Regent Seven Seas Navigator - Vancouver to Anchorage, August 3-10, 2011. What a surprise! We not only drilled every one of our friends, but anyone we could find who'd been cruising to Alaska and prepared...prepared...prepared. We bought new rain suits(because the wind and rain could pop up at any moment and assault us!), new sturdy deck shoes (because someone saw a passenger slip and fall on exiting the ship for an excursion!), new fleece-lined jackets with hoods (to protect us from biting cold!) But what happened was remarkable. It was the trip of NO. No rain, no wind, no accidents.
We boarded Navigator after a nice day in Vancouver. We took the advice of others and toured Vancouver on the Hop-on/Hop-off bus. A great way to see Stanley Park and other places in the city. Our concierge at Sutton Place Hotel arranged dinner at the Blue Water Cafe in Yaletown (absolutely fabulous!). Sutton Place is a nice enough hotel and the transfers to and from were efficient and thorough. If you need a quick shopping fix, or forget something critical, go to Pacific Centre on Georgia Street. A fabulous young woman at Sephora helped me choose a moisturizer...did you know there's so little humidity in the Pacific Northwest?? Holt-Renfrew, H&M, Apple, the Gap are all there.
Cruising out of Vancouver is a treat in itself. The city is stunning and the site of floatplanes and other cruise ships exiting the harbor is terrific. The narration of the harbor by Terry Breen was very educational. We made a pact to return to Vancouver in the future as a stand alone destination.
Dinner in La Veranda the first night so that we can hang out a little longer on the deck and see the sites. Dinner choices are extensive, but the highlight is the sushi and fresh seafood. Hey, we're from Northern Michigan, so we're used to Perch and Whitefish, but those shrimp are yummy and the sushi soooo fresh.
Our window suite is terrific. A bottle of Bouvet Brut is chilling for us on arrival, in addition to a bowl of fresh fruit and a fridge loaded with soda, water and beer. No balcony, which we were advised we wouldn't need. We disagree. We would spring for it next time. Navigator has limited public outdoor space, so a balcony is a treat, especially in good weather, which we had. We staked out lounge chairs outside the Gallileo Lounge almost everyday and had a spectacular view off the stern. There are overhead heaters and substantial wool blankets for feeling cozy.
Wake on day two still cruising. We are heading 294 degrees, speed 19 knots. It's 8:09 am and 54 degrees. My husband goes out the door and returns minutes later with two fresh lattes from the coffee bar on Deck 6. At 8:35 am I see a whale spout right in front of my window!! I'm a little turned off by paying the high internet fees....I check my email in the Internet Lounge for 12 minutes and incur a $9.00 charge. (Mental note to self....don't check email...you'll survive!)
If you like to brush up on your knowledge of a place before you go....buy Terry Breen's book about the Inside Passage. It's very informative. I have mixed feelings about her presentation style. Sometimes I thought she was terrific and other times I felt like she was my fifth grade teacher, but overall I'd recommend her.
Dinner at Prime 7 - so..so. My husband's steak was overdone and my lobster was tough. The room is intimate and service exceptional. We preferred Compass Rose to Prime 7. This was the only might we did not have a window seat. I cannot tell you how great a window seat is....we literally saw an eagle swoop down, catch a fish and fly feet from our dining window in Ketchikan. Always ask the maitre d for a window seat!
Ketchikan is sunny and warm! No rain! Although the town is a tourist trap, the thing to do here is get out of town. We did a Flight Seeking Tour with a Crabfest at George Inlet. It was fabulous. The pilot looked like he was 13, but was clearly very capable. The lunch at George Inlet....to die for! All you could eat Dungeness Crab and such a quaint location. Dinner in Compass Rose, after dinner drinks in Gallileo (favorite bartender - Elvis and waiter - Alvin).
