This cruise was in honor of my daughter's graduation with her doctorate in Audiology. It was my fourth trip to Alaska and our second mother/daughter cruise to this destination. Our first was a round trip from Vancouver onboard the Celebrity Galaxy back in May of 2000. I have also done roundtrips from Seattle with my husband onboard the Vision (2006) and the Rhapsody (2008). This was my first "one-way" trip experience. This was a northbound leg from Vencouver to Seward with our return flight from Anchorage.
Pre-Cruise: We flew into Vancouver on the Thursday before we sailed since the earliest flight from DFW into Vancouver arrived around 1:00 p.m. and we didn't want to run any sort of risk of missing the ship. We did book a room at the Hyatt Regency through the cruise line. The transfers went pretty well and we want to thank the bus company employees who told all of us that if we could pull our bags across the street to the Hyatt from the third stop at the Fairmont we'd be off the bus 25 minutes earlier. We did just that. Check in was a breeze and we had the most helpful bellman that we've ever had. We followed his directions for our afternoon tour of the Robson street shops and enjoyed a sidewalk dinner out in the beautiful weather followed by more shopping and a walk down to Gastown and Canada Place. The next morning we enjoyed breakfast at a nearby coffee shop and another walk down to Canada Place to see what ships had come in. Our bus ride to the pier was delayed since there wasn't a bus due to first of season hold-ups. The ride to the pier was interesting since our group leader instructed the driver to drive past several of the 2010 Winter Olympic venues.
Embarkation: A few hang-ups here which I can imagine will be worked out for those following behind us mainly to do with problems with the security equipment. The lines to get sea pass cards were long, but we were able to use the diamond line. Others had delays there as well. Our sea pass cards weren't available and they had to make others for us and there was another slight delay because the machine broke. I swear I can mess up anything mechanical even if I don't come any where near it! It's interesting that after going through all the normal procedures, it is also necessary to go through US Immigration since getting on the cruise means you are really leaving Canada. (We've done the same flying home from Canada - i.e. gone through immigration at the Canadian airport.) Once onboard, we were able to go straight to our cabin.
Cabin: We were in Junior Suite 1560 which is on the rear of the "hump" in between the Royal Suite and a Grand Suite. This was DD's first Junior Suite. I hadn't told her we had a larger than D1 cabin and expected her to say something when she first saw the cabin, but the reality didn't hit her until she see went into the bathroom expecting one the size all the cruise directors love to joke about and saw the bathtub. We both enjoyed having one. We also loved the walk-in closet. Our attendant was Jason Aguilar from the Phillipines and he was the best. I know why he's the guy in charge of the suite cabins. DD and I just reaped the benefit of having him because of our location. By the way, I am an aft cabin junkie, but I did love the central location. I'm not sure if I want to give up my addiction for cruises to warm locations since I dearly love sunning in private on the aft, but this was perfect for Alaska.
Ship Condition: Very good everywhere I looked, but then I don't go out of my way to search for items. This was my second cruise on the Radiance and I find her very easy to naviagate.
Dining: We signed up for My Time Dining, but ended up only eating in the dining room once on the second formal night so DD could have lobster. That went well and we ate with a young couple from the Houston area and were served by a fun (and competent) waiter named Raymond who is from Jamaica. I will ask for him again when I am back on the Radiance in May of 2010. We ate at both Chops and Portofino and enjoyed both with a preference towards Portofino. Other dinners were in the Windjammer. We did lots of excursions and it was very nice not having to worry about getting cleaned up and in the dining room by a certain time. We found a variety of options there and especially enjoyed the night they were grilling small steaks, chicken breasts, etc to order.
Ship Activities/Shows: We missed three of the shows. We saw "City of Dreams", the Four Diamonds (fantastic), Judy Kolba (very funny) and the final night's show. We donated a little money to the casino - not too bad. I listened to the Captain's Corner. Other than that, we just "excursioned", read and relaxed. Oh yes, I did miss the Meet and MIngle because we signed up for a yoga class. I am cherishing the instructor's comment that my body is made for yoga. I've been waiting a lot of years to find a physical activity that someone thinks I am made for!
Weather: We only had one day of rain. Everyone in the ports kept thanking us for bringing good weather with us. Having spent a rainy week in Alaska last September (and on my other two prior cruises), I was most appreciative. I called my husband one morning and told him I was looking at something I never thought I'd see - sunlight in Juneau. This really made this trip very special.
Hubbard Glacier: We got within 500 yards! I finally got to see a glacier calve. I enjoyed the view from the promendade on Deck 5 especially being close to the crew when they launched the rescue boat to "go get themselves an iceberg". Their enthusiasm was contagious. I have also been to Glacier Bay, but viewed those glaciers from quite a distance so this was special.
Debarkation: Very easy for us since we were part of a tour. I heard everyone else being told that there was an hour delay - again more early season problems. Our group leader breezed us right through everything.
Departure from Anchorage: Also very smooth. We arrived in plenty of time and even checked another bag. (We did use the luggage valet so we wouldn't have to hassle with our bags.) We took off at 12:05 a.m. on Saturday morning with streaks of the sunset still showing.
Can I go back again, please?
I didn't see Seward on the pull down menu. We purchased a Seward/Kenai pennisula tour through the ship that included a transfer to Anchorage. We were given a bus tour of Seward which we enjoyed and time to shop which we enjoyed as well. We were then transferred to a ship that took us around the Kenai pennisula area and which served a surprisingly good lunch. The park ranger on board was very informative. We saw three kinds of whales, eagles and more. We all especially enjoyed an old sea otter who was just lounging around the water on his back and the porpoises who chased the ship for awhile. The transfer to Seattle was just fine. We did have time between the end of the pennisula cruise to buy sandwiches for the road. The drive to Anchorage was beautiful.