DH and I arrived into Seattle greeted by wonderfully blue skies the morning before our cruise. Our luggage secured, we were met by the Town Car service which we had prehired, Metropolis Town Cars for $45.00. The driver, while quiet, answered any questions we had about the area and the car was clean en route to our hotel for the evening; Inn at the Market. I cannot say enough fabulous things about this quaint hotel steps away from Pike Place Market. We arrived to be told that we had been upgraded to an water view room, however it was not quite ready which we had figured since it was only 11am. They offered refreshments and to store our luggage and told us they would call us as soon as it was ready. We first headed to the rooftop deck of the hotel and caught a glimpse of the Puget Sound with the ferries and other boats before heading into the hubbub of the market.
Walking around Pike Place and seeing the sights was fabulous. We love to People Watch, and this was the place to do it. Stopping at one stand for some Fish & Chips, our phone rang and it was the hotel telling us our room was ready, so we headed back where we retrieved our keys. Entering our room, we were surprised by a complimentary cake from the hotel for our anniversary. It was chocolate wonderfulness which we discovered later that evening after dinner.
We walked over to Pioneer Square and decided to do the Underground Tour. While very historical and funny at times, our guide was just okay. Following the tour, we went over to Smith Tower and went up to the Chinese Room to see the sights of the city. It offers the same heights as the Space Needle at 1/3 the cost and by doing the UT first, they further discounted the cost.
After walking back to the hotel, we decided to freshen up before heading to dinner. DH had gotten a recommendation from a co-worker before our trip about Cutter's Bayhouse which is near the north end of Pike Place just past the park. While the views were spectacular, the food was just okay. We walked back to our room, stopping at the Original Starbucks.
Waking the next morning early due to the time difference, we discovered that the sunny skies had been replaced by the typical Seattle grey gloom. We decided to walk to the Space Needle which was 1.5 miles or so away. I was a bit surprised that even at 6:30, there were not many coffee shops or restaurants open. Seeing a landmark in the distance and deciding to walk to it, took us up many streets that we probably wouldn't have picked, but we never felt unsafe.
We walked back towards the waterfront and spoke to people who were carving a Memorial Totem for someone. After seeing jellyfish in the water and taking several pictures of the sights we climbed the stairs at Harbor Steps and headed back to the Market to see them open. I didn't realize that the non permanent vendors have to take their wares home each evening, and bid on a stall each morning prior to setting up-- it was very interesting to watch. Getting to Beecher's just as they were opening, we watched them pump the milk into the store from a truck and start a batch of cheese and ordered the perfect breakfast: Macaroni & Cheese which beat out Bobby Flay on his food challenge show. After stopping for a post card to mail to our kiddo back home, we walked back to the hotel to check out and head over to Smith Cove Terminal.
Checking out of the hotel, they called a taxi for us to get to the terminal which cost $15.00 with tip. Taking our luggage into the building with us, we handed everything over to the porters who refused our tip, before going upstairs towards security which was a breeze at 11am. There was no line at all. Our carry on bags placed on the conveyor, we passed through the metal detector and headed to VIP to get our sign and sail cards. After answering the prerequisite health questions and confirming our cash account we were set. We chose to take the pre boarding photo which they had set up in the waiting area and after sitting for around 20 minutes while the wedding parties were boarded, we stepped up to get our mug shots to get on the ship.
Once on board, we went to the Lido area where we ate lunch and mingled with a couple we had been talking to prior to boarding. Finishing our meal, we decided to explore the ship that we would call home for the next week.
I've decided that whoever chose the ships decor was obviously on crack. Each of the elements were beautiful in their own right, but nothing ever went together. From the dark wood and leaded stain glass lighting with it's intricate iris' inlays in one area to the mummies in the lounge area or the villages in the comedy club. The lido was bright and a bit garish, but would fit in with the upbeat feel for a tropical cruise. The piano bar was decked out like an over the top Asian restaurant. The sushi bar area looked to be an afterthought as it was just a cart pushed in the corner near the casino. The shopping area was okay. I know that the ship depends on Duty Free sales, however I thought that the mega pack of cigarettes adorning the windows were tacky. Discovering that our room was ready at 1:00, we headed that way to check out our suite. The cabin was roomy, with a ton of closet space. The one outlet for the room is in the dressing area, so our plug extender came in handy. Though we didn't use the tub, it was nice it was there just in case.
Our bags were delivered by 2:30 and we unpacked prior to sail away and we met Manuel, our room steward. There was a chocolate cake from Bon Voyage sent by our PVP along with anniversary decorations and chocolate covered strawberries and a bottle of champagne was on ice in the bucket...
After heading to the Muster Drill, we went back to our own balcony to watch as we pulled away from the pier. The seas that night were a bit rough and continued into the next morning. We literally were like the balls in a pinball machine bumping into walls at times and I was thankful I was wearing the Scopolamine patch for motion sickness.
