1. I grossly overestimated the amount of baggage we needed. We must have looked like immigrants coming over from the old country with all of our possessions. This did make embarkation and disembarkation as well as airport boarding far more difficult than for most.
2. I underestimated how large the ship was. My wife needs to use a walker/wheelchair and this was a good workout for me to push her around. There are numerous little bumps on each deck (fire doors) which required me to lift the walker/wheelchair over the "bumps" otherwise the walker/wheelchair would have tipped over.
3. The staff were great in helping us on and off the ship at each port. Unfortunately the excursion personnel stood around and watched. They would help if asked. The ramps are quite steep so be careful.
4. First port: Ketchikan. We took the Misty Fjords excursion. Many waterfalls, bald eagles, river otters, spectacular scenery. Unfortunately on the way back from the ship the More
excursion personnel pushed my wife's walker a little too fast and it tipped over (Big bump on the back of my wife's head - not Emu or Ostrich size but definitely a Goose Egg). Could have been far worse. Holland America staff were very responsive.
5. Second port: Sitka. We took the Raptor center and otter/wildlife excursion. Very enjoyable. 2 highlights of the trip: a. At the raptor center seeing bald eagles up close; b. Seeing a large brown bear and being able to get many photos from the excursion boat. Quite lucky to see the bear.
6. Third port: Skagway. Excursion to Haines Bald Eagle Preserve. This was the toughest excursion away from the ship in terms of ramps. Fortunately there was a Holland America employee on the excursion who was unbelievably helpful. Not part of her job. Over and above not just once but for several hours. Thanks CJ. Disappointing in terms of seeing bald eagles but lots of trumpeter swans, Canada Geese and the highlight was seeing mama moose and her 2 calves up close. Talk about lucky.
7. Anchorage. Took a float plane trip. Saw a few moose from the air but overall not bad but not an overwhelming experience except it was our first time in a float plane.
8. Homer. Saw lots of otters,birds and a mountain goat. Again pretty lucky.
9. Kodiak. One of the reasons for taking this trip was to go to Kodiak and see bears. Unfortunately there were no excursions for seeing bears. On the other hand we saw lots of birds, otters, some whales, porpoises, and stellar sea lions which are 2-3 times larger than the sea lions we see in California.
10. We did not go into Victoria. Been there several times before and did not think there was enough time to walk around. Also the whale (Orca) watching trip was cancelled due to rough seas.
On board experience. The food was good not great. Far more variety than I remember from previous cruises, and smaller portions but we never left hungry.
Entertainment. Good not great. The male dancers were definitely out of sync but the singing, choreography, and costumes were very good.
Cabin. We had trouble fitting our luggage in the cabin. The bed was set up as a queen and we could not get our luggage under the bed. Otherwise it met our expectations.
So why do I rate the cruise higher than the sum of its parts? 1. The scenery and wildlife (I forgot to mention lots of humpback whales). But far more importantly: The staff. Cabin attendants, dining stewards, excursion personnel, front desk, infirmary, and officers were accessible, friendly, helpful and greatly exceeded our expectations.
We are already signed up for another Holland America cruise. Perspective: we could take this trip many more times and it would always be different and never boring. Less