As I used HAL's Air Plan, I'll start there. The flight from Cincinnati to Salt Lake was nice. We were served drinks and pretzels. Conditions were a little cramped as there were two sets of three seats with an aisle in the middle. The flight from Salt Lake to Anchorage was much better. We had bigger jet and theCaptain gave geographical infomration and we were served q box lunch. No one was at the airport to meet us and we only discovered, after spending $2.00 for luggage cart rental, that there were porters from HAL standing by to help you with your luggage. We found this out by overhearing another passenger complain. We barely made the last bus to the Statendam. It was a two and one half hour trip across the peninsula to Seward from Anchorage Airport. We get a tour lecture on the bus and stopped to see Belucia whales in Cook Inlet and made a potty stop. When we arrived at the Statendam dock building, we were too late for the Embarcation Photo. Also, I was listed as a handicapped passenger (I can't walk over 200 feet without pain) and was supposed to be met with a wheelchair. They had to send for the chair and it took 15 minutes to get it from the ship. As a handicapped passenger and also being a full suite passenger I was supposed to have priority boarding. I mentioned this to the security woman who told me to "shut up and get to the back of the line".
Upon arriving on board things looked up. Waiting in my cabin as promised was the 3-wheeled scooter and extra wide regular wheelchair I rented from Care Vacations. We dropped off our carry on luggage and went to the crow's nest for the Sail Away drink in the souvineer glass. Regarding the carry on luggage both the airport security and the HAL secuirty were very rude when I asked for hand checking of my camera equipment. I stood my ground and finally got that service. Life on board was quite nice. The suite came with a bottle of Champaigne from the Captain. Our cabin steward was very nice and picked up on the fact that my husband was a "news hound" and had a copy of the USA Today for him every morning.
As Suite passengers we had free laundry and dry cleaning services. The dry cleaning machine was broken and so they checked with the Amsterdam to see if they could do our dry cleaning when we were in port with them in Sitka. They were already backed up on thier own dry cleaning and couldn't assist us. I had followed the suggestions of others and only brought enough clothes for 4 days on a 7 day cruise and told the consiger I was not having them wash my knits in with their laundry as they used hot water and bleach. The consiger and my room steward arranged cold water washes for my knits but it took two days to get the laundry back..
We had wonderful table companions in the Rotterdam Dining room and our waiters were the best. We had such fun with the assistant waiter that we left him a bigger tip than the head waiter. The wine steward always brought us our soft drinks, the right ones to the right passenger, after only one night. We had purchased the soft drink cards and they were the best buy of the cruise. I had discovered that you could order them as a Bon Voyage gift and have them waiting in the stateroom so I did that and saved hunting up a bar tender to get one from. I preferred breakfast in the room but my husband almost always had his on the Lido. The portions in the Rotterdam Dining Room looked small but after ALL those courses you definately were not hungry. The food was very tastety, well spiced and presented with flair. The highligh of the trip in the dining room was the Running of the Moose the second night out. A person dressed as a moose went through the dining room followed by the waiters carrying the mouse dessert. This was accompanied by music from the Rocky and Bullwinkle show.
The ship was beautifully appointed and there were many quiet places to sit and read or watch the scenery go by. My husband spent a lot of his time in the Explorers lounge when we had liquid sunshine (which was only about half the time).
We went on four cruise sponsered shore excursions and two that I booked myself. We found out that when it says "on the dock" as a place to meet, they mean infront of your ship. The docks were long and there were many shore excursions heading out and we didn't know at first where on the dock they meant. We almost missed our first shore excursion because of this lack of information.
The shows in the Van Gogh lounge were quite nice. Somewhere between a well presented college effort and a broadway show. We even had a magic show one night. The hit of the shows was the Indonesean Crew show and they had a special drink that went with it. The movies were not to our taste and we only went to one of them "How to lose a guy in 10 days" the free popcorn was alright but nothing to write home about. The movies were not "first run" but what you would have found in your $2.00 cinemas back home.
The ships photograhphers were not as pushy as I have read and if you bought the pictures or not was not a big deal. However, there was always something on sale in front of the shops on special tables that made going past the shops almost impossible for through traffic as people congregated around the tables. It was the only time I felt nickled and dimed to death.
The dj that had the bingo was a real fruit cake. Jazzy Jeff always appearred in weird attire to do whatever his activing was for the day. The best presentation was by the naturalist on board and he was very available for questions.
One night we were at sea trying to make time to the next port and it got so rough that the pool on the Lido deck which is only about 4 feet deep sloshed from a 1 foot depth at one end to a 5 foot depth on the other end and spilled over its boundries. You could stand there and watch the wave curl. Dispite this I had no trouble with seasickness as I was wearing the Transdermal patch behind my ear. Vibration was not felt in most of the ship but in the bathrooms you could feelthe vibration of the engines and the slight sway fo the ship. It did sway more on the one night of the "Surfs up in the Lido". All ships employees were most helpful and we were pampered to an unbelieveable extent.
The plane trips back were again in the more crowded jets but the plane staff were helpful and courteous.
On the whole, the cruise meet and exceeded our expectations. We both can't wait to cruise again.