Flew into Vancouver from Atlanta the night before the cruise. Used up the last of the Holiday Inn points and stayed for free at the Holiday Inn Express Richmond. The hotel was okay, but the choices for places to eat within walking distance was limited. We chose to order from a local place that delivered to the hotel and spent a quiet night trying to get used to the time change.
We took a cab to Canada Place around 10:30 ($35). We dropped off our luggage and was on board the vessel by 11:00. The Windjammer had just opened and it was the only time all week that we were able to get a table without circling the entire dining room to look for a place to sit. Rooms opened at 1pm and we were off to the tail of the ship.
JS 1100 is on the tail of the ship in the back corner. The balcony was the highlight and almost as large as the room itself. It held 2 lounge chairs, 2 regular chairs and a table. We could have easily fit more chairs/tables if we needed. It was nice to see the full back view and also a bit of the port side, especially in Hubbard Glacier. It was really cold at times, but it was awesome to sit and see a full view instead of just one side.
Being D+, we requested a table for two. We found that our table was for 10 and went to the head waiter for a change. The next night we were placed at a table for 2, inside a small room off of the MDR. It had another small table of 4, with two young ladies and a table for 20 with a family reunion. We went to the Concierge and quickly had this changed for the remainder of the cruise. Be careful of what you wish for, we were then seated at a table for 8 next the original table for 10.
Concierge lounge was great - Vanessa was a great bartender. Stephen, the Concierge was very helpful - especially with the MDR muddle.
Food was okay for the week. After taking many cruises, you can almost predict what will be on the next day's menu. It was good and plentiful. I see where the deserts are getting less attention, but I suppose that is a good thing with all that there is to eat.
This is the first time we have been on a ship with a Dog House. The hot dogs were good and it was fun to try different varieties that they served.
One night we had tried the new Brazilian Steakhouse. It was good and worth the extra expense. Meat is not cooked over an open pit (obviously) but in a rotisserie. Still very good and the chimichurri sauce they have as a side was the best. I think we put it on everything.
Okay, with the addition of Rita's Cantina and the Dog House, the Windjammer seating shrunk. It was difficult to find a seat during peak breakfast/lunch times, but with two people we were always able to find a counter seat or sit with another couple.
We didn't go to any of the shows. We are not interested in comedians and show productions were ones we have seen before. We did try our luck in the casino and came out a little ahead. That's a first for us and decided to quit while the going was good.
At ports of call, we really didn't have any problems with lines getting on or off the ship.
The ramps at Icy Point and in Ketchikan are both steep. I don't know whether it would have made a difference if it was low or high tide, but I could see that it was difficult for some to get on/off the ship comfortably.
The weather was rainy and cool for the most part. The last Alaskan cruise we went on was sunny, so this put a different light on the scenery. A must have is a good camera with a large card. If we had to have developed film, our bill for pictures would have been more than the cruise ;). Binoculars are also a must.
Disembarkation in Seward went smoothly. The luggage is in a warehouse by number. Since we had priority departure, we were off and able to find our luggage before it was overwhelmed with people.
The last part of the journey was the worse. We had booked an independent transfer to Anchorage with Alaska Cruise Transfer. They stated that the bus would leave at 8AM. By 9:30, we were still waiting. Another driver told us that the bus was delayed by road work. When the bus had finally shown up, they wouldn't allow the passengers to board. Once on board, there were no seats together and they told one passenger to hold their 6 year old on their lap since someone in the office had overbooked. The gentleman that I sat next to told me that his wife was booked with the same company on an 8 hour tour. They had booked together to be called the next day and told that they couldn't get on. They put him on a 4 hour tour transfer and kept her on the 8 hour transfer. When he went to get onto the bus for the 4 hour tour, he was told that he was on the direct transfer. I don't know how long this company has been in business, but they were unwilling to help, unorganized and rude. The driver left us off behind our hotel and we had to walk up hill and around the building with all of our luggage to check in.
We stayed 2 nights in Anchorage. We stayed at the Embassy Suites hotel. It was booked through hotels.com and was an excellent hotel. Happy hour and breakfast were great.
While in Anchorage, we rented a car from the airport. It's easy to get around, but difficult to find places to park. The hotel will bring you downtown by shuttle and drop you off. Since we wanted to explore out of the way places like Ship's Creek, Wild West Guns and Alyeska Resort, we enjoyed having the comfort of our own transportation.
Overall, it was a great cruise. The ship is newly renovated and looking clean and up to date. The room was great with a greater view. The food was good and plentiful and the staff was excellent in customer service. I would recommend this ship and itinerary to anyone.
I wouldn't recommend the HI Express nor the Alaska Cruise Transfer. I would also recommend the Embassy Suites Hotel.