We traveled as a family of three -- myself, husband and 14 year old daughter. We arrived late on June 14 to Doubletree Seattle Airport. We were given a tower room (Hilton honors status helped here and vouchers for food/breakfast during our stay. Vouchers can be used in any restaurant or at the Starbuck's coffee cart.) The room was modern and nicely appointed with a terrific view of the mountains. This hotel has a free shuttle to/from the airport which is not only helpful when arriving or departing but also if you have time to sightsee in downtown Seattle. The following day we took the shuttle to the airport light rail station for our 40 minute or so ride to downtown. Fares are 2.75 one way for adults and 1.25 one way for youth.... Can't beat it! We did the usual downtown sights -- Pike's Place Market and the piers. The food in the Market is delicious -- fresh and reasonably priced. We took the light rail in reverse followed by the Doubletree shuttle.
The next morning we had arranged for a driver to take us to the Amtrak station for our Cascades train to Vancouver. Anthony at Seattle Celebrity Transportation (tel. 206-432-2605 and email email@example.com) was reliable and punctual. Charge was $40 from Doubletree to Amtrak station downtown. At that time we also arranged for him to pick us up on Sunday, June 24th when we arrived in the evening from Vancouver. Amtrak does have baggage restrictions so just as with the airlines -- watch those weight limits! I had to do a bit of juggling to get my big bags down to 50 lbs. or less but was able to do so. Just as an aside -- I will NEVER travel with so much luggage again! We each had one large bag and one small carry on and it was very difficult to move around! I felt like a pack horse constantly! We traveled coach to Vancouver and business class on return so I can share my thoughts on both -- yes, lines were longer in coach than business class but if you are there early enough it really does not make a difference -- if you are at the front of the coach line you will still get a good seat -- just in the coach car instead of the business car. Coach rates are $34.20 and business class is $19 more at $53.20. The business class seats are a bit larger but IMHO not worth it for that. Well, I digress - Amtrak you wait in one line to check bags then go to another line to get your seat assignment. We sat on the left side of the train going to Vancouver which provides the best water view. There is one section where a lot of bald eagles nest and they were flying about in great numbers -- more than we even saw in Alaska! The view is really lovely and the train ride is worth it for this alone! The train arrived about noon in Vancouver to rain! By the time we got off our luggage had been sitting under partial cover (and one piece sat under an overhang where water poured off and onto our luggage) so it was a wet arrival! Now was my chance to say "I told you so" to all of my friends who laugh at me for packing in Ziploc bags. I pack outfits by day in bags -- well good thing this time or we would have had a wet mess of clothes! We cleared customs quickly and went to the front of the station. IF you had small luggage the light rail would be an excellent option from the Amtrak station but since we had a TON of luggage we waited in the rain for a cab. It was a short 2-3 minute wait and he took us (with our biggest bag loaded beside the driver in the passenger seat!) to the Hampton Inn and Suites on Robson St. Check in was a breeze as the bellhop had our luggage loaded off the taxi and on a cart and in our room before we had even left the front desk! We used Hilton points for this stay and found the accommodations comfortable and the staff helpful. All of the lodging in downtown Vancouver seemed expensive to me so not sure what I would say if I would have spent $250 USD per night! This hotel is in front of the soccer stadium so you can see all of the big video screens which is kind of neat. I was looking out and saw them passing out freebies down below so quickly put my shoes on and took the elevator down and ran across the street. They were giving out Home Depot goods in the form of a BBQ spatula and 2 BBQ mitts. My husband got a nice little gift (one day before Father's Day) with a neat story behind it! More to add to the luggage! We walked to Yale Town then to the Gas Light District, the Olympic Couldron and Canada Place. We are walkers and love to be out and about. It was probably a 10-15 min. walk to the Gas Light District from the hotel. We ended up at McDonald's for dinner since Vancouver prices were more than we wanted to spend knowing that we would have all the good food we wanted the next day! FYI the dollar menu in the U.S. is the 1.39 menu in Vancouver -- and that is Canadian!
