I have been writing Trip Advisor reviews for several years now because I truly feel it is reasonable to "pay back" for all of the reviews I have taken advantage of. Many of the spots I have chosen, hotels I have stayed in and restaurants in which I have eaten have been because of TA reviews. Sometimes short and sweet and will cover it, but some topics just need more desription. This is the case when it comes to a cruise. I know readers dont want to read novels (personal experience) so I'll try to review my cruise in point form and keep the commentary to a minimum.
My wife and I have been on 3 cruises over the past 6 years. Royal Carribean, Princess and now Celebrity. Read no further if all you want to know is we preferred RC over the other two. The first two were carribean cruises, but other than the temperature there aren't that many differences.
Cruise - Alaska - Seward to Vancouver - 7 days - Celebrity "Millenium" - June 8 to 15, 2012
- Solsticed in 2011
- not a monster ship, which is nice. You can actually walk from one end to the other without packing a lunch.
- one indoor Thalassotherapy pool (what that heck is that anyway?) Really just a big! whirlpool, but was enjoyable
- one outdoor pool - icy cold
- usual ship stuff - theatre, spa, gym, internet cafe, etc... you can see all that stuff on the Celebrity website - all just the same as the next.
- cabin - we had an Aquaclass Suite that was surprisingly smaller than the suite we had on Princess. It did have a new fancy shower unit that sprayed lots of water at every part of your body - pretty neat. Elton was our cabin steward and did a phenomenal job - took care of every one of our issues right away. (No towel animals though)
- restaurants - ambience was nice. See below for discussion on food.
- entertainment - stage entertainment was really good. Get there early to get a good seat.
- majority of passengers 65+
- beer and wine selection was good. Lots of choice from domestic to imported
The Ports - All very rustic - but you can't beat the view at any of them. Expensive everywhere you go. I have written individual reviews for things we did at each of them because I chose to plan all my excursions my self and avoid the high cost of ship sponsored excursions.
- Seward - fishing and tourist town. A few restaurants, no fine dining. Excellent Aquarium at south end of town, paid for complements of the Exxon Valdese who dumped a ship load of crude on the Alaskan shores back in the 80's. Well worth a visit there.
- Juneau - standard cruise ship port town, jewellery and souvenir stores with jacked up prices and hyenas waiting to sell you a trinket. People we met on the ship looked at a necklace that started at $16,000 who then haggled it down to $3,000. They didn't buy it. We went to the Mendehall Glacier by taxi - which was awesome.
- Skagway - standard cruise ship port town. They have tried to keep the town looking the same as during the 1890's during the gold rush. We took a bus tour up the White Pass that followed the gold rush trail and train line. Views were to die for and the history was great. Fairly decent walk from the town to the ship, that was docked last in the line. Weather was cloudy, rainy and cold, but then you come to expect that in Alaska.
- Icy Strait (Hoonah) - Celebrity bought the port and set up jewellery shops (go figure), a zip line center and nature walking trail (that was pretty cool) otherwise not sure why there was any benefit to stopping here. You can walk 1.5 miles to town or take a shuttle for $8 return. Recommend staying at the Port, unless you are a walker, otherwise nothing to do/see in town.
- Ketchikan - standard cruise ship port town (starting to see a pattern?). We booked a kayaking tour with Southeast Alaska Kayak - which was one of the highlights of the trip. We also ate lunch in a local cafe that was a nice change (see Food below for an explanation)
Awesome - don't need to say much more than that. All friendly, did everything they could to help make your cruise great. They come from all over the world which is a really nice experience.
The Food - mediocre at best
One of the things that people always say about cruising is the food is incredible, you never go hungry and you can eat 24/7. I am here to tell you that is not the case. And for perspective, there was no-one we talked to that felt any different than us. Yes, you "could" eat 24/7 but that would involve going to the Buffet - stay clear of that place. Mass produced food that is mostly tasteless, cold and stiff. The main dining room, the Metropolitan, moved you in and out of the restaurant in quick speed. The food was "ok" but not special. Yes, I did not leave hungry, but I certainly was not wowed. Our cabin (Aquaclass) included the exclusive Blu restaurant. The staff there was really attentive and treated you well. Remembered your name by the second day. (Special mention to Sherwin and Red - nice job) It is sold as "healthier choice dining". Our opinion of healthier choice does not necessarily mean lacking in flavour. This was not just one meal, but most. This was really disappointing. The kicker was we paid $40 each to go to the specialty dining room - The Olympic. French fair, white glove, lots of attention.... the food .... not much different than in the other two restaurants. I had venison and my wife a veal chop. Were it not for the sauce neither piece of meat was flavourful. Some items were tasty, appetizers and bread (the cheese platter was great), but in the end there as no way this experience was worth paying an additional $80. We had gone to the specialty restaurant on the Princess cruise and it was one of the best mealsÉ dining experiences we had ever had. I will reiterate my earlier remark - everyone we spoke to were just as disappointed as us.
We didn`t go on any ship sponsored excursions. Mostly because they are just too expensive. I researched and booked all my own excursions which all worked out as planned.
In line with other cruises, but our biggest pet peeve (not just Celebrity) is that you get charged extra for EVERYTHING you do. Some staffer or other is constantly handing you a pen to sign for something. You can be fairly well assured that you will leave a cruise ship having just landed an extra grand on your credit card.
In the End
Cruising Alaska was an awesome experience - and most likely one of the best ways to see it. I would highly recommend doing an Alaskan cruise. A lot about the cruise WAS good, mostly the food was the disappointing part. So, as long as food is not a big deal to you, Celebrity is probably as good a line to use. Oh, and, don`t take/pay for a Yoga session at the gym. The two trainers are good at lots of stuff - but Yoga is not one of them!