We flew to Vancouver the night before the cruise, arriving at our hotel shortly after midnight. We stayed at the Accent Inn Richmond - an airport hotel. We paid about $110 for a room with two double beds. The Accent Inn is like an old style two floor motor inn. In other words, there is nothing fancy. Just a decent motel with a comfortable bed. The bathroom was clean. There is an IHOP on the property for breakfast. There is a free shuttle from the airport. This same complimentary shuttle took us to the SkyTrain the following morning. For just over $7, our party of two took the SkyTrain directly to the Waterfront/Canada Place. You can't beat it. It's fast, efficient, and clean. We used the SkyTrain again on our last day to get from Canada Place to the airport. Again, $7 for two.
We loved cruising out of Vancouver - a beautiful, friendly, clean, laid back city. The sun was shining on our embarkation day. Our room was ready when we boarded at eleven thirty. Our room was always clean. Our room stewards were friendly and efficient. There were towel animals every night.
Our trip up the inside passage on Day Two was lovely. The weather was great. I actually got quite sunburned. Definitely pack sunscreen. Our ports were Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan. Without getting into too much detail, we did a whale watching excursion with Harv and Marv (Capt. Shawn). We saw plenty of whales and some sea lions. Great excursion. After the excursion, we had a drink at the Red Dog Saloon and headed back to the ship for a late dinner.
In Skagway, we rented a car from Avis and drove ourselves to Emerald Lake. I would totally do this again. The car rental was just over $110 plus $19 to refill the tank upon returning the car. The highway is great and easy to follow. We had paid $5 to purchase "Murray's Guide" and followed it easily. The scenery was magnificent, and again, we had fabulous weather. There are many safe places to pull into if you want to take photographs. You can drive the highway at your own pace, stopping when you want to. You aren't beholden to any one's schedule. We stopped at a suspension bridge en route for snacks and a bathroom. I wish I could remember the name of the place and the lovely people who operate it. There is a beautiful dog named Jax, a golden retriever, who acts as primary greeter. We stayed there for a while. There is an historical exhibit about mining, etc. There is also a cool suspension bridge. If you have Murray's Guide, you get in for half price. It was very reasonable. There is a new restaurant there, but we bought only some great snacks. Great gift shop. The bathrooms, by the way, were spotless. On we went. We stopped at Carcross for lunch and bought great homemade soup and sandwiches at the Authentic Sour Dough Bakery. Delicious food and good prices. Desserts were to die for. Emerald Lake was as beautiful as the photos suggest. We had plenty of time and could have continued all the way to Whitehorse had we wanted to. Instead, we allowed for more time to browse through the shops in Skagway. I'd do the day again in a minute.
Our final port was Ketchikan, where we browsed the shops. There is a great bookstore called Parnassus Books. We walked along Creek Street, watched people fish, walked to the Eagle Reserve and Salmon Hatchery and did the quick tour, then headed back to Creek Street for lunch. We took the "cable car" (can't remember the proper name) up to a hotel/restaurant for lunch. Terrific halibut and chips for lunch. On the way back to town, we saw a bear. There are lots of shops to wander through in Ketchikan too.
Our day in Glacier Bay was magnificent. It's great having the Park Rangers aboard to explain what you're seeing. Not to rub it in, but again, the weather was sunny and decently warm.
Our final sea day was very relaxing. The British Columbia scenery is just beautiful. What a glorious province.
This was our first Alaskan cruise, but it definitely won't be our last.
Final thoughts on the ship and its crew: Peter Bos, the captain, is first class. We appreciated his enthusiasm for the environment, the landscape, and the wildlife. Of all the captains we've had, he understands how to use the public address system. Many cruise directors should take a master class with him. The sense of well-being among the crew members was obvious. It was a happy place to be.
The dining room was mostly okay. Fish was generally always good. Meat not so much so. Breakfasts and lunches were always very good. We ate in the Italian restaurant on our final evening and it was wonderful. In all dining venues, the service was very good.
I wish I could comment on nightlife, but we tended to eat late and then retire to bed fairly early - our internal clocks were still in the east coast time zone! There were many places to hang out. The Crow's Nest has great views. The library on the Volendam is the best I have seen on eight cruises. The books are abundant and suitable for many readers. There are board games, puzzles, etc. This is also the location for the internet cafe. There was always someone there to help.
We even had some excitement on our cruise as we rescued about 80 people whose tourist ship had hit some rocks and were taking on water. The Volendam's Captain and crew handled the whole situation calmly and professionally. In talking to many of the people that afternoon as we cruised Glacier Bay, they were grateful for our help.
All in all, we were so happy with our cruise. I think that if you plan ahead and do your research, the whole process is easier. Thanks for all of the great advice I read on Cruise Critic. It really helped.