Tracy Arm - all I can say is OMG. This is spectacular. We went up to the 11th deck, got some coffee and just were in awe. A separate excursion is available via a small boat to go deeper into the fjord. We didn't do it, but it was still awesome. We found out later, via You Tube that an excursion boat got too close to a calving glacier and a passenger got hurt.
Juneau - what a dump! Now I know why some Alaskans want to move the capital elsewhere. We found the town too commercial, touristy and not very attractive. We went to Mendenhal Glacier and enjoyed the Visitor's Center. The Salmon Hatchery and GardenTour were awful. The tiny State Museum was good, but the tour bus driver said we had to blast through it in 30 minutes. I think overall we just picked a bad excursion. Other passengers had reported spectacular days doing dog sledding, fly fishing and whale watching. Our boo-boo.
After another fabulous dinner in Compass Rose we take in the sunset off the stern and take in some of the show. We're not big on the entertainment, but enjoy the final couple of nights which are amazing - kudos to Ray (Cruise Director) and the crew show - very good.
Skagway - outstanding tour on the White Pass Railroad. As it is stunningly beautiful - sunny and mild, we get excellent pictures. Do yourself a favor and DO NOT eat at the Bonanza in town. Yikes...bad food. First bad experience in a town so far. Touristy shops, not a whole lot to do, but the National Park office is well done. On board another good meal in Compass Rose and sailing out of Skagway is beautiful.
Sitka - another fabulous town. Fans of the Sandra Bullock movie "The Proposal" will not recognize the town depicted in the film (Apparently they filmed it in Massachusetts). Anyway it's a great town. We really enjoyed our tour with a native Tlingit. He took us to the Raptor Center to see rescued Eagles and Owls and to the two museums in town. Dining Alert - stay away from the Westmark hotel restaurant. Yikes! Food was overcooked, slow service. To their credit, the manager apologized and gave us our meal for no charge.
Hubbard Glacier - hard to say, but I think this was my favorite morning of the trip. The majesty of this site is hard to describe. We were on deck for over two hours and loved every minute. Terry Breen redeemed herself to me on this narration with her knowledge of Glaciers. We saw the most spectacular calvings. Totally awesome. The greatest thing about Navigator....after seeing nature's wonder, you go in a get a non-fat latte and breakfast in Compass Rose.
Wake up in Seward and want to stay. Whine a little as room service arrives promtly at 6:30 am. Breakfast is blah. Toast is hard as a rock and no butter. Eggs are okay, oatmeal fine. Coffee hot. Maybe it's just my mood?
Swift, efficient disembarkation process. Bus trip to Anchorage a real snore. The driver has the personality of a doorknob. Anchorage is also blah. We should have rented a car or a plane or something to get out of town. Our flight doesn't depart 'til almost midnight (due to delays). The room booked by Regent for guest awaiting flights is an unused rooftop space at the Anchorage Hilton. Coffee is not replenished, water and ice run out quickly. Do yourself a favor and get away from the Hilton! We have a fabulous dinner at the Glacier Brewhouse before departing Be aware - they are serious when they say they have 60-90 minute waits for a table.
Overall - would we cruise Regent to Alaska again? Yes. Absolutely. What I recommend:
1. Take a wide variety of clothes. You'll experience 70's to down to the 40's. Maybe some rain and certainly some wind. At night it's nice to dress up a bit. We saw people wearing rugged clothes like they were going into the wilderness even at dinner. Not necessary. You're on a lovely, elegant cruise ship. In the evening, it's fun to dress up just a little.
2. Don't be afraid to book high octane excursions. We were wimps and booked indoor and low activity excursions because we were afraid of rain and wind. Dumb. We should have booked more whale, otter, kayak and helicopter trips.
3. Have fun. Go to lectures, entertainment shows, hang out on the Gallileo deck, go to Trivia and Kareoke.
4. Meet the staff. They're pretty cool. We had the pleasure of dining with Michael, the General Manager. A first class guy. Ray was also a treat. Capt. McNeil a hoot - especially in his kilt.
Great trip....we're home and doing laundry. We're ready to go again.