Sept. 16, 2007 Vancouver, B.C. Celebrity Infinity 13 night repositioning cruise Vancouver - Alaska - San Francisco
Boarding Some past reviews have pointed out that Celebrity uses an awkward pier that is difficult to find versus the central Canada Place. I agree and it is an undesirable area - don't get there early and expect to wander around! We breezed through US customs (we're Canadians) and boarding was complete in 10 min. The Brits complained that they had lengthy waits at Customs and this has been a reoccurring theme from other cruises.
OUr cabin had a minor closet door repair required and i jimmied it up so that it was not just hanging open. We mentioned it to the attendant while indicating that it was not a big deal. It was fixed within 15 min.
We sailed out under the Lions Gate Bridge with low hanging cloud (a typical feature of the west coast in the Fall!) The Captain came on the intercom and told us that there would be a minor delay as they performed some compass repairs and we sailed in endless circles for 30 min.
The next day we passed the Queen Charlotte Islands on the west side. It looked beautiful and i did wish that we were making a landing there. The next day we landed in Sitka and tendered in. ON average our weather was cloudy with light drizzle on the trip. But Sitka was one beautiful day with nothing but sunshine! We chose to avoid the cruise line onshore excursions whenever possible. We booked a whale watching tour directly with Captn Davey. There was a family of 3 also on board. We saw perhaps 25 Humpback whales - 2 incredible breeches plus puffins, otters, commorants, seals, eagles etc. It was perfect! The family onboard kindly offered to show us around town and they took us on a drive to a nearby mountain top with a superb vista view. Thx Marci!
Next morning to Hubbard Glacier - a smokey, rainy day and i thought, oh oh, the captain wont like these conditions. We were later told that he nearly turned around on several occasions but conditions lifted the further up we travelled. Most of the others were out there on deck with us for several hours despite the rain and cold. It was a most incredible sight And sound from the calving. One of the few expanding glaciers in the world. The Captain placed the ship within 1100 feet of the glacier - reportedly the closest visit of the season.
Juneau - low ceiling and periods of rain made it one of the least desirable days. We took the tram to the mtn top and then bussed out to the Mendenhall glacier, anyway. While not afraid of bears, one running towards you until it veered off the trail at about 30' was not comforting. We retired to the Red Dog Saloon!
Skagway - a trip on the White Pass & Yukon RR to Fraser BC and along the Trail of 90 was well worth it. The Gold Rush of '98 - makes you wonder if our priorities have changed at all :-)
ICy Strait Point - tendered in and bussed into nearby village of Hoonah, home of the Tinglet natives. It was a great day just wandering around town talking to people, dining on fresh steamed crab... Then the foolish act - a ZipLine - the longest, highest and fastest in the world - drop 1300', 100 kph. Scared skinny until we sailed out over the valley and what an incredible vista view! This is off the beaten track for most cruise ships and they will only allow one in at a time so that passengers don't over run the town. It was one of the highlights of the trip for me.
Ketchikan - weather was iffy so we scrapped the mtn. hike and basically wandered around town. It was Sunday so we kept a look out for a church and joined a Lutheran service that was Norwegian in background. It was a beautiful service.
Next stops were Prince Rupert, Nanimo & Victoria BC. - it was raining in Prince so we did little but would have travelled out of town had it been a nicer day. Nanimo - who knows why it was on the port list but we rented a car and headed north to the incredible Park of virgin Douglas Fir and Red Cedar - 900 years old + magnificent! We also went to the Horn L. caves which were dark and wet! Victoria is one of the best cities in Nth America - big enough but not too big; lots to do and lots of under discovered stuff too.
San Fran - beautiful day and unhappy that the cruise end was at hand. Great off loading with the exception of trying to keep order with the taxis...
Other - we're real fans of Celebrity and believe that they offer a great balance of value, attention & class. Hence any negatives are really quibbles. On board major entertainment - dismal. we never lasted the entire show. Music - very good - a good cross section of music - lots of variety Naturalist - Brent Nixon was very knowledgeable and we went to all of his shows plus listened to his glacier commentary. His presentation skills, unfortunately, feature an annoying breathless approach. Martini bar - gee, it is just as much fun as the last time!
Ship The Captain was the most publicly visible that we have ever seen. It was great to see him around the ship and he kept up a banter over the speaker system as well. We try and stay away from the cattle car tourist vacations and cruising can lean this way. Between the Captain pushing to the glacier and off places such as Icy Straits, it made the trip for us. The staff are very friendly on Celebrity. Any i asked always told me that thing were good and morale was high. Our attendant had 15 years service but she told me that many had 20! A good sign .. The ship is not old (7 years?)but there was some minor wear - paint flaking, rust around windows etc. just surprising. We had 3 sea days and 2000 passengers but i often wondered where they were. I was never bothered by crowds and saw few line ups. One of the few disappointments was the lack of west coast food in the dining. Sort of thought we might have crab or halibut etc. Incidentally, there were rumors onboard of food poisoning but i cant confirm. The passengers were diverse and included Japan & Germany but the majority were Cdn, American, Brit and Aussie ( 200 of the latter!) One down message for the cruise industry - the Alaska voter passed a motion to surtax all cruise passengers $50 each. I found in talking to shop keepers that there is a resentment towards the cruise industry - they feel that many of the junk stores are cruise co. owned and then they "steer" passengers to them. In addition towns like Juneau and Ketchikan - one has to fight to get through the 1st couple of front streets of jewelry shops and it really detracts from the experience.
A great time overall but next time i will travel on the Alaskan marine highway so that i can see more of the real Alaska. What we did see was truly awesome! Cheers Neil