Firstly about us..I am 65 and my wife is 56 and we have taken previous cruises on RCI (3).This is our 1st on HAL and 1st to Alaska.We are not 3 and 4 times a year cruisers like some but as we cruise less often we indulge in suites when we do as we like the "extra perks" involved with suite life.
We decided to drive to Seattle as airfare for 2 was close to $1000 and we can drive it in 10-12 hours with one overnight stop and no hassle with airline baggage restrictions and airport transfers etc.We found an excellent parking deal thru Smith Cove Travel for $140.00 inc tax for the week including shuttle service to/from port at a secure lot.
Having cruised on 3 different classes with RCI (Vision/Radiance/Voyager)we were anxious to compare the Oosterdam to our previous ships.We both commented that Oosterdam seemed much more confined and closed in than any of the 3 ships on RCI.Hallways seemed narrower and ceilings lower and without the large atrium/promenades we were used to on RCI there were times it felt a little claustrophobic.
Our suite (deluxe verandah) would be comparable to a Grand suite on RCI but cannot compare to an owners suite.The closet/drawer space was very limited and if we were at sea any more than 7 days it would have caused issues.The one big plus was the balcony which was a huge wraparound at the aft starboard corner that is far superior to anything we have had on RCI.Overall I would rate the suites on RCI slightly superior to HAL.
Ships staff were excellent and we would highly recommend all crew/staff on the Oosterdam. The CD who was JT Watters was first class as were all his staff.
Entertainment was OK but nothing exceptional.
Before commenting on the food I should mention that I worked in the Food & Beverage industry for over 35 years so try to look objectively at what is offered in the way of the total food department.Overall the Dining room food is superior to RCI (except for desserts,which are very disappointing).The Lido buffet is not as good as Windjammer in layout or offerings.Specialty restaurant Pinnacle grill is equal to Chops but Canaletto does not come close to Portofino on RCI.In summation the food on HAL is slightly better than RCI and the DR selections are far better.
When you consider that the ship prepares over 11000 meals a day it is beyond me how anyone can complain about anything when it comes to onboard food.
Ports of call were Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria BC.
We took HAL tours in Juneau and Sitka and found both very good and fair value for money.In Ketchikan we simply walked around on our own and in Victoria we stayed on board as we are Canadians and have been there,done that,got the TShirt several times before.Had we known that on the last night (Victoria) the entire ship closed down at 6pm we would have gone ashore. They boarded up the casino,shops,library,not even a farewell stage show...nothing.
Both embarkation and disembarkation were well run and went very smoothly,except for of course the usual suspects who decide to ignore all printed notices and P.A. announcements and clog the hallways,stairs and gangways well in advance of their scheduled departure times and then seem annoyed when told they must wait until their appointed time.
In summation, this was an excellent cruise that we would recommend and we will return to HAL in the future and try a different class of ship.Not for a while though as next up is a transatlantic cruise on Oceania in March 2012.
Furnishings/decor a little tired.Small closet for a suite.Minimal drawer space. Good bathroom.Fantastic balcony.Long walk to everywhere on ship except Lido cafe.Very quiet cabin.