We took this cruise to celebrate my 60th birthday. There were 5 people in our group and this was the first time any of us had sailed on Holland America. Since I was the one to choose the cruise I was very hopeful that it would be a pleasant experience for all of us, and I do believe it was.
We drove to Seattle and stayed there the night before the cruise. Once we were out of the car (Seattle is very congested and hard to navigate) we loved Seattle. Lots of things to do within walking distance of the Space Needle.
The day of debarkation went rather smoothly. I had pre-reserved on line our parking near the pier. The staff at the pier was extremely helpful and pleasant. On other cruises there were porters outside the terminal who would take luggage that was pre-tagged, however, we had to take our luggage quite a distance before we could actually release it to be taken aboard. We arrived at the pier before 11:30 although I would have preferred to wait a little longer to avoid the crowd that is there at the very beginning. My brother who arrived at the pier only 20 minutes later, had much less of a wait time.
Our cabin was ready right away and we spent some time just exploring the ship. The Lido was crowded, but we were hungry and did not have too much trouble navigating the lines. It was sometimes evident that the staff is tired of explaining things, but it was not always clear what you could and could not touch and I often felt they were "rude" when correcting us about it.
The muster drill was not too bad, but it was the kind where you line up and squish together for quite a while. They demonstrated the use of the life jackets, however, some in the back could not have possibly seen.
What I missed was the opportunity to get to know my cabin steward. There was never anyone who showed up and introduced themselves and showed us how to call them, where our life jackets were located, or how to use the things in the cabin. They had a system where you called a number "At Your Service" when you needed something and one of several people would show up.
The food was very good, among the best of the different cruises I've been on. We wanted to try all the different options and were pleased with most of them. The Main Dining Room (we had early seating) food was excellent. Once again, though, there was not that "personal" touch of feeling like you knew your waiter, he was very busy all the time. And gone was the time at the end of the dinner where the waiter told you all about what was going to be happening the next day, such as formal dinners and changed eating times.
For my actual birthday we ate at the Pinnacle. It was very elegant and the presentation of the food was very amazing.
For breakfast and lunch we would alternate between the dining room, the Lido, the Grill and room service. We never did try the Italian restaurant. The dining room was great for a leisurely lunch or breakfast, but for a quick meal the Lido was fine. We ordered breakfast in on those days we needed to be off the ship early. One day it was really good and the other day the quality was not so good.
Overall the food was very good. I almost always would have liked more sauce on the main dishes, but then again, I never asked for any extra.
Our room and balcony were very nice. The size of the bathroom was almost as large as you would find in a hotel room. The controls on the shower and tub were a little confusing, but we manged to get them figured out. There were a few signs of wear, but nothing very noticeable unless you were looking for it.
The entertainment was very good. We spent a lot of time in the Piano Bar and Randall was very good. He could work with any age group as people came and went throughout the evening. The early crowd was more my speed, but there were nights we stayed until it closed down. The comedian was really funny, and Joel who did the Elton John tribute was talented and very funny. We were especially having a good time at the final show where all of the entertainers would do "drop-in's" during Joel's show (including Randall from the Piano Bar). The design of the Vista Lounge was not very conducive to watch the shows. There were never enough seats for everyone, and many seats were behind posts that blocked the stage almost entirely.
The Ports of Call were all quaint and beautiful. We did the Salmon Bake and gold panning in Juneau and enjoyed both the food and the setting. The rest of the ports we just explored on our own. But the Hubbard Glacier was the highlight of the trip. The captain was able to get pretty close and turned the ship so both sides could get a good view. Since my brother had a cabin on the opposite side, we were able to have a double dose by switching balconies when he turned the ship. I am very glad I remembered to bring gloves and a warm sweat shirt with a hood. It is beautiful, but very cold.
From what I had heard, I was thinking it was going to be a nice quiet ship with lots of people around my age and older. That was not the case at all. Unfortunately, many of the people who brought very young children had cabins next to ours, and tables in the dining room close to ours as well. And in most cases you knew they were there. There were also many younger couples and twenty-somethings. The old folks like me only made up about half or less of the group.
Debarkation was the most stress-free I have ever experienced. They let you wait in your cabin as long as you need to, and breakfast is available in all the venues. They ask early on in the cruise what time you would like to debark and it looks like they can get pretty close to that time. So you are given times and tags, and they don't even announce when to leave. They just announce that debarkation is starting and you just leave when it is your time. It was very smooth. Very smart on their part to make your last morning of the cruise so stress free, so you leave with a good feeling instead of a bad one!
I would probably sail Holland America again. I think anything that was lacking in this cruise is probably lacking in other cruise lines as well because the industry is changing.
This cruise will be a beautiful memory for me for years to come.