There were six of us in our party. My husband and I (mid 40s) our two sons 15 and 16, my mother-in-law 75, and my sister-in-law. We arrived in Seattle the day before embarkation, and stayed at the Inn at the Market. As expected this was a lovely hotel, with a spectacular rooftop view of Pike Place Market. The location was fantastic and the service couldn't have been better. We went to dinner at Elliot's Oyster Bar (pricey and service was not the best). The next morning I woke up very early and walked over to two world class bakeries, Piroshky Piroshky and Le Panier on Pike Place. They are right next to each other and wonderful. I bought a bunch of pastries from each and we had a delicious breakfast in the room. Then we walked down to Pike Place Market and I bought a beautiful bouquet for the cabin, which lasted the entire cruise. The Market is not to be missed if you have the time and haven't been. Don't miss the gum wall!
Embarkation was kind of a mess. We dragged our bags through the maze and it seemed to take forever to get to the point where they took our pictures and credit card info. I bet it was at least an hour for this process. Our cabins were ready when we got on board so we checked them out (we had three consecutive balcony cabins) my husband and I had connecting cabins with our two sons, and my sister-in-law and mother-in-law were next to the boys. I found the cabins to be very nice. We all enjoyed our balconies. Our room steward Alfredo was fantastic. Always friendly and calling us by name. In fact I was very impressed with the staff. Everyone seemed to be happy and friendly, saying hello, no matter what their position was.
We ate mostly at the buffet for breakfast and lunch. I thought the food quality was very good. They had interesting side dishes, sometimes Indian or Asian, one day there was a German buffet for the Beerfest. There were always eggs Benedict at breakfast, sausage gravy and biscuits, made to order omelets (if you wanted to wait), bacon, sausage, fruit, cereal, pastries. At lunch they always had hamburgers, hot dogs, roasted chicken, panini sandwiches, salad, fruit, etc. My biggest complaint of the entire cruise is that the buffet was almost always a madhouse. Unless it was 6am, it was simply crazy. It wasn't unusual to be unable to find ANYWHERE to sit. You just had to wander around all the tables aimlessly until you found something. The staff did an excellent job cleaning up immediately after someone left. In fact if you were dining alone it would have been very difficult to keep your table, and there's NO WAY everyone could get up from your group at the same time or your table would be gone when you got back. Of course, the main dining rooms were available, but we wanted a larger choice and to eat NOW! I think perhaps they need to consider converting one of the dining rooms into an additional buffet.
Another issue: We bought three unlimited soft drink passes. IT seemed to be very difficult to get soft drinks. There was only one spot at the end of the buffet, and they poured the soft drinks from a 2 liter bottle. There was no self service for soft drinks anywhere. When we went to Cagneys $30/pp, Le Bistro (which we went to twice and was by FAR the best of the specialty restaurants)$20/pp, and La Cucina ($15/pp), we were STILL required to show our drink passes. This seemed to be ridiculous. When paying $180 for our dinner, I don't think we should have to show our passes to get a diet coke!
I went to the second city show one night, it was pretty good improv, saw the "oh what a night" show (not my bag), and the magician/comedian, Tom, was pretty funny. They rebroadcast many of the shows on the tv, so it was fun to see the shows I didn't get to see in person.
Excursions:Juneau we hired a private whale watching boat and saw incredible pods of whales (like 12 at at time) bubble feeding, and our tour guide threw pieces of bread to get the bald eagles to come out.
Skagway: we did the Glacier Wilderness Safari-it was as good as everyone says. an hour boat ride there, then a sandwich lunch, then a drive in a school bus and a hike in the forest, finally boarding canoes to Davidson Glacier that we actually got to walk on and take pictures. The guides actually live right there and were friendly and entertaining. On the boat ride back we saw more whales and also a bunch of sea lions lounging about.
Glacier Bay: Beautiful, Margerie glacier calving was eerily breathtaking but it's amazing how COLD it gets! I didn't believe we'd use our hats and gloves and we did, briefly.
Ketchikan: We did the Bering Sea Fisherman's tour (Deadliest Catch). it was good, the guides are actual fisherman and though it seemed a bit like a performance, they were genuinely interesting and we learned a lot about fishing and got to see different varieties of crabs and fish. They also took a lot of time feeding herring to get the bald eagles to come out.
Victoria: quaint city we took a cab to town and walked around. The excursions didn't appeal to us. The Butchart Gardens are actually a drive outside the town.
I bought a spa pass $119, and enjoyed being able to use the spa. It consisted of a nice sauna, steam room, several varieties of hot tubs, tiled heated loungers (my fav) and lounge chairs with a spectacular view of the front of the ship. It was a nice quiet adult getaway when we had some down time.
Nice touches: We celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary during the cruise and Alfredo decorated the room for us. We also got a special cake and they sang to us at Le Bistro. One day they delivered a nice plate of desserts to each of our cabins, with a little card. Not sure why we got this but it was nice. Also we had a Cruise Critic meet and greet and at least 10 of the officers were there to meet us, and they had set out a nice spread of refreshments. Unfortunately just one family and me showed up to it!
We did the self disembarkation and walked right off. Our flight wasn't until 2:20pm and we had plenty of time, enough to check our bags at the port and walk over to the Space Needle before heading to the airport.
If I had it to do again, I would have packed more blue jeans and t-shirts and less dressy clothes. It was a very informal cruise, and unless you like to dress up it really isn't necessary. Don't forget to pack sweatshirts and jackets because it is cool in the morning and evening.
Overall it was a lovely trip. I would recommend it to everyone. My main complaint was the absolute lack of adequate seating in the buffet. The best thing (besides seeing beautiful Alaska) was the wonderful staff.