June 17 -- Embarkation Day -- I was down in the lobby at 6:15 a.m. to sign up for the shuttle. The driver was to arrive and start taking sign-ups at 7:00 a.m. I was waiting for him! So we got our pick of times and I chose 10:00 a.m. figuring that would get us to the port just before 10:30 a.m. (It is relatively close but again allow time to on load and off load all of that luggage!) The Hampton Inn serves a breakfast which includes hot items. I got to watch the buffet at different times from the lobby and obviously earlier is less crowded though we never saw a time where a table could not be found. There was already a line at Canada Place when we arrived, which we soon found out was for security. There was mostly an older crowd in line but that disappeared pretty quickly when they called for all Holland America passengers to go in front of the Celebrity passengers. (The HAL ship was ready and the Century was not!) We probably waited 30 minutes or so before they let the Celebrity passengers begin to clear security. After security came the health form to complete and then on to check in... As reported here before, the line for regular check in seemed to move more quickly than the line for the suite passengers. They had one fellow attending all of the suite passengers. Once we checked in and were given our silver card (which we put on lanyards around our necks) we were directed to wait in the suite section. The only difference between this and the "regular" section was there was a divider between the sets of folding chairs. The difference came when it was time to board the ship. They came to escort 2 passengers (I am guessing from the penthouse suite) and then we were allowed to board. We were literally passenger # 3, 4, and 5 to board and the first to board after penthouse guests. That was pretty neat! They snap your picture and then welcome you with orange juice or champagne. You are greeted by many representatives from many different departments on board. Hats off to Jason, one of the asst. matre d's, who learned our names from that first introduction and called us by name ALL WEEK LONG -- even though he was not assigned to our section in the main dining room! I sure hope Celebrity reads these reviews -- even though I recognized him on my end of cruise evaluation -- this certainly shows an effort at an extra level of service which has disappeared on many cruise lines! My husband and daughter were anxious to try out the buffet but I was holding out for the Aqua Spa Cafe as I had read about it on Cruise Critic and was ready to try it out. The buffet was always fresh with a great variety during our cruise. Some of the buffet highlights would be the Caesar Salad which they make to your specifications, the eggs benedict in the mornings which were offered in several varieties and were always delicious, and of course the ice cream -- which my 14 year old daughter frequented often enough for them to learn exactly what she liked and how to place the toppings! The only disappointment from the buffet came from the Indian food as the curries seemed bland -- perhaps to serve the palate of the masses. The last evening in the main dining room our waiter had special ordered a chicken curry for us and it was one of the best dishes we had on the cruise. It did seem strange that Celebrity had so many Indian chefs and curries that disappointed -- so they redeemed themselves with our special order curry. By the way, according to our waiter you can special order any time as long as you do it the evening before you want the dish. That is a good little tidbit to know but we would never have done it on our own because we did not want to "miss out" on the good food already on the menu. Okay, so after they had their fill at the buffet we went to the Aqua Spa Cafe. I loved the little booths and intimate atmosphere. The breads are organic and delicious. They will grill salmon, tuna or chicken breasts for you -- one day I think they had pork loin as well. The salad was wonderful due to the bleu cheese on it. This was obviously a higher grade of bleu cheese -- maybe what is used in Murano since it shares a galley/chef? We went back other times but they change the choices daily so we did not find the cheese again. I had the grilled salmon and they wait until you order it so it comes out fresh and tasty! The desserts are not high in sugar but still satisfy the sweet tooth and of course look lovely! After lunch our stateroom was ready (just before 1:00) so we went to check out our Sky Suite cabin #1212.
The balcony had been lauded on Cruise Critic and it did not disappoint! There was comfortable space for 2 lounge chairs and a small table along with a regular size table and 2 chairs. The only balcony I have seen that had this beat was on the NCL Star in a Penthouse Suite -- at the bow of the ship and immense! So we are happy with the balcony, the cabin and the bathroom. (The bathroom was one of the most spacious and luxurious I have seen and had a tremendous amount of storage -- more than we could use!) Our cabin attendant Achmad Susilowanto and our butler Zenobio Rodrigues worked very hard to meet every request and to do so with a smile. Achmad asked what he could do to make our stay the most comfortable and when I requested four towels -- we ALWAYS had them without ever having to mention it again! He also promptly brought the temprapedic pillows I requested. He always had a smile and a "can do" attitude for any request! Zenobio also, went out of his way to make our stay special. He brought cappuccino for me every morning and then one morning when I did not order one he saw me in the hallway and offered to get it for me at whatever time I desired. He brought us room service breakfast, which we requested most mornings, and served it with style and attention to detail. He provided us with the afternoon tea sandwiches or pastries regardless if we were in our cabin or not. He worked hard to keep my daughter happy with her dinner requests. (I am digressing but may as well make the point while I am here..... the teen activities were often in the evening during the second seating -- which was our seating. Thus, my daughter could not dine with us if she wanted to do the activities -- one of the items I mentioned on our "attention to detail" form for Celebrity. It seems they could stagger the activities so that late dining was not always the group penalized! Anyway, our daughter often ordered food from the dining room menu and Zenobio cheerfully served whatever she wanted -- even if it was just three appetizers!) We were very happy with the service from our stateroom team and were happy also to give them an added bonus to the gratuities paid before the cruise. They worked extremely hard and made our cruise the special experience that it was! I cannot stress enough how willing they were to attend to every request -- even to some requests we had not yet thought of!
