We flew into Seattle a day early and stayed at the Hilton on 6th ave. Had a day of sightseeing and we were within several blocks to Pike Place Market. We took an Uber ride to the pier the next afternoon and embarkation was smooth and quick. What was wonderful was our room was ready at 1:30pm as we walked onto the ship and our luggage was delivered within 30 minutes!! That was wonderful! We were extremely lucky and had 7 days of great weather and sunny most of the time.
Ports visited were Juneau, Sitka, Ketchican, and Victoria. We spent $$ on fabulous excursions and so glad we did. Small whale watching boat tour in Juneau that also did a short rainforest hike to Mendenhall Glacier. Miciah was our guide and he did an excellent job along with the boat captain finding a large pod of whales. We loved Miciah's commentary on the whales and the rainforest. In Sitka we took a small high speed raft trip exploring the waters around Sitka looking for whales, Eagles and seals. We saw a little of each. We were decked out in huge ankle to head cover suits that kept us warm and dry. Was amazing to be zipping through the wild seas!! Definitely not for anyone who has back issues. In Ketchican we took the Deadliest Catch ship Alutian Ballard to explore the waters learning how they catch fish and crab. Saw whales and eagles along the way. This was the best excursion ever and I would take it again and again. Very comfortable seating for families, kids and older people.
Other than excursions we spent the next most time eating. While we never got sick from the food, it's not ranked up there with other cruises. The food tasted just fine but it seemed to lack the touch of a serious chef who is well versed in pleasing large groups with masses amounts of food. Maybe it was the combination of food on the plates or the presentation, but it just didn't seem appetizing when you read the menus each evening. Service in the formal dining rooms was wonderful. Rossi was our server and he bent over backward accommodating our needs and special requests. We also ordered room service every single day for breakfast and once for our full dinner. We were extremely pleased with the room service and enjoyed the quiet of our room each morning while we planned the day.
This is a smaller older ship. All staff were friendly everyday and they smiled a lot!! We found it quaint and I loved the Explorers Loung/Library. Very comfortable place to spend a couple hours at sea. Passengers milled about building jigsaw puzzles, playing games and cards and using the computers. Reminded me of an active public library on board! Nice large collection of books!
HAL provided excellent educational lectures about each port that included the history and interesting facts of the area. Wallis' commentary at the Hubbard Glacier was priceless. She knows her science and history of Alaska. If you take this cruise, go to every lecture offered and you won't be disappointed.
Our only "discomfort" on the trip was sailing up to the passage. The ship didn't seem to be using the stabilizers. The waves looked about 4-5 feet only but the ship rocked and many folks got a little dizzy and lightheaded the first evening and entire first day at sea. Coming back to Seattle we did not experience this feeling. My guess is HAL might have been trying to save on fuel on the way up. For this reason I might not ever take a smaller ship like this.
After disembarkation, we spent another day touring Seattle. Stayed at the Mayflower Park hotel for this last night. We were told when we called a few weeks out that dining at the top of the Space Needle was booked into September. Out host at the Mayflower made a call and got us in for an early dinner Sunday night! Toured the Chihuly glass garden exhibit after dinner. It was wonderful and a grand way to end our trip. Thank you Mayflower Park. This hotel was even more centrally located to Pike Place Market. Across the street was Macy's and one block down was a large Columbia store. And of course, a Starbucks on just about every corner. See my cabin review for more info.
Our cabin steward was very attentive. We rarely saw him but our room was always made up and seemed to be tended to three times if not more each day. Room was clean but I always travel with Windex wipes and do a once over before unpacking. Great storage and was able to completely unpack two large suitcases using the drawers and closets. Loved the extra room in bath because of having a tub. Your elbows didn't bang into walls like they do in the small ship shower stalls. Was nice for my larger 6ft tall husband. Bed was extremely comfortable and cabin 3334 is ideally located four steps away from the walking and lounging deck which we loved! We walked 2-3 miles each day for exercise. It was 3.5 laps per mile. The large room window looked out onto the walking deck but we could easily see the water and saw a whale tale one morning about 50 yards out. The windows were tinted and you could see out but not in. Being in this room was close to a short stairway to the 4th floor main office and excursion desk as well as the photo gallery. When my room. Key stopped working (twice) it was just a quick hop up one floor to have it sensitized again. (I had been holding the room keycard near the magnet band on my clutch purse). If I took this ship again, I'd ask for this same room.