We chose to cruise with HAL as we have previously cruised with them and find it difficult to find any faults.
The staterooms and public areas are spotless and we always feel pampered and well looked after. The ships never seem overcrowded and you can always find a quiet area to relax in which has not always been our experience on other cruise lines. The food is the finest we have experienced on any cruise line and embarkation/disbarkation was extremely quick and easy.
However, what made this cruise unique was the experiences we enjoyed at the ports of call.
We were able to see and hear the ice calving at Glacier Bay with a backdrop of a cloudless blue sky with ice floating in the water. We enjoyed numerous sightings of whales and sea otters during the cruise in the bay. In Sitka, we chose to go on the nature walk through the woods. The guides were very knowledgeable and were also humorous and entertaining. We finished the walk by watching salmon leaping out of the river.
We had booked to go dog sledding by helicopter in Juneau but unfortunately, due to low cloud, we were unable to fly. As an hastily booked alternative, we went whale watching by catamaran instead. Although this was enjoyable as we saw porpoise, bald eagles and the fins and flukes of a few hump backed whales, this was a very costly excursion at $139 per person and I don't think it was good value for money. $75 pp would have been a fairer price for the 2 hour sail. There are lots of ticket booths on the quayside and I am sure we could have got a cheaper alternative there.
The highlight of the cruise was the float plane excursion in Ketchikan to Neets Bay to see black bears. Our guide Puck was excellent and he assured us that we would see bears during our visit and he was not wrong. We saw around 8 bears in total. Around 4 bears were catching salmon in the river, one of the bears was just in front of us about 15 feet away, which was an incredible sight. We even witnessed an encounter when a rival male bear approached, forcing the smaller bear to hastily retreat. On the walk back to the plane, Puck pointed out two baby bear cubs in the trees above us which we would never had spotted. We did not linger too long as Puck pointed out the mother bear in the bushes to the side of us and we did not want to make her anxious. If you only do one trip in Alaska, choose this one as flying by float plane was also a great experience. Well worth the money.
Our last port of call was Victoria in Canada, which is a very scenic town and is ideal to stroll around, shop or eat. Taxi from the town to port is only $8 plus tip.
Overall a first class, memorable cruise.