So by now some of our luggage had arrived so we began to unpack. Even with the many pieces of luggage it all fit under the bed when empty. The cabin came with 2 wool blankets which I used some mornings to keep me warm while I lounged on the balcony and watched the scenery. There were also a small set of binoculars (we had our own so can't tell you if these worked or not) and a Celebrity umbrella. The cabin also came with 3 thick and comfy bathrobes which also helped to keep us warm on the balcony and back and forth to the Persian Gardens! The toiletries in the stateroom were first class and added to the pampered feeling of a suite. The sofa in the Sky Suite makes into a bed which was comfortable for a teenager. The drapes are room darkening and definitely keep out the 18 hours of daylight in Alaska if you so desire. I, for one, was always looking outside at the gorgeous scenery floating by! There is an ipod docking station, dvd player, and tv mounted on the wall. The suite comes with personalized stationary - a nice touch. There was sufficient storage for all of our clothes and "stuff" -- keeping in mind that we had a lot! The only place where we did not max out the storage was in the bathroom!
So, after unpacking more exploring and a muster drill... for us the muster station was in the casino and we did not have to take our life jackets along. Since the Concordia disaster, we thought we would see more changes to muster procedures but things were a bit antiquated to say the least. They actually checked your name off of a list. (My husband was on a recent RCCL transatlantic cruise and he said they just scanned their sea pass card during the muster -- seems like the right idea during this computer age.) It was difficult to see the person giving instructions during the drill but at least we heard similar instructions on previous cruises!
Sail away was lovely both on public decks and from our balcony. It is neat to sail under the Lion's Gate Bridge out of Vancouver! We had our first sushi (aft deck 11) which was delicious. Then got ready for dinner and show as the late seating had an early show ( 7 p.m.) before dinner the first night. The show was a potpourri of acts to come in subsequent evenings. We ran into a couple from our CC Roll Call outside the dining room so it was wonderful to meet them after communicating on CC! We were excited to meet our table mates for dinner as well. We had a table for 8 just below the grand stair case with a view aft from the large windows. The table location was great. Finding it was another challenge! The fellow who was helping us had a little map and could not seem to locate our table. The table numbers were on a piece of glass in the middle of the table and very difficult to read. We had our number with us and gave it to the attendant but there were several minutes of confusion until he found the right table. A small detail for sure, but something that Celebrity should be able to correct easily by putting larger table numbers or having a better table map. We enjoyed our meals in the MDR with a couple of highlights that stood out (besides the already mentioned chicken curry) two appetizers both offered on the same night -- wish I knew their "fancy" names -- but one was thin slices of beef that were raw (found it! -- called beef carpaccio) and one was sort of a salmon mousse -- both were outstanding! The lobster on the second formal night was very good -- and my request for a second serving was honored without blinking an eye!
