Bckground: We originally decided to do an Alaskan cruise when Disney announced they were heading to Vancouver. Then had to change our direction a bit after researching and realizing that Glacier Bay was going to be a must for our trip and as Disney wasn't authorized, we had to look elsewhere. We also wanted a R/T itinerary and preferred Seattle for airfare budget purposes. Our options were NCL, Princess, and HAL. After mind numbing amts of research and review reading, we ended up choosing HAL. We booked our trip over a year in advance. We were also travelling with my sister in law (37) and my inlaws (upper 50's). As our only other cruise was Disney, it is my only point of comparison.
Pros: 1) Embarkation/Debarkation were both fast and efficient. Thanks to CC I knew in advance to sign up for luggage direct, wonderful and worth every penny.Advantage HAL
2) Crows Nest and Explorations Cafe: Beautiful views, yummy coffee drinks, great games, books, magazines, and enjoyed Gaither on guitar. Advantage HAL
3) Our inside cabin: We thought it was very roomy and storage was amazing. We even had a pack n play set up the whole time. Our last cruise we had an ocean view and I was regretting the inside view choice until we got on board. I have never slept in such wonderful darkness. Our daughter turned 2 on board and she too slept great the entire trip, including her usual naps.
4) Service: We had a great room steward, Rio, all smiles, always handy if we needed anything, always called us by name. Our dining room server Djucko and wine steward Joseph were also good. Christian the assistant dining room manager was wonderful as well, we always saw him doing anything that was required to help in the dining areas. I have no idea when any of these people sleep, I'm pretty sure they don't. Also, noone bothered us to buy things, if we wanted a drink they were there if not they were gone. Advantage HAL
5) Laundry service: Another tip from CC. For $49, our entire cabin sent our laundry out and it was always delivered within 24hrs (although they say 48), clean and pressed. This is most helpful with children.
6) Leo Ward the illusionist: This was the only show we went to in the evening. From 11-59, we were entertained. Lots of laughs and "how'd he do that" Although I did not attend the show on Saturday afternoon, my 11 year old came back with several tricks and jokes, big thumbs up.
7) Adiago Strings: Usually playing after we came out from dinner, just delightful music, our 2 year old always wanted to swing by for a bit, no pun intended.
8) Glacier Bay and Ports: All were amazing, none disappointed.
9) Covered swimming pool that children can use: this is one of the reasons we chose the Oosterdam. This was a big hit with our son, although I thought it seemed closed alot without any communication as to why or how long. But overall, big plus!
10) Fellow cruisers: Although we really didn't meet anyone, this was a nice crowd with what seemed like alot of big groups (families, reunions, etc) travelling together. I never saw anyone out of hand or making a scene. People seemed pleasant and laid back overall. Advantage HAL
11) Cleanliness: This is big. I never went into a dirty bathroom or saw a bit of trash. Tables were cleaned quickly in public areas. I actually like the staff serving in the Lido the first 48hrs, it got much messier once the guests got involved:)
12) DVD lending library: Free and great choices
13) The beds, linens, and robes: super comfy, dreaded coming back to my own bed and pillows.
14) Drinks: Well mixed and reasonable prices, no more expensive then your local Applebee's or TGI Fridays
1) The Food: Overall, I would give it a C+. This was a huge disappointment for us. It wasn't terrible, just very mediocre. The Lido reminded us of a cafeteria, not so much a buffet, (a buffet with amazing views though). Is there really a request for Hungarian Goulash? We love food and food is a big part of our vacation. I was expecting amazing seafood considering this was an Alaskan cruise. What I had, 3 times (trying to give it a chance) were 3 different fish entrees, all very dry and very fishy tasting. Beef was mediocre as well. We ate at Pinnacle once, and I would say it was worth the charge but I wouldn't say it was amazing. It def did not compare, in our opinion, to Palo on the Disney Wonder. We ate 5 dinners in the MDR and really enjoyed the staff and the view from our table, but the food was the least impressive thing about the dining experience. Small things like serving cold food on cold plates, I do not want my entree salad in a warm bowl with warm lettuce and tomatoes, nor do I want ice cream in a warm dish. Shrimp or seafood cocktail was also warm a few times.
2) Kids club: Very small, space wise. Not alot of overly creative themes, topics. I know this is not a line known for catering to children but I also know they are trying to broaden the demographic they serve ($199 3rd and 4th passengers) so I think there is room for improvement in this area. Our boat had 200 children on board and I think there were 6 counselors, 2 for each age group. Our son went a few times and had fun when he went but he also often forgot it was even there.
3) The ship: I know she is heading to dry dock soon and I would say the timing is right. Just a bit worn out. Overall, inside and out, no comparison to the beauty of the Disney boats.
4) Movies: Great little theater but Kenny Chesney is the movie you show on our day at sea? I have nothing against him at all, but our group was really disappointed as we were really wanting to catch a big budget thriller or family comedy or something that day.
5) Fitness Center and it's equipment were pretty worn out
So, 13 Pros and 5 whiny cons. This was an amazing trip and we had a great time. This cruise is all about the destination anyway. I think for future cruises we'd like to try some of the other fish in the sea, we'd def go back to HAL if they expand/improve their dining options and children's activities/options. We certainly loved the staff and clientele.