My husband and I, early 40's, took our first Alaskan cruise without our children (but want to take them someday because they will love it!). This was our first HAL cruise, though we have cruised many times before. We have sailed NCL, RCCL, Carnival, and one Oceania. We have decided the HAL line is our favorite so far.
We arrived the day of the cruise but did stay one day after the cruise to explore Seattle. We stayed at the Mayflower hotel. It was perfect in regards to location to Pike Market, downtown and the Lightrail, which was only $2.75 to get us to the airport the next morning. Very easy. Nice hotel. Would stay again for sure.
This was our first time on any HAL ship. We sailed the Oosterdam. Things we loved about this ship that were different from all of the RCCL, NCL and Carnival ships we have cruised on:
1. The free Microsoft computer classes (mostly about downloading pics, making slide shows, editing pics but other topics as well). These classes were of excellent quality. My husband was blown away and learn a lot that will be very helpful to him. He owns his own business. The classes were not trying to sell you something like most classes do. They are for all levels. I can't say enough about them. I don't think people take full advantage of these classes because they do not realize how good they are. Get there about 15 min early because they fill up.
2. Loved the informational lectures about the ports you are going to, the history of the people that live there, info about the landscape, etc. This was such a welcome relief from the overkill of "hairy chest" contests, silly games, etc. on the other lines we have sailed. We are not stuffy people but sometimes all of that silly stuff gets old and is the same thing over and over again. It was great to have the background info about the places and people we were visiting.
3. They are not as pushy with sales of things like other ships we have been on.
4. Loved the open deck space on deck 3 that was never crowded. We spent the whole day there on Glacier Bay day. Loved the blankets and towels ready and waiting on the decks.
5. Loved the Explorers Cafe/Library. It was very large, big windows, and tons of books and magazines. This was the most well-maintained library I have ever seen. Don't bother lugging along books and magazines or travel books. They have many that you can check out.
Negative - Internet is very slow (even when using your laptop), like most cruise ships we have been on.
Food - The food was fine. It was somewhat limited in the buffet but the quality was better than other lines we have sailed.
Port & Shore Excursions - We visited Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria, and Seattle. I wrote detailed info in the "ports" section of this review.
Stateroom - We had an interior K. It was close to the elevator, which we loved. I would get an interior room again if traveling to Alaska because of the "light issue". The sun sets very late and rises about 4:00 AM in July. That would have really bothered me. We slept great in our dark room.
Dining - We did open seating since it was just my husband and I. I wouldn't do for a large group but it worked well for us. Food and service was very good.
Entertainment - Was below average but we didn't mind. We were too tired for the late night shows anyway.
Disembarkation - Very easy, friendly staff
Loved HAL and have already booked another cruise for next summer.