We were on the June 30, 2018 sailing of the Nieuw Amsterdam from Vancouver to the inside passage (including Glacier Bay). This was our third time on Holland America and our second Alaska cruise (the other in 2000 on Princess). Bottomline, I wouldn't hesitate booking this ship/itinerary based on our experience. For the most part, it was all very good.
We did our own air and stayed at the Auberge Vancouver both pre and post stay. I would recommend this hotel for this purpose. With four-wheel luggage, it was easy to walk from the hotel to the cruise check in - even in a slight misty rain. The hotel is in a tall mixed-use building that includes condos, retail, and the hotel. There is no room service, and the free breakfast offered is limited--but for cost/convenience it was the right choice for us. (The others being the far pricier Fairmont or Pan Pacific.) Front desk folks were very helpful.
Embarkation was very confusing to get our luggage dropped off. Granted we tried to board early and the offloading was still going on. Based on what pier workers told us there isn't a set place for each ship/sailing to drop off luggage - which sounds crazy given this ship makes the same trip every week. But once we found the location to drop off the luggage the rest was pretty well managed by HA. Just bring your patience with you. We were onboard by 11:15a or so, and our cabin was ready before noon. Lunch in the main dining room was the way to go, as the Lido was a zoo.
We rented two Lido Cabanas for this trip (two couples), which was a great choice. It gave us a place to hang out and our steward was excellent. Granted we tipped him well at the start and throughout the cruise, but he waited on us like kings. For Alaska, I would do this again in a heartbeat. (Cost $199 per cabana for the week.) I didn't see anyone in the Retreat Cabanas all week.
Food in the main dining room was very good. We ate at the Tamarid the first night (catch the first night 'special' when you get onboard at 25% discount.) The Pinnacle was good, but not as good as our memory of the meal on the Eurodam a few years ago. The Pizza, burgers, and hot dogs all got good reviews from our group. I think the best options for Lido is to get a customized food (ommlete, salad, etc.) made to order. Otherwise, the food we had was just fair. Be sure to at least order coffee via room service, as it is so nice to sit outside sipping your coffee in the morning. (Room Service breakfast was very good too.)
Entertainment: We only saw the Billboard night production, which was just OK - but less than you will see on most ships. We missed the illusionist and comedian, so can't comment on that. The orchestra played the score of an Alaska nature movie one night, and it was very good. BB Kings and the dueling pianos were both excellent. We went to the pianos (Billboard) every night. Lots of fun. I also loved America's Test Kitchen classes they had on sea days.
The bar drinks were disappointing, and never found the bar or bartender that could whip up something great. Our best bar experience by far was in the Tamirid Bar--as far as quality of drinks - but it was also the worst service. We finally just started going to the bar ourselves rather than have the bar waiter take our order. The Tamirid Bar isn't crowded and has incredible views. The Crows Nest has been ruined with all the new junk they have up there. This space in the past was our 'go to spot' in the past, but not anymore. #fail Holland America. Drink specials were only in two bars at 4pm and 11:30pm - BOGO +$2. Why bother having one at 11:30p on a HA ship??
As many have commented, everything seemed to be a ploy to get you to spend more money--which I don't think is unique to Holland America. The info left in your rooms about buying jewelry was overwhelming and the only port info was a push to go to cruise stores in port. Sad it has come to that.
Our shore excursions (not with the cruise line) were with Harv and Marv in Juneau in the 6 person boat. Excellent!! We did a taxi to Mendenhall in Juneau. Excellent!! We did the White Pass (one way to Frasier) in Skagway and stopped off at the Skagway Brewery for a post-excursion drink. Both were great.
All that said, I would go again tomorrow -- and would recommend this ship and itinerary.
We stayed in Cabin 7138 (our friends in 7139) - both Aft balcony cabins. Book these for the views!! The only downside of these cabins is they aren't fully covered, so we did get a little rain on the rails and first foot or so of the balcony. We also got wash water on the mornings they cleaned the Lido back deck. I grabbed a beach towel from the pool and just cleaned up as needed and we never left anything on the balcony. The view was incredible for Alaska and if it is cold you don't have as much wind back there. Also, both of these cabins were larger than the standard side balcony cabins. Just a few feet here and there - but really nice to have extra space. Cabin service was solid.
We took the 6 person boat with Captain Liz. Best money we spent in Alaska!View All 906 Whale Watching Reviews
Great one-way trip to Frazier and van ride back to town. (Skagway White Pass Railway & City Tour:) This was far better than the buses the cruise ship was using. Very personalized service.View All 1212 White Pass Scenic Railway Reviews