Food: The buffet generally was quite good. One night, prime rib was served and it surpassed any that I've had in recent years -- not to be missed! Salad offerings were always wonderful. Main dishes were sometimes so-so. Breakfast buffets have to work at being bad so, of course, we always enjoyed breakfast -- many choices. My husband ate smoked salmon every morning and loved it. Desserts were over the top and they always had great ice cream.
We ate in the dining room for lunch one day and thought it horrible -- never went back. But, we met some good friends there at a group table and enjoyed their company for days afterward. We also tried the Italian restaurant and found the dishes highly salted -- never went back. We never tried the Pinnacle Restaurant that charged an extra fee.
We found it troublesome that formal nights provided some higher quality food where formal attire was required. We did not take formal wear with us.
Activities: We played Bingo, got into a slot machine tournament, and attended shows. The game Bingo is always fun and had very good winnings but the Cruise Director really got on our nerves. Slot machine tournament and gambling is enjoyable before the smokers take over. The shows and musicians were unbelievable -- wonderful music and technically skilled stage productions. A classical quartet from Australia kept us well entertained in the late evening. We encountered other musicians around the boat on occasion who were also quite good.
Many spa options are available though they are particularly spendy. They were 20% cheaper at port but still expensive. They sell them as though they expect to solidly book throughout the cruise -- but, when I had to cancel a massage because I became ill with a cold, they immediately asked if I wanted to re-book.
Other amenities: We were not provided with a promised discount booklet to use on board. Our cruise was booked through Alaska Airlines. Holland America refused to honor the agreement. Strange in this day and age, I'd say.
Shore excursions: The stops along the Inside Passage are just wonderful but tours booked through the cruise can run 30% more than booking at a Visitor Center on site. We chose to use the City Bus where we could access places to see. We found that it doesn't hurt to wheel and deal a little at the various kiosks, though, if you choose a tour. Walking around the towns is fun. Doing a little research in advance will save you and get you to the local interests. It's always fun to shop in these coastal towns but try to buy local if you can. If you get to Skagway, you may be filling corporate pockets -- that's not a reason to miss Skagway, however!
Other: Generally, we enjoyed the cruise but found the amenities were not always on track. The only thing that was consistent was the entertainment -- absolutely wonderful! We overheard many complaints about the ship (bathrooms, heat, services, etc) but shared great conversations with people who had nothing bad to say at all. We had a particular aversion to the Cruise Director but found many of the staff interesting and enjoyable. By the way, most of the staff are not American so communication can be challenging.