Sea Day #1: I woke up early (5:30) just in time to see a boat speeding directly out from the side of our ship. It was the harbor pilot who had assisted the bridge in negotiating through some of the Canadian waters. The boat was headed to this lovely island with little white houses capped by red roofs and a light house that was also red and white. I sat on the balcony wrapped in robe, 2 blankets and finally broke down and got out the gloves (yes, it felt cold!) and looked through my binoculars. I saw lots of different kinds of birds but my quest for whales was not to be honored -- yet! Later in the cruise I saw Orcas swimming off the side of the ship from our balcony and Humpbacks as we were sailing into Hubbard Glacier. A warm Jacuzzi bath felt wonderful after my 2 hours wrapped up on the balcony! We had a room service breakfast (always good -- to include fresh squeezed orange juice) Seas were unusually rough this day and it affected our CC Connections Party turn out. The officers who attended said that some sort of weather front was causing the rough seas and normally the ship would not be rolling so much. Some CC members attended solo (better half in cabin not feeling well) and some did not attend at all (both sick in cabin?) but of the 15 or so of us who braved it out (I say this tongue in cheek -- seasickness affects different people in different ways -- personally I felt the movement but it did not bother me) we enjoyed a nice get together in the Rendevous Lounge with our hostess Lisa Blackman. I cannot stress enough how enjoyable it was to feel you had friends during the 7 day cruise. We would run into CC members in ports, in the lounges, at the shows and there was always a friendly smile and some fun to be shared! Certain CC members really added to the enjoyment of our cruise as we shared some meals, shows and activities together --- so if you are reading this and have not yet signed up for your Roll Call -- do so right now! It really can add to your cruise experience and I thank Celebrity for supplying the venue for our get together.
We had lunch in the Aqua Spa (yum!) and then off to the Captain's Club Celebration in the Crystal Room with some of our CC friends. I would advise you NOT to eat lunch before the Captain's Club Celebration! This took place at 2 p.m. and surpassed anything we have seen on other cruise lines for their repeat cruisers. (Most lines do cocktails and a few appetizers.) This event had several stations with a variety of food and ice sculptures plus free drinks. It was extremely well done and unfortunate that we were not that hungry. Stations included a chocolate fondue fountain, made to order crepes, sushi, a carving station -- and probably more that I am forgetting. The drinks were not simple wine and beer offerings but included sangrias and other mixed drinks. This is a not to be missed event if you are a Captain's Club member!
We met some more CC roll call friends back in our cabin. We had set up on line to share a plane with them in Juneau over the glaciers and also wanted to get our teenage daughters together. The butler came with tea while they were there (are you getting a pattern of constant eating?) Good thing I have some willpower and my husband has a high metabolism! The butler also brought our priority tender passes for the next day at Icy Strait. My daughter and husband were soon off to a dance class and I took a much needed nap (after my early rising and time on the balcony). Then time to get ready for formal night. We had a pre-dinner drink with friends in the Rendevous Lounge and then on to dinner. After dinner we had reserved seating (for suite guests) in the balcony for a show of dance around the world. The butler asks you earlier in the day if you will be attending the show and makes sure they have your reservation. On the second formal night we did not see him for some reason, but he put our reservation in for us anyway, as he saw that we always attended the shows. (See what I mean about anticipating our needs even before we asked?) We enjoyed the show with our CC friends. We went to bed late but we got to set our clocks back an hour so that helped!
Icy Strait: The timing of this port is kind of nice (3:00 -- 10:00 p.m.) because you almost have a "sea day" before you arrive! Again I woke up early and went to the gym. It was busy but you could always find a machine. I came back and got ready for my day. We had our room service breakfast but I had walked by the buffet earlier and it looked really good. The eggs benedict station (aft - yes at the very back of the buffet - deck 11) is not to be missed. We made up for this once we discovered it! We had a special Captain's Club event today -- a backstage tour at 11:30 a.m. in the Celebrity Theatre. As we entered the theatre they were passing out champagne or mimosas -- a nice touch! We really enjoyed the question and answer session and seeing the dressing rooms etc. The dance captain has a delightful personality and was very open, sharing with us, about her life on the ship. After the tour, we stayed in the theatre talking with some of our CC friends and then stayed for Milo's nature talk. This gentleman is one of the most brilliant people I have ever met. His talks weave information, humor and an ability to cross disciplines and see connections that is rare in a speaker. He has a wealth of knowledge about every subject under the sun. We never missed one of his talks and commend him on his constant quest for knowledge. On this cruise his 90 year old mother was along and I complimented her for fostering such curiosity in a young boy -- surely she was driven crazy with questions as he grew up -- and she confirmed that he still spends hours in bookstores -- always wanting to learn more! After Milos gave his talk we had lunch in the buffet and then spent some time whale watching from our balcony. We saw our first Orcas as we were approaching Icy Strait. We used our priority tender tickets (which basically allow you off in the first group if you report to the Martini Bar right away or allow you to disembark with any subsequent group regardless of number) and rode the tender to port. (It takes all of 2 miutes!) I read reviews on here that said not to bother getting off the ship here -- that depends on what you want to do/see. We enjoyed that it is a "real" Alaska town absent of tourism though signs of expansion are already in place. They are building a sidewalk beside the main road to town. It will be nice not to have to walk on the road but we saw this as the first of probably many changes to come. We also noticed that they are putting in a larger dock -- possibly so tenders will not be necessary. We passed several waterfalls as we walked to town and stopped in a grocery just to see the prices ($7.00 for Â½ gal. of milk). We saw an eagle's nest with the eagle perched in the tree beside it. The scenery was lovely but the town itself is not so picturesque. The population is 800 so you could explore it in an hour! Walking to town (15-20 minute walk?) I actually took off my big coat and wore just my fleece hoodie but walking back once you came out of the protected inlet the wind picked up and I wanted my coat back on and my scarf as well. We explored the cannery and read about how they used to can salmon there and then we tendered back to the ship. (Got some great ship photos as the ship was anchored away from the port.) We rested and prepared for dinner. Our table for 8 was now literally a table for 6 when we reported to the MDR. (Two people from our table switched to early seating so they downsized the table.) We followed dinner with the Comedy Show at 10:30 and the entertainer provided some good laughs.
