Our family was on the June 20th Zuiderdam sailing.
Things we liked: * Embarkation was pretty good - about 20min. We boarded at 1pm and was directed to go to the Lido with everyone else. Announcement came at 1:30pm that people could go to their staterooms. * Our luggage was piled in the elevator landing of our deck with everyone else's shortly in the early afternoon. We wheeled it to our cabin ourselves. Never got our luggage so quickly before! We were unpacked long before sail-away. * Balcony cabin. This was our 8th cruise, first time with a balcony. It cost a lot more money than we're used to spending, but was worth it for Alaska. We were port side and had great views of the glaciers from the comfort of our room instead of jockeying for position up on deck with the other passengers. Plus it's so nice to be able to easily step inside our cabin to warm up or grab something - can't beat that convenience. * Our bed and linens were so comfortable. A++ to HAL. And we loved our towel animals! * Pizza. We thought HAL's was much better than RCCL and Princess. * Fresh flowers everywhere on the boat - thought these were just gorgeous. Every table in the Lido had a beautiful flowering orchid on it. * Shows - loved the illusionist and comedian. * Food - gets a passing grade in the dining room. Lido was hit/miss. Not the most memorable but definitely satisfactory. * Galley tour - a chef making marzipan animals let us walk away with a few of them. * Weather - we were rained out in Juneau but had cloudy/sunny skies for the rest of our trip which was ok with us. The forecast had been pure rain for our entire cruise so we went with very low expectations and ended up pleasantly surprised. * Alaska was beautiful. Loved sailing the inside passage and to Tracy Arm and Glacier Bay.
Things we didn't like: * Muster drill took a long time - longer than any of our other sailings. They shouted out passenger names to take attendance and we all had to wait while security went to look for people who chose not to show up. We saw security escort some people to the drill. It felt like an eternity standing there like sardines on the promenade deck in our life vests. * Our dining room servers were so slow - we had the 7:45pm seating and we missed the 9:30pm shows the first two nights. Service did not improve much after we pointed this out to the head waiter. * Cabin cleaning came late for us each day - after 12pm. We have been used to having our cabin cleaned by the time we returned from breakfast around 9:30/10am. We were greeted by another passenger's hair in our bathtub when we first moved in to our cabin and noticed ours stuck around throughout the sailing. * Balconies are just hosed down after every sailing. Glass was so grimy - I wish I had brought Windex with me. A little bit of extra effort by HAL to keep balcony glass and ship windows cleaner for Alaska viewing would go a long way. * Some areas of the ship are very tired - the lounge chairs are so beat up, many had ripped cushions with stuffing coming out. * HAL shut down the pools at 9pm and the hot tubs at 10pm. Hot tubs were often closed. After dinner swims were not an option on this boat which was very disappointing to us. * Polar bear swim was a joke - the MC just tossed some (Lido) ice cubes "from Glacier Bay" into the deck 9 aft pool - what a waste of time. * TV channel options were very few. Never watched so much of CNN in my life. * No country of origin is identified on the ID badges of the ship staff. We loved seeing where people were from on our past sailings without feeling like we were intruding by having to ask.
We did enjoy our cruise to spectacular Alaska, but while acknowledging that we chose to splurge for balcony cabins, we spent far more on this sailing than any of our other cruises so we also expected more. We are truly not fussy people but we felt the service, cleanliness and condition of this ship was not even close to what we have experienced on RCCL, Celebrity and Princess. Sure we can overlook imperfections, but there were too many on this sailing so we also will likely not sail with HAL again.
We chose this sailing due to the itinerary and we're glad we did because we saw other ships sailing in open water while we were in the inside passage, and we saw no other major cruise line while we were in Tracy Arm and in Glacier Bay. This really made the cruise for us.