ONCE IN A LIFETIME CRUISE TO ALASKA
BY Tikigal: Kimberly Foreman
Ship: Celebrity Solstice
Date: August 16-23
Seattle, Ketchikan, Tracy Arm, Juneau, Skagway, Victoria, Seattle
http://tripwow.tripadvisor.com/tripwow/ta-07d2-10e2-d2f5?ln Click here to enjoy and download the slideshow
Our Captain was Zisis Tarams, and Staff Captain was Dimitri Petros. Both very gracious hosts to us while we were on board.
Attire: A bit more casual than an elegant Caribbean Cruise, dressy works fine, and a nice pant suit or dress for ladies every night works great. Bring a sweater, as it is always a bit chilly going sleeveless. This is Alaska, remember, not the Caribbean, so dress appropriately. Bring a warm jacket for your day trips.
After 29 cruises, this was my thirtieth cruise. I had never been to Alaska before, and though I have seen icebergs floating past Greenland, and Iceland, never before have I witnessed such spectacular scenery, and a crew all too eager to help us see the sights.
CHECK IN: We arrived at 11:445AM, and had a smooth check-in without a wait. We proceeding through security, with all of our paperwork in hand, keeping passports and stateroom cards available. Be sure you have printed up your express pass to bring with you. We were greeting by champagne, mimosas or orange juice, and enjoyed the friendliness of the waiters for our First Impression. I think a nice touch would have been a Senior Officer or two at the door to greet and assess his passengers, as well as the Cruise Director, and Captains Club representative for past cruisers. I understand these individuals are busy, but first impressions go a long way!
I was able to drop off my backpack with wine inside, and then walked around the chip. We met our new Captains Club Hostess, Tanushka D Souza, from India, who was a delight. Chandru, her counterpart, had just left the ship for vacation, which I previously knew from the Eclipse. Touring the ship (my fifth sail aboard the Solstice) I noticed Park West Galleries had re-entered the scene. I saw a lovely painting by Peter Max of The Solstice, which has always been a favorite of mine. We attended the art auctions, which was fun, as my roommate bought a series of paintings. I showed my roommate around the ship, as she had not been on the Solstice. Our ship departed on time, and we went to the Sunset Bar in the aft for sail away, and met up with a group of cruise critic friends. We went to the Blue restaurant for dinner, as is part of our Aqua Suite package.
BLU RESTAURANT: Delicious, all natural food, without all the heavy cream sauces. A more health conscious dining restaurant that I would consider upscale by anyone's standards. All the meals were good, and yes, you do get a lobster dinner. Yummy! You may take your time, and even though they plan on turning the tables a few times during the evening, there is no rush, and if you want to take your time, you may. You may come at any time you wish, no rules, just dress fairly nice. The service is excellent. I have eaten at Blu before.
Things to do: $10 Blowout for purses, scarves, and lots of fun things that the crowd on board goes crazy for. Bingo, Practice for Flash Dancing, Ballroom dance classes, cooking demonstrations with Executive Chef, Robert Sauer, glass blowing demonstrations up on the lawn, lawn croquet, art of food and wine parings, music trivia, talent shows, Zumba classes, watercolor classes with Ken Withrow, table tennis, the pool, spa, scrapbooking club, you name it, it happened. I was picked to play in the Officers vs. Guests Game show, family feud, and won a t-shirt and a lanyard, and bragging rights for a few minutes. The Captains Club party was fun, with the winner having 48 points, and receiving beautiful flowers, and other goodies.
Tracy Arm Fjord: We started sailing in there early, around 5:45 AM. Our enrichment experience was narrated by Brent Nixon, an expert on Alaska. He talked over the loudspeaker so every passenger could here on deck only of course. Here we saw a thirty-mile glacial fjord from millions of years ago. I recommend going next year, before we lose all the glaciers! There are rain forest here at the mouth of the fjord, leading into active tidewater glaciers. Oh my, this was an incredible journey. Please see my slide show link at the top to view this experience.
Captains Club Elite: Positive things for me: I found Tanushka extremely warm and friendly. She is a jewel for Celebrity and works very hard to accommodate all of the Captains Club guests with their special wishes and needs. Kudos to you, my dear! I was invited to many events and appreciate her graciousness and that of the Senior Officers' Staff. We were able to go to Captains Club cocktail hour nightly as I had Elite Status. You could sip on a variety of drinks on the house, and enjoy the best view on the ship during certain hours of the day. I found it odd that Select guests were at Elite events, but went with the flow. I was here for fun, not to complain. I found that the Sky Lounge had closed the very forward section, and was entertaining another group on board, and we were put on the side. Captains Club was a small group, but alas, we were there to make friends and have fun. Silk Harvest was Elite's morning hang-out with a variety of goodies for us.
Things not present in the normal program printed for Elite: Afternoon tea, Elite Bridge Tours, Elite galley tours. I always enjoyed the Elite galley tour as it ended with a tidbit in Oceans, or other specialty restaurants on different ships. I was really looking forward to that. It is my favorite part of the sailing. Maybe it was just the time restraints, but I missed the special invitations that I automatically had. The cruise booklets were no longer available, so you could not sit in your room and dream, looking at the pictures in the book, and reading all the information, before booking another cruise. I really miss that, and wish they would be available on board, on request only. I assume it was a cost factor.
Ketchikan: Saw the Great American Lumberjack show. Lots of fun to see this and a good family show. It rained, but we sat high enough to remain undercover. Choose a back row for the best protection in inclement weather. Lots of shopping in town as well
Skagway: Took the White Pass Railway Journey. If you haven't gone don't miss it. One the way back, I could literally watch Alaskan king Salmon jumping in the river by the bridge! It was awesome.
Victoria: Went to Butchart Gardens for the evening tour. We were given Chinese paper lanterns that lit up. Some worked, some didn't but the theory was good, as many of our passengers were carrying around lit lanterns at nights, so we could see some of the plants. An awesome experience. We then toured Chinatown. We had great weather- 81 degrees. I loved Victoria, and we got to stay there until almost midnight!
Seattle: It was smooth sailing in and out of Seattle. If you get a chance, visit Pikes Place Market (where they fling the fish, have a flower market, and lots of fun) Gig Harbor (west of Tacoma), take in a Mariners Baseball game, take a spin on the Ferris wheel overlooking the Sound near the ship. Disembarkation was a breeze, found our luggage in 3 minutes, and left the ship. We used nearby parking for $140 per week (ouch) Seattlecruisepark.com
http://tripwow.tripadvisor.com/tripwow/ta-07d2-10e2-d2f5?ln Click here to see the slideshow of the trip. Approximately 12 minutes. Enjoy!