This was the most expensive cruise we had ever booked but the advertising made us think it would be worth it. When you board a ship and your heart sinks because the carpets are so shabby looking, is not a good omen for the remainder of the trip. This vessel is in dire need of refurbishment and indeed, at the end of this cruise it was rumoured to be going into dry dock for 2 weeks for some improvements.
The cabin was spacious and well presented with a much valued bath and walk in wardrobe, but a large raised bubble in the middle of the carpet where somebody had tried to remove a stain did nothing to lift my spirits. Our friends' cabin next door had awful scuff marks on the walls and the furniture was very shabby. The weather was not good so the cabins creaked and groaned all night. We became experts at knowing where to strategically place cushions and towels to minimise movement squeaks. Any reported problems were promptly dealt with but I would never book a cabin at the rear again.
The organisation was first class from arrival to departure - speedy and efficient so top marks there. On the whole, the staff were attentive and extremely pleasant but several times in the Compass Rose restaurant service fell well below the expected standard. We realised this was because we chose to eat well into the sitting when staff were being redeployed to other areas of the ship after the initial rush to get people out in time for the theatre presentation. This was such a shame because the food was truly excellent but service did not match that experienced on other cruise lines. If you have open dining you should have sufficient staff no matter what time people want to eat. A 30 to 40 minute wait to place an order is not acceptable.
The trips were first class although better wet weather gear could have been provided on the Fort Stevens cycling event. Other trips provided excellent protective clothing which was very much needed and I would be better prepared on another trip to Alaska and take more of my own. Despite the weather, we came back from every trip smiling. One slight niggle about trips was that our $1,000 onboard credit could only be used for premium trips booked once on board and not in advance, which meant we were scrabbling to find something to spend the money on at the end of the voyage. I wouldn't book premium trips in advance again.
As the journey progressed we were slowly seduced by the Navigator; by the fact that there was always somewhere to sit and have a drink, the evening entertainment, the daytime lectures, the quality of the food, the dedicated bar staff, the hardworking cabin staff and the feeling of relaxation that comes from knowing that everything is included in the price.
When we disembarked at Vancouver we just wished that we had delayed the trip by one month to benefit from the makeover.
Would we pay such a high price again? We're still debating that one but I suspect the answer might be yes.