|Subject: Re: Alaska - Cruise - First Timers|
Two years ago my wife and I did the exact same cruise on Holland America. You should love it. Here are some recommendations.
You are right, Holland American Lines (HAL) is a slower, more mature (isn't that a nice way of saying older) crowd. Nothing like the crazy cruise we took on Carnival last year to Mexico---NEVER AGAIN! We loved HAL . There was a nice mix aboard. The best part though was their service. WOW! They really know how to do it.
Your wife's dressing plan sounds fine. There were lots of different definitions of the word formal when we were on board. I wore a plain black suit on those nights. She wore a the now famous black dress one night and a very snazzy pant suit on the other. That passes for formal on HAL. You will see some tuxes and you will see some really formal ladies gowns but you won't feel out of place in a suit. And if you really don't like to dress up, you can always eat in the upstairs buffet.
As to shore excursions. You are probably stopping in Juneau, Skagway and Ketchican as most of the HAL cruises do. Plus you get a day in Glacier National Park and two days at sea.
If your cruise is as full as ours I would not wait to book your shore excursions. Those that did were left to pick from a very few.
In Juneau we had opted for a wildlife boat cruise. Glad we did. Saw whales, seals, otters, bear, eagles and more. About 1/3 of the ship had opted for land excursions that involved flying. Going to see glaciers, bears, etc. Problem is, Juneau is rainy and foggy about 80% of the time, so those were all cancelled. A ton of folks ended up with nothing to do except stay on board. And after the previously mentioned, day at sea, they were pretty much left with nothing to do outside of read. In Juneau you can walk around town as the cruise ships dock right in town but a more depressing place, I have never been in. Lots of touristy, junky stuff but that was about it.
Skagway was exactly the opposite. A beautiful town. It does get crowded though when a town of 1900 people is invaded by four full cruise ships in one day. (That's about 5,000 people). We took the White Pass Railway to the top of the pass. A great experience. The tour is guided and the guy that does the narration was WONDERFUL! Great historical significance. And Skagway is a wonderful town to just wander in if you like to shop. Very friendly.
In Ketchikan we skipped the shore excursions because they all sounded like the ones in Juneau. That was OK, as Ketchikan is a very interesing community and again, the ship docks right downtown. You can walk on and off any time you like. So we went into town and toured the museums, wildlife center, old part of town (very interesting--built on pilings) and then went back on for lunch and then headed back out in the afternoon.
Lastly, as to disembarkation, HAL does a great job. You are already docked in Vancouver when you wake up. It is simply a matter of getting up and going. There will be a special disemebarkation meeting the day before you get to Vancouver and you can register then to be one of the first off. Since you are Canadian and you won't have any problems with immigration (plus it is not the USA) you should have no problem getting to the airport for your flight. Unlike our Mexico cruise where we were kept on board until noon by immigration. Ridiculous.
Have a great time. We loved them and would cruise with them again in a minute.
Jim & Kathleen in Redmond WA