Jim and I truly enjoyed our cruise in Alaska. The Radisson's Mariner was a beautiful, warm ship and the service was wonderful. The food, for the most part, was beyond expectation and the entertainment we saw was excellent. Alaska was beautiful. It would have been a perfect cruise, except the ship ran into a problem with the propellers about halfway through our cruise which forced us to travel at about half the normal speed, so unfortunately, we had to skip our stop at Ketchikan in order to get to Vancouver on time. More details are farther down into this review.
We started our vacation 6 days before the cruise with 2 days in Anchorage and 4 days at the Alyeska Resort, just south of Anchorage. On this part of the trip, we took a flightseeing trip to the top of Denali that was one of the most exciting things I've done in a long time. I would recommend this excursion if you ever have a chance to take it in the future.
Getting to Seward and the ship
We took the Alaska Railroad from the Alyeska resort in Girdwood down to Seward on the morning of our cruise. The trip was relaxing and smooth and the views were great. It was an overcast foggy day so we really didn't get to see much, but it was enjoyable anyway. When we reached Seward, it was pouring pitchforks out. We grabbed a cab and took the short ride to the cruise terminal. At about 12:30, the ship allowed us to start early boarding. We were the second couple to board and met a nice couple from Australia as we relaxed in the Mariner Lounge. We munched on small appetizers there and then the ship announced that lunch was being served by the pool. We went up there to have a burger. By this time, more and more people arrived. At 2:30, we went down to the Compass Rose to make reservations for Signatures for my birthday. At the same time, they announced that the suites were ready.
We enjoyed eating dinner here, as the food was very good to excellent, as was the service. The leg of lamb I had one night was excellent! And we had baked Alaska twice - both times it was fantastic. The wines were also very good. At first, I thought the room was kind of ho-hum. But it started to grow on me and I soon came to think it was one of the nicest dining rooms I had seen.
On 2 evenings, we asked the maitre'd if there was anyone looking for people to dine with. One night, we sat with Brian O'Brian, the cruise consultant, Andre and Taryn, the art directors and 3 other male guests. It was fun to meet some new people and hear more about the cruises from Mr. O'Brian. The other time we asked, no one was open. I had hoped there would be more couples open to joining other couples for dinner.
We ate dinner here on the night of my birthday. The service was perfect! The waiter was very discreet, yet friendly. I chose the lamb chops and I can honestly say that this was one of the best pieces of meat I have ever eaten. Jim chose the duck and was not as excited about his choice. My dessert was not great but by that time, it didn't matter. I about died when the waiter put the large silver domed platter on the table and lifted the cover to reveal 12 of those luscious chocolate truffles!! 4 of each - dark chocolate, light chocolate and white chocolate! Who cared that my dessert wasn't great? I think we did leave at least a couple of truffles on the platter.
We decided to try Latitudes one night. I was not that impressed with the atmosphere, the service or the food. Jim really enjoyed his halibut dinner, but I thought mine was kind of bland. I prefer the Compass Rose and Signatures to this choice.
We fell in love with the lunch buffet at this spot, especially since we loved eating on the back open deck of the ship. We had great weather, so it was always sunny and nice on the deck. The food was very good and the dessert bar was fun. Our favorite dessert was the ice cream! Everyday, there were 2 flavors available along with an abundance of toppings and nuts. We never ate here for dinner.
Breakfast Room Service
We had room service each morning for breakfast. It always came on time and was perfectly presented. The cooks got a little confused by my numbering system. I always put a number 2 in front of the coffee and the cream to indicate 2 "orders of" so they knew to bring enough coffee for 2 people. Well, on a few mornings, we got 2 carafes of coffee along with 2 pitchers of cream. We also got a double order of fried eggs one morning. No big deal. Just kind of amusing!
We timed it right for entertainment; at least, we think so. We were lucky to have Kenny Smiles, the Welsh comedian, on board with us, as well as the Peter Grey Terhume Dancers and Singers. The production numbers were so much more professional that we had expected. The first production was Here, There and Everywhere, which was a review of Beatles' songs. Their second show was Thoroughly Modern Broadway and they did a superb job. Their singing and dancing abilities were marvelous as well as the costumes. The last night they outdid themselves with Classics.
Kenny Smiles kept us all laughing. He had 2 evening shows and one afternoon show called "Kenny in the Hot Seat" where audience members could ask him questions. His one-liners were great!! We loved it when he would put down a heckler who deserved it. He made some jokes about the propellers getting wrecked by a bread roll. Well, at the Captain's Farewell party, the Captain emphatically responded saying that it was definitely not a bread roll that hit the propellers!
Speaking of propeller problems, the last 2 days were at sea. So to entertain passengers, the pianist from the Mariner 5 Orchestra put on a classical piano recital on one of the afternoons. The man had classical piano training growing up in Russia and it was obvious he had talent to spare. I thought I had died and gone to heaven when he played Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C# Minor! He should be showcased much more.
