First I would like to thank CruiseCritc.com. My husband and I had never been on a cruise and I really wasn't sure what we were getting into! I read many reviews on CruiseCritic.com, and they really helped me to understand what to expect.
We set sail on our grand tour of Alaska's Inside Passage on May 1, 2012. Embarkation was very easy and we were in our cabin rather quickly. Bagus, our steward, was wonderful. He was there when we wanted or needed him, but wasn't overbearing in any way. He always referred to us by name! We were so impressed with the look and feel of the ship. Something that really stood out was the cleanliness of the ship. From the hand sanitizing stations all around, to the tissues placed on the back of bathroom doors for use with the handle, Carnival really felt clean. My husband works for the health department and he took the Galley tour, nervous of what he would see. He was very impressed by everything he saw, and by the answers he received from the crew members giving the tour. Good Job, Carnival!!
Ports: We traveled to Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan. In Juneau, we took the Blue Bus to Mendenhall Glacier. This was a great deal--$7 each way! We enjoyed hiking the trails to Nugget Falls, the magnificent waterfall next to Mendenhall Glacier. This is a beautiful place, just 30 minutes outside of town. Afterwards, we wandered through Juneau, visiting the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church and then went shopping. Skagway was our next stop, and my favorite port. This is a cute town with an "old west" feel. The board walk sidewalks and wooden buildings reminded me of Tombstone, AZ. We took the White Pass and Yukon Railway 3 hour roundtrip train trip. This was a beautiful excursion up into the snow. At points, we traveled through 15 foot tall snow drifts. The scenery is magnificent and shouldn't be missed. Ketchikan was our final port. On this day, the weather was terrible---strong winds and rain. Many people never even left the ship and most of the tours were cancelled. We did explore the port and enjoyed the Totem Heritage Site and the Bald Eagle center next to it. We had fun walking the trails up to the Totem Heritage site behind Creek Street. I was really surprised by the number of tourist "junk shops" lining the ports--mostly in Juneau and Ketchikan. You really have to search off the main drag to find actual items "Made in Alaska." Most of the shops carry the same cheap items that were made in China. I will admit, these stores are great for when you have to bring a lot of souvenirs back to co-workers!
Glacier Bay--- After Skagway, we sailed Glacier Bay. This was truly a gift and an experience I can't compare to anything else I've done in my life. We picked up the National Park naturalist and first sailed to Marjorie Glacier and Grand Pacific Glacier. The night before, a National Park map was left on our bed (with our cute folded Carnival towel animal)--so we could easily follow along with the naturalist's descriptions of our location. We were very lucky and saw Marjorie Glacier calving! The sound you hear before the ice falls into the sea is indescribable! I've heard it referred to as "White Thunder," and thunder is the closest word to describe it! After visiting Marjorie, we sailed passed Reid and Lumpaugh Glaciers, before heading up to Johns Hopkins Glacier. We couldn't approach Johns Hopkins, due to seal birthing. Johns Hopkins Glacier was fabulous, especially as the skies turned blue at this time of the day. I truly can't say enough wonderful things about Glacier Bay---it felt like we were in a different world. I was so impressed by the Park Service employees, from their commentary, to the slideshow presentation, to the table of information (including animal skins to touch) set up by the pool area.
We had all of our breakfasts and lunches in the La Playa Grill. They were fine. Some were better than others. The "De Chevre" pizza was wonderful! The chocolate buffet--FABULOUS!! The main dining room, however, was a treat to behold! We had "any time" dining, but ended up requesting Nanka from Bulgaria every night we could. She was so friendly and attentive. She really made our evenings very enjoyable. The food itself in the main dining room was Incredible!! The Chateaubriand was very memorable and wonderful. I did try the frog legs----I don't need to try them again. But, I can say that I tried them! I enjoyed my nightly cappuccino that came with dinner.
What didn't we like--
The only things that we really didn't like were how much they try to sell you things on the ship. They are constantly taking your photos---which was fine, except that it got a little old every night at dinner. I did attend the art auction---the free champagne was nice. I didn't like the hard-sell pitch before the auction and at some of the other events. I didn't mind the cost of wine---it was comparable to the cost of wine at any restaurant. We really enjoyed the lemonade, so did not purchase the soft drink card. Lemonade, Iced Tea,water, Coffee, and Hot Chocolate were the "included" beverages. The iced tea was syrupy, but the lemonade and hot chocolate were wonderful.
we had wonderful weather for 90% of the cruise. On the day we sailed between Ketchikan to Seattle, we went around Vancouver Island out into the Pacific. This was a very rough day with 30 foot swells and strong winds. All the decks were closed, but the swimming pool looked like a wave pool, splashing all its water outside of its enclosure! Many people were ill---barf bags suddenly appeared in all the hallways. I was very grateful to my SeaBands and Dramamine. I don't know if this was normal, but it did make me question whether I would cruise again. After about 12 hours, the waves calmed and the sea was again like glass. It was then that we had a pod of orca breaching right outside our balcony window! What a treat!!!
I can't recommend this trip enough. I also can't recommend Carnival enough. Granted, this was my first and only cruise, but my husband and I both have lived overseas and traveled extensively. We both really enjoyed this experience. We were very impressed by the cleanliness of the ship and the friendliness of the crew. Thanks Carnival, for giving us memories we will cherish forever!