After a pretty dismal ride on the Silver Cloud on one of its last cruises prior to refit, it was a pleasure to be on board the Shadow where most things 'worked'. The staterooms are still a little dated, think Italian hotel about 1992, but bathrooms have been smartly updated, and the ship was definitely comfortable with only 302 guests on board - it was a cruise with a low single supplement so not all the cabins were two to a room, in fact a lot of the passenger suites were occupied by staff and entertainers, including several on higher decks which seemed a bit cheeky when there might have been an opportunity to upgrade some paying customers?
Anyhow, being on a lower deck - 4 or 5 - was the best deal on this voyage as we hit Typhoon (Tropical Storm) Talim on our northerly approach to Japan and this really threw the boat around for 24 hours, right down to the classic image of waiters, tables and glassware sliding across the floor of the dining room while the waves washed the windows.
Food is always a highlight, and the relentless adherence to an 'Italianate' menu means a lot of repetitions and some slightly bizarre combinations - but even on a long overwater voyage from Alaska to Japan we had some excellent meat, fish and fresh fruits and salads in good condition.
Entertainment is as bad as ever, a hoary old working-mens' club comedian was the Cruise Director who never learned a passenger's name, and the usual rag-tag collection of singers (two operatic, two musical theatre, two who can't dance) that it's never possible to weld into a 'company' or direct in a cohesive show.
One good female lecturer from Alaska itslef, and two old bores.
On a cold water transoceanic voyage, I'd always choose nice solid windows that can take whatever the sea will throw at them. Lots of people on the deck above had their carpets flooded.
Vistas are cosy and comfortable and have all the amenities of the 'better' grades apart from a front porch. A veranda isn't much use when it's 50 degrees.
The embarkation experience included a 4.5 hour train ride down from Anchorage Airport, inclusive in the cruise price. It was very enjoyable - much like a 'Glacier Express' vision car on a Swiss railway, with cheerful staff and (you had to pay for it) some food and drink. On arrival in Seward, boarding was immediate and there were no lines. Very well organised.
Some people complained the excursion was an expensive walk in some damp woods with a guide just out of high school, but our half-day hike was welcome exercise, and the chance to see the Kodiak War Museum on its beautiful lonely promontory was well worth it.