We just got back from sailing Royal Caribbean's Alaskan Inside Passage (southbound) cruise. We embarked June 3 and arrived in Vancouver on June 10. My husband and I decided to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary with the cruise, and it was worth every penny that it cost us! My husband and I are in our early 30s and this was our very first cruise.
We flew from O'Hare airport to Salt Lake City, and then from there to Anchorage. Once arriving in Anchorage, we were put on a bus for a three hour ride to Seward where we could finally get on the ship. At first we weren't looking forward to the drive since we had been sitting on a plane all day and the last thing we wanted to do was sit some more, but the bus ride ended up being a real delight. The first amazing thing was that we were on the bus for only a few minutes when we spotted our first bald eagle flying right above us, and boy was he a beauty! Now, I have seen many bald eagles here at home when they nest in the Northern Mississippi Valley bluffs of my home in the winter, but nothing beats seeing them soar in the crisp clear air of Alaska, with blue skies and majestic mountains behind them. It was beautiful! Our bus driver was very informative about telling us all about the areas we were driving through and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking, and he drove us through the Kenai Peninsula, which was an added bonus for us since we weren't expecting to get to see that area.
Finally, we arrived around 7 p.m. in Seward and went through the embarkation process which went rather smoothly. I was nervous about what we needed to do, but the people there guided you well and made sure you were in the right place. We finally made it on the ship and that's when the real fun began!
The ship itself was beautiful and clean, and seemed well maintained. We had a lot of fun just exploring the ship and looking around, and sitting in the public areas and lounges and watching the beautiful scenery going by. We were concerned if there would be other people our age on the ship, and were pleasantly surprised that people of all ages were on the cruise, and we enjoyed meeting many couples and families from all over the world of all ages. I naively assumed that the passengers would be Americans like us, but we found out that over half of the passengers were from over 30 countries, and the actual workers of the ship were from over 50 countries! One couple from India traveled 36 hours just to go on this cruise! This led to a wonderful international experience that my husband and I really enjoyed!
We had an inside cabin that was very small but practical and comfortable. The only complaint we had was our shower temperature was really finicky and would go from hot to very hot, but by the end of the cruise, we learned how to turn the knob just right so that it wouldn't do that. Fernando, our room attendant was wonderful and did a wonderful job of keeping our room tidy and neat, and always left us a variety of towel animals each night. He even brought me a robe immediately when I caught him in the hall and mentioned it. We had mixed feelings about not having a window because we kept waking up in the middle of the night wondering what time it was because we had no window to see what was going on outside, and the room was pitch black so we had to turn on a light to see what time it was. I would recommend bringing a light up clock or watch for this reason if you have an inside cabin. However, because it was so dark and quiet, we slept really well and heard that some people who had a window were bothered by the long hours of light in the night that Alaska provides, so that is something to think about when you book your room.
We were concerned about the food because I had read some bad reviews, but we were overall, pleasantly surprised. We ate in the Windjammer for breakfast everyday because we loved the view that it provided us, and the food was good, comparable to any kind of buffet type restaurant. The only complaint we had was that the food on the buffet line was exactly the same every day for the whole cruise so if you ate there every day like we did, it got a little boring by the end of the cruise. We did not get around to trying the room service but were told that the food was good by someone who did. We ate in the Solarium a couple times which offered burger, fries, pizza slices, hot dogs, fruit, and cookies. I liked the burgers but thought the French fries were terrible because it was all grease and no potato! I passed on the pizza because it looked like frozen pizza to me, and my husband had a hot dog and didn't like it much and only ate half of it. We ate in the Aquarius dining room every night and had a great time there. My husband and I love to go to fancy restaurants and have a huge appreciation for well prepared food, so if I were to call a five star restaurant excellent, then I would rate the dining room food as a notch down as very good. There was a good variety of choices to pick from on the menu every night, and I didn't have anything the whole cruise that I disliked. Our head waiter was from India and found out that we liked Indian food so every night he sent out a different kind of curry especially for us to try and it was always good--spicy, but delicious! We also thoroughly enjoyed the service from our waiter and assistant waiter and had a good time joking around and talking with them, and they did a great job of spoiling us and taking good care of us in the dining room!
