This was our second cruise. First was with Royal Caribbean 2 years ago in the Caribbean, that boat twice the size of this one in terms of passengers, otherwise basically similar construction and facilities, just smaller scale.
We stayed overnight in Anchorage, Alaska, poured with rain, didn't get to see much but shopped at JC Penney, stayed at Residence Inn near airport, very comfortable, picked up by them and taklen back to airport next day, good breakfast.
Full size bus from airport to port Whittier a little over two hours away, very scenic route.
On to ship via check-in and security, mostly older women doing check-in, delightfully pleasant, friendly, helpful, what a nice thing to see such people in that situation.
Had a really beautiful mini-suite. On our first cruise we had booked late and couldn't get a room with a balcony, this time we did. IT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE.
Very nicely thought out room, full bath, two TV's, everything you need for a few days.
Of course when most people go on board they go straight for the food as if they haven't eaten for a month. Main buffet is Horizon Court on Deck 14, not far from us on Deck 11.
Buffet very good for breakfast, quite good for lunch. Large range of cereals, fruits, eggs, etc, and more 'meaty' stuff for those who think they need that at breakfast.
Desserts for lunch sometimes very good, small fish selection at lunch. Some theme lunches during the week such as 'Alaska', 'British'.
We did 'Anytime Dining' which means you may have to line-up but rarely for more than a few minutes, and you can choose to sit just as a couple or at a table with others, we varied. Sometimes the company was very enjoyable, at other times a bit strained.
We ate twice from the Kosher menu, which was much better than what Royal Caribbean had offered, and praise to Head Waiter for our area Maurizio who arranged this with courtesy, promptness, efficiency, and our frequent and always very quiet dignified and very helpful waiter Virgilio.
There was one waiter who came to a large table one evening, he may have been a waiter at an exclusive large city restaurant previously, but he chose to recommend selections which we thought might be appropriate for a small size 60 seat restaurant, but totally inappropriate for a boat with 1900+ passengers.
Because we eat either from the kosher menu or from a limited range of fish such as salmon, cod, haddock, snapper, grouper, plaice, halibut, sea bass, mahi mahi, we were disappointed with the limited range of fish available - that is to say most of those mentioned were NOT available or offered - and most nights when we had salmon it was undercooked, excerpt on the last night. That was the biggest food disappointment.
By contrast, the desserts especially in the buffet, were very good.
We run or walk regularly, we did that either on the upper open deck or on deck 7. On the upper deck it is a big nuisance having to go past the smokers each circuit, especially the truly foul cigars. In this day and age public smoking is really unacceptable. We realize the cruise is 7 days, but...!!!
The gym was of course smaller than on the previous boat but otherwise acceptable, I only once saw people waiting a few minutes for a free treadmill or machine.
Entertainment. 2 good shows plus a final night show that was a mixture of the best professional dancers and singers plus some really good crew members.
2 moderate one-person shows, and one good comedian. None of the one-person performers came anywhere near the outstanding quality of the one-person entertainer on Royal Caribbean, I think his name was Henderson? who was just superb.
The piano-player-singer in the main lobby who does Roy Orbison-Chris De Bergh numbers was also very good, easy to listen to.
Library. Very good.
Internet. The other main totally unacceptable aspect of cruise gouging. Astronomical rates are Totally unacceptable. Just stop it. We waited until the port towns of Skagway and Juneau and went to the local libraries and used the internet there free.
Excursions. After reading many reviews we did go with independents, but we did not hear anything negative about those organized by the boat.
From Skagway we went up the White Mountain Pass by bus, wonderful young woman driver with a great sense of humour, and down by train. THis seems the more interesting way. Fantastic scenery and two quite different perspectives.
WE are from Toronto. In our city our city council has been arguing for years about
extending our subway just a miserable few miles and still can't get their act together. There, we heard about a railway being built more than 100 years ago for 100 miles or so, in a fraction of the time our council has spent arguing and getting nowhere.
From Juneau we took Orca for whale watching, with Larry driving and two young assistants Josh and Kelly who were enthusiastic, knowledgable, and great fun. THe weather was lousy, pouring and overcast, and it was still an absolutely fascinating and exciting morning that everybody loved.
On the boat itself, the first two full days were spent visiting the Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay. These are so spectacular, they are almost beyond description. The only thing comparable in grandeur is the Grand Canyon. (Yes, the Rockies are great, but we have been to Switzerland many times and so we are 'used' to magnificent mountains. This was something very different)
We totally enjoyed this cruise. The treatment on board from the staff is continually polite, friendly, always helpful.
Becaue of the food it is not quite a 5 star, but it is at least a high 4 and a half star.