I had never been on a cruise before, and went with my dad who has been on several cruises. I have to say, overall I am not a cruise person, but I am glad that I took this cruise! It was well worth it.
Pre-cruise: We flew into Seattle the day before, so that we did not have to rush to get to port. We stayed at the Westin, which was a great choice. The location was perfect - just down the street from Pike's Place Market and across the street from the monorail that took us to the Space Needle. It was also near a lot of shopping and some parks. The hotel also was very comfortable, and perfect after a long day of traveling. We took a taxi right from the hotel to the port, and it was no problem- very easy.
Embarkation: We had an assigned time of 2 p.m., but were given a tidbit of information to arrive by 11:30 a.m. We had no problems getting through security or check-in, and were on the boat soon after it opened at noon. We went straight to our room, where the bags had already arrived. Our steward greeted us almost upon arrival- he was great the whole time. We ate at the buffet- not many people on the boat yet, so we had no problems getting our food or finding a place to sit.
Stateroom: Our room was on the Aloha deck, and had a balcony. The balcony was definitely well worth the cost. The room was small, but not cramped. The closet was huge- which I really liked. The bathroom wasn't too bad- small but manageable. We were afraid on the Aloha deck there would be a lot of noise from above, but we didn't hear anything. I think I heard our neighbors once when they were yelling.
Dining: Overall was good. I was pleased by the food. I had worried that there wouldn't be many options and I would get sick of the food, but this did not happen. We ate mostly at the buffet, and there was always something new to try. There were only one or two nights when the lines at the buffet were ridiculously long, and I had to decide what I wanted and just sneak in here and there to get my food. There was also only one time we had trouble finding a seat, but sat at a big table with another group. We ate at one of the dining rooms a few times- the food was almost the same as the buffet and the service took forever. We preferred the buffet because the food was good and we could get in and out. I don't like sitting for long meals! The pizza was very good, as were the hamburgers. Very tasty! The only downside is that those were outside, and it was COLD outside. The ice cream was very good. There were only 2 flavors and nothing special, but the quality itself was good. The International Cafe was good- tasty sandwiches and little desserts.
Entertaintment/activities: I only went to the 60s show and found it disappointing, so I didn't go to any other shows. My dad went every night, but said they were mediocre. The naturalist was interesting, but I only went to one of his talks. On certain days, he was on deck telling us about things we were passing, and we could hear him from our balcony.
Ports/excursions: Juneau- We did the whalewatching and Mendenhall Glacier excursion. It was well worth it. We saw lots of whales and eagles and the scenery was unbelievable. We did not see any whales from the cruise ship, so I was glad that we went! The glacier was neat, but I wish we'd had more time to walk around and do one of the hikes. Juneau itself is a nice city. We took the Mt. Roberts Tramway to the top of the mountain, and the views were awesome. No rain, and the sun even came out! So we had great views. We saw a lot of bald eagles and were above them when they were flying!
Skagway- We did the White Pass Scenic Railway. The weather was cloudy and cold, but not rainy. The train ride was ok- not worth the money since we couldn't see too much. But it was interesting to ride on the train up the trail of '98. We took a shuttle into town afterwards- it was a long walk into town!
Tracy Arm Fjord- Beautiful. We were really glad we had the balcony for this day. We ordered room service and watched everything from our room. Words cannot express the awesomeness- waterfalls, seals, icebergs, the Sawyer Glacier.
Ketchikan- Loved it! Cutest little town. We had sun that day- which apparently they had not had in a while. We did the Bight Totem State Park and the lumberjack show. The Totem Park was interesting- it is in a beautiful setting and I loved the ride through town. The lumberjack show I would have skipped. It was not great- I would have rather been exploring the town! The ship was only in port 7 a.m.- noon that day, so we had to rush right back to the ship.
Victoria- We did the Butchart Gardens. No rain again- it was actually quite warm! We were in port at 7 p.m., so the buffet was very crowded that night. The gardens were ok. They were very far out, and being the last night we were very tired. Plus we had an early departure the next day! If you like gardens, you will find the Butchart worthwhile. Otherwise, you may just want to walk around town.
Disembarkation: Very easy. We had the ship transfer, so we were assigned a color group. We put our bags out the night before and had to get to our location by a certain time. The bus dropped us off down the street from the airport- so we had to walk. The airport itself was a nightmare- I would recommend leaving the boat as early as possible and getting a taxi to the airport in order to miss the cruise crowds! We waited in line at least half an hour at curbside check-in, and we were told the line inside the airport was 3 hours long. Good thing we weren't rushing for our flight!
Overall a great experience. For Alaska, cruising is definitely the way to go!