My mother (52) and I (28) cruised to Alaska on the Carnival Miracle July 16 23. We both had a wonderful time, and I cant wait to go back to Alaska. Overall, the trip was amazing, and I would highly recommend Alaska to anyone who hasn't been. I have a few complaints about the ship and itinerary. If I do an Alaskan cruise again, I might choose a different cruise line for these reasons, but overall it was a wonderful trip.
Seattle & Embarkation We arrived in Seattle the day before the cruise, and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express downtown Seattle. This was my first trip to Seattle, and I fell in love with the city. I would have liked to have another day in Seattle to explore the surrounding area. The weather was perfect and the hotel was within walking distance of Pikes Place Market and the Space Needle. I recommend both attractions. Pike Place Market was crowded but a must see. I loved all the fresh fruit and flowers. The Space Needle was amazing. I was hesitant at first because I figured it was an overpriced tourist trap, but I was wrong. We went at sunset and the views were spectacular. Once up to the top, we had as long as we wanted to explore and take pictures. The Space Needle did not close until midnight. I would highly recommend going up at night, because the views are much better.
Embarkation was easy compared to past cruises I have been on leaving from Florida. The agents were very friendly and the process was very smooth. We left our hotel at checkout time and arrived on the ship around noon. Our rooms were ready early and were able to board the ship and go straight to lunch on the Lido deck.
Tracy Arm Fjord Tracy Arm Fjord and the Sawyer Glacier were absolutely breathtaking. I was amazed at how close the ship came to the glacier. I enjoyed most of the day sitting on my balcony but also spent some time on the deck. The views were amazing and I took hundreds of pictures. This was my first time seeing a glacier, and I was in awe. I was also impressed how well the Captain navigated the boat through the narrow passage and close to the glacier. We were told that the ship got closer to the glacier that day than ever before due to favorable weather conditions.
Carnival offered an excursion to get on a smaller boat and get up closer to the glacier. This was not really necessary because the cruise ship got so close to the glacier, but it would have been a nice trip although cold.
The onboard naturalist, Michelle, was wonderful. If you book this trip, I highly recommend you attend all the naturalists presentations. If you miss them, they are usually replayed throughout the day on the stateroom TVs. She was very knowledgeable and interesting. It was obvious that she is passionate about what she does, and I could have listened to her all day. She also made announcements throughout the cruise, especially in Tracy Arm. I do not know if an onboard naturalist is common for Alaskan cruises, but I was very impressed with Carnivals efforts to educate their passengers about the areas wildlife and geography.
Skagway - Skagway was a great port, and I think I enjoyed it the more than the others because we had more time there. I enjoyed our excursion, Ultimate Yukon and White Pass Railroad Adventure. We boarded a bus which took us into the Yukon Territory in Canada, explored the area, ate a BBQ lunch, and took the train back into Skagway. The scenery was breathtaking and our bus driver gave us plenty of opportunities to take photos. The excursion was long and I was exhausted when we returned, but I was happy to have time to shop and explore Skagway before the ship left port at 9:30 p.m.
Juneau We did the best of Juneau excursion, which included a whale watching boat trip, a trip to the Mendenhall Glacier, and a salmon bake. The excursion was nice, but a little rushed due to lack of time in the port. We had to be back on board by 3:30, which was not enough time to explore Juneau. The whale watch was great. We got very close to several humpbacks and the onboard naturalist was very knowledgeable. The Mendenhall Glacier was beautiful, but I wish we had more time there. I really wanted to do the 2 mile hike near the glacier and behind the waterfall, but we only had 45 minutes there. The salmon back was nice. The grilled salmon was very fresh and tasty. Once our excursion was over, we had to go straight back to the ship. There was no time to explore the rest of the city because the ship left so early.
