My partner and I turned up at the cruise terminal in Seattle with excitement and trepidation at the same time, wondering were we going to be ok at sea because even though we had travelled across Bass Strait to Tasmania, this was a whole new ball game. 7 nights on a ship could be great or it may be something we find we did not like at all.
Everything from the time we stepped out of the taxi with our luggage to the time we stepped back off the ship in Seattle, the experience was fantastic! We set sail on 24May under very calm conditions and we stood on our balcon and looked back as Seattle faded in to the distance. I had heard the Inside Passage was always pretty calm as it was protected, however, we had also heard the 2 days of sailing in the open sea to and from Juneau could be a little rough. This part was making me a little uneasy but just kept hoping the weather was going to be nice and calm and make this a pleasant experience! The weather could not have been more perfect. We sat on our balcony in our swimsuits as the sun blazed down on us. We spent the days whale spotting and looking for that give away sign...the blowhole mist. We got to see a fair few of these and would have loved to have seen them up closer but that was not to be.
The two days at sea were so calm and sunny and the sunsets were just incredible and we could not stop taking photos as it was setting on the horizon. For most of the trip we did not even feel we were moving. Our first stop was Ketchikan and it is a pretty little fishing village nestled at the bottom of a large mountain. We did the Crab Feast Excursion and it was nice and relaxing. The Feast itself was a treat..messy treat but that was ok.
Our next port of call was Tracy Arm Fjord. We arrived early in the morning to the most incredible scenery and wished we had got up a lot earlier to take it all in. We had elected to do the excursion off the ship in Tracy Arm to a smaller boat which would take us further in towards the Sawyer Glaciers. We are so glad we did this as the Solstice could not get down to even be able to view one of the Glaciers. We made our way between icebergs (luckily not monstrous ones) and got to see seals on the ice in front of the Glacier. After this we made our way around to the next part of the Sawyer Glacier and it was just beautiful travelling between these mountains. The Excursion was around 5hrs and we arrived back in Juneau at the same time as our ship. The only criticism I would have of Celebrity, was when we arrived in Juneau there was no arrangements made to meet us and it was a very long mile plus walk back to where the ship had docked and both my partner and I had issues which this walk exasperated.
Anyway once we got back on board we were happy and went up and changed ready for our next adventure. We had booked a helicopter trip out to experience the dog sledding. I had said the only way I would do this excursion was if the weather was perfect, i.e. no wind, no mist, no rain! Thought I would be safe because the weather up that way is very rarely perfect for the whole time! Drat, yes it was so I had to do the helicopter ride. Have to say this was one of the highlights of our cruise. Era Helicopters were great and put us all at ease. There was not a cloud in the sky or a breath of wind. Once we were up and making our way over the mountains and glaciers, we all forgot we were in a helicopter and most of us flying in one for the first time. The dog sledding was so much fun and for my partner it was a dream come true and worth every dollar it cost. We arrived on the glacier where the dog camp was located and be greeted by mushers in tshirts! We were very warm as well, but made ourselves put the jackets on so it at least looked as though we were experiencing the cold.
The next part of our journey was the port of Skagway. At this stop we had decided to hire a car and head on up to the Yukon. Had read about Emerald lake so wanted to make that our turnaround point. Wow what incredible scenery all the way up and to see the colours of this lake just blew us away. We could not stop taking photos as it changed depending on whether the sun was out or the clouds were there. It is only about a 2 1/2 hr drive but with all the stops it is around 5-6hrs.
We got back to Skagway in time to have a beer in the Red Onion Saloon and that was cool! This is a pretty little town and one of my favourites. It was sad to leave as we knew the Alaskan part of our journey was ended. We stood at the front of the ship as we left the area and headed back out to sea to our final stop in Victoria. This is a necessary stop due to moving through Canadian waters, apparently ships have to stop somewhere in Canada. As we did not get to see whales in Juneau as we chose the dog sledding, we did a last minute whale watch excursion from Victoria. Alas we saw no whales...we followed a pod of Orcas but could not catch them so we headed back to the ship. It was disappointing but still a beautiful night out on the inlets and got to see a beautiful sunset which reflected off the water as it was so still.
I think we must have just about stopped overnight because we left Victoria at 1155pm and arrived back in Seattle very early the next morning and it really should have only taken about 4hrs. Anyway it was sad to see Seattle because it meant it was all over. We had said we would only go once, but now we know we will go back again to experience different shore excursion and will go at the end of the season so we can see the bears and salmon run plus the eagles. Will also do the whale watch out of Juneau and if possible would love to cruise Glacier Bay. We had read Tracy Arm is more scenic which it was but Glacier Bay is another type of beauty so we have been told.
As for our ship the Solstice...cannot say a bad word about it. We had cabin 8279 which was on the hump and just down from the lifts and we never heard any noise apart from the odd door shutting. Also as it was a little cooler when at sea, we were protected from any wind so it was always nice sitting on the balcony. We walked the ship a lot taking photos. We went to no shows, only one night in the Epernay Restaurant but the time went so quickly. The OceanView Cafe at the top of the ship was our only eating place and the food was fantastic and yes it was like eating at an all you can eat smorgasbord but the food was tasty and cover every type of cuisine you could imagine. Staff were very friendly and always had a smile on their face. Every thing was always so clean and was nice to see that you were able to disinfect your hands throughout the ship. Well done Celebrity and you are the reason we are now booked on a 10 day Mediteranean cruise with you next year and this time it is on the Reflection as the Solstice will be back in Alaska.
Thank you to Cruise Critic for all the valuable reviews that helped us along the way with our Alaskan adventure...