Embarkation was very smooth. I attempted an upgrade at the pier but balconies were sold out. I was quite disappointed, as balconies in Alaska are a special experience.
The ship is very lovely. Lots of green glass and wood, tons of artwork from around the globe and she is impeccably maintained by the friendly crew.
We had cabin 4546, a larger outside stateroom in Cat F. As usual with RCI, the cabins are well designed and have plenty of storage space. Ours was 151 sq. ft and we were quite comfortable. We had a large picture window and with the constant sunlight, I was hoping to find a blackout shade but none was available.
Our cabin stewardess, Cecil, was a delight and spoiled us throughout our cruise.
We went to the dining room to see the Maitre'D to request a table change - we had requested a table for 3 and were not accommodated. Despite a very disorganized process where they had you in order to meet the maitre'D, but deviated based on level of belligerence apparently, we were eventually accommodated.
We checked out the rest of the ship and then went to a private cocktail party. Dinner was at 8:30 so we visited the Champagne Bar and found the bartender who was to be our very favorite on the cruise, Nimfa. We bought a bottle of wine and had a glass and then brought the rest to the dining room.
This first evening was our only truly awful experience onboard. First, we were asked to give up our hard won window side table for two so that passengers who did not speak English could be stationed with a waiter who spoke their language. We declined and were obviously then a target for the aggravated waiter. Service was non-existent and Daniela, the waiters, insisted several times over taht we had to pay a corkage fee for the bottle of wine we purchased in the Champagne Bar and brought to the Dining Room. This message was delivered very discourteously and also repeatedly. We were clear that we were not paying to drink wine bought and paid for - with our receipt in hand - aboard the ship and finally she said she was sending the head waiter over to "deal with us and collect our payment". Even when the head waiter came over and apologized profusely, Daniela continued to be nasty and we left before eating out entrees. On our way out, my boyfriend spoke to the head waiter and requested another waiter and we were accommodated immediately.
After this unpleasant experience, we retired for the evening and hoped it was not an indication of service levels aboard the ship. I am happy to report that it was not. For the rest of the week we were in the capable and courteous hands of Andre who saw that we were very well taken care of.
Food aboard the ship is in line with what I have read in the reviews on this board. It was average, with no special highlights during the week. The menus have been redesigned and are very contemporary and colorful. Lunch menus remain the same every day with multiple hot entree, sandwich and salad offerings as well as a fresh pasta bar and daily specials. We had lunch in the dining room twice and the rest of the time chose to eat in port or at Windjammer or Room Service. I must say the food was much better on my Majesty cruise three weeks ago and I was surprised. I believe the reason more people do not complain is that they penalize the waitstaff for the food, which I have always thought is BS. All in all, the food was very disappointing. The upside to this was no weight gain in seven days!
Speaking of weight gain, the gym was surprisingly small and the classes minimal compared to Caribbean itineraries I have sailed. There is the usual jogging track on Deck 9.
Entertainment, we did not go out much at night. The Shari Cafarro Trio played in Centrum each evening so we ended our days with a nightcap in the Champagne Bar listening to her and the band. We did not see any shows nor participate in any other activities so I cannot comment on any of that.
We were privileged to dine with the captain two nights and on those nights the menu was unique and the food and service top notch. Captain George was a real treat and we very much enjoyed his personality and appreciated his skills. We went to a presentation on the last sea day called "Nautical Notes" that the Captain writes and presents and it was very interesting.
Most of our other time was taken up with special activities for Crown and Anchor members and were treated throughout the cruise like royalty. We had cocktail receptions on five of the seven nights and special events throughout the cruise.
As for the itinerary, Hubbard Glacier was spectacular and I was awed even after three other Alaska sailings. My BF continues to say that is the single most amazing thing he has seen in his life. We were up close and the glacier was highly active.
In Skagway we did the White Star Railway on a picture perfect day and had a great time. In Juneau we rented a car and struck out on our own and were very happy we did. It was a respite from the tourist mess downtown. In Ketchikan we booked our own flightseeing excursion from thru Alaska Seaplane Tours and thank you, Ryan, for a phenomenal experience! I highly recommend these guys. We did a landing on a glacial lake and walked about for a bit and it is truly a wonder to be in the midst of the most pristine land imaginable.
We ended our trip in Vancouver, a city I know and love and I pretty much had to be dragged on the airplane back to the heat and humidity in Florida.
Anyone in Ketchikan hiring?