activities planned for them that never took place. A few were roasting marshmallows (they had no marshmallows,) a bear hunt (there were not enough kids,) and some art project (not enough supplies.) HAL tried to make up for it by sending a wrapped package with two stuffed singing bears (actually quite cute) which the kids were thrilled to receive, along with a letter of apology. While this was a sincere gesture it was still difficult to tell kids that they are going to do a certain activity after behaving exceptionally to later be told that it wasn't going to happen and their only option is to swim or play video games.
Ports: Glacier Bay was cloudy with a light mist, probably low 50's.
Juneau was raining on and off, probably low 50's. We saw one little black bear at Mendenhall Glacier. One big tip would be to go to Mendenhall Glacier in the afternoon. The visitor center was so crowded in the morning, we decided to come back later and were looking for the occupancy signs on our way out, there were waaaaay to many people in there.
Sitka was sunny, felt like mid 60's. Great deals were found on Alaska gifts. Boxes of smoked salmon that were marked down to $5.00 in Alaska were $30.00 in Victoria
Ketchikan was actually hot, most had on short sleeves and some wished they had worn shorts. A glorious day and all the residents were outside enjoying the day, felt like low to mid 70's. The zip line was fun. Four people were left behind as they missed the ship. Their only option was to fly to Victoria expensive mistake.
Victoria was clear and only a light sweatshirt was needed. Unless you are travelling with folks who are unable to make the trip, don't waste money on a cab or shuttle bus to town, it only takes fifteen minutes to walk.
Seattle was hot, low to mid 80's.
On board, I wore shorts or pants and a light sweatshirt. Formal nights included a few tuxes including my 7 and 9 year old nephews who were complemented numerous times about their attire and behavior.
I did bring too many fleece jackets. One or two would have been sufficient. I used my hat and gloves in Glacier Bay and in Juneau, waiting for the city bus. I never used my travel coffee mug, but others in my group used them daily.
All and all, everyone had a blast and were are currently planning our next HAL cruise.