As this was our first cruise we did not know what to expect. However, after much research, we decided on Oceania and Regatta because we did not want to sail with 2000-3000 people. If we wanted to vacation with that many other people we would have gone to New York City!
This is the first year for Oceania to sail Alaska and among very few ships to sail out of the Port of Anchorage - perhaps why this was not an option for "point of embarkation" above. Yes, there were hiccups along the way but so few and minor that I barely remember the or am concerned.
We misread the cruise guide and almost went directly to the port to embark - oh silly us. When we arrived at the Civic Center, checking went smoothly and quickly and bus transportation to the dock was right on time. Because Anchorage is a shallow port we had to be tendered to the ship and the port itself was not prepared for this - cannot blame Regatta for this misstep. Check-in was smooth and the staff was friendly and quite helpful.
Our cabin was more than we expected. The only reason that we thought the closet space was a little cramped was that we over-packed and there were so many wooden hangers.
Reasons for sailing with Oceania (other and the physical cruise itself): country club casual clothing at all times so no stuffy formal nights and open seating for all meals. At first some of the dinner portions appeared small but the plates were large and white and side dishes were ordered separately. You could also add appetizers, soups and salads. I never walked out of a dining room hungry. The two spsecialty dining rooms were varied and there was no up-charge for either. Polo Grill had a fantastic view and the portions were larger than expected; we enjoyed both of our meals there. Toscana was a bit of a disappointment but, then again, that is only my opinion. The views and table mates were great.
Keep in mind that this is not a mega cruise ship so the nightly entertainment was not like being in Las Vegas. The piano player in Martini's Bar was excellent; the small band sounded a lot bigger than it really was; the string quartet was pleasant (thought not my style); and the four review singers were excellent. All in all, fairly "big" shows for such a "small" ship.
The staff was friendly which made for a great cruise. If people would take the time to make an effort to talk to them and ask questions about them, they turn around and do the same of you. Always a pleasant smile and "hello". There was always work being done while in ports so you never saw dust, messy lavatories, etc. Even though the ship was refurbished earlier in 2011 they were still doing maintenance.
From what I understand, Regatta is the only cruise ship that has public laundry facilities. Since the 4 washers and dryers serve all 684 passengers it may get a tad busy.
Overall, the main ports were what was to be expected - lots of jewelry stores and "Made in China" souvineers along the main streets. But venturing away from the immediate dock area brought great finds from locals. Homer was a super artist's town and not visited by many cruisers - what a find. Smaller ports like Hoonah and Wrangrell brought an insight into the actual workings of the towns.
If you didn't want to go into any of the ports, there were movies being show in the Lounge or you could rent one to view in your cabin. There were also activities available to participate in or not. I made the cruise what I wanted.
Disembarkation in Vancouver was smooth as silk. I was a bit nervous because we decided to take a taxi to the airport. We were in the second group to disembark and were at the airport, checked in and sitting at our gate when we saw fellow passengers who disembarked before us!!!