The purpose of this cruise was to celebrate my husband's 50th. birthday. It was why we paid to upgrade to the Deluxe Verandah Suites, and it was wise that we did. That was the only place the service even remotely met the expectations we had been led to believe were the standard that HAL claims to set.Embarkation went very smoothly compared to the two other cruises we have done. Check in was a breeze! We were immediately directed to the LaFontaine dining room for a liesurely lunch awaiting our cabin to be ready. When we entered our cabin, we did find it to be lovely and roomy, beautiful verandah. Our bags were waiting on the bed. We quickly unpacked and set about to explore the ship. We visited the Sea View & Crow's Nest bars,the Spa & workout facilities as my husband wanted to keep exercising on the cruise. I wanted to check out the hands-on culinary opportunities. The party planner greeting people interested in learning more about that was cold and unfriendly. I opted NOT to sign up for any of those events, and I had really looked forward to them! We opted for room service for coffee and juice for the following morning.A grilled dinner was served on the Lido deck as we set sail. Food was fair, Lido area very crowded. (We never did try the Lido pool or hot tubs. Always full of noisy jumping splashing kids and babies) .We caught the end of the comic's show and off to bed.First day was ok. The only day my husband worked out as he was unimpressed with the workout facilities. Lines for the treadmills and elipticals was discouraging.The next night was the first formal night, and the only one we participated in. They were very accomodating in getting my husband fitted and delivered of a tuxedo the same day! We hoped for & expected great things,but it was not forthcoming. We had opted for open seating, & waited some time with a pager. Once seated, we had to wait to place our order. One of the guests at our table had to ask for the wine steward twice, and I think he was the only one taking care of 500+ diners, and not very good at it. Once the food was served, it was disappointing, and we waited 20 to 30 minutes between courses, and that was once we had finished eating them. We witnessed a 10 minute tantrum by a mad & unhappy drunk passenger who was unaware it was formal night and mad he did not meet dress code and could not eat. He never should have been allowed in the dining room. Most people at our table ordered the Alaskan King Crab, which took forever!!! Our server said they "ran out of crab". It arrived in and inch of lukewarm water, no drawn butter or lemon!! Three people sent their's back & got something else, which took forever as well.One of the perks was having personal concierge service on our floor, and we took advantage to book our Juneau & other excursions. Whale watching was fun. Not many whales, but lots of bald eagles and sea lions, and our naturalist was friendly and informative. Our next stop was the Mendenhall glacier, the perfect warmup for the Hubbard glacier. Juneau was beautiful. We picked the Lido buffet for dinner & were not impressed. For health reasons, you could not serve yourself most things, and the staff was slow slow slow!!! Soup had "skin" on top!The next day was my husband's birthday. We had a good roomservice breakfast. He played in the Casino and I relaxed. He again opted for the buffet for lunch, limited selection, bland & uninspired. We ran into the two couples we met at first day lunch, and invited them to join us for champagne on our verandah to witness the spectacular Hubbard glacier. They were all full of stories already of lackluster service & argumentative staff. One couple shared that their bags were not put in their room, but sitting in the hallway. They had just that morning met their steward for the first time!! This was day 3!! Our assistant steward was apparently their dining room waiter one evening, and while pleasant & trying, was obviously inexperienced and inept at serving. It became apparent that the staff are expected to wear too many hats, are not effectively trained. We heard of several people who when they needed something or had an issue, were argued with by staff!! But I digress!! I had arranged a celebration package a few weeks before, which included dinner at the Pinnacle Grill. Our server was congenial and tried, but was obviously inexperienced at what was supposed to be fine dining service. The food was good, but not superior. We then went to the Crow's Nest, where we had been very well taken care of by Gani and Leo. As we walked in the door, Gani immediately began to prepare our favorite cocktails. THIS was the service we heard was standard on HAL, but it was the only place we ever really got it! The next day my husband had booked fishing in Sitka, which he really enjoyed. I opted to pamper myself with a spa day.I chose a massage and facial. The massage was good, but expensive, and their opportunity to push expensive spa products. The facial was ok. Relaxing. But the facial product line was hugely expensive, and one I have never heard of. My esthetician was obviously disappointed that I did not want to spend her recommended $300.00 on my face, after the cost of the facial!! I had a coupon they had delivered to our cabin for 30% off any spa treatment. The manager seemed aloof and none too happy that I wanted to apply it to my most expensive service. We opted for room service for dinner, the salmon. Adequate but I expected better being in Alaska.Ketchikan was our best port day by far. We booked the Rainforest Canopy Zipline, and I highly recommend it. Stunning views, the adrenalin rush, fun people. We found it the best for souvenir shopping. We also had to do some drugstore shopping as the shipboard sundries store was tiny, cramped, and poorly stocked. Our dining experiences ranged from awful to good. Silverware was usually hard to come by, no matter where you ate. My husband waited 30 minutes for oil & vinegar for his salad at lunch, (yes the buffet again.) We would ask for simple things like toothpicks, or silverware, and the person we asked would just disappear.The Terrace Grill was horrible. Soupy & or dried out taco fillings, unfresh toppings, soggy shells & chips. Turkey burger looked like mystery meat, & was chewy & cold. Breakfast room service was good, snacks not so much. Got our orders wrong twice in one night. No crackers with the cheese & cracker plate. Ordered 2 apple tarts, got 2 chocolate cakes instead.My husband and many others we talked to were not happy with the casino. He saw many people spend a lot of money early on, but no one won much at all. By the last half of the cruise, it was virtually empty. We had issues with our toilet for one day, but that "funky" smell lingered thru the rest of the cruise. We did not go into Victoria. It was a very short port call, and my husband was tired and not feeling well. I convinced him to eat in the dining room, and it was the best dining room experience we had. We realxed in our room, packed, and chilled on the verandah for our last night aboard ship.As Verandah Suite passengers, we were told we could disembark anytime between 8 and 9:30am. We ordered room service breakfast for 8am. At 8:30 we got the bum's rush from our steward saying we needed to get off the ship sooner! We hurried through breakfast, grabbed our carryons and got off the ship. We loved seeing Alaska & Seattle. And we chose cruising for the opportunity to see several places, and for the most popular reasons, service, pampering, and stellar food. Our HAL experience was sketchy at best. Inconsistent and haphazard. When it was good, it was very good, but when it was bad, it was awful!!!
Our cabin was the best part of the ship!!
Beautiful, loved the Mendenhall Glacier and whale watching.
My husband very much enjoyed his fishing trip & the beautiful scenery.
Our best stop, just as beautiful, but the zipline thru the rainforest canopy was wonderful!!!