1. this is a family cruise. though there are many activities to keep the children busy, as the week wears on they get bored and tend to slip into the no-kids areas more and more often. worse than that, seeing all those families having fun, i really missed my own kids by the end of the week.
2. there is very limited nightlife. this was a huge disappointment to my husband. with all the spaces dedicated to the kids, there's not enough room for more nightlife. if thats important to you, pick a different ship.
3. alaska is beautiful, but so is your state. our cruise only went to the lower part of the state, and I found it to be very similar to where I live. the cruise routes are NOT all the same. there are some real distinct differences between them.
4. do an excursion at least in every other port. just do it. if you don't you'll never know what you missed. if you do, and it's awful, you'll have a good story for cocktail parties.
5. check the mdr (main dining rooms) menu every afternoon to see what they're having for dinner. they served lobster the very first night of our cruise (2 weeks ago, it was on the 3rd night). you do NOT want to miss the lobster.
there was salmon pretty much every night and it was FABULOUS. the steaks were very disapointing, and i'm sure thats because they're trying to "encourage" everyone to go to cagney's surcharge dining room. i hate surcharge dining rooms.
BTW the buffet was pretty good. Lots of fresh fruits and veggies. I also enjoyed lots of "ethnic dishes" like Dal (daily) and Palak-something and Curry (only saw it once or twice). Lots of other dishes the names of which I can't recall but I could see I would enjoy them and so I tried them and I was mostly delighted. They also had cranberry juice every breakfast which was not available on our other cruise and really handy for my disposition!
There are refridgerators in every room (just ask the cabin steward to remove the mini-bar contents - unless you want to buy them!) and i finally started carrying an extra glass of cranberry juice back to the room w/me because i needed it twice a day for my poor bladder. If I'd brought a covered coffee cup or water bottle that would have been easier than carrying the glass....
although i didn't see alot of fish options, there was lox, with all the fixings, every morning. EXCELLENT.
also- EGGS BENEDICT on the buffet: you could choose eggs florentine (w/spinach) or the traditional eggs w/canadian bacon (ham). then you got to put on your own sauce, and it was a choice of two: REAL HOLLANDAISE (yummy) or BEARNAISE. i'm avoiding gluten i picked hollandaise every time! YUM YUM!
6. pay attention to your meal times. the 24 hr dining options didnt work for me, and i get cranky when i'm hungry. plan your schedule to give yourself an hour to eat. you'll be glad you did.
7. go to all the on-board "shows"! you will only be disappointed if you don't go!
8. i got "permission" to bring my espresso machine onboard from someone on the phone lines. at the port, security confiscated it and said "show your permission to the security dept on board". but when we got on the ship we found out that under no circumstances would that be allowed. they gave us a small coffee machine for our room. WAIT- no they gave us a hot water pot and some instant coffee mix.
9. if you are sensitive to a/c systems, bring a weeks worth of cough drops and a scarf for your throat and maybe even cough syrup. it doesn't take that much room. if you start coughing you'll be so glad you did.
10. yes the toilets plugged up. 3 times. not our fault. but it did motivate us to get out of bed (to go use facilities elsewhere) and get on with our day when it would have been so easy to just relax in bed and waste the whole day (did I mention my dh's devotion to nightlife)?
11. there is NO alarm clock or dock for your ipod but there is a tv w/hdmi and mini-hdmi hookups. if only i'd brought that cord!
12. ART everywhere! I take the stairs alot, to make up for all the dining options! every landing had huge pieces that were great and VARIOUS. i tried to get to all the floors and see everything. that was also a great way to know if i was going in the right direction (everyone kept getting confused between mid and forward and aft elevators). Art in the cabins (unless you had a pull down bunk). Focusing on the art in the hallways helped reduce my feelings of claustraphobia (some hallways are really narrow). My favorites were the city scenes on the port side of 8).
13. Even though our room was almost at the bottom of the economic heap (category ox) it was sooooo comfy. the bed, the linens, the pillows, the "obstructed view" were all perfect. both my husband and i thought the bathroom was shallower in space than on carnival, but we appreciated the cabin itself being more roomy. we loved the desk/shelf designs too. came home and went into our master bathroom and i found myself thinking, we could cut out about 12' feet of space and still have a bigger bathroom than onboard... that would double the size of our "walk in" closet! i don't think d.h. is going to like that suggestion....