This was our first time on a cruise. We were celebrating our 30th anniversary so we decided to do something different and cruise to Alaska (cruising to the Caribbean has never appealed to us since we live in the tropics). Our travel agent recommended Holland America for their service and a more "mature crowd" (I didn't want to deal with a lot of kids or teenagers so we opted for the Amsterdam). Despite this there was a fair amount of families with kids. Other than a couple screaming babies (I felt for the parents considering how much they were spending) we hardly noticed the kids and they were well behaved.
We will refer to this cruise as the "I'm sorry" cruise. If not for the excursions (which were quite expensive but worth it - especially glacier walking) the cruise would have been worse than it was. The service was not as advertised. We did not meet our cabin steward or even know his name until day 3 - and this was after I complained to the front office. When we got to our cabin our 2 large suitcases were sitting outside the cabin. Only the small light one was inside. There were candy wrappers on the floor. The cabin was not cleaned the first full day until we said something. It was as though they didn't know the room was occupied. This was strange because we met other people who raved about their stewards. We received a "We're sorry" note and a bottle of wine. Otherwise the cabin was nice (it was a veranda suite with a balcony). We were offered an upgrade a week prior to the cruise and were glad we took it although people I spoke with who non-suite cabins loved the service they received.
The travel agent informed the cruise line it was our anniversary. I wasn't really expecting anything special. But the only acknowledgement was flyers from the "shopping guru" (very lame) for discounts at their stores and on shore. On the night of our anniversary we decided to eat at the Pinnacle Grill (at an extra $20/person). However the dining room staff was unaware of this (we made our reservations well in advance) and sent a cake to our regular table (nice surprise). Our table mates told the staff we were in the Pinnacle and to send the cake there. However it never appeared. When I heard about this I stopped by the main dining room and asked the main steward what happened. All I got was "we didn't know." Later another bottle of wine showed up in our room with a "We're sorry" note.
Re the Pinnacle, the food was very good but the service was erratic and not worth the extra $40. We waited 10 minutes before anyone approached us and were then given menus - no one asked whether we wanted to order wine or drinks. They finally came by and asked (while a table with staff members got a bottle of wine right away). There were using wine glasses for both the water and wine and when they came by with water the waiter filled up just one glass and walked away. I had to ask the maitre d' to fill the other glass. Strange. However great caesar salad made at the table.
The standard dining was nice although the service was very slow in the beginning. Our table mates were very nice and we enjoyed dining with them. The food was very good (although we heard differently from others). We heard that we would get the same waiter each night but that was not the case.
I recommend the Thermal Spa. Although it costs extra it was a great escape. However they need more staff to monitor the passengers - once a whole family (with small kids) including the mother was changing right outside the men's changing room and a confused older passenger walked right into my shower stall because he was lost. The spa manager seemed overwhelmed at times. I met a nice older guy who was on his 25th cruise who said he cruises just to cruise and doesn't care where the cruise goes. I guess this appeals to a lot of people but not us (however there is something to be said about not having to pack and repack or worrying about where to eat like on a traditional vacation).
One of the highlights of the cruise was some of the people we met. They were great. One couple was celebrating a 50th birthday and they invited us and another couple to their suite for champagne and we all viewed the Hubbard Glacier together. We then found out we booked the same zipline excursion. It was a blast and I wish them all well. In the rush of getting off we neglected to get any contact information and I feel bad about this.
We will probably never cruise again. There was too much time on the water and not enough time at destinations. Other than walking on a glacier and hiking through a rain forest the ports were all touristy and appeared to sell the same stuff. We can do this without taking a cruise. Victoria was a wasted stop because it was only for a few hours and unless you spend a bunch of money to see Butchert Gardens or hire a driver you are stuck on "tourist row" with a lot of t-shirt shops ("closeout - $4.99!") and the crowds from 2 ships in port at the same time (a huge Princess ship docked at the same time). I would have liked to have spent more time in Victoria because it is a very attractive and interesting city.
We are glad we finally went on a cruise. I guess our expectations were too high but for all the hype about Holland America's service we were disappointed. However, the embarkation and disembarkation process went smoothly (I was impressed with how this was done with so many people). Also, we didn't like being cooped on a ship with 1300 other people with the itinerary dictated by a rigid schedule. To some people this is the only way to travel and that's great for them but not for us.
Nice balcony. However it was right above the casino and we could hear the constant beepings of the slot machines. very annoying. Also once in awhile the hallway had a sewage smell. Not very pleasant.