The first thing that struck us as we boarded the ship is that there was nothing or no-one there to tell you how to get about the ship, where you need to go, what you need to do and what facilities were available on board. You just kind of had to find your own way to your cabin and work out what was on board either by reading your daily Cruise Compass or watching the RC channel on the TV. We were cruising in Alaska and really didn't want to spend time in our cabin watching TV. On our 2nd last day we found the ships directory in one of the drawers in our cabin. Would have been nice if that was left out for new arrivals to peruse. Guest services were helpful when we needed to consult them but very brisk and much more attentive if you were enquiring about extra cost items.
Being intrepid travellers, we made our way to the bar and worked out where we needed to go for dinner on the first night. Extremely helpful staff in the bar & dining room helped us out a lot with ships protocol. Our stateroom seemed nice enough - quite compact and we were glad to have the verandah - particularly on this cruise with such magnificent scenery. The sofa was small & hard so we just used it to store a suitcase. Would not have like to have our son sharing with us as it would have been a tight squeeze with the sofa bed out. Bed & pillows weren't that comfortable and shower was minute. Wouldn't like to be a large person trying to fit in there. Our cabin steward Rolly (as with all staff on the ship) was just lovely.
As our first day was spent at sea, we used the time to explore the ship deck by deck. Radiance is quite large so we certainly got our exercise for the day. In the afternoon we were treated to close up time at Hubbard Glacier. What an experience and we were so lucky to get within 1/3 of a mile & witness some massive calvings. The onboard commentary is really terrific and anyone on the ship that day will never forget the experience.
That night, we again ate in the dining room and by now had worked out that the food on board was pretty ordinary in both the main dining room & Windjammer. It stayed that way for the remainder of our trip and it was only on about day 5, we discovered the fresher options on offer at Park Cafe on Deck 11 in the solarium. This it the best place to eat on the ship (free dining) for breakfast and lunch. We didn't partake of optional dining as we weren't there to spend our money on the ship. We were there to enjoy SE Alaska. We did go to a show in the theatre that night and found it quite corny so didn't bother to attend any more shows. We also went to a couple of the music trivia sessions in Quill & Compass and the Colony Club which were fun. We also attended some destination specific presentations by a Canadian Mountie & an Alaska Park Ranger. The Mountie presentation was odd but the ranger one was terrific.
Mostly in the evenings, we went back to our cabin with a bottle of wine & sat on our balcony enjoying the views. We also needed early nights for early starts on excursion days :)
Our first port of call was Juneau and we came to learn about dockside spruikers. Some were quite rude when we declined their services and certainly wouldn't have encouraged us to enquire further. We enjoyed a self-guided walking tour of the Capitol (maps available from the visitors centre by the dock & it's signposted) along with a ride on the Mt Roberts Tramway and a short hike around the top for fantastic views. We had independently pre-booked all our shore excursions prior to departure but had a couple of ports of call open for options in case there was something we particularly wanted to do or had missed out on during our 2 week driving tour of South Central Alaska prior to the cruise. Otherwise - we were happy to just wander about & explore.
2nd Port of Call - Skagway. We had to meet our independent tour at 8am so were up bright & early to start our day. We took a small coach from Skagway to Carcross & return with lively commentary and many stops along the way. A very enjoyable tour with time to explore & shop in Skagway prior to ships departure.
3rd Port - Icy Strait Point. Again, we had a tour booked and had to meet on the dock at 9am. We got one of the first tenders around 8am so had time to explore the ISP complex & cannery museum. Very interesting & worthwhile. Our day was spent driving around Chichagof Island with our guide from Brown Bear Lodge hunting for bears and ending with some salmon fishing. Absolutely great day out in the Alaskan wilds and would highly recommend to anyone seeking an alternative to whale watching or the cruise tours. This was the earliest departure of any of the ports (3.30pm last tender) so we didn't have time for anything else in ISP on our return from our tour.
Final Stop - Ketchikan. Another free day and the visitor centre again provided us with a map for a self-guided walking tour. Ketchikan has so much to offer the visitor and it can be done very economically. We visited the SE Alaska Discovery Centre, Salmon Hatchery & Totem Heritage Centre and Creek Street - all within a short walk of the cruise docks and enjoyed the quirky architecture of the city along the way. You really don't need to spend your money on tours out of town to see the same things you can see right within the downtown area.
Final day - cruising Inside Passage to Vancouver but really you are in open water much of the way until the morning you approach Vancouver. We found this quite a boring day as we weren't interested in Bingo Jackpots or the Casino. The weather was nice and many people were out on deck or in the pool??? (Still a bit chilly for my liking at 17oC). Spent a lot of time on our balcony & watched a movie on the TV. Went to the Spa for an accupunture treatment prior to our 24hr plus transit home..... (I went earlier in the week for a deep tissue massage and wasn't very impressed).
The Captain had urged us to get up early and enjoy the approach and entry into Vancouver Harbour - so we did and it was spectacular on a gorgeous sunny day. The ONLY cruisetour we booked (City Highlights with Airport drop off) was so worthwhile to ensure a smooth departure and transfer to the airport. The tour itself was a quite comprehensive trip around the city centre and Stanley Park with a passionate local guide. Mostly, it didn't make me wish I'd made the effort to stay a bit longer in Vancouver though. It's just a city and a bit of a culture shock after 3 weeks in Alaska!