Hubbard Glacier: This day was the highlight of our cruise! I had read on CC the pros and cons of the two main Alaska itineraries (Glacier Bay vs. Hubbard) and I did not choose this cruise for the itinerary, but I sure lucked out! Since then I have seen video of both Glacier Bay and Hubbard and the latter wins hands down for being able to get close to an active glacier and watch it calve. We woke up early again and went to the Persian Gardens. We had it to ourselves and it was lovely! The heated chairs are very relaxing and provide warmth for cold bones! The view as we were approaching Hubbard was incredible. You were sitting in a warm chair, listening to relaxing music, wrapped in a cozy robe with floor to ceiling windows in front of you watching the scenery change and whales spouting and showing us their flukes! You could see the glacier as we approached and all of the ice floating in the water. It was breathtaking! We had eggs benedict for breakfast, but our main concern was getting on deck -- we did not want to miss one minute of the glacier experience! As we approached Hubbard they were playing classical music on the loud speakers and serving split pea soup out on deck. It was lovely. Many people were sitting down wrapped in wool blankets. Others were roaming about amazed at the view. Milos came on the loud speaker and told us where to look for wild life. It was a clear day with temperatures in the 50's -- not awfully cold but with the wind on deck you still needed to be bundled up. I cannot put into words the beauty of the glacier or the experience of hearing the "white thunder" as you see it calve. Certainly was incredible as we were within one mile from the glacier and had a great view. (We used both our balcony and the public decks to view Hubbard. Our stateroom was on deck 12 so you had quick accessibility to the public decks which provide a more panoramic view.) As we were leaving the glacier though, we were on our balcony and the ship was going through so much ice that you could actually hear cracking sounds. It was pretty cool! The captain also did several "sit and spins", turning the ship 360 degrees, to allow everyone to see. Another thing I loved about the glacier day is that you got to experience something new without having to leave the ship -- another sort of "sea day feel" - with a BIG bonus! After a light lunch (because we had an early dinner reservation at Muranos), I went back to the Persian Gardens to use the heated chairs, sauna, steam and rain shower. I did not have it to myself this time but that did not take away from the experience.
