We booked our cruise direct with HAL; at that time we emphasized that we were first-time cruisers unfamiliar with the whole cruise experience and the ship's layout. We asked about cabin 3312 stating that we wanted a quiet cabin away from elevators, kitchens, and any other noisy venues. The agent assured us #3312 would be quiet. We learned on the first night that we were below the Queen's Lounge and that the noise from the shows could be heard because of the excessive volume used for the sound system in the lounge.
The HAL website shows that our cabin would have a bath-tub, shower, . . . etc. We never did find the tub HAL advertised; only a shower in cabin 3312! We have contacted HAL customer rep about this since our return, and they acted surprised when they read their own website's cabin description. Perhaps they need a better editor or more honesty in advertising????
Our itinerary was good and a major motivating factor in our choice of this cruise. Alaska is beautiful!
The cleanliness, maintenance, and over-all appearance of the ship was superior! Our 2 cabin stewards did an excellent job of maintaining our stateroom. Staff aboard was always friendly and welcoming. Servers and waiters in the restaurants are polite and hard-working.
The free technology sessions conducted onboard were informative and helpful. Techspert Tom was personable and knowledgeable, not to mention VERY patient. His presentations were organized and worthwhile for most people attending.
Our dining experiences were variable: at LaFontaine we were in the open-seating group. Getting a table for 2 away from the servers' work area was a challenge. It was convenient for HAL personnel to seat people in large groups. The food was sometimes good, but vegetables nearly always were cold by the time they were served. Rolls had a hard crust and all bread was served cold. When we asked that the bread be warmed, it came back "crusty" and returned to the table after we had eaten most of our other food.
After several tries at LaFontaine, we began to eat our meals at the Lido. The quality of the food was a step down in most cases due to the buffet serving style. It was more likely to be warm though. The Lido breakfast presented a wide variety of offerings. In LaFontaine, Lido, and the Pinnacle, all vegetables were prepared with excessive amounts of fatty seasonings (bacon for example). Of the 3 meals when rice was served, two of the rice dishes were dry and cold. We had lunch at the Pinnacle ($10/each extra charge) where we chose halibut sandwiches. A direct inquiry was made about preparation: fried or grilled? The server said the halibut would be grilled. If it was grilled, there was so much butter melted into the white-bread bun that a tasteless, greasy product was the prevalent result. The only trimming to the sandwich was a single piece of iceburg lettuce under the minimal fish offering (1" wide x 1/2" thick strip).
Desserts were all show and no substance, especially the cake offerings during the cruise. The chiffon type cakes were all air and lacked flavor. We ate more ice-cream after several disappointing cake desserts. The apple and cherry pies were good but again served cold. HAL did have sugar-free desserts offered. A good selection of fresh fruits were available at most meals.
As first time cruisers, we felt at times like a captive sales audience; we were always being "reminded" that items were available and all we had to do was show our room card. People who have issues with wise use of their purchase power would be very vulnerable. The photography sales---a camera at EVERY port, meal, etc. are another money-making agenda. We learned during the cruise that cruise lines own or support certain stores where they encourage passengers to shop in ports where the ship makes stops. Reviews for other ports: Port 5: HOMER, AKRating: 5Downtown visit the Pratt Museum. Shop at the Fireweed shop and the shop next door for a good selection of locally made and regional artists' products. Go to Norman Lowell's art gallery outside of town.On the spit walk around the harbor area. Lots of shops. Eat halibut at Captain Pattie's restaurant. Port 6: Kodiak, AKRating = 4Go to the Baranov Museum where the docents are full of dialogue about the local history of Russian settlement, there are numerous historical photo albums, and interesting displays. See the Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church. The Federal Wildlife Center has a short film and displays emphasizing the area's wildlife and fauna, along with a complete skeleton of a whale. Observe the 2nd largest fishing fleet in the U.S. in the harbor.
Good location except for the noise from the Queen's Lounge upstairs. Great access to the promenade. Plenty of closets and drawers. Window with obstructed view okay. Could have used better lighting (higher wattage bulbs) at the dressing mirror. Shower only NOT a shower/tub combo as advertised on HAL website for the HH staterooms.
Totem Bight State Park located outside of town is worth seeing. You can ride the city bus to for the trip.
Food at Annabelle's ---halibut sandwich with coleslaw--- excellent!
Lots of ships in port simultaneously overwhelms the town.
See the state capitol--free tours.
Visit the wonderful state museum.
Learn about the Indians of the area who own the Mt. Roberts Tram.
We were rained-out of Mendenhall Glacier.
Cruise line developed port with zip line and old restored cannery facility.
Enjoyed the nature walk around the Park Rangers' building.
See the museum downtown and/or the museum of native cultures. Lots of shopping opportunities.
Rent a car and drive to Hatcher Pass (old gold mine) and/or go to Girdwood to Seven Glaciers Restaurant. Tram ride up to restaurant. Great scenery from the top.
Sitka is a wonderful port call located in the coastal Rain Forest. It is a clean town and the one least effected by the influence of the cruise lines that we visited. There are beautiful trails and totems in the Sitka National Historical Park V.C. and Totem Park. See the salmon spawning in the Indian River while on your walk (late Aug. or Sept). Also observe local native craftsman in working demonstrations. Walk up Castle Hill for a beautiful view and to visit historical spot where transfer of Alaska from Russia to U.S. took place. In the middle of downtown on Lincoln St. see St. Michaels Russian Church ($5 donation required). There wasn't enough time for us to see the Sheldon Jackson Museum or the Raptor Rehabilitation Center.
We needed more than a half-day port call in Victoria, B.C. The B.C. Museum, legislative building, harbor and vendors, Totem Park, The Empress Hotel, and many shopping opportunities are located downtown. There is a visitor's center across the street from the Empress. Town is full of gorgeous flowers---hanging baskets and in gardens. We arranged our own bus tour to get out of town to the Butchard Gardens, which is a place nobody should miss!
Sitka is the port least effected by the cruise lines that we visited. It is clean and beautiful, set in the Rain Forest. Go to the Bishop's House, Castle Hill (great view, scene of transfer of AK from Russia to U.S.), St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Church ($5 donation required), Sitka National Historical Park and Totem Trail (native artisans demonstrate their work, beautiful walking trail and totems, bridge with spawning salmon in Sept.). Many shopping opportunities downtown.
A town that requires more than one-half day in port! B.C. Museum, Totem Park, Empress Hotel, harbor area with street sellers and performers, B.C. legislative building. Lots of shopping opportunities.
Don't miss the Butchard Gardens. We arranged our own bus trip from downtown and back.