Since I benefited from so many other reviews here, I will attempt to write my first one as I am missing my morning room service for coffee.....
We flew in on Thursday for our cruise on Saturday. We stayed at a Hampton Inn close to the airport as we were not doing tourist type things but meeting up with Dh's sister who lives there. Sadly she was sick and this did not happen. The hotel still worked fine as they had a free shuttle to local restaurants and shopping which we took advantage of.
My niece and her hubby flew in on Friday night. Their luggage arrived soaking wet, including everything in it! Seems it sat out in the rain at their connection in Denver and Southwest claimed they are not responsible for wet luggage. Needless to say it put a damper on the start of our vacation. But they managed to get things dried up overnight and all ended well.
Saturday we hired EastSide For Hire to take us to the dock. It was okay but the driver arrived early (better than late) by an hour and had to wait. Also he did not speak good english and had no idea where the dock was. He tried to use his GPS but it was not quite accurate and we had to help navigate him to the pier. We arrived about 11:45 am and we were in our cabin by 12:10! It was such a smooth embarkation. We were in the suite line and my niece was in general boarding line and we got on within 10 mins of each other. There was no Mariners lunch this cruise, so we ate lunch on the Lido deck.
Cabins- We had the coveted 5190 corner aft wrap suite which was absolutely wonderful! We got an upsell about 2 weeks prior and took it. My niece and her hubby were in 8023, a verandah cabin forward. They loved having their own balcony and felt it was perfct for the two of them. Mostly all four of us spent sea time in our cabin and on that huge balcony. Our cabin stewart was wonderful as well.
We did not think we would use the concierge service much but ended up using it quite a bit. Margaret and Ivy were so sweet and eager to help with just about anything. More on their help later...
Food- I was very impressed with the food on-board, especially on the Lido deck. It surpassed both Princess and Carnival in selection, quality and presentation. I think we managed to try every venue and were happy with all but the Pinnacle Grill, however Canaletto's was awesome!
The Pinnale Grill was such a disappointment. We had a 7:30 res for four and were seated at a window. It was full when we arrived but our concierge had requested a window for us. Once we started most others were finished and I would say was only about half full once the early diners finished.
It started out oddly. We all ordered an appetizer and a soup. 3 of us received our appetizer (shrimp-very yummy btw) and 1 got their soup, then 3 got soup and one got appetizer. After a long wait we got our entree and sides. We all had baked potatoes and the waiter started to serve the butter and sour cream to us, after serving 2 of us, he stopped and said he would bring it out in a bowl. He stopped in the middle of serving my niece and still had plenty left! The 2 of us still needing butter waited while he left and tended to another table who was just seated. We waited 10 minutes, at which time our potatoes were now cold and our entrees half eaten. My steak had the distinct freezer burn taste to it but the others said theirs was good.
After our entrees, we waited again for dirty plates to be removed, another 10-15 minutes and we were given desert menus. The waiter returned twenty minutes later to take our order. He then told us souffles would take 15-20 minutes extra, which we had planned on ordering. Since the dinner was so long already we decided on alternate items. 30 minutes later we received our deserts. My niece ordered chocolate lava cake. It was pure soup! I think they forgot to bake it and it was raw cake dough. All in all a big disappointment and a waste of over 3 hours.
I am sorry to be so long explaining all this but wanted to show we were not being extremely picky.....I did mention it to our concierge and they were very concerned about it and reported it. We did get a call from the Grills director and he did offer of a free meal there but with only one day left on our cruise and had no desire to eat there again. The concierge also sent a gift of a model of the Westerdam as an apology for our dinner fiasco which was very thoughtful and a very nice sentiment!
Canalettos was awesome! Margaret also helped us track down our reservation for 4 not 2 as stated on the reservation card but she got it corrected.
Seattle - Juneau We did see about a half dozen whales on our first sea day!
Ports- We were up early and saw many whales on our sailing into Juneau. We rented a car and toured on our own, including a stop at Wal-Mart. This was the only day we had cloudy weather but it was warm, with temps in the 60's, any of the locals were in shorts.
Glacier Bay, we were up at 4am and had breakfast in our room while watching for whales and other wildlife. Sadly we did not see much wildlife here. However, it was a bright sunny day and it was beautiful! Very little calving of the glaciers, but so many waterfalls! I will not even try to put it into words.... Our Captain was wonderful, even tho it was not on our itinerary he took us to John Hopkins Glacier and it was the most beautiful of them all. I was so impressed by this extra effort by him, I even sent him a thank you note the next day.
Sitka - Our first time to Sitka and we loved it. Such a quaint little town. As I posted earlier, we did dock here and took shuttle buses into town. It was well organized and efficient. We visited Fortress of the Bears which we all said was the best thing we did the whole trip in ports. They fed the bears which we knew they did but they also fed the eagles! Most impressive! better than any Raptor Center for sure.
Ketchikan - We hired Dave with Ketchikan Taxicab Tour and went to Totem Bight Park and Potlach Park and a general tour of the area which was very nice and then spent the rest of the day shopping. Once back onboard we went to the Salmon Bake on the Lido deck. It was fun and food was delicious! The salmon and the mussels were so good!
Victoria - Short port stop so we had dinner at Fishermans Wharf and shopped a bit.
Formal Night Note - Since we were watching for wild life so much, we ate a lot of our meals through room service, including formal night. They even provided a white table cloth for us that night along with flowers for the table! They earned a nice tip for that! What a wonderful meal for 4 we had that night, watching the water as we ate lobster and steak. Magical!!
Disembarkation was fast and orderly. We were cleared and off the ship by 7:45am and on our way. We used Aces Car Service which was great. Nice car, arrived early, nice driver, we would highly recommend them. We were at the airport in about 20 minutes, hours early for our 11:35 flight.
We also used luggage direct and it worked perfectly, well worth the cost.
We will definitely sail HAL again as it was a wonderful cruise with a good mix of all ages. The Piano Bar was fun and the Dancing with the Stars was good. With so many ports we did not get to as many entertainment venues as we would have liked but there was a good assortment of things too do.
As a side note, we did get a refund or our unused portion of our soda cards and credits for a bit of port fees and taxes. Nice having a negative balance on the bill!
Happy to answer any questions!