Having been on an amazing winter vacation in Mexico this year, my girlfriend and I decided to book a cruise to Alaska for our summer vacation. We flew into Seattle the night before embarkation. We stayed at the Renaissance in town and had a wonderful room with a view of the space needle.
We arrived at the port at about 11 a.m. We were able to board immediately. We were told to go to the buffet until our rooms were ready. Upon entering the buffet, we saw a very large selection of food served in a smorgasbord fashion. Although there was a large selection and it seemed that the charm was more in the unlimited amount, rather that the quality of food. Still...we were going to Alaska and were filled with excitement as we ate.
An announcement was made that the rooms were ready so we proceeded to ours. Upon entering our room, my girlfriend and I noticed a pretty strong odor of stale cigarette smoke. I am an asthma sufferer and found myself starting to wheeze. I went to guest services and explained our dilemma. I was told that there no rooms designated as "Non Smoking" on the ship, and they would wipe down the room as to eliminate the odor. Once we were underway, they would look for another room. As I waited my asthma increased and this affected my whole trip.
Our ship started moving, our phone rang. It was guest services letting me know that they found us another room, just a few doors down. I said we would re-pack to move. She said there would be no need as she would send someone down to move us as we were. A couple minutes later there was a knock at the door. We opened it to find our room steward, who looked into our cabin and told us that we needed to pack so we could switch rooms. We told him that guest services had advised us that we would be moved without having to re-pack. He explained that he could not let us into the new room until everything was out of the old room. I was not comfortable leaving our belongings in the hall, so I called guest service back. Again they told me not to not to lift a finger, as they would have someone come right away to move us. Another knock on the door and our room steward appeared again, only this time he seemed a bit miffed. We managed to get into our new room, and as we settled in we again felt the excitement that brought us here in the first place.
Our first port Sitka was breathtaking!! Once we got off the ship, we proceeded to go past all the shopping and walked up the main street until we came to a lake. We sat there on a park bench and had a great view of the mountains. There was a local family feeding duck on the lake. We then strolled back to town and went into a couple of shops. This is a beautiful place.
Our next stop was Glacier bay to see the Hubbard Glacier. The captain bought us really close, and the naturalist on the boat gave a lecture through the P.A. system which was extremely interesting. This place alone made the trip worthwhile. Although we had amazing weather for the rest of the trip, this place is expectedly COLD.....Bring a coat.
Next stop, Juneau..... We had booked one of the excursions which included whale watching and a tour of the Mendenhall Glacier. We got off the boat and boarded a bus, which took us to the museum and vista. After arriving at the park-museum, we walked along a path by a stream where the salmon were running. At the end of the path there is a vista where you get a spectacular view of the glacier. We did not go into the museum, as our time there was short, and we had to be back at the bus. The bus driver kept us entertained with stories about life there as we made our way to the boat. After a short safety talk on the boat, we got underway to look for whales. This trip offered much of our money back if we didn't see any whales, so we were hopeful. There was a naturalist who lectured during the trip and I really learned a lot. About 1/2 hour in we saw our first whale!! We followed the whale until we had seen it a number of times, and then proceed to the next siting. They served hot chocolate, coffee, and snacks, which were all delicious. We saw three whales, a number of sea lions, and possibly the most the gorgeous scenery of the entire trip. You get another perceptive of the Mendenhall glacier and a couple other glaciers from the boat. I highly recommend this excursion. Back on the ship we saw more whales from the constellation deck.
We then proceeded to Ketchikan which had a frontier town feel along a backdrop of the Tsongas rain forest. We roamed the shops and saw an animal shelter giving a talk, while we watched a live Eagle and an owl that the had rescued. We were our way again through the inside passage and more beautiful scenery.
Our final destination, Victoria B.C. was to be short, as we would get there at 7 P.M. and had to be back on the ship by 12 A.M. Once off the ship we found that they had convenient shuttles to take you to town and back. The last bus leaves at 11 P.M. My girlfriend was a bit disappointed as she would have liked to have seen Bouchard Gardens, and the time seemed to short for that. We went into town and had dinner at "Milestones" restaurant. The food was good and it has a wonderful view of Victoria. We walked over to the "Empress" hotel and checked out the lobby. The ship left for Seattle at about 11:30 P.M.
Much of the food on the ship was pretty bad. We went to the restaurant the first night and I got the Salmon which did not seem fresh. The soup was inedible. Things did not improve through the trip.On a positive note, my girlfriend who has celiac and cannot eat wheat, was able to get some gluten free bread. She told me it was the best gluten free bread that she had ever eaten. Unfortunately they ran out of it three days into the cruise. Most of the crew were eager to please, and would go to great lengths to make you happy. The young man making pizza arranged to make a gluten free pie for us. It was pretty bad but we really appreciated the effort.
The dinning room menus were very ambitious. Every item sounded wonderful, but most were rather bad. You would think that they would at least have some fresh seafood, but that was not the case. They could do a lot better on the food.
After the initial room trouble,our room steward seemed to be irritated each time we called him. Although he was not pleasant about, he did manage to do everything we asked.
Alaska is a wonderful place to see, and the boat and the crew got us there. Everything was done efficiently. Lets hope they can do better with the food. If cigarette smoke bothers you, I would advise against this ship. Otherwise, if you want to see Alaska and are not very food centered, take this cruise.