Background Information: 35 yrs old, honeymoon cruise with husband age 36, his second cruise, my 7th. Have previously cruised HAL (Maasdam, Volendam and Zuiderdam), also NCL, Celebrity and Regent.
Summary: I guess I keep returning to HAL for the familiarity, service, price and destinations. This cruise was consistent with the other 3. Overall, I'd say the food has improved in the main dining rm. and is on par with Celebrity, which I thought was excellent when I cruised it last year. The entertainment was better also. I'm still disappointed with the nickel and diming, which Celebrity is also guilty of. I chose this cruise because I didn't want to honeymoon in a hurricane; Caribbean would have been my first choice but due to the season, opted to avoid that risk. I've heard such great things about Alaska, but honestly think its overrated as a cruise port of call. If you're an outdoor enthusiast, you have to go out of your way to experience the land. I just prefer warmer weather but I was prepared with sweaters and a poncho thanks to this site.
Travel To Port of Embarkation: yellow cab - quick and easy
Embarkation: Quick, easy and painless.
Stateroom: Suite category SY is nice and roomy. We loved the dual sink and shower in the bathroom. Bed was comfortable. Extra chairs got in the way when trying to get around in the room, so we pushed them to the corners of the room. When we first entered the room it wasn't as clean as it should have been. Drawers had hair in them, especially the drawer with the hairdryer. I wished this was in the bathroom instead. There were some hairs on the bed. The back of the sofa was dusty. I told the cabin steward, who wiped them out of the sink, but used the hairdryer to blow the hairs around the rest of the cabin and wiped down the back of the sofa. Didn't expect that. But from that point on, the room was spotless so I guess pointing it out to him was a good idea.
Service: The HAL crew is still as good as my first HAL cruise in 2000. Cabin, front desk, dining was all good.
Liquor: The mixed drinks were good, red wine needs to either be stored better or get better brands. Blech!
Activities: still a nice variety of onboard activities, my preference being bingo, karaoke, afternoon tea, etc. Hubby went to the gym twice and had no complaints. The Mariners society reception was replaced with a nice brunch which we enjoyed.
Spa: we got on early enough the first day to get a nice tour of the spa. We bought the $250 unlimited couples access to the hydrapool and thermal suite for the week. Worth it for us. We went every day but the last day. Nice and relaxing, which was what we needed after planning a wedding for half a year.
Shore Excursions: Glacier bay was just standing around looking at ice melt. It was nice but after a while...hmmm. A nice touch was serving bean soup in little cups on the upper deck while we took pictures and talked with the park ranger and others.
Juneau: Unfortunately, our weather was 49 degrees and rain that day. We took the tramway up to the souvenir shop, saw a quick film about AK and then saw the rescued bald eagle was nice to see. We took pictures (no flash). Tram'd back down, went in a few shops. Very touristy. How many jewelry shops do they need there?
Sitka: Nice, not as touristy as Juneau. Went to the Russian museum and the Sheldon Jackson museum within walking distance. Bought some handmade soaps.
Ketchikan: Touristy as Juneau, went to the visitor center/museum.
Victoria, Canada: Docked at 7pm, had to choose between doing an excursion or having dinner. Chose dinner. This was an oddly timed stop.
Entertainment: illusionist/comedian Leo Ward was entertaining. Tried the usual welcome show but got bored quickly and went to the Crow's nest. The Moonlight Strings are excellent, I've never heard such good musicians on a cruise. The piano bar was good too.
Disembarkation: No complaints, were off within 30 min and made it to the airport on time.
Dining: I was concerned about the open dining I was assigned, that we would miss out on the personalized touch that you get with the same server for a week. But the open dining was handled well and we never had to wait long for dinner, servers were still attentive. At first I wasn't thrilled with having to call and make a reservation. Being our honeymoon, we preferred to have a table for 2 most of the time. The first night we didn't make a reservation and ended up at a table of 8 after getting a pager like the ones at TGI Fridays (it buzzed after 15 min). Luckily they were delightful people. I was also afraid of sitting with others who started political discussions. Thankfully, a couple of other times we dined with other couples, they were also delightful and we had a nice time. We dined at Pinnacle twice. The first time the food was better than the second, but the back room's atmosphere was ruined for the couples when a large table of 15 filled up. Bad layout for that back room! Room service wasn't that good, tried it on the second day and stuff was missing, coffee was terrible. Went Lido for breakfast from that point on. Lido was understandably crowded all cruise due to the weather. Food was good but it was tough to find a seat at peak times. Other than that I liked the food and variety, though I must say that the sushi on Celebrity was better. The chocolate extravaganza was kinda lame. There was no chocolate cheesecake!
Only complaints about HAL is the nickel and diming. They shouldn't be charging for bottled water and soda. I might have to save up for another Regent cruise for that. Alaska was ok but I'm not rushing back there on my next cruise. HAL is still a good reliable cruise.