We chose this cruise for the itinerary, not the ship and have no regrets. Although we had a very good cruise, our high expectations were not met. The service we received in the dining room and the cabin was not nearly as good as on Celebrity (or even Royal Caribbean). The food in the dining room was comparable, but the Lido was a step below. The Pinnacle was excellent (both food and service). I won't comment further on the food, since our dining restrictions don't apply to most people.
From our arrival in Seattle to our departure, the weather was outstanding. We had no rain (at least at any time that we were out and about). The seas were calm throughout. We got to see much more of the magnificence of Alaska than on our previous cruise.
We arrived in Seattle on Sunday evening, were met by a HAL representative, and transported by taxi to the Sheraton. In the morning, we gave our bags to the bellman and they were delivered to our cabin onboard, saving a lot of hassle. We were bussed to the ship around noon and our cabin was ready.
We quickly discovered W T Greer in the piano bar. He played non-stop every night from 9 to well after 11 (we never stayed up late enough to know when he stopped). Over two weeks, less than 10% of his songs were repeats. Unfortunately for the rest of you, he was just a fill in on this cruise and left the ship when we did. The young lady who served drinks at the piano bar was unobtrusive, but attentive, even though we rarely ordered anything.
We sailed the inside passage from Seattle. We awoke on Tuesday to trees that we could almost touch. About 40 attended our Meet and Greet in the Crow's Nest that afternoon. A much smaller group made it for a farewell on the last sea day.
We just walked around in Ketchikan. We took the Sea Otter excursion through HAL in Sitka and saw a lot of wild life. In Skagway, we road to Emerald Lake with Dyea Dave. That was a great day-long tour. We had lunch at the Cinnamon Cache, which unfortunately closed when the owner retired at the end of June. Dave was ready to spend an extra hour or more showing us other sites around town, but we had a commitment on the ship at 5:00.
After sailing Glacier Bay on Saturday and across the Gulf of Alaska on Sunday, we cruised into Anchorage early Monday morning. We saw more than a dozen whales Sunday evening sailing up Cook Inlet. We had gambled a lot of money ($750) on the weather, having booked a 3-hour flightseeing tour with Rust's to Denali and Mt. McKinley. This was fantastic. Although there were a lot of clouds near Anchorage, the sky was clear by the time we got to Denali.
In Homer, I took the free shuttle over to the Spit. We had a short tour of Kodiak with Bonnie. The Captain got us very close to Hubbard Glacier, which calved often for us. We did Whale watching in Juneau with Captain Larry of Orca Enterprises. There were only 19 of us in a boat that seated about 50. We got very close to many whales and sea lions. I have some photos of tails and dorsal fins, as well as many humps. Since we didn't get to Victoria until 4:00 PM and both of us had colds, we decided to skip the excursions there. (Note that next year, this cruise is in Victoria all day.) We had dinner in an almost deserted main dining room at the early seating. They did not adjust dining schedules on late nights in port other than to say if you wanted to come to late dinner (8:00), they would try to accommodate you.
Formal nights were Tuesday, the first sea day; Saturday, Glacier Bay; Wednesday, Kodiak; and Friday, Juneau. The Master Chef's Dinner was Saturday, the last sea day.
Lastly, here are a few positive and negatives comparing this cruise to our last one on the Celebrity Equinox. None of these were big enough to detract from a very good cruise. The Amsterdam had much better storage in the cabin, but not nearly as good a bathroom. The water temperature in the shower constantly alternated between warm and hot. There were too many hours when the Lido was closed and no place to get food other than room service. The English language skills of many of the staff, particularly in the Lido, were inadequate. The windows had not been washed on the outside in a while, and remained dirty throughout, detracting from the magnificent views (unlike the Equinox where they were constantly washing windows). The Amsterdam's fresh squeezed orange juice and free cappuccino were a definite plus. The elevators were much faster and more conveniently placed on HAL.
In summary, we had a very enjoyable cruise and would likely choose this ship and itinerary if we do Alaska again. But, unless we find another great itinerary on HAL, we are more likely to sail with Celebrity or Royal Caribbean next time.