Embarkation and Debarkation:
Being this was our first cruise and reading a lot of the cruise reviews, we decided to go to Vancouver 1 day early to get a head start on things. This was a smart idea. Not knowing what to expect allowed us to watch and learn at the embarkation point for the first time. Our Cruise was leaving from Ballentine Pier. When we got there all the people were very friendly. They were still exiting from the prior cruise so we got to see what we in for at the end of the cruise. I asked for information on checking in and the person did everything possible for us to feel relaxed being in a foreign location for us. She gave me exact times of where to be and what will happen. At 10:30 like she said, the gentlemen were there to check our big luggage that would be brought to our staterooms after we boarded.
We then proceeded to the screening area to get checked in. This was to start at 11:00. At 11:05, the started to check us in. We were greeted with respect and warmth and all our documents were there; please make sure you fill everything out prior to coming to the ship it made it so much easier. We proceeded to the waiting room and were pointed to the staging area for the American side of the house. Different customs lines for foreigners than for Americans. They started to feed us right away with sandwiches, cookies and something to wash it down with. Right at 12 noon customs started to board us. With a group number of 1 we were the second one to board the ship. They met us at the door with smiles and hello's. We were informed that all cabins would be ready at one o'clock so we sat at the Main bar and the bar tender helped us understand what was going to happen during our first day. Rooms were open right at 1 and we were very pleased with our stateroom. We had a window room and were very pleased with it. Our bags got there at about 2 o'clock which gave us more than enough time to unpack and roam the boat until it was time to leave which at that time a big party in the top deck came alive with entertainment and a beautiful push off and away we went. Just do not forget to watch the sunset. It came late like almost 10 o'clock, but it was beautiful.
Debarkation was as smooth as embarkation. They gave us tags the night before we were to return and we put them on our bags. We were also given a staging area to wait for our group to be called. When we were called off we went and our bags were right there where they were supposed to be. Very nice and orderly.
Cruising to Juneau:
Cruising to Juneau was a great experience. All the crew was very helpful in answering any questions that might have come up. We wanted to see the sunrise and the Captain made sure that you knew what time it would be coming up. We thought we would see this one because the next day we would have to move the clocks back one more hour so the sun came up that day at 5:30 am and the next days it would come up around 4:30.
We had a full day with lots of activities and being our first of two formal nights we had a lot to look forward to. Pictures, did you say you wanted pictures, we had 5 different picture setting that was made available to us and we took advantage of them all. It was great, they took their time on every shot and made us feel like it was all about us. The dinners were in the cascade dining room were first class. They had a wide variety of food to choose from. Hors d'oeuvres, chose as many as you want. The waiting staff was first class all the way. They were very pleasant and up beat. All the different nationalities on board made it even better. They were interested in you and how they could make your meal more enjoyable. The service I had was the kind of service you get when you go to a 5 star restaurant and pay big money for it. The service was quick, but slow enough so you could digest your food and enjoy the music and all the other folks at your table.
We did not plan any excursions during our visit to Juneau because we heard that the shopping was fantastic, and it was. You could have made arrangement for any excursion that you wanted to on board ship or even on land. That day when we got in we thought we were in luck. They were forecasting rain all day and when we docked it was dry. As they say in Alaska the weather could change at any time and it did. The announcement came that the off ramp was on deck 5 so we lined up and away we went, like I said the weather changed from dry to misting to a steady rain. We were glad we did not make any plans. The shops were all up and down 1 street and a lot of them had cover in front of there stores. We got ourselves 2 small umbrellas and just enjoyed the day of shopping. They had everything there. The first thing we did do was made a call home to check on the kids. Very easy, lots of pay phones. Just bring a calling card.
After we shopped we boarded the ship earlier in the day. We took advantage of the almost empty ship and took a nice slow walk on board. We were amazed of the beauty of the ship with all the different restaurants that you could eat at. They were all very clean. They had many many lounges to pick from and great views of Juneau. Glass windows everywhere. It was great, never a bad view. We ate that night at the Cascades. The food again was great. No complaints. They had so many things to pick from and if you needed help to understand some of the items the staff was very well knowledge. Your staff for your table had all your names down. They even knew how much I like coffee and when I sat down they had a cup coming right over. Again, great service great food.
We arrived very early in Skagway. If you were not awake to see it you would have not even known that we dock. It was a great site to watch how the Captain maneuvered this gigantic ship in the small area. We were able to go ashore at 7:30 am. We did make arrangements for an excursion and we were glad we did. We went shopping again and saw the town which was very small, 1 block wide by 5 blocks long. It was a nice older style town. Wooded walkways and horse and buggies to ride. The town's people were great and very friendly. Our White Pass Train ride did not begin until 12:50 so we had time to take our bags back on board and eat a quick lunch before we left on the train. I highly recommend to anyone this train ride. You will never forget it. The ride to the top of these mountains was excellent. They narrated the whole trip and the picture taking was endless. 72 pictures I took. I had the convenience to download all my pictures to my small laptop so I could take as many pictures as I needed to. The train ride took us to the Canadian/American border and then we turned around and came back down the hill. Do take a jacket; it is at least 30 degrees colder in the mountains.
I never realized how beautiful a piece of ice could be. It probably is an insult to the people living up here to call it a piece of ice. The glacier was just gorgeous. The captain got us in very close and just made the boat stay in one spot and turned in around 360 degrees so everyone could get a shot of all sides. We picked up natives of the land and they gave us a wonderful presentation of the history of the glaciers. They told us everything about the different kinds of people that lived here and the different tribes or associations that they belong to. They took their heritage very seriously and also the beauty of their land. It was a very nice presentation as we turned and saw as much of the glaciers as possible. At one time the Captain felt that the safety of the boat might be happening because the ice was getting to close so he had to pull back a little. That was really no problem because he already made one complete turn. He wanted to do it again but the ice started to come too close to the ship.
We cruised into Ketchikan gracefully as normal not even knowing that we docked. The weather looked like it was going to be on our side today. The average rainfall per year in Ketchikan is 16 feet. So I guess we were lucky. We had partial sun and nice temperatures. The town was very beautiful. There were plenty of stores to shop at and the excursions were plenty as normal. We decided to see the lumber jack show and it was well worth it. The seating was great and the entertainment was continuous. They put a lot of comedy into the show as well as great showmanship. They demonstrated all the different types of events that the guys would go through in competition. All of them were competitors on ESPN. After we got done there we took a walk around the town. The people were very nice as we found out in all the towns we visited.
We saw a Las Vegas type show every night. The entertainment was fantastic. Mark put on quite a show. Just like sitting in Vegas. They had the Royal Caribbean Singers & Dancers perform on two separate days. They put on Broadway productions with different themes both nights. One night they had an illusionists for us that made you wonder how he did what he did. Another Group called the Billy Richard's Coaters put on a great show. Then the last night was a Farewell show with the captain, comedy and the Radiance Family.
To sum this 7 day cruise in a short sentence I guess I would have to say that even if I tried I could not find anything to complain about. They went out of their way to make sure you vacation was the best and most enjoyable all the time.