Arrived in Seattle by plane the day before embarkation and stayed with Residence Inn in Bellevue. Next morning we drove our rental car back to National's downtown Seattle location and took their free shuttle to Pier 91. Started the embarkation process at 11:50AM and were in our Neptune Suite sitting on the balcony at 12:15PM, so needless to say fast and smooth in processing. By 1PM we had our luggage and shortly after we were totally engaged in cruising. Boat drill lasted a little long as one of our Neptune Suite neighbors thought that since they were wooptedo they didn't need to attend and had to be searched out by staff before the Captain would let us return to cruising. They did get punished by having to go to several one on one counseling sessions with the first officer...should have been kicked off the ship IMHO.
The Neptune Suite on this older ship (2000) had an enormous balcony compared to Westerdam and Zuiderdam, I would guess about 250sf+. It was by far the biggest balcony we have ever had and we always get suites, grand suites and owners suites. The suite itself was quite nice with a King bed, leather sofa bed, two chairs and a coffee table. Lots of storage in the dry bar area and a coat closet next to the entrance door. The dressing area had a nice desk like make up area with a small sink and running water and 3 double mirrored folding door closets. Two for clothes and one designated by us a dirty clothes. The bathroom had a single sink, commode and whirlpool tub with hand held or fixed shower head. This differs from newer ship's Neptune Suites in that they have a double sink and separate shower from the tub, but plenty big enough for both of us. Our Stateroom attendants stopped by to introduce and make sure we were settling in, both were very personable and took care of all our stateroom request during the next seven days. We are easy, we need two ice buckets twice a day and oranges and bananas instead of pears and apples. They fulfilled all that and kept the suite in good order for the week.
The rest of the ship was as expected as we had watched several youtube videos of the ship just to get a better feel before boarding.
Food was good in all the venues once you get used to the way they serve you in the Lido restaurant. You ask for what you want and they serve you....if you don't ask for more of something you get a small serving. Salad bar was quite good, pasta station fresh, Asian station not used, deserts were all OK but began to taste all the same (sweet) by the end of the cruise, and lots of different choices at the main serving statation in addition to lots of bread choices and different sandwich choices with chips at lunch. We tend not to eat in the MDR, as getting dressed up is not one of our priorities when cruising and taking a couple of hour to get served. We found plenty of alternatives in the Lido, Dive-in, and snacks at the coffee-bar in the library. We ate one night in the Pinnacle Grill which was very good with lots of choices for elegant dining. I had the 10oz Filet medium rare and my wife had the King Crab with all the accoutrements, Yummy and all was done perfectly.
Service throughout the ship was good with lots of wait staff available in the people areas of the ship. We did find a couple of very quiet spots for reading and just peering out the widows at the world going by.
Shopping on board was as usual with jewelry, notions and booze as the top sellers. Stores were small because this is a smaller ship, but they had everything we needed to spend our Costco OBC on.
Ports were all good. Juneau we had a self booked tour on a Dolphin Jet Boat Whale watching tour that was much better that the Allen Marine tour we took several years ago. 20 people on a fast, comfortable boat with a naturalist where you were able to go out on deck and not have to look through 80 or 100 people on the bigger boats. Saw lots of whales, sea lions, eagles, and scenery.
Hubbard Glacier was amazing. We spend a couple of hours at the glacier listening to it creak, pop, move, calve and just generally amaze everyone on the ship. They opened to main deck forward (helo area) to all and views from there, Deck three and our balcony were great. This was sooooo much more of an experience than Mendenhall glacier in Juneau area on our last visit.
Sitka was a tour booked through HA as it was the only one we could find that let us visit three places on one tour. First it was the Alaska Raptor Center that takes care of injured raptors from around Alaska....just amazing, next it was a museum and fish hatchery that was OK and finally a visit to the Fortress of the Bear which is a bear cub rescue. They have 6 Brown Bear adults that have been there since being rescued and 3 Black Bear cubs. Got to see the bears in kind of a natural setting with eagles flying overhead during our time there. The naturalist there told us all about the project and bears in general. Very interesting visits on all the stops with good picture taking opportunities.
Ketchikan we booked the Bering Sea Crab Boat tour directly with the company and saved some $$ over people who booked through HA. Amazing stories told by the 100 year of experience the crew had in actually doing Alaska fishing. Stayed in calm waters but the crew demonstrated how the fishing and crabbing was done and we got to hold and see different types of crabs and other ocean creatures. They stopped at one small island and as soon as we arrived the Eagle started circling the boat. Watched the eagles fishing for herring thrown by the crew for about 30 minutes to we all got some amazing photos and videos of up close and personal eagle flying and fishing. I would estimate there were about 20 eagle during our stay with some fledgeling that don't have the white head and tail yet. This is a must do tour as far as I am concerned...classic Alaska stuff worth every penny of the price of admission.
Victoria was a nice very crowded city as three boats were in port. We just went downtown on the shuttle to do some shopping at Munro's Book Store and have a Starbucks sitting outside people watching. We have been to Victoria before several times and have done the Bruschett Gardens and Tea at the fufu hotel (name escapes me at the moment).
Debarkation was a snap. We used the luggage direct service, got off the ship at 9AM and caught the shuttle back to National to pick up a car and visit our Daughter for the day before our 11PM flight back to Cincinnati. We are Global Entry qualified but didn't need it at this port as the line was very short, we have no luggage to fool with except three bottles of booze for our daughter was all we were carrying. Customs smiled, took our form and onto the shuttle we went.
Had a great time on this smaller ship but the wife says she wants back on the Mega ships from now on. This was our 16th cruise and this is the smallest ship we have been on. The biggest, Allure of the Seas. We are now planning our 50th on one of RCI's Meggas.
The Neptune Suite on this older ship (2000) had an enormous balcony compared to Westerdam and Zuiderdam, I would guess about 250sf (picture below). The suite itself was quite nice with a King bed, leather sofa bed, two chairs and a coffee table. Lots of storage in the dry bar area and a coat closet next to the entrance door. The dressing area had a nice desk like make up area with a small sink and running water and 3 double mirrored folding door closets. Two for clothes and one designated by us a dirty clothes. The bathroom had a single sink, commode and whirlpool tub with hand held or fixed shower head. This differs from newer ship's Neptune Suites in that they have a double sink and separate shower from the tub, but plenty big enough for both of us. Our Stateroom attendants stopped by to introduce and make sure we were settling in, both were very personable and took care of all our stateroom request during the next seven days. We are easy, we need two ice buckets twice a day and oranges and bananas instead of pears and apples. They fulfilled all that and kept the suite in good order for the week. In spite of several bad reviews about deck noise we save some $$ by going for a guaranteed category and ended up in a NS below the Lido buffet where we did not get bothered by any chair moving or people stomping noise during the cruise. I would not suggest that you book a Neptune Suite under the Lido Pool or Aft Pool as they definitely have deck noise during clean up in the mornings and people walking and jumping during the early evenings. There were signs in both those areas of the Lido deck asking folks not to drag deck chairs and table across the deck. We could hear the music from the Lido deck during the early evening from our balcony..but it was not disturbing.