Muranos: This deserves a separate title in my report. We had reservations for 6 p.m. I had read reports of a three hour dinner at Muranos and would not have believed it possible but it definitely is possible -- and probable! The food is outstanding beginning with a berry sorbet to clean your palate. They bring you the dessert menu right after you order your main course since some desserts take them 45 minutes to prepare. Everything is fresh and delicious! We chose the Escargots Tortellini and Diver Scallop Wellington Style for our appetizers. The presentation was so lovely that the food was almost "packaged" for you -- they brought the appetizer and I had to think to myself -- okay what did I order again? We both ordered the lobster bisque and the garnishes were at the bottom of the bowl and the soup was poured into the bowl in front of you. For our salad course, I ordered Heirloom Tomato Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella, Apple and Cantaloupe and my husband ordered Bouquet of Mixed Greens, Herbs and Cucumber. My husband had questioned my choice because of the fruit added to the traditional Italian salad but the slices were so thin that it gave a unique flavor to the dish. My husband's salad was literally a "bouquet" as it arrived standing up in the middle of his plate wrapped with thin cut vegetables to hold it together. He looked at me as if to say "how do I eat this?", but once he cut into it the standing vegetable bouquet tumbled and resembled a regular salad -- albeit a delicious one! We chose the Pan Seared Filet Mignon which had a green peppercorn sauce made table side. You have to understand that each dish in itself was not a lot of food, but as the courses came and went it was easy to overdo it! Since we were splurging, when they asked if we wanted to see the cheese tray, we agreed and enjoyed the description of the cheeses -- selecting a few which were served with nuts and dried fruit for our enjoyment. We ordered specialty coffees (Captain's Club coupon awarded them for free) and took the waitress' recommendation for the Aspen Coffee and were not disappointed. It was very good. At this point they brought a two tiered tray of petit fours which had a delightful selection of dried fruits, chocolates and tarts -- all of this and we still had not gotten to dessert yet! My husband had the Crepe Ballon Rouge which was done tableside and was a crepe with strawberries and a chamberlin sauce. I had the good fortune to have ordered the Grand Marnier Souffle and it was to die for! This ruined me for the Chocolate Souffle offered in the MDR later in the week -- nothing could compare! We had excellent service during our dinner and the waitress Anna was a delight. She was attentive and professional but had an easy charm which added just the right touch to a perfect meal. While we were enjoying this repast my daughter enjoyed lamb brought by Zenobio so that she could take part in the teen activities. We went to the Liverpool show and then came back to the cabin to finalize details with our CC contact for our plane ride in Juneau the next day.
Juneau: I was out on the balcony watching our arrival. The mountains were amazing with snow melting and running down the crevasses. Our CC friends came to our cabin at 7:45 and we were off the ship by 8 a.m. walking to Rent a Wreck. I had booked a car for the military rate of $39 per day -- a great bargain. We used $11 worth of gas for the day and gas was $4.59 per gallon. We were fortunate to get a 4 door sedan even though I had booked a compact so it was plenty of room for 5 people. I believe the regular rate is $51 so even that is very reasonable. From my initial phone call, to the map and information we received in the mail, to the actual rental experience, everything was smooth and professional. I understand that Rent a Wreck is being bought out and the new name is Juneau Car Rental Company but the young girl who assisted us assured us that the level of service would stay the same. Info for rentals is JuneauCarRentals.com or call 907-957-7530. It is maybe a 5-10 minute walk from the cruise ship pier to pick up the car. We were early for our pre-arranged flight time (special thanks to our CC Roll Call friend for setting all of that up ahead of time) so we stopped on our way out of town at Macaulay Salmon Hatchery. Mid-June is early for the salmon to be running but we were lucky enough to see 2 salmon that had just "arrived" up the ladder the day before plus we learned a lot about these amazing fish during our tour. You can try different salmon products here and we loved the salmon jerky. They also will ship using USPS flat rate options so you can have a taste of AK anytime! Contact info is 1-877-463-CHUM and address is 2697 Channel Drive Juneau. Since we were ready for our flight ahead of time we bumped the departure time up to 10 a.m. The weather cooperated as it was sunny and pleasant. We were in a 6 seater (including the pilot), single engine plane and flying over the Juneau Ice Fields and Glaciers was breathtaking. I seriously cannot decide which experience was neater -- this flight or the day at Hubbard -- they were both pretty incredible. Our flight lasted 50 minutes and at the end we flew over downtown Juneau and got some great aerial views of the Century. As we were landing, the temperature dropped by 15-20 degrees and it began to rain. We were very grateful that we got the flight done before the clouds rolled in. We dropped our CC friends at the Century and I went back on the ship to get our rain gear. (Yes, eternal optimist had not taken umbrellas and slickers due to the bright sunshine in the morning.) Meanwhile my husband and daughter parked just to the left of the ship to wait for me. I went back and grabbed our rain gear and a bit of cold weather gear and back to the rental car for our trip to Mendenhall Glacier. We talked to a ranger who had interesting bear stories to share. We walked to the visitor's center and watched an enlightening movie on the glacier. They also had a piece of 200 year old ice that you could touch. It takes 200 years for the ice to form and break off. We saw the exhibits and then headed out to Nugget Falls. The weather was still cold and drizzling but we had our gear so we were fine. The falls with the glacier in the background really was amazing. After taking pictures and getting sprayed by the falls we headed back to the car for a ride outside of town to the Shrine of St. Therese of Liseux. The setting was extremely serene -- in many places we were the only ones there. We saw fish (really large fish) jumping out of the water as if to put on a show. There is a small chapel, stations of the cross, reflection gardens, trails -- a lovely spot. On our way back to town, I called Rent a Wreck to verify the time the car was due and we cut it close -- it was due at 5 p.m. and we got there at 4:50 after stopping for gas. We walked back to the ship and ate the goodies the butler had left from tea along with the daily canapes. We rested and then got ready for formal night. The second formal night is when they serve the lobster -- not to be missed! We used our reserve section tonight for the Best of Broadway show and sat with our CC friends. We truly enjoyed sharing our cruise experience with them. My husband and daughter made a brief appearance at the late night comedy show but it was too rated for a teenager so they came back to the cabin.
