We are an Australian couple in our early 60's and fans of Southern Gospel music, so when we saw that this years Gaither Homecoming Cruise was once again to Alaska, we quickly signed up for the 7 day Seattle to Seattle cruise on the Ms Amsterdam. Our home town of Tamworth NSW is a long, long way from Seattle so after a 6 hour train trip to Sydney, over-night at our daughter's and a 14 hour flight to Vancouver that was extended to 17 hours due to having to turn back to Sydney because of a faulty oven switch and then a 40 minute connecting flight to Seattle, we finally arrived the day prior to sailing.
We had a very comfortable overnight stay at the Warwick in downtown Seattle and was able to ride the monorail and ascend the Space Needle before heading to Pier 91.
Embarkation was busy, but orderly and after arriving dockside at 12:30, we were eating in the Lido(chaotic) by 1:30. Our cabin on the Lower Promenade Deck was ready on boarding and our luggage arrived between lunch and Emergency drill.
Sail away was in beautiful fine weather, but this was to change to fog and overcast rainy conditions for the next day at sea.
Due to the limited seating arrangements in the "Queen's Lounge", the ship's passenger compliment was divided into the "Blue Group" and the "Red Group". This is all pre-arranged around your dining preference. We had nominated the 8:00pm sitting, so we were in the "Blue Group". Others didn't get their preference as the numbers had to balance.
The first "Blue Group" concert was almost straight after deck drill and what a concert it was. Additional artists to those advertised,like The Hoppers, were on board, so we were doubly blessed. The singing was magnificent, throughout the cruise, with heaps of comedy and laughter.
On the mornings of the "at sea" days we enjoyed additional mini concerts featuring 5 or 6 of the artist and special events like Reggie & Lady Love Smith,s cabaret and the "Key note speaker" Andy Andrews, were also interspersed during the cruise.
Each colour group was further subdivided into "priority" groups who enjoyed front row seats for two of the many concerts.
There was a bookstore open at various times that enabled us to meet and mingle with the artist as we bought their CD's and DVD's. A special "Meet the Gaither Vocal Band" was held for both the Reds and the Blues where autographs and photos could be obtained. I took this opportunity to get some "Station ID's" for our local Christian radio station, Rhema FM. Occasionally we bumped into one of the "stars" in the run of the ship, but generally they kept to themselves.
One highlight of the cruise for me was a "Gospel Sing-a-long" one evening when we sang some of the great old christian hymns and songs.
Each morning at 7:45, one of the Homecoming group led a time of devotions, which where well attended, but on shore days they where a bit hard to fit in. However we could always catch them on the continuous loop TV screening, throughout the day.
The food over all was excellent, with breakfast and lunch in the Lido plentiful, although we did try the Main Dinning Room on a couple of occasions for these meals and enjoyed the extra service. Our evening meals in the MDR were very good and although the serves were fairly small, we certainly had sufficient. We were at a table of 8 and really enjoyed the company and interaction, although we didn't all attend each night. Some were sea sick the second night out. My DW and I dined at "The Pinnacle" one night and this was superb.
Our shore excursions were; Juneau: Town & Mendenhall Glacier tour. (Self organised on the pier). This was very good and allowed us to explore the town afterwards although it was drizzling rain which aborted our proposed ride on the Roberts Street Tramway. Sitka:HAL booked "Sea Otter and Wildlife Tour". Very relaxing on a lovely fine morning where we saw a small humpback whale, many sea otters and a black bear on a distant shore. We also experienced a full breech of another humpback.Ketchikan: As we only had a short stay here, we opted to just walk the town on another perfect summers day. However one couple somehow didn't make it back to the ship in time and were left stranded. Victoria: Again a pre-booked tour, this time to the beautiful Butchart Gardens. This we loved and would have liked to have spent more daylight time there, but the evening arrival of the Amsterdam prohibits this.Seattle: We booked a post "Seattle by land and sea" tour which enabled us to have our luggage with us and taken to the airport. This tour was fine, but only drove past "Pike's Market", without us going in.
The Ms Amsterdam was excellent, the service great and our cabin well located and comfortable. The casino was closed down and very little bar trade, but drinks could be ordered with our meals.
Disembarkation was swift once our allocation was called, although this was later than the time slot stated.
All in all a very enjoyable cruise with the Homecoming concerts being the highlight for me.