Ketchikan I was slightly disappointed with Ketchikan. I did not book an excursion but choose to explore the port and shop instead. We had to be back on board by 1:30, which was far too early to explore the surrounding area. My mother took the excursion to the totem pole museum and she said it was okay but nothing special. There are plenty of shops in Ketchikan and I enjoyed shopping for an hour or so, but after a while it becomes apparent that all the stores are selling the same kitschy souvenirs. As usual, there are way too many of the jewelry stores heavily promoted by the cruise ships. I avoid Diamonds International and the like at all costs, but if this is your thing you will enjoy this town. Ketchikan is a quaint little fishing town that is quite charming if you can ignore all the touristy stores associated with the cruise ships.
Victoria I was very disappointed with the Victoria stop. We werent permitted to get off ship until about 8:00 p.m. and had to be back on board by 11:30. I have read that this stop is required by law. Otherwise, I do not see why this port is included. Dont get me wrong, Victoria is a beautiful city, but there is not much to do so late in the evening. We took a taxi to the castle (not sure of the name). It was beautiful, but it was closed and we couldnt get inside. From there we took another taxi downtown but everything was closed. Our taxi drivers gave us a good mini-tour of the city, which was nice. Carnival offered a few excursions in Victoria, but nothing that interested me.
The Ship & Stateroom I was very impressed with the ship and our cabin. We had a balcony on the fourth floor. The balcony was very nice, although not necessary if you dont mind spending a lot of time on the deck. I spent a lot of time reading on the balcony. I usually covered up with a blanket as it was chilly but not too cold. Our stateroom was nice and larger than on other cruise ships. There was plenty of closet space, a nice dressing area, and a large vanity in the bathroom. Our stateroom attendant, Vassar (?), was excellent. I was impressed that he knew our names by the second day of the cruise. Our room was a little too noisy some nights due to people in the adjoining rooms opening and closing their balcony doors.
Food - The food onboard was disappointing. When I vacation, I look forward to the food almost as much as the destination. In general, I avoid buffets and usually try to eat in the formal dining room on a cruise as much as possible. However, food in the Lido deck buffet was often better than the formal dining room on this trip.
The buffet on the Lido deck was better than most cruise ship buffets and offered a wide variety, although I was disappointed in the freshness of vegetables and selection of fruit (melon and citrus only). I ate in the main dining room once for lunch and was very disappointed. The buffet for lunch was much better. I ate in the main dining room every evening, except the night we were in Victoria. I usually ate the buffet or room service for lunch and had room service for breakfast. The pizza was very good and the room service was nice, although the menu was very limited.
The food in the main dining room was the worst I have had on a cruise. The seafood wasnt fresh. Everything tasted as if it had been frozen. The steaks were tough. I was disappointed they did not offer more fresh seafood and produce from the area. The salmon served in the main dining room was Atlantic salmon, which was quite odd considering we were in the salmon capital of the world. Compared to prior cruises, I feel like Carnival has really cut the quality of the food considerably. Our servers were good, but not nearly as attentive or personable as others on past cruises.
The best meal I had on board was the comedy brunch, which was served on the final Victoria day. If you go on this cruise, do not miss the brunch. Its only offered once, but it was very good. The comedy skit during brunch only lasted a few minutes but I didnt mind because I came for the food not the comedy.
Overall, the food wasnt horrible, but it left a lot to be desired. I got the impression Carnival has severely sacrificed quality in attempting to cut costs.
I did not eat in the Steak House, because the reviews I read prior to the cruise did not recommend it for the added money. I went to one cooking demonstration at the steak house and the food samples were pretty good, but don't the demonstration wasn't very informative.
I don't drink soft drinks but my mom purchased a soda card. She was disappointed that it did not include sodas with room service. If you drink a lot of water like me you may want to pack or purchase a water bottle so you don't have to walk to the lido deck every time you need a glass of water.
I bought a few alcoholic drinks but they were more expensive than I remembered from past cruises. It had been several years since I had cruised and was surprised to see that Carnival now added a mandatory gratuity and tax to all drink purchases. I maybe wrong but I dont think this was the case on past cruises. The added tax and gratuity made drinks rather expensive (some as much as $11.00, and I dont drink premium liquor). I dont mind paying gratuity, because I always tip when I order a drink and it saved me from carrying cash. However, I dont understand why drinks are taxed when other items onboard, including bottled liquor, are sold duty free.