Marty and Holly played several nights around the ship as well. We enjoyed their singing.
When we arrived in our suite, 745G, there was the chilled champagne and fruit waiting for us. How nice! The suite was very comfortable and we loved the balcony. The bathroom was gorgeous. Jim managed to get a shower, even though his head touched the top of the shower. The location of our suite was good. At this point, I don't think I would want to pay more to stay in the same size suite on floors 8 or 9. We were very close to the boutiques on floor 7 and we were only one or 2 floors above all the dining rooms, etc.
Day-by-Day Activities and Sights
The first full day of the cruise was to Hubbard Glacier and a grand day it was! I was very worried about the weather since it was so awful in Seward when we departed. But, the weather turned out to be perfect with sunny skies. The closer we got to the glacier, the colder it was so we put on our warm clothes and headed up to deck 12. We had a wonderful time! The ship got within a mile of the glacier. Terry Breen was the naturalist and she is excellent. The passengers who had no clue were wearing shorts with short sleeve shirts and shivering up there! We looked at them and chuckled to each other. What were these people thinking??
In Sitka, we chose the Russian Dancers and Raptor center tour. We enjoyed this tour and it was good for us since I wasn't able to do anything physical because I am having my left hip replaced in July. The first stop was a museum/park with history and culture displays along with totem poles. Next, we went to a gymnasium to be entertained by the Russian Dancers who were very good. Next, we toured the bald eagle raptor center, which was very interesting. Sitka is a charming town in a beautiful setting surrounded by ice-capped mountain. It has a very European feel to it and has several wonderful shops brimming with beautiful Russian artwork.
We arrived in Tracy Arm around 7 a.m. so we went out on the balcony in our jammies and bathrobes to enjoy the scenery. It was lovely and again, we had sunny skies. We were moving along fine listening to the always-interesting narration by Terry Breen as we sailed through the fjords. We got to a point where we should have made a right turn to head toward the Sawyer Glaciers when all of sudden, Terry stopped narrating, the ship stopped and then started turning around. As the ship started turning, we could hear the crew from below yelling back and forth at each other. We couldn't understand what was being said and just thought that something must have gone wrong. Next, the ship sailed back out of Tracy Arm. It was a disappointment not to see the glaciers.
Soon afterward, the Captain announced that something hit one of the propellers and that we could only travel at 15 knots maximum to prevent vibration. So we headed on toward Juneau where we cut our time in port by 2 hours.
That night as we dined at Latitudes, the Captain announced that we would be skipping Ketchikan in order to make it into Vancouver on time. That meant we would not see Misty Fjords, not take our flight plane to Misty Fjords or get to see all the shops in Ketchikan. All in all, this was not my favorite day of our cruise!
Because I had read so many recommendations for Captain Larry's Whale Watching, we chose that as an independent tour. We had a great time and saw about 4 different humpbacks, that were pretty close to our boat and put on a good show for us. We also saw sea lions. There were 23 people on Larry's boat, with plenty of room for moving around on the open back deck and the upper viewing deck. He was very knowledgeable about the whales.
We had taken a shuttle out to the Mendenhall Glacier before the whale watching tour started. It's a good glacier to view since it is so close and the visitor center is very nice with a short film. Captain Larry's shuttle picked us up at the Glacier to take us to the whale watching. They were running about a half hour or more late when they picked us up so we were beginning to worry about the timing. But everything worked out and we were back at our ship with an hour to spare.
We signed up for Radisson's White Pass Railroad with Tea Time Bakery. It was another gorgeous sunny day so we were lucky again. We really enjoyed the ride and the muffins, scones, coffee cake, coffee, tea and hot chocolate available in the train car. The 3-hour train ride up and back was relaxing and enjoyable. We spent the afternoon shopping in Skagway and since it was my birthday, I managed to find some nice gold jewelry!
The final 2 full days of the cruise were at sea so we had 2 full days to relax. We attended another lecture by Terry Breen where she talked about history and culture of the Tlingits. Her lectures are interesting and easy to follow. I wish they offered more lectures like this.
We thought the food on the Mariner was very good to excellent, except for the desserts. I thought the desserts were the weakest part of the menu, except the baked Alaska. We loved that! We also thought they could be a little more creative with the dinner rolls. The exact same dinner rolls every night in every restaurant?
There were 3 large groups on our ship. About 200 people with Ford, about 50 with Pirelli Tires and another small group who sold burial insurance! There were several families with children, maybe 12 kids in total. All were well-behaved whenever we saw them, which was not often! Two young couples had little babies with them in Compass Rose and Signatures. We never heard a peep!
Because we had to skip Ketchikan, the Captain sent a letter to all guests stating that Radisson would cover some of our onboard expenses and gave all guests credit toward any future cruises. Also, all alcohol was covered for the last 3 days of the cruise. We are glad to get these credits, etc. as a nice gesture from Radisson.