First, the itinerary, maybe it is just us, but it seemed like Celebrity got some prime docking time in ports. We had the perfect amount of time in each of our port locations, and at just the right times of day. For example, we were in Ketchikan on Sunday from 7AM - 4PM, in Juneau on Tuesday from 9AM - 7PM and in Victoria BC on Thursday from 2PM - 10 PM. Just perfect!
The weather was exactly what we expected for Alaska. The days were cool and overcast. In both Ketchikan and Juneau, we experienced a steady drizzle of rain. Temps were in the mid 50's. It was perfect if you took a jacket along, put your hood up and didn't let the "Alaska Sunshine" as the locals call it, bother you. In Victoria on Friday, we had a beautiful day of sunny skies and 80 degree temps. Our day at Hubbard Glacier was crystal clear with temps in the high 40's - perfection! We had some rough seas when we were out of the Inside Passage. Luckily neither of us have motion sickness problems, but I know many fellow passengers had problems.
The ship itself was perfect to us. We were told the ship was at capacity, but it never felt crowded to us. We also heard there were 300 kids on board, but you hardly knew it. Our cabin was on the penthouse deck with a veranda. I cannot imagine doing this cruise in a cabin without a veranda. We spent a significant amount of time sitting on our veranda watching the beautiful scenery, eating a room service breakfast, reading, napping, etc. It was more than worth the extra cost. In fact, the morning we sailed in to Victoria, I was drying my hair near the balcony door (where the electrical outlet was located) and saw orca whales right off the side of the ship! We watched the whales off our balcony as we sailed along. We would have missed this opportunity without the balcony. The balcony was also a plus the day we sailed to Hubbard as we watched the approach to Hubbard from the comfort of our balcony.
Other ship amenities we enjoyed included the casino (for hubby) and the Aqua Spa for me. I have to tell you, I had not planned to do the spa, mainly because I have found resort spa service is usually mediocre because they have no incentive to get you to return as a repeat customer. Well, the Aqua Spa proved this theory wrong. I received wonderful service and got a great deal with the $99 Top to Toe package. Definitely wait on spa services - the deals come in your daily news as the week progresses. As far as I could tell, there is no reason to book early or pay full price for the spa. My husband did ok in the casino - what he won I spent in the spa! :)
The food in the Trellis Dining Room was quite good. We learned we were the third cruise to enjoy Infinity's new menus. Again, we don't have a point of reference, but we really enjoyed the variety and quality offered in the dining room. My husband loves seafood and really enjoyed the seafood dishes, especially the lobster bisque. I'm a big steak person and loved the prime rib. Our waiter Aron was excellent. The food in the Ocean Cafe was decent, but we tried to avoid the cafeteria style atmosphere. We liked the pool side grill much better for lunch and preferred the almond croissants served at the coffee bar for breakfast.
We were very fortunate to have naturalist Brent Nixon on board. We attended all but one of his lectures. I'll confess when I first read the suggestions on these boards to go and hear the lectures, I thought "why would I do something like that on vacation?", but the folks on these boards were spot on. Nixon is brilliant! His presentations are so informative and incredibly fun and entertaining. If he is on your ship, make a point of going to his sessions.
The crew on our ship was amazing. We loved our Cruise Director Artie Anderson. LOVED him! Also loved the staff in the Rendezvous Lounge and our guys in Trellis. We didn't encounter a single staff person who was not cheerful and helpful. I was quite impressed with all the Celebrity does to recognize their staff from all levels. What a wonderful gesture.
I had planned to review our time at Hubbard Glacier as a port, but it is not an option given below. I cannot even begin to describe the beauty of the Hubbard Glacier. And, we were so fortunate because we had amazing weather, calm waters, and a bold captain who took our ship the closest Infinity has ever been to Hubbard. We were within 3/10 mile of the glacier and watched some significant caving of the ice (when the ice breaks off into the water). We all stood on deck in complete awe of this spectacular site.
We are so thankful to everyone on Cruise Critic for all the helpful tips we used for our trip. The most helpful tip was the over-the-door shoe organizer to store our bathroom toiletries. That is the best idea ever and made a huge difference to us. We also used the idea of taking highlighters along so we could go through the next day's activity list the night before and find what activities we were interested in. The small flashlight was helpful when getting up for the bathroom at night. And, clothespins, while not needed to keep the curtains shut, were quite a good tool for hanging our bathing suits up to dry. So thanks to all of you for the tips!
We're already trying to decide when and where to go next. We think we'll stick with Celebrity - why mess with something good???
Next we shopped around and bought our "special" souvenir from the trip. We bought a moose antler ulu knife carved to look like a humpback whale from Alaska Knifeworks. They had the best selection we found in both Juneau and Ketchikan. Alaska Shirtworks had very good prices on t-shirts and small gifts. The Alaska Fudge Company had amazing fudge and super good cookies.
Next we went on a whale tour with Orca Enterprises. We had booked this on our own a few weeks before we sailed. It was worth every penny. We saw lots of humpback whales, many very close to our boat. Captain Larry and his crew clearly knew where to go for the whales and we reaped the benefits.
Finally, we headed to Mendenhall Glacier Park. From the look-out point, we could see there was a rough path to hike to the waterfall to the right of the glacier. We decided to make the hike and were so glad we did. We crossed some rocky terrain and some creek beds, got a little wet, but it was totally worth it for our up close view of the glacier and waterfall. I highly recommend this.
Our tour with Snow's Cove was good, but not great. We saw eagles, seals and sea lions while out on the water. We spent 30 minutes lingering near a creek area looking for bear, but had no success. On our way back to shore, we had porpoise get in a "race" with our boat. It was really amazing to watch how fast they would swim to keep up with us. We shot some really cool video of this. I was disappointed because I had thought our tour would go in to the Misty Fjords, and it did not. It was my own fault for not doing more research, next time we will plan something to take us into the Fjords.
Ketchikan itself is a pretty junky little tourist trap. The strip of stores near the dock are lots of cruise line owned jewelry stores with jacked up prices. We were really surprised at the lack of restaurants in town. We finally grabbed lunch at Annabelle's, which was really good. We then walked to Creek Street and watched the salmon swim in the creek and shopped around some more.