Entertainment I watched a few of the nightly shows on board and went to the adult comedy several times. The comedy was okay, definitely adults only in content. The shows left a lot to be desired, but probably about what you can expect on a cruise ship. I was very impressed with the presentations of the onboard naturalist (see discussion of Tracy Arm above). There were always activities at night before and after dinner. I was a bit disappointed in the lack of activities after lunch. There was not much to do after lunch and usually ended up taking a nap out of boredom.
Spa & Gym The gym was very nice. It was very modern, clean, and there was plenty of equipment. I took a yoga class on board and it was somewhat disappointing. The instructor was nice but yoga was obviously not his specialty. The instructor didnt bother to take off his shoes (if youve ever done yoga, you understand). I did not use the spa, but my mother got a facial and enjoyed it.
Some Notes on Packing and Weather We traveled in the middle of July and the weather was great. This area is one of the rainiest areas in North America, so expect rain. We were rather lucky and only had a bit of rain in Ketchikan. The temperatures can fluctuate greatly. We experienced temperatures from the upper 50s to the mid 70s F. The coldest day was in Tracy Arm Fjord. I was usually comfortable in a light jacket or sweatshirt and pants. Gloves were nice when I was taking photos on deck and during the whale watching trip, but not necessary. Dont worry too much about packing rain jackets, as they are really cheap in the ports (around $20.00 for a nice water resistant jacket). I packed an umbrella but never used it, but it may have been handy had there been more rain.
There are two formal nights on board, but for the most part people were dressed more casually than on previous cruises. I saw far more cocktail and sundresses than formal full-length gowns and more men in polos or dress shirts and sports jackets than suits or tuxes on the formal nights.
I brought far more dressy clothes than necessary. Keep in mind that you will be spending several days almost entirely on the ship (the day you board, the first day at sea, the day in Tracy Arm, and most of the Victoria day). I wore yoga pants (or sweat pants) and sweatshirts on the days on ship and changed to dress pants, jeans, or skirts for dinner. Jeans were fine for dinner except on formal nights. I recommend packing more casual, lounge attire than anything else. I wore jeans and light sweaters while in port and took a light jacket. There is a very casual feel on the boat and in the ports. I would recommend bringing a couple of nice outfits but not anymore.
Bring a nice camera with a good zoom and a large memory card, because you will want to take hundreds of pictures and will want a really good optical zoom. I brought two cameras, one larger one with big lens and a smaller one I could throw in my purse or pocket. I never carried the smaller one because the scenery was so amazing I wanted to get the best pictures possible. If you invest in anything before the trip, invest in a nice camera if you don't already have one.
I wish that I would have packed binoculars, especially in Tracy Arm Fjord. They were sold on the ship, but I did not think about buying them until it was too late.
Overall Impressions I had a wonderful time on this cruise. I fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and cant wait to plan a trip back to the area. The cruise was a great way to get an overview of the area and see several different places. I was disappointed with the early departures from Juneau and Ketchikan and the short nighttime stop in Victoria. Definitely consider the times in each port when comparing cruises. In the end, I felt like I wasted a lot of time on ship getting to Alaska and getting back to Seattle and had limited time actually on land. If I did it again, I would probably do a one-way cruise so there is more time in Alaska.
The cruise ship was very modern, clean, and tastefully decorated, but I think Carnival has cut too many corners with the food, and to some extent the entertainment. The naturalist was very informative. Do not miss her presentations if you want to learn about the area.
If you want to see Alaska and enjoy a good leisurely cruise, I fully recommend Carnival Miracle. If you are adventurous and want to explore Alaska as much as possible or if you are a foodie, you might want to consider other options. If you havent ever been to Alaska, I recommend going regardless of which cruise you choose. There is so much to see and do.