Ketchikan: Another late arrival in port which is another "sea day feeling" as we got to Ketchikan at 2 p.m. -- 8:30 p.m. It is the best of both worlds -- as you get to explore a port but you don't feel like you have to be up early and off the ship taking advantage of every minute! We got up and had our room service breakfast as usual. We went to the cook off held in the Celebrity Theatre then to lunch in the buffet for my daughter and on to hear Milos on "The Night Sky".... another great talk. Then lunch for the adults in the Aqua Spa Cafe and off the ship about 3:15. We waited for almost 45 minutes across the street from the carved eagle for a city bus. If you take the city bus BE SURE to have exact change ($1.00 each for adults and .50 for students) -- the driver does NOT make change -- and our driver did not seem happy to have tourists on his bus! We got to talk to a couple of locals during the drive though and they gave us a narrated tour of the area along with many recommendations. They also talked to us about their lives in Alaska. We got off at Totem Bight and we were almost the only ones there. Walking through the forest felt like being in a fairy wonderland and the setting was along the water with many totems -- lovely. We saw one other couple from the ship but otherwise we had the place to ourselves! As you enter, there are pamphlets that explain the totems. There is a long house with information about how the natives lived there. There is also a carving house that had totems which were currently being carved. No one was there so we got to explore at our leisure -- very nice. We knew the bus would be back in about 45 minutes -- 1 hour so we did not want to miss our ride back to town. It was enough time to see everything without feeling rushed. Same cost for return trip and then we took some pictures downtown and did a bit of shopping. Upon returning to the ship we got some sushi and then quickly showered and got ready for the magic show at 7 p.m. The magician appeared on America's Got Talent and he was very young and energetic. We enjoyed his performance. After dinner we went to Dancing with the Stripes which was a dance contest where ship's officers paired up with passengers and danced their hearts out. We enjoyed watching with our CC friends who really know a lot about dancing! By this time in the cruise it is getting bitter sweet because you know the end is near! As we arrived at our cabin we had an invitation for the next morning for a Bridge Tour. Lisa Blackman arranged for the tour for our CC Connections Group. So now we were going to bed late and losing an hour by changing our clocks and had to be up early for the bridge tour, but we did not want to miss it!
