This cruise was planned as an opportunity for my 30 year old daughter and I to enjoy a week together. The cruise was booked in Feb. 2009 for the earliest she would be available to go as she is a middle school teacher. I have used HA before to book and have nothing but good to say about that with HA matching any price offered by any online or independent travel agency. We got an unmentionably low price. One thing I don't like about HA is that you have to prepay your excursions at the time of reservation, unlike Princess and others.
We flew into Vancouver the evening before departure and found getting through customs there was quick and painless. We'd read horror stories about the process on day of departure and decided to avoid that. A cab ride into the city was CAD$35 including generous tip. We stayed at the Marriott Pinnacle and had a lovely room there. The buffet breakfast was rather expensive though at CAD$56 for 2. The city itself is beautiful, clean and safe feeling. Wish we'd had more time there as many others plan. We easily walked the short 1/2 mile, luggage in tow, to Canada Place for boarding at around noon. The process seemed a bit confusing with luggage dropoff, but once we figured out where to do so, after figuring out we had to enter the parking garage to get to boarding, everything from there was easy and short. No customs issues, no HA issues, quick and simple. I think it pays to be a bit ahead of all the HA arranged airport transfers.
The ship and crew were ready and waiting for us. Our cabin was upgraded to L500 from one of the A deck inside cabins. We found it very roomy with plenty of storage. The TV and video system seems to leave lots to be desired on all HA boats, but I'm not cruising to watch TV, so it basically stayed off the entire cruise.
Service onboard this rather tired looking ship was excellent throughout. We never felt hurried, left-out, neglected or uncared for the entire time. One issue that cropped up on the second or third day was the dreaded virus. This was handled by the ship quickly and efficiently though. Apparently the virus was going through the crew and never seemed to get to us passengers, although it meant that passengers couldn't handle any food or drinks at the buffet, including no salt/pepper shakers anyplace onboard. All crew from the engine room to the bands manned stations in the buffet, which itself was wrapped in plastic wrap, and other food lines, and all cheerily built salads and drinks to order for the remainder of the cruise. We aren't night-life creatures, so we didn't see any shows or movies or spend time in the casino, preferring to spend our evenings on the deck sightseeing or walking the promenade or reading in the library. I found the Microsoft classes crowded but very basic in nature, geared towards those who have never plugged a peripheral device into a computer.
We chose to rent a very expensive car in Seward for the drive to Anchorage, but I'm glad we did. There are so many places to stop and shop, eat, explore and simply stand in awe of along the highway. On the even more expensive train or bus we wouldn't have stopped for brown bears, glaciers, icebergs, campground scouting, lunch, wildlife refuge touring, mating bald eagles and everything else we had at our leisure to enjoy. We arrived in Anchorage several hours later happily exhausted from everything we were able to enjoy on our own. We stayed at the Fairfield Inn closest to the airport and had a great last evening together, leaving Anchorage the next day (again, would loved to spend additional time here, but daughter's time was limited.)