Summary: Glad I went. Had a good time. Like HAL
This was a two week cruise out of Seattle, which I booked one day before the final payment. When they finally gave me my cabin it was an ocean view on the Lower Promenade Deck in a good location - except it was under the kitchen. Having been in that location before, I was aware of that and the people who were originally next door (from Cruise Critics) confirmed that they were awakened each morning at 4 am with metal wheeled carts rolling around overhead.
Therefore when I was given an opportunity to upgrade to a Veranda by paying extra, I decided that if I was ever going to do a Veranda, Alaska was the place to do it. We were on the port side just a few cabins behind the wing bridge. I would rather have been on the starboard side, but this cabin was very good. I have no complaints about the cabin.
I rented a scooter for this trip. I rented it before I made the cruise booking. It was quite reasonable to rent, and it really helped because we were pretty far forward and the dining areas are all aft. Also I rarely had a problem getting an elevator with the scooter which I think is somewhat astonishing.
The only problem I had was that there was some kind of sculpture cum chair thing opposite the elevators on our deck and I could not back the scooter out of the aft elevators without running into it. I tried backing into the elevator, but I can't turn my head to look behind me without a lot of pain, so backing in was not a good option. Even my husband agreed after I tried it once. Once was enough. Bob would tell me when I could back out and which way to turn.
We flew into Seattle on Thursday - got a non-stop Southwest flight from BWI to SEATAC. Arranged for a limo transfer for us and our luggage to the Mayflower Park hotel. Walked over to the monorail and went to the Space Needle for dinner. Then the next morning borrowed a wheelchair from the hotel and Bob pushed me down to Pike Street Market and back. The hotel gave us an embarkation package which included breakfast and a shuttle to the port. At noon took a shuttle from the hotel to the terminal.
Embarkation was a breeze. Gave our luggage to the luggage people and picked up the scooter at the dock kiosk so I could use it for the embarkation process and we were waved right through and even missed the photographers (a good thing). Our rooms were ready immediately when we boarded - that's the first time that ever happened.
So we went to the room first. See the room comments for how we did it with a scooter - it was not a handicapped room.
We had to eat in the Lido on embarkation, and it is not possible to eat in the Lido when you are using a scooter. There are no longer trays and the scooter basket is not equipped for food. This was exacerbated by the fact that they were having people serve you everything instead of allowing you to take it. They told us the reason for that was for two days in case people got on with colds or other illness to keep them from passing it around. That seemed to be
a good idea, but it did make things slow with long lines to be served as people did not understand that they could go to the next station. Bob went and got us something - he came back with spaghetti which was the only place that had no line.
I never found a good way to eat in the Lido with either my cane or the scooter. There were no helpful people to carry your food. The service was really slow which made it was painful for me stand and wait for other people to be served. We only ate in the Lido if forced. We never ate in the Italian restaurant - I wasn't sure if it was extra price or not and you had to make a reservation.
The food was reasonably good in the main dining room, but due to the fact that almost all the crew were new, the service was VERY VERY slow at first and we did not always get what we ordered. Bob ordered sugar free ice cream for dessert and got a sundae (which is what he really wanted anyway). Once he did not get a second soup (he will have three soups and no entree sometimes), and once a lady and I got each other's omelets and didn't realize it until she got to the goat cheese in the middle of mine.
After the first couple of days, many people defaulted to the Lido and ironically the service also improved. We talked to some people who were on the previous cruise which was from Ft. Lauderdale through the canal and around the Pacific (a long cruise) and they told us that the ship's people were hand picked for that cruise and most of them got off in Vancouver where the cruise ended. Then 70 absolutely new staff, and some that were returning from leave and others that were transferred from other ships got on along with 1000 people who took the one day cruise from Victoria to Seattle. So the servers were finding their way around for those first days.
Some people complained that they did not like the coffee, but we don't drink coffee so don't care about the coffee. The same person said her hot soups were not hot enough, but I found them perfectly fine. They no longer have breakfast specials, but the menu is expanded (they now have Eggs Florentine and not just Eggs Benedict), and I could always get
The choices were particularly good on the four formal nights. When they gave you lobster there was a container of melted butter to go with it instead of the steward drizzling some over it. They also no longer take your lobster tail out of the shell for you. I had trouble deciding on formal nights, but even on regular nights, I always had something I liked to eat. Bob lost some weight - he said when he got back that he was down to his target weight. I didn't lose, but I didn't gain either.
The ship was noisy and had some vibration and creaking all the time even though I did not consider that there was particularly bad or rough weather. Sometimes some loud starling banging.
Most of the time if there was rain it was at night. We did have rain one day in Kodiak for part of the day, but all the other days were at worst overcast. Spectacularly good weather for Alaska with blue skies.
The people were nice - some of them had been on as many as 14 Alaska cruises and had a lot of information and anecdotes. We had a Cruise Critics meeting on the second morning.
The tides are pretty steep in that area of the world so the ramps were also steep and some of them had steps, so I could not take the scooter off the ship. Some of the tours were on regular buses where wheelchairs could be stowed, but some were in school buses with no luggage capability. The tour tickets were not always informatory about this.
The port maps were EXCELLENT and had a lot of information about the ports - more than just shopping things. I do not see why cruisers need to have tanzanite and Diamonds International in all the ports anyway. It is stupid. And my opinion of people who shop in those places in Alaska is not complimentary.
Bob went to some of the shows and enjoyed them, but of course the theatre is the usual HAL theatre where you can't see on the ground floor unless you are in the front row. The theatre was right under us so he usually went down one flight of stairs and sat in the balcony where he could see. I was too busy editing photos to go.
We went to trivia once but for some reason it was just not fun the way they did it. I don't know why - we've always really enjoyed trivia. I went to a HAL ports trivia on the last day, not realizing that they meant just Alaskan ports, and sat with a man who knew all the answers and we won some coasters.
I was completely unable to use my own computer to do emails because it would not allow me to use a shifting IP address or something like that. The computer lady and I tried everything and nothing worked. I got emails sent once, but other than that I had no success. So she lent me a laptop. That worked fine and I could use the internet while sitting in my own cabin. Bob walked out to the business center in Ketchikan and bought a thumb drive for me (and he also got some fudge for himself at the candy store) and I just transferred my Favorites and photos to the other laptop and did the internet that way.
One thing I could not do on either computer though was Facebook. The page would load and then I would get a message that the page couldn't be loaded and it would vanish. I only managed it at the end for a little bit.
Dis-embarkation was semi-bad. I had thought we would take a taxi to the airport, but when Bob turned the form in he paid for bus tickets. DO NOT take the bus unless you are flying Delta or American. Those are the only airlines where you can check the bags at the location where the bus delivers you. Also you stand in a long line to get on the bus after you get through immigration.
They did not give us any information at all about what places were open for breakfast or the hours, so we got room service. They gave us Black 1 as our disembarkation color and said it would be 8-8:15, but there was no information about what the sequence would be.
When we got to the airport, I could not get a wheelchair as Southwest had no presence at the bus dock, so we had to drag ourselves and our luggage all the way through the airport and up an escalator (there was a LONG line for the elevator) to get to the Southwest counter. Once we got there we got our luggage checked and a wheelchair and the only problem was flight delays because of weather.