We had a wonderful time on this cruise. Alaska was so beautiful, and we lucked out and had good weather on all but one day.
Our choice of hotel the night before in Seattle was the Red Lion on 5th Avenue. It was just a few blocks from the Pike Market, so we were able to walk over there after we arrived. They don't offer a shuttle from the airport to the hotel, so we took a cab which cost around $30. The next morning, we also took a cab to the ship.
Embarking was very easy. HAL has a number of staff who direct you to the various stops along the way.
Having sailed on the Carnival Conquest and Ecstasy before, we were initially very surprised at the smallness of the ship and the lack of entertainment.
The stage and showroom were very small and the entertainment was definitely a notch below Carnival. The visiting entertainers literally brought their "bag of tricks" with them and performed on a bare stage. They were all entertaining, but were not provided with much back up.
We found a home in the Crow's Nest and enjoyed their daily happy hour. The bartenders there were wonderful and a lot of fun. We really got tired of the Trivia contest going on during happy hour when we really just wanted to relax after a day of sightseeing and watch the ship depart. We heard the same Trivia questions over and over again during various activities on the cruise.
The casino was also small, but we enjoyed playing blackjack there.
The slots seemed to be very tight and we didn't hear of anyone hitting any kind of jackpot.
The good thing about being on a smaller ship was that we could get closer to view the glaciers than the huge ships, which is of course a primary reason for taking the cruise.
Everyone was cordial and did their jobs well except for in the dining room.
We opted for open seating, which may have been the problem.
The first day we ate in the dining room for breakfast and the service was just plain awful. The food came late, the juice server didn't come around until someone asked, and we could not get refills of coffee. So after that we relegated ourselves to the Lido Buffet for breakfast, which was very good.
The only complaint about it is that they don't provide trays, so for instance, you have to get your hot food, take it to a table, then go back for fruit or toast or whatever else, and then make another trip for your juice, coffee, and/or water. Also there is no definite line, so everyone sort of runs around in circles. My companion was not as upset by all this as I was, until we walked into the dining room one night at 6:00 and were told it was a "special night" and we could not be seated until 8:00 because there was no open seating for that night. We had purchased a bottle of wine the night before and had not finished it, so they had kept it for us for the next night, but we did not want to wait 2 hours! So, back to the Lido. We ate at the Pinnacle one night and had incredibly great service and steaks, plus a wonderful chocolate souffle.
Another word to the wise: If you are taking an excursion in a port that is tendered, give yourself at least an hour to get to shore. Our excursion tickets said allow 30 minutes for the tender and we would have been late had we not gone down early.
Besides the dining room experiences, everything was great and the staff were very nice and helpful. Our robes were also worn and stained, but we don't use those anyway. I had asked for fruit and it was provided promptly as was ice.
Debarking was very organized and easy. We had planned on taking a taxi to the airport, but the taxi line was really long so we took the shuttle for $28. I am using this extra space to review Homer and Kodiak.
Homer was a really interesting place - sort of arty with lots of interesting people. They have a lot of coffee shops and galleries. I had been looking for some quality souvenirs that were moderately priced and found those there at the Art Shop Gallery. They feature local artists and you can buy things starting at around $12. One of the artists was there when we were and it was fun talking to her. It was incredible just to sit in the Crow's Nest and watch all the fishing boats come and go. There must be hundreds of boats and trailers there and we heard the fishing was great. Several of our fellow passengers went halibut fishing and althey all caught their limits and were really happy with the excursion.
Kodiak did not have much to see, but to me was still very interesting. A shuttle dropped us off downtown, but we walked the 3/4 miles back to the ship.
The walk is not very scenic since this is a big commercial fishing location and the walk takes you through a sort of industrial looking area.
We found an arts and crafts show and a photographer who had some great shots of bears and other Kodiak area animals. Other than that, there was not much to see but a few souvenir shops and a church, which was having services when we were there so we could not enter.
We had a large ocean view cabin and it was very roomy. There were six closets, lots of drawers, and a great bathroom with a large medicine cabinet and bath/shower combination. This cabin seemed much larger than the large ocean view ones we have been in on Carnival.
Ketchikan has great tourist shopping and also a drugstore that is within walking distance. We took the float plane excursion and it was wonderful and worth every cent. It was a beautiful sunny day, so we could see the mountains and even mountain goats.
Juneau is a scenic, quiet town and surprisingly small for a state capital. It has a lot of neighborhood pubs, and we stopped in one of them and enjoyed it very much. Prior to the pub, we went on an excursion to the Mendenhall Glacier and a salmon hatchery. They were both very worth while.
We didn't have a lot of time in Anchorage itself as we took a tour out of town to an animal rehab facility and Portage Glacier. The tour was a little long and the seats on the bus were small and spaced VERY close together. My 6'4" companion was miserable the whole time due to not having any leg room. Even the vintage yellow school buses that are used for transportation in Homer have more leg room. In retrospect, we should have just walked around Anchorage, although we really enjoyed seeing the animals at the rehab facility and also the glacier. There were no bathrooms at the animal rehab place, only portable toilets. There were bathrooms on the boat that went to the glacier.
Sitka is a really charming and entertaining port. We signed up for a Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest and were not disappointed. We had a captain that had spent many years in the Coast Guard and he knew where to go and how to get there. We saw 2 whales, about 50 or so otters all lounging around on their backs, 2 bald eagles and a nest with 2 nearly grown eagles, and we also saw puffins. I had really wanted to see some puffins, so I was ecstatic about this sighting. We also saw a sea lion on our way out to sea.