We just returned from our Alaskan cruise-tour on the Radiance of the Seas, 7/7-7/17/09. The "tour" portion was just OK, but the cruise was excellent. I am 57 years old and my DH is 65 and we are Diamond members (just barely).
Our cruise-tour started in Anchorage where we flew non-stop from DFW using airline miles. We were met promptly at around 7 p.m. in baggage claim and taken to the Marriott Hotel in downtown Anchorage. We were exhausted after the 7 hour flight and ordered room service and went to bed.
The next morning we were met about 10 a.m. by our tour director and her husband who was the bus driver. There were about 20-25 people on the bus. Our first stop was Wasilla where we visited a small museum and were left to explore on our own for about 1 ½ hours - trust me - there's nothing to see in Wasilla that will take that long. It took less than 10 minutes to go through the museum and after that, we wandered over to a small crafts fair and looked around for about 5 minutes, then set out to find something to eat. Our choices were a subway sandwich shop or the deli at the grocery store. We spent time in the grocery store actually comparing the prices of the fruits & vegetables with those here in the Dallas area. Finally it was time to leave and we headed to the Ididarod Museum, also in Wasilla. After another 10 minute trip through the museum, we petted some cute Husky puppies and counted the minutes until it was time to leave - I think we were there about an hour, which was 30 minutes too long.
Finally, we headed to Talkeetna to catch the Wilderness Express. Talkeetna is a small town where a lot of Mt. McKinley climbers stay and is also the town that was used as a model for Northern Exposure. We had less than 45 minutes to explore before time to catch the train and I think some of the "Wasilla-time" could have been used there. At any rate, after walking around for a little while, and having a drink at the "Historic Fairview Inn," we headed for the train station to catch the train back to Anchorage. The train was great - very comfortable - not crowded - and it had a bartender who quickly started plying us with her wares! And the food was delicious - I had baked halibut - not sure what my DH had. We arrived back in Anchorage about 8:30 and again retired to our room for the evening.
The next morning we met downstairs with our luggage about 8:30 and headed for the Native Heritage Museum in Anchorage. It was very interesting and we would have liked a little more time there. But after about 1 ½ hours, it was time to go back downtown Anchorage for lunch. We ate at the Glacier Brewhouse and since we weren't very hungry, we each got the ½ pizza and salad - mine was good (pepperoni) but my DH didn't like his (sausage & mushroom - possibly reindeer sausage ...). After about 1 ½ hours downtown Anchorage (too much time), we got on our bus and headed to the Wildlife Conservatory - I'm not sure where that was - about halfway between Anchorage and Alyeska. It's kind of like a zoo except what they do is rescue distressed animals and if possible, rehabilitate them so they can go back into the wild. There were bears, moose, caribou, reindeer, and others that I can't think of. It was interesting to see the animals but again, we were left there too long - 45 minutes would have been enough time to see everything.
Finally we headed for Girdwood and the Hotel Alyeska which we had been looking forward too. Unfortunately, it was HOT - like 85-90 degrees - and the Hotel Alyeska had no air conditioning in the rooms. They had fans, and the window opened, but there was no circulation. I told my DH that it would cool down at sunset but unfortunately that never occurred mainly because the sun didn't go down until 1 a.m. and then came up again about 4:30 a.m. So it was a hot night. We did take the shuttle into Girdwood that night and ate at one of the little restaurants there but other than that, there wasn't much to do. The next morning, we got up and used our tram ticket to go up to the top of the mountain and it was very scenic. But that took about 30-45 minutes and after a walk around the property, we were ready to go - except our bus wasn't scheduled to pick us up until 1 p.m. Plus we had to be out of our rooms by 9 a.m. Another complaint I have with the "tour" part of the trip.
Our bus finally picked us up and we headed for the ship - always exciting to do that. The trip from Alyeska to Seward was about 2 hours and our bus driver entertained us with stories and songs all the way there. Also, I forgot to mention that we did see some wildlife on our trip - mainly moose and eagles.
We got to the ship about 3 o'clock and there was no line and we were through check-in and in our cabin in no time (9004 - balcony cabin). We went to the Windjammer and grabbed a piece of pizza to tide us over until dinner - and FYI, the pepperoni pizza was consistently good at both the Windjammer and the Solarium all throughout the cruise.
So this doesn't get too long, let me summarize the food and entertainment quickly. The food was good - in the dining room, in the Windjammer, and in both specialty restaurants. I've seen a lot of criticism of the food on these boards, but for us, it was great. Our table in the dining room (Main Seating) was right by the kitchen and I was kind of grumbling about that at first, but it ended up being great - our food always came out first and always came out hot! And we had 2 great seating companions that we enjoyed visiting with every night. As for the Windjammer, I know a lot of things they have in the buffet line seems like "swill," but IMHO, if you stick to the basics like pizza, or the made-to-order eggs in the morning, or the watermelon or French fries, then you can't go wrong. Chops and Portofino were both worth the extra money.
The entertainment was also great. The only show we missed was the "welcome aboard" show. Piano Man was great, the Beatles band was great, the Mo-Town group was great, the comedian was funny - I must be leaving something out, but you get my drift!
We took 3 RCCL tours. In Juneau, we did the Glacier Gardens and Mendenhall Glacier tour. It was our favorite one - the gardens were beautiful and the glacier magnificent. In Skagway, we did the streetcar tour - it was hot in Skagway and there was of course no air conditioning on the streetcar, so my DH was miserable. This tour was just "OK" - not much to see in Skagway. We stayed on the ship in Icy Straight Point and got the couples massage (over priced but very relaxing) and also watched whales from our balcony. In Ketchikan, we went to the Lumberjack Show which was very entertaining. We also walked all over the town and looked at the totem poles, had a drink at Fat Stan's, and generally had a great time.
Our last sea day was uneventful but relaxing. Debarkation was very organized. For planning purposes, it took 2 ½ hours from the time we disembarked to the time we got through security at the airport. Our plane was at 12 noon and we had plenty of time, but I wouldn't want to try to fly out any earlier than that.
That's all I can think of right now. If anyone has any questions, let me know!