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....
I'm sorry, we didn't do as much as we should have. We basically got out our binoculars and looked at the mountains to see the goats that others pointed out to us after they got back from their excursions. we spent hours in the hot-tub and pool with a precious lack of children on this day. we could see the mountains easily from the pool deck. they were gorgeous. i had planned to go to mendenhall glacier but cancelled it as made a dire mistake the night before: i wore new heels that i hadn't broke in and got blisters that left me hobbling that day.
our friends took the bus over and had a good time. but they were back early too.
We thought we'd enjoy exploring Creek Street for a few hours but no, it was more of a shopping mecca than a pub crawl. We took the funincular (outstanding views and great staff) up to the Cape Fox Resort and enjoyed the ESPRESSO shop there before going outside to see the Totems.
Then we went down Married Man's walkway. Again, this was similar to some local hikes in our county, but it was still beautiful, and the lore about 'married men' sneaking to and from the red light district was entertaining.
on Creek Street we did easily see the salmon 'running'. August is prime time for that.
A friend did the group canoe paddle and loved it. I should have done that. Like i said, do a few excursions!
Catching the bus to the totems at Bight/Potlatch is good, but a tour might be better.
We visited several bars and found them to be mostly too smokey for our liking. We went down "Betty King Alley" to have a drink at the Pioneer Bar (wi-fi was available!) where the bartender was very charming. we also liked the atmosphere at Annabelle's but weren't hungry enough to really eat. we just had the 'kung pao' calamari. it was fine.
We probably could have found some good bargains shopping (my friends did) but we just weren't in the mood.
I LOVE SEATTLE. That's why I live close by. Seattle started the public art movement. With all our overcast days we needed it!
It's easy to get some local flavor by going to the Pike Place Market or taking a tour bus or "the Duck".
If you're more adventurous walk uphill from lower queen anne to upper queen anne and snack in both neighborhoods. Likewise walk up Pike or Pine Street to Broadway and explore "Capital Hill".
Spend a day exploring Fremont, with it's outdoor art sculptures along the canal, and on the bridge (northeast corner of the bridge), and under the Aurora bridge (it's legendary).
Go to Greenlake or Alki and rent bikes and bike through the neighborhood and along the waterways. lots of good food and local art all around. Also -close to greenlake- the University District has a plethora of dining options and that college town feel. or close to Alki- the views on the hill of West Seattle are just spectacular.
Lake WA is also very bike-able but i'm not familiar with where all you could rent the bikes there. the view of Mt.Rainier from Seward Park is gorgeous and Seward Park is wonderful. Walking around Leschi and the Madison area is also charming.
i liked the charm of this town. we rented bikes and just lolly gagged around a bit. (rented at sockeye something). we went into the red onion (which was packed) and bellied up to the bar (no other way to get there) for a quick libation. the corset-clad staff showed enough cleavage to stifle my interest in the brothell-museum so we skipped that. we thought about doing the 'easy' hike up to lower dewey lake but enjoyed the bicycling too much. (yes, my blisters were all better). we went out to the river and back into town, but mostly we just tooled around town.
our friends did the train to white pass (or whatever) and they really enjoyed it. they took the short version and were back in time for lunch.
apparently there is an actual espresso shop in town, but we didn't find it. i was hoping for a starbucks and free wifi and i got directed to a coffee shop inside a jewelry store! i shouldn't have said starbucks! this shop was brewing starbucks coffee,and it was fine, except the line was like 20 people long, and it wasn't a starbucks.
We're fairly familiar with Victoria, so it was easy to get off the ship and find a drug store and a dollar store for some supplies we felt we "needed". Then we were going to go on the Pickle Pub Crawl but somehow got talked out of it. The weather was great so we decided just to walk to some pubs ourselves. Victoria has plenty of pubs/bars/restaurants. The waterfront area is definitely priced a bit higher than other areas, but it's also the most convenient.
We also found a dragon boat festival going on at the waterfront, where we discovered a group called Uminari Taiko performing (Taiko is a Japanese drum). They were wonderful. I'm seriously thinking about looking for a drumming club locally to join or at least to see if they do workshops.
We were a group of 3 couples, and regular taxis are limited to 4 people so we needed 2 taxis. The group behind us was in a similar position so we shared 3 cabs between the 12 of us. this was encouraged by the facilitators working the lines of people getting off the boats. we were instructed to meet at "The Parliment Building".
The problem was, we, in the middle cab, had a driver who took a shortcut instead of following the cab in front of us, and then dropped us off at "the parliment building" about a half mile away from where the other 2 cabs dropped all of our friends. it took an extra half hour to find each other. "The Parliment Building" is pretty big. (yes, there are some mini-van taxis that seat 6 passengers, but they are rare and in high demand). I still think we could have easily walked into town (a 30 minute walk) but our friends are not regular walkers (I am).