We sailed on Vision of the Seas on the June 8th cruise. This will probably be lengthy, but hopefully it will make someone else’s trip to Alaska better. This was our third cruise, all on Royal Caribbean. All of our cruises have been on the vision family ships(Enchantment and Splendour were our other two). Royal had been so good for our first two cruises, we saw no need to try anyone else.
We flew out of Charlotte and had a direct flight to Seattle. We actually live along coastal South Carolina, but saved over $800 flying out of Charlotte instead of Myrtle Beach on US Airways. To be safe, we flew in a day early and planned some sightseeing around Seattle. Our flight was actually 30 minutes early! We stayed near the airport-most hotels have shuttles. Our family bought bus passes in advance for our day in Seattle. We visited the Museum of Flight(a must if you like aviation), Space Needle, EMP, and Science Fiction Museum. Note: Boeing sponsors free admission on the first Thursday of the month in the summer to many of the museums around Seattle. All of these attractions were first class.
We left the hotel for the cruise ship dock at 11:15 on Friday. We took a limo service which cost us $60 for our family of four. I’m not sure how much Royal charges for airport transfers to the dock, but I figured it would be at least $15 dollars apiece. Check in was very efficient(too efficient for us). We thought we would just check our bags and walk over to the fish market until we could get on the boat, but they moved us right to the boarding process. We were on the ship by 12:10. We were eating lunch at the Windjammer by 12:45. The boat left right at 5:00 and the weather was absolutely perfect for Seattle in June.
Saturday was at sea and it was the roughest worst weather day , but improved as the day went on. There were 13-20 foot seas on Saturday morning in the open water, but I did not hear of or see many people getting sick. My youngest son wanted to swim in the afternoon and the water was 86 degrees and the hot tub was especially nice. The pool deck was much less crowded on the Alaskan cruise relative to our Caribbean sailings. Our family also spent some of the afternoon in the card room and played shuffle board. My kids also played table tennis.
Sunday was probably one of the most memorable days of my life. You have to remember it is not dark very long in Alaska. I woke up at about 4:30 in the morning and looked out the window and it looked like a post card. Snow in the mountains, sunshine, and beautiful scenery. I enjoyed getting up early and just spending time on deck 10 drinking coffee and talking to other passengers(all week). My wife, who usually is a late sleeper, was even pulled out of bed by the scenery. By 8 am we were watching whales spouting on both sides of the deck. In Juneau we took the city bus to the Glacier Gardens(a beautiful attraction that came highly recommended by friends and relatives) and then continued on the city bus to Mendenhall Glacier. Note: the city bus is $1.50 for adults and $1.00 for kids each time you board. It is a 1.25 mile walk from the bus stop to the glacier. If you take the blue bus from downtown directly to the glacier it is $12.00 round trip. The glacier was amazing and by going on your own, you can spend as much time as you want. On the way back to the bus stop, a mother black bear and her cub ran across the road about 50 feet in front of us. A tour bus coming the other way nearly hit the bear. Seeing the bear and cub was a thrill for our whole family and we were probably closer than we wanted to be.
Monday was Skagway. We got off the boat and went to the Klondike Gold Rush Museum and signed up for the 9:00 am ranger tour. If you want to learn about the gold rush, this was an excellent tour and it was free. We went back to the boat to eat and then went on the train/gold camp excursion that we booked through the cruise line. The train is a must in Skagway and we enjoyed the camp as well. There was plenty of snow at the high elevations of the train ride. In Fraser, you depart the train and take a bus to the gold camp(Liarsville). They have a little show, let you walk around the camp, and give you a pan and you separate the rocks to find the gold in your pan--they are pre made, so everyone is guaranteed to get little gold.
On Tuesday morning, we sailed into the Tracy Arm Fjord. It is one of the most scenic places that I have ever seen. The pictures that we have are beautiful, but don’t do the fjord and glacier justice. You have to see it in person to truly appreciate it. We saw a few seals and got in pretty close to the Sawyer Glacier. Captain Stein said it was as close as he had gotten this season. A few crew members went out and brought pieces of some icebergs for everyone to see and take pictures . The waterfalls in the fjord were spectacular. They had over 200 inches of snow around Juneau this past winter, so there was plenty of snow melt.
The Wednesday stop was Prince Rupert, BC. We liked Prince Rupert because it is kind of quiet relative to most cruise ship stops. We went on the Butze Rapids walk and really enjoyed it. The scenery in BC is outstanding as well. Our guides were friendly and knowledgeable. We also went to the Museum of Northern BC--it documents the history of the First Nation. You can walk there from the ship and it was $10
for our family. Thursday was a day at sea. My wife and I went to the Alaska talk, which was excellent. The crew had their parade on deck 10. There was an ice carving demonstration and a towel demonstration--my kids love the towel animals. In the afternoon, I did the rock climbing wall. I hadn’t done it on the other cruises, but wanted to. It was a blast!! That will be on my list to do for future cruises. We departed the ship at about 9:45 on Friday. That was a little chaotic because it was raining and people were blocking the terminal exit waiting for rides. The Royal people were trying to clear the exit and people wouldn’t move.
Our dining experience was outstanding as it has been on each Royal cruise. We don’t generally eat out at fancy places, so the dinner experience is a big part of the cruise for us. I generally don’t eat things like salmon, lamb, etc. Both of these meals and every other one was excellent. My oldest son had the lobster tails and they brought him all he could eat. Everything that we ordered was very good. Our waiters--Merliza and Notaya were excellent and our head waiter(Vijay) was outstanding as well. One night, we had strawberry cheesecake for dessert and I was commenting on how much I loved strawberries, so Merliza brought two extra pieces for us to take back to our room. On piece of advise. If you are from the east coast, I would pick early dining. Remember, there is a 4 hour time difference. Six o’clock dinner is going to feel like 10 o’clock. Our youngest son went to bed two nights as soon as dinner was over and I found myself nodding a bit at the shows. Our room attendant , Andre, was top notch and I even talked to him about the Mexican Riviera cruise that Vision does for the winter season. He was telling me about all of the ports.
The nightly entertainment was great. For us the highlight was the performance by the Drifters. They were great and the audience really seemed to enjoy that show. The comedians were excellent and our cruise director(and wife) kept everyone entertained and informed. We spent alittle time in the casino and I probably enjoyed the penny slot(a mining game) the most. We lost $10, but played for about an hour.
After we got off the ship, we rented a car and spent two more days in Washington(Boeing Factory Tour, Snoqualme Falls, Mount Rainier, Northwest Trek Park, and Mt. St. Helen’s Visitors Center). We enjoyed our days in Washington and we were glad that we allowed some extra time before and after the cruise. If you do rent a car, be ready for Seattle traffic--it is heavy!! During the whole week of the cruise, I only heard two people say anything negative. I heard one couple complain that their seating arrangement wasn’t right, but they hadn’t checked on it and one man was mad at his wife because she wanted to buy a cruise picture and he thought it was too expensive. During the parade, passengers were yelling to Captain Stein to turn the boat around!! Once again, we found Royal Caribbean to be notch in everyway. We just have no reason to cruise with anyone except Royal at this point. We were very lucky weatherwise. Most natives in Alaska and BC seemed to indicate that if it wasn't raining, it was a good day. It rained on us probably everyday a least a little, but mostly very light rain or mist. Take a raincoat and don't worry about it. If you have are considering cruising to Alaska, I wouldn't hesitate going with Vision. I thought this was going to be a once in a lifetime trip(Alaska), but we are already talking about going back again.