My wife and I just returned from our trip to Alaska. Arriving in Vancouver we stood in line to get through customs and get our luggage for what seemed an eternity. Once past that, the Royal Caribbean counter was fast and painless. Then we had the transfer to the pier where we stood in line AGAIN! By this time we were very tired and crabby from all the hours flying and the delays of being in line.
Finally we were onboard! We went to our balcony room and were immediately greeted by our stateroom attendant. Very nice and pleasant, and he made a point of remembering our names right from the start. All through the cruise he would greet us and ask how our trip was going, what he could do for us, and he would even open our door for us if he saw us coming in time. Putu was a bright point of the cruise for us.
The journey started out wet and dreary, but not a hard rain so it wasn't bad. Once we hit Ketchikan things started clearing up and from that point on it was nothing but sunshine. The scenery from our balcony was truly unbelievable! We were almost mesmerized watching the mountains go by. Watching humpbacks right below us in Icy Strait Point was great, and we enjoyed our breakfast on our balcony in the sunshine with a front row seat at Hubbard Glacier.
The ship itself was very nice. We had to wait a while sometimes for an elevator which got a bit irritating. Everything was clean, and any water or wet spot was promptly worked on by maintenance. Our only real complaint was the food. We're not food critics by any means but we do like to eat. We have our ideas of what a steak should taste like and that's just how we are. The first night we ate in the Cascades dining room and had prime rib. It was MAYBE 1/2 inch thick and fairly chewy. Not quite what we expected. The appetizer was good but we were disappointed after all the hassle just to get aboard ship. We went back there for breakfast the next day and had Eggs Benedict. Again, not that great! We decided to have lunch in the Windjammer Cafe. What a nice buffet! THAT food was tasty and there was a wide variety of choices. We ate almost every meal after that in there. I had booked a dinner in Chops Grill for the next night while we had no stops in port. Paid the extra money to eat at their steakhouse and we sat down for a filet, their signature steak. Our appetizers came and were very good. However, once again, the steak was a flop. Dry and fairly tasteless. Having paid extra to eat there we were pretty unhappy about the food. Especially when meals in general are included in the price of the cruise. We could have gone to a nice steakhouse at home and paid the same price for a better meal. However, we gave the Samba Grill a chance later on and it was fantastic! Once again it was an extra cost meal, but it was worth it. Melt in your mouth meats from the many courses they served at our table. The only bad part was we were not all that hungry when we got there. We could have had all we wanted of everything there but got too full to have much more than one round of meats.
We booked some shore excursions through Royal Caribbean ahead of time and found out that not all of them were worth it. The trip to Mendenhall Glacier was $44 per person but shuttles from the pier were $16 round trip. That's all you needed. Once there we just hiked down the trail and back. We booked a Dogsled and Musher's Camp trip for $139 each I think, and once there we rode in a wheeled cart behind some sled dogs around the roads for a bit, went to look at an old sled with a jacket and pair of boots, and played with a few young pups. There was a little explanation of things, a warm cider available, and a fire to sit by. That was it. NO view of how or where the dogs were kept or much else for that matter. Later on in our trip we went to another one run by Jeff King, a 4 time Iditarod winner. This one was all we expected it to be. Nice presentations, dog training demonstrations, and it was quite detailed about mushing and racing. Plus, it was less than half the price of the earlier version we saw. Do some research ahead of time for shore excursions. You can do things cheaper once you get there instead of booking through the cruise company. Can't say they all will be cheaper but it's worth it to look.
We're not big "show" people, but the entertainment during the cruise was something we looked into every night. Bad part was there was nothing we wanted to see. Never heard of any of the performers, and didn't care to see the ship band and dancers. We peeked in one night for a minute but left. The scenery outside made any show seem pointless. The place was packed so lots of guests seemed to enjoy being there.
Be prepared to be bombarded by shopping offers, especially in port. The same jewelry stores are EVERYWHERE!
Overall, it was a very nice cruise. We had beautiful weather and our balcony stateroom let us enjoy the great views of the snow covered mountains as we sailed past. If the food would have been better in the places we didn't enjoy it the trip would have been about perfect. We would love to do it again. This time we'll know what to do different.