Last Sea Day: A big thanks to Lisa Blackman for arranging our Bridge Tour. After our cappuccinos and pastries from Zenobio we met our CC members for the tour. We all got wanded by security and then were taken to the bridge. It was interesting to see some CC members that had been ill on the day of our Connections party the day of the tour and fun to talk with the members we already knew. We enjoyed our tour. Afterwards we went to the MDR about 10 minutes before the brunch was to begin. This is really a show stopper and not to be missed event! (My husband brought pictures of the midnight buffet on his RCCL transatlantic and believe me it does not even begin to compare with this brunch!) There were stations set up all over the MDR -- some of the highlights were dark and white chocolate fondue fountains, waffles made to order, fresh crab legs purchased the day before in Ketchikan that were absolutely delicious, carving stations, sushi stations, a dessert table the width of the aft windows, all kinds of breads.... And I am sure I have not covered it all! We sat for 2 hours socializing with the people seated at our table (from Vancouver and Germany respectively) and never felt rushed even though there was a line to get into the brunch. We got some fantastic pictures at the very start before everyone began serving themselves and messing up the beauty of the displays. We went back to the cabin to wake up our daughter so she could get something from the brunch. I went back with her and of course now we were not seated aft by the windows but upstairs because it was MUCH more crowded. We sat with some CC members who did not make it to the roll call due to the illness of their son, so it was nice to meet them finally. My daughter had the lamb and said it was excellent. After brunch we went to hear Milos "Are we Alone in the Universe?" After that we went to the cruise director's talk about being a stunt man in Hollywood. Our cruise director was John Grantham, and until now I have not mentioned him but this is the time and place! We have been on several cruises and he is right up there in our top two for cruise directors! He has an engaging personality, is multi-talented, vibrant, charismatic and added an uplifting dimension and energy to the ship's ambiance. For those looking for him on the Century you will not find him now. June 24 was his last Alaska cruise for his contract and then he was to go on vacation for 2 months. About 2 months from now some lucky passengers on some Celebrity ship will be getting an awesome experience with John as their Cruise Director! His talk was fun and informative. Afterwards my daughter went to a movie, "The Help" and I went back to the Persian Gardens for some relaxation. I love those heated chairs! Not sure I would like them on a Caribbean cruise but on an Alaska cruise they were perfect! My husband came in for a while to use the sauna and steam room then we headed to the cabin to pack. We went for our last round of sushi and sat out at the Sunset Bar to enjoy the view. We got ready for the evening and sat with our CC friends for the 7 p.m. show which again was a little bit of all the entertainment. This was the night at dinner where our waiter surprised us with the chicken curry -- yum! After dinner we went back to finish packing and to find our stateroom attendants to give them additional tips. I had written thank you cards for them to let them know how much we truly appreciated their attention to detail during our cruise. I stayed behind to finish packing, while husband and daughter went to the 60's trivia and dance review. Remember when you have a lot of bags it takes a long time to pack stuff up! I barely got the bags outside of the cabin by the 11 p.m. deadline. I joined my family in the Crystal Room and found them with some of our CC gang. See how CC makes a difference? We enjoyed our last night on board.
Debarkation: I was up early at 5 a.m. to make the most of the last moments. There was no statement under our door so I went to Guest Relations and got the printout which was correct. I spent some time on the balcony and on deck 14 before eating my last Eggs Benedict in the buffet. At 7 a.m. I woke my family up and they went to breakfast in the buffet. We went back to get our carry on luggage from the stateroom and then to the Crystal Room which was our assigned area for our number "4" for debarkation. It seemed to be mostly suite guests and Captain's Club members. They had coffee, juice and pastries set up which was a nice touch. We were there by 7:50 and by 8:05 they announced that we could leave the ship. By 8:28 we were in a taxi headed to Amtrak to day check our bags -- super smooth process! It costs $3.00 per bag to day check them at Amtrak. This allowed us to explore for the day which would have been impossible with all of that luggage. We walked to Chinatown and spent some time in a lovely Chinese garden. We roamed through several medicine/herb shops which we found quite interesting. We ate some spicy pork buns in one of the restaurants (yes, you get used to eating every couple of hours on a cruise ship!) Then we just sat in the park and watched the people go by. It was a pleasant way to end our trip. We got in the business class line and were first in line at around 4:15 p.m. for the Amtrak Cascades back to Seattle with a 5:45 departure. We arrived on time at 10:05 and had communicated with Anthony of Seattle Celebrity Transportation to have him pick us up at 10:30 p.m. It worked out perfectly as it did not take long to get luggage. (Customs boards the train when you cross the border from Canada to the U.S. so your customs documents are turned in on board. This was extremely quick and easy.) We had to wait 5 minutes or so since we got our luggage right away, but Anthony arrived at the agreed upon time of 10:30. There are taxis which come to the Amtrak station as well but there was quite a line of people waiting for them. It was nice to have pre-arranged our transport. We headed back to the Doubletree at the Airport and were again given a tower room on the opposite side of the hall so we had an airport view with Mt. Ranier in the background.
We used the Doubletree shuttle the next day for our flight out of Seattle and that ends our amazing Alaska adventure! Congrats to any of you who made it through all of these pages! You read almost 8,000 words! I would be happy to answer any questions or help with details if you are planning a trip. Thanks to Celebrity personnel for a great cruise and thanks to Cruise Critic for providing the venue for roll calls to make friends and get questions answered!
Signing off for this cruise~!