We just returned from our very first cruise. Two adults and two kids in our immediate family traveled with 11 others from the extended family. Age range was 7 to 87.
First, I must say we all found this to be a very enjoyable experience. HAL met almost all the expectations of the entire group.
Lessons learned (may be obvious to experienced cruisers)
- When traveling with a group, make sure you all have the same dining arrangements! We had open seating, while the rest had a fixed time. Eating together was a challenge.
- Make Pinnacle reservations early in the cruise. I waited a couple of days and could only book lunch on the last day.
- Watch the age ranges for the Club HAL groups. Despite assurances from two different HAL customer service reps, our 7 year old was not allowed to join his brother and cousins in the 8-12 year old group. A major disappointment for him (and us, since he refused to hang-out with the 3 and 4 year olds that made up the bulk of his age group).
We had great service from the very moment we stepped inside the cruise terminal in Seattle. Our cabins were ready when we boarded at 1:00. We selected 2 connecting oceanview staterooms. For us, that was the only way to go for 7 days.
After reading some of the tipping discussions on the cruise boards, I opted to tip our cabin steward on the first day. We never wanted for anything in our staterooms for the rest of the cruise. Perhaps we would have received the same treatment without the extra tip.
We had great weather, with the exception of some rain in Juneau. Calm seas except for the last day at sea, so no sea sickness in our group.
Food was excellent. Didn't have a chance to try Pinnacle until the last day (could only get a reservation at lunch). Definitely a step-up from the dining room and worth the small premium. Don't overlook Canaletto. That was one of our best meals on-board.
Hubbard Glacier was amazing. Conditions allowed the ship to get within a half mile, so the view was incredible. I had read Hubbard was the best and tend to agree based on what we saw.
Our group did whale watching with Orca out of Juneau. We saw at least 15 whales - a couple swam right next to the boat (while we idled in place).
Our kids loved the lumberjack show in Ketchikan.
Would definitely choose HAL again based on our experience.
We had 2586 and 2582 (connecting). Could not hear anyone next to or below us. Nice central location on the ship.We heard the occasional jogger on the deck above (not too bad, however). We did notice something banging against the side of the ship near us on a night with rough seas.Unfortunately, the windows always seemed to be covered with condensation on the outside.