We flew into Seattle the night before departure and stayed at the Andra Hotel downtown. I highly recommend both the hotel and its restaurant.
This was our first cruise so we were a little anxious, but we were not disappointed. The ship was beautiful.
Cabin: We had a superior suite in the bow of the ship. The balcony was worth the extra money. Our particular cabin had an aft window as well as the balcony on the port side. The aft window helped us to spot more than 20 whales while we were at sea. It was very roomy. Plenty of room to hang up clothes and store luggage. The bathroom was large. The bedding was very comfortable. Our cabin steward, Nanang, was very attentive - he knew our names on the first day!
Dining: The dining room was very elegant - silver and china. Quite a few men wore tuxedos on formal nights. We received excellent service there as well. The Lido was a great informal alternative. They served most of the same dishes there that were being served in the dining room, in addition to other alternatives (pizza, pasta, etc). One note of caution, however; the Lido is open for extended hours, but not all of the dining choices are available all the time. That is something HAL should advertise better. We ordered room service for breakfast every morning, which was also very good.
Crew: I was very impressed with the crew, beginning with the Captain. We met him in the Lido on the second night. He was very courteous and took the time to speak with my wife and I for a few minutes. We ran into him on a couple of other occasions. Each time, he took a moment to say "good evening" and ask if we were enjoying ourselves.
One evening, we ran into a couple of Dutch officer cadets in the shopping arcade. My wife had a question about the meaning of a Dutch word. The two of them ended up talking to us, patiently answering questions about the ship, about Holland, and where were the best places to spot whales for more than an hour. For 17 and 18 year old boys, they were both very professional and courteous. The staff in the shopping arcade were very helpful. I have already mentioned the cabin and dining stewards.
Journey: The first morning, seas were quite rough. Quite a few people were seasick (including my wife). After that the seas and the weather were beautiful. Juneau - we rented a cab who took us to the Mendenhall glacier, the Salmon River, and gave us a quick driving tour of Juneau. The Mendenhall glacier was impressive, but nothing compared to the Hubbard glacier we would see a few days later. Juneau is a good town for shopping and there were a lot of end-of-season deals. If I had it to do over again,
I would probably either go on a whale watching excursion of just spend the day shopping. Sitka - Very nice, quaint town. Not the best place to shop. We walked to the Raptor Center and totem park. Both were worthwhile.
Hubbard Glacier - Spectacular! The highlight of the trip. This is the reason for visiting Alaska by cruise ship at least once in your life. The weather was beautiful. The Captain got the ship very close. The glacier is an amazing color of blue, continuously calving, making sounds like thunder. Words cannot do this wonder justice.
Ketchikan - great town for shopping. Creek street was interesting. The walk to the Totem Center and Salmon hatchery was very pretty, away from a lot of the people. I got a private tour of hatchery, as I was the only one there! There is a nice museum there as well.
Victoria - This is a beautiful city, but there is really not enough time to enjoy it on this cruise, nor are the excursions offered by HAL very interesting. We have relatives there, which we spent a few hours visiting.
Overall, this ship does not have much nightlife. That may be because most people are exhausted from all the excursions! There are also not a lot of children. We did meet a family with children who were very pleased with Club HAL. Their children received a lot of personal attention from the staff and they had a ball.
Disembarkation: This was pretty painless. We signed up for the latest time available so we wouldn't be rushed. HAL stored our bags for us for a modest fee while we explored Seattle for several hours before heading for the airport.