We also were nervous about who we would have to sit with at our table and hoped it would be people we would like and get along with, and thought that royal Caribbean did a great job matching us up with a couple that we had a lot in common with and became fast friends with, and we ended up hanging out with them a lot outside of the dining room and had a great time with them!
We were impressed with the entertainment staff. Simeon, the cruise director, was so much fun and great at his job, and was a real "people-person." We took advantage of all the fun things planned around the ship and participated in the Salsa and Hip Hop dance classes, the '70s disco inferno, wine tasting class (had to pay 9$ each for that) bingo games (that also cost extra for the bingo cards), trivia games, name that tune games, and the adult late night games and entertainment that were so hilarious.
We also went to a few of the shows and enjoyed them as well. The dancers on the ship were very talented, and we even got an opportunity to talk with them and found it interesting learning how they ended up on the ship and what their job was like. We felt that there was always something to do on the ship when you weren't busy sightseeing, and we had fun letting go and joining in on all these fun activities, because not only did we get to meet people, but had a lot of great laughs along the way, too. We also enjoyed the drinks of the day each day, and after paying close to $9 for a martini, we felt that the $5 for the drink of the day wasn't too bad of a daily splurge. They were all yummy! The only complaint we had concerning entertainment was the DJ in the Viking Crown lounge tended to play the same songs over and over. On the last night, he even played the same song three times, and twice back to back! That makes for some boring dancing and we couldn't figure out why a DJ would want to kill a party that way because it wasn't even closing time yet. The cruise itself was absolutely amazing and we had a really hard time leaving the beauty of Alaska and having to come back home to the flat plains of the midwest!
Captain George was great and took as by a colony of sea lions and to a place where we could view some whales. He also got us very close to the Hubbard Glacier and even sent some guys out to grab some big chunks of ice to throw in one of the swimming pools on the ship! We enjoyed all the ports and went on many excursions, all of which I highly recommend.
In Juneau we went whale-watching in Auke Bay which is now my favorite place on Earth! It was so beautiful there that I never wanted to leave and as we were nearing the end of the whale watching cruise, my eyes actual teared up as I marveled at the pristine and utter beauty of that place. I'm not usually like that, but it was so beautiful that it touched my soul. We saw a huge pod of Orcas and many humpback whales there, which was absolutely breath taking! In Skagway we went on the Skagway Extravaganza which took us on the White Pass train, a salmon bake in Liarsville, and ended at the Red Onion saloon. This trip was so much fun and the scenery on the train was gorgeous! In Icy Strait Point we really enjoyed meeting the natives and learning about this tiny community located on such a beautiful spot! We also went on a bear hunt and saw bear signs, but didn't see any bears on the actual hunt, but saw one next to the road on the bus trip back! A big ol' brown bear, which was very exciting to see! In Ketchikan we went to Saxman Village and enjoyed the welcoming songs and dances by the natives and learning about the totem poles and meeting the men who carved them. We also went to the lumberjack show which ended up to be very entertaining and funny. And of course, we did lots of browsing and shopping through all the shops at all the ports.
Overall, my husband and I both agree that this was the best vacation of our lives and tops our stays in Las Vegas, Disney World, Canada, Denver and a two-week tour of England (it barely beats the England tour because that was truly amazing, too!). We enjoyed every minute in Alaska and on the Vision of the Seas.
The staff on this ship were friendly and we enjoyed getting to know some of them. We were impressed that they do back to back cruises for months at a time, yet they never treated us like we were yet another nameless passenger. Many of them made us feel like we were their first passengers and were as excited about the cruise as we were, and we appreciated that. We enjoyed the scenery that being on a cruise ship provided us, as well as all the wildlife we saw such as many, many bald eagles, whales, sea lions, bears, and even some caribou.
Alaska is as amazing and majestic as I dreamed it would be and we want to go back so bad! We took TONS of pictures and lots of video, so make sure you bring plenty of film and/or memory cards! We will definitely cruise on Royal Caribbean again, and have many memories and new friends to cherish from this wonderful vacation.