We are not writers or bloggers, just like to travel as a family. Our group of 11 comprised 6 adults and 5 children ranging from 4 to 17. We did a lot of advanced planning, but nothing ever goes as planned! Read the Ports of Call section. Here is our experience:
Getting on the ship was easy. Some in our party got there early (11:30) some later (2:30). All had good experiences checking in and getting on board. Luggage arrived in about an hour. Getting there early is better, as you can get lunch on deck and still make it on deck before departure. Ship left early at 3:45pm. TIP: Head to the Crow's Nest for departure - great views of Seattle!
Overall Experience: Good, but there were a few issues to note. It seemed there was always something being sold to us. At departure, it was the beer and wine tastings taking place the next day. Then there were items for sale around the pool most days. Always being asked about the wine tasting, premium wine tasting, ultra premium wine tasting, and mixology class all for a price. Service was great if you were paying for something, but sometimes lacking if you needed anything else. I am still waiting for my iced tea I order for dinner each night.
The Ship: LOVE the ship itself. Very easy to get around and the cabins were roomy for a ship. You do need to stay organized especially with 4 in the cabin or else things can pile up quickly. TIP: put your empty suitcases under the bed. Most of the public spaces were on decks 2/3 or 9/10 which is a big change from other ships. The pool area was great, especially with the overhead sliders closed. (They would be open on nicer days and on BBQ days when they would grill poolside. Lounges & bars were all nice as well as the dining rooms. Our favorite spot - the Crow's Nest where you get 360 views to watch everything, listen to the guitar player or participate in trivia.
Dining: Mix feelings here. We selected 'open seating' dining, but with a group of 11 when we tried to make reservations, we were told 5:30 or 8pm. This is not very â(EURO)oeopenâ(EURO) in our opinion. On the first night, we saw very long lines so be prepared. Dinner always took 2 hours to get through the courses no matter when you arrived. A bit long, especially for the kids. Service was not great in either dinning room. If you wanted a non-alcoholic beverage, you might not get it until dessert time; asked for chocolate milk for the kids - "ummmm, let me check." We ordered a bottle of wine which arrived in 3 minutes - with the check.
Food was good. Portions were small, which was perfect as it was always a 4 course meal. If you are just ordering an entree, you may leave hungry if you don't order two. We enjoyed every entree / appetizer we tried. Desserts were ok, but nothing special.
Room Service was great in the morning. We put our hanging form on our door at night and woke up to breakfast every morning. Omelets arrived hot, pastries were good. Coffee was not the best. (I think this was a ploy to get you to buy coffee at the coffee bar upstairs, which we usually did. )
Pinnacle Grill - EXCELLENT! The meal and service were amazing! I had the rib eye which was huge and cooked to perfection. Some appetizers were prepared tableside and the side dishes were fantastic not to mention the desserts. Dont miss the chance to eat here, but make reservations in advance even before departure as they fill quickly. I heard that some eat here every night. (Note that Club Hal doesnt open in the evenings until 7pm if you want child care during dinner.)
Canaletto not worth the extra $10. Really.
Buffet Great selection of food that tasted good. OK choice for a meal, but very crowded and not so much fun with small kids. It felt like you waited at multiple stations before everyone had what they needed. Too crowded and too much of a hassle for us we preferred the dining room. The grill by the pool was a nice alternative for lunch and then sit by the back pool. NOTE: There are a few BBQ style meals on deck. Get there early if you want to get a table. There were long lines and no place to sit. Not very well organized and we wound up sitting on the ground to eat.
Daily Hours are 9-11:30am, 1-4pm, 7-10pm. I was a little bit nervous at first security seemed a bit lax and the activity space minimal. After the first day the staff knew us and our children. Our kids (ages 4 and 8) made friends easily and always wanted to go back. We used it for a couple of hours here and there without any issues. Great for Glacier Bay or during evening shows when the kids can get bored. The teenagers with us were not impressed and didnt attend.
Ports of Call
TIP: make sure your camera batteries are charged. Trust me on this one and I thought I was prepared.
This was our big day with a float plane trip planned to the glaciers. It was raining when we arrived. The good news is the planes (and helicopters) will not fly in bad weather and you get a refund. The bad news is you are left stuck with nothing to do. The staff was not much help so you are left to do it yourself. TIP: at every port there will be private tours available and cabs. We ended up on the white bus to Mendenhall Glacier ($16 round trip). This was good, but we should have booked a whale watch as we heard it was heated, covered and a great experience. If you can see the top of the tram from the ship, dont miss this opportunity. Awesome pictures from the top and probably your first encounter with a bald eagle. TIP: The glacier is a national park, so if you are traveling with a senior, they can get a parks pass in advance that admits 4 people at no charge.
Red Dog Saloon is a tourist trap and crowded. Nevertheless, we went in and had a cold beer and good time.
This is what you came for so enjoy the day. It was a bit rainy and overcast for us but still a great day. TIP: buy the mug that will be sold almost everywhere. They will keep filling it with coffee and hot chocolate or in my case, a little of both and makes a nice souvenir.
It is a bit of a cruise to get to the glaciers however the scenery along the way is beautiful. The Park Rangers were great and informative. When nearing the end of the bay Marjorie Glacier the highlight of the trip, head to the open bow area no matter what the weather! You will get an up close view and hear the glacier and possible see some calving. You will stay there about an hour before heading out.
Make sure you re outside when you leave Glacier Bay. We cruised past a pod of humpback whales and have picture of them breaching.
A bit of a tender ride to get to town however there were no lines getting off the ship. It is a small town and easy to walk around. We took a $3 bus to see the bears (Fortress of the Bear) The bus then dropped us at the Rapture Center where we saw 20 bald eagles in various stages of recovery. From there a short walk across the street to the park and totem poles. 10 minute walk to town taking in the Russian Bishops House and St. Michaels church.
This stop is too short. We chose the fjords float plane trip. EVERYONE LOVED THIS TRIP. Not quite jet service, but worth every penny for us. You land in a remote location and see things from a different perspective. We then went to the lumberjack show. 100% cheese, but still a good time.
Beautiful city. Having limited time and kids, we passed on the gardens. We decided for the do-it-yourself approach to this stop. The city is a way from the docks so a $10 cab ride or tour is recommended. We found Alan with Royal Limo and Van Service. (250)389-0004. He took all of us in a red passenger van and gave a full narrated tour of the all the popular city spots and dropped us downtown. ($20pp) Plenty of pictures and sites in just 2 hours. He was also a good sport and took group pictures. You are at the furthest western point in Canada so take a picture at mile 0. The main street has the pubs and shopping before the cab ride back to the ship.
Disembarking was very easy you can complete a form and request when you want to get off the ship. My husband got off first (7:30am) and went to get our rental car. I left with the kids at 8:45. Very easy process.
We ordered a bottle of liquor from the ship in advance. Prices are fair and the amount was 1 liter (which wasnt stated anywhere on the website that I could find.) We found this to be a great alternative to being in the lounge especially if you have a balcony cabin. We also brought 3 bottles of wine on board for cabin happy hour.
If you are like us, you may arrive early or stay a day in the city. Below are some options for the adults and kids too.
Of course Pikes Market (see the first Starbucks) and the Space Needle. Big Wheel (Ferris wheel), Underground Tour, Boeing Museum of Flight, and the wineries of Woodinville and Red Hook brewery are a short drive. Also enjoyed taking the kids to see the Fish Ladder a short drive away at the Ballard Locks.