We are not new to cruising. This was our fourth cruise to Alaska. We chose HAL because we wanted to got to Kodiak Island. We knew before leaving that we would probably be some of the youngest cruisers on board at 64 and 66, and we were. We found the staff, except for 4 or 5 young men to be stiff. There appeared to be a definite caste system between the Phillipine and Indonesian personnel. The formal service was nice, but lacked warmth. The food left a lot to be desired. If you wanted beef, you got it well done, regardless of how you ordered it. Even the large rounds were well done and dry to the bone. There was not a lot of variety in desserts. Same dessert, different flavor each night in the dining room. Coffee was very strong to some.
We enjoyed the company of the ship's Navigator at our table on one formal night. He was very nice,served very good wine, and was a gentleman in every way. That was the highlight of our dining experiences.
The ship was very clean. Our stateroom was very comfortable. I guess I missed the more relaxed interaction with the staff. The ships route left a lot to be desired. We ended up sailing in the Gulf of Alaska instead of the Inside Passage for most of the trip and it was extremely rough seas even for the experienced cruisers. We have never experienced rough water like this on any of our previous Alaskan cruises.
The ports were less than enjoyable. Homer is a fishing port, and the population makes it well known to visitors. The shuttles provided by HAL were school buses, which were okay, however, the shuttle stops were very far apart, not marked well,driver lacked basic knowledge about the area, and the map that we were given was less than ideal. I would have preferred skipping Homer to arrive in Kodiak on Saturday instead of Sunday.
When we arrived in Kodiak we were told that it was a short walk to the town. Maybe in length, but it was straight up hill and was further than we were led to believe. When our excursion was over, and it was a wonderful surprise because not enough information was given in the description by HAL, we went shopping. The only transportation was a handicapped bus with only about 12 seats. When we arrived in town almost everything was closed because it was Sunday. We found a grocery store with a little of everything and finally two small shops well hidden on a side street.
There was never enough information. We were used to having a Naturalist on board that kept us informed of marine life from beginning to end of cruise. She also informed us of other important facts about what we were seeing as we were cruising all during the daytime hours. This did not happen on this ship. On the other cruises the Cruise Director notified us of things going on all around the ship during the daytime. This Cruise Director made very few announcements. Using the tenders was terribly unorganized and took almost an hour after we arrived in the Queens Lounge to wait for transportation. Announcements about where the gang plank was located for disembarkation at all ports, including Seattle, were not made. People were wandering around on three decks looking for the exit.
The weather was wonderfully cool, and some rain which is the Alaska that we love. My husband and I are very independent and we make our own fun. We wanted to go to Kodiak, and we did. The port would have been better on another day of the week, but we loved the island.
What we have learned, we will not sail on the Holland American Line again.