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John

Age: 61

Occupation:Retired

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Volendam

Sailing Date: 2012-06-13

Itinerary: Alaska from Vancouver

This was our first cruise, and was part of a longer four week stay in Canada.

Friends who have been cruising always get excited when talking about cruising, but we were distinctly under-whelmed.

The food was distinctly average, probably because we had high expectations. There was certainly variety, and lots of fresh food, which was good. The Italian Restaurant was a disappointment, and we ended up in the Rotterdam, largely because it was good place to meet with other passengers and the food was acceptable.

The steaks were good, but given the location, the lobster was very poor.

Early morning tea in the cabin was always prompt, but I've never seen such small croissants.

The stateroom was fine, and more spacious than expected. We were on the Promenade Deck, with a view (some have restricted or no view at all).

The absence of a clock was a discussion point, but the SatNav on the TV made up for it. We hired a DVD which was good.

Overall the stateroom was somewhat tired, and the beige coloured bathroom didn't help, though everything worked as it should without any hitches.

The bed was two singles pushed together, which hadn't been locked together properly.

The steward was first class.

We looked through the daily list of activities, and enrolled for a couple.

The cookery session was just a demo by the on-board Le Cirque chef - we thought we would actually making something and participating, not just watching.

The wine tasting was expensive and poor as the chosen wines were just generic varieties which can be bought for under a fiver a bottle in any supermarket.

The Alaskan beer tasting was again expensive - US$15 for small amounts of three beers. The Skagway Brewery was far better, both in terms of cost and experience.

The shows were very ordinary, and we only went once.

The galley had worked hard for the chocolate evening, which included ice sculptures (clearly from moulds), but the best by far was the Curry Evening.

We took three excursions.

The best by far was the trip by catamaran up Tracey Arm. We transferred at sea and the small boat motored away from the mother ship up the spectacular fjord to the incredible Sawyer Glaciers. The captain of the catamaran switched off the engines so we hear the silence - interspersed with the thunderous cracks of the calving of the glacier. The fjord was also full of wild life. The catamaran returned us back to the Volendam at Juneau. Recommended!

At Skagway, we travelled on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad. The weather was beautifully warm and clear, and made for spectacular views and photographs. The cost was the same as the walk-up price at the station, though we entrained on the quayside. Recommended.

At Ketchikan, with took the Misty Fjords seaplane and catamaran tour. We'd never been in seaplane before, and with low clouds, the flight was exciting. The flight of around 45 minutes by air required a 2½+ hour journey home, which, despite the best efforts of the first glass guide, wasn't the best way to spend a couple of hours. There wasn't a lot to see, so if you are considering seeing the visiting the Fjords, take the seaplane both ways. Otherwise avoid.

The Alaskan scenery is absolutely spectacular. My photos could easily be made into postcards. I am delighted we went, if only to confirm that global warming (whatever the causes) is happening, and the glaciers are melting quickly.

I doubt we will be passengers on a HAL cruise again, but the Alaskan experience was superb.

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