We had chosen Your Time Dining and loved it. For the most part we had a table for two right by the window except one night(day 4) when we decided to eat with a group, which was a bit awkward since they were Mormon and we each had a drink, however we made the most of it and still had a good time. We got to see the dinner shows a couple times, so I guess we just planned it right.
Being formal night, we took several pictures. It was our actual anniversary so the waiters sang to us which reminded me of the waiters in a Christmas Story movie at the end. Each night we headed for our nightly 5:00pm sushi appetizers before changing for dinner. After dinner we went and watched the karaoke and adult comedy each night. We caught the one "big" show, but I honestly fell asleep in it, so it wasn't not very memorable.
Now for the Ports/Excursions:
Tracy Arm Fjord~ after reading fabulous things about this excursion, I decided that we were going to do this and I am so glad that we did. We chose the afternoon excursion, but even if you choose to stay aboard the Spirit, the sights were truly breathtaking as we finagled our way towards Sawyer Glacier. The water is a milky jade color from the glacial silt. The mountains springing up from the water climbing towards the heavens... I just cannot say enough about it. We were able to see whales, seals and bald eagles from our balcony. After the morning group got back on board, we got on the catamaran and headed right up to the glaciers. The boat captain idled along the way in photographic areas and they even brought a bit of an iceberg on board for people to taste/feel. Hot chocolate was provided along with smoked salmon and on the way back to the ship, a humpback breached right in front of us which we managed to capture with the camera--yay!!
Skagway~ We decided that we would horseback ride in the Dyea Valley. It was beautiful. This is a quaint town that doesn't even have a stop light. We were able to buy a charger for my camera here though since I packed the wrong one, which was great since our other camera had bit the dust. We walked through the local grocery store and was amazed at the prices of things-- hotdogs were over $6.00 a package and milk exceeded $5.00 a gallon. We were at this port the longest, even though it was the smallest.
Juneau~ We chose the Guide's Choice Glacier Hike. It was marvelous. Our guide was very knowledgeable about the history, animals and plants of the area. While at a leisurely pace, this excursion is still not for the out of shape. At one point we had to climb 300 stairs. We went from sea level to 1000 feet in elevation seeing the moss draped woods, waterfalls, the Mendenhall Glacier along with salmon spawning. It was a warm day, we even went back to the ship and donned our swimsuits and laid out.
Ketchikan~ At the last minute, we decided to do an excursion which was the Orca Beach boat ride/Hike combo. The beautiful weather the two ports prior had left and we were met with a foggy mist. Of all of the excursions, we liked this one the least. After getting in a van for 45 minutes, we boarded a blow up raft type boat, and while we did see two eagles nesting and a fur seal with her baby, the hike was lame. It was on an island where we had to stay on wooden planks that had roof shingles laid on them for traction. Our guide was a college student who had just come up literally two weeks prior and really didn't have much to offer. After walking the mile loop and seeing the trees that had fallen, we were escorted to their camp area where we were offered drinks and Ritz Crackers with salmon. Finally back on the little boat towards their pier we had to wait as someone else had parked in their slip. Thankfully, the van was waiting for us so we could go back towards the ship, since we were pushing time before our departure.
Victoria~ Since we were here the least amount of time and it was our final night on board, we decided that we would not disembark and instead made reservations at the steakhouse. It was a good thing, too, since this port had been cancelled due to cross winds. We sat in Victoria Bay all night though before pulling away around 1:00 am.
Disembarking & Final Thoughts:
Be forewarned, the ports are 90% jewelry stores. We were told that they are owned by the cruise lines collectively, but we aren't sure if that's true, so if you aren't doing an excursion, it could be hard to just see the real towns. I felt that being in both Juneau & Ketchikan were rushed and they could do a better time of balancing the time in the ports. We were suckered into collecting the coin set and charms from the towns which meant that we had to go to 9 jewelry stores and try something on. If you have the will power to say no, you can get two souvenirs for free.
The cost of pictures were shocking. The 8x10's are $21.95 and they don't offer other sizes to choose from, plus looking each day at the walls for the pictures is very very cumbersome. I think they would do much better if they did it like WDW, where you give your card to the camera guy and then everything is electronic and you can choose to print it and download it from a website.
The naturalist Michelle came on the PA quite frequently and indicated when we would see sights. Instead of opening your door, constantly, you can tune your TV to channel 5 to hear her. Stu the Cruise Director wasn't too bad, however before disembarking the wake up call was pretty annoying, especially since he told us we were in Hawaii. I was looking for a luau and was greeted by Seattle fog :(
Even though we were given group 1, we did self assist disembarking and were off the ship by 8:35. Customs was a breeze, I guess since we didn't actually make a foreign port. We gave our passports to the agent and literally walked on through. Our bags weren't checked, nor were we questioned.
We took almost 800 pictures and had a great anniversary.