My wife's mother had been wanting to take an Alaska cruise for some time. After some family discussion, we chose to go in 2016, taking my wife and I, MIL, and my wife's younger niece. Did a bunch of research on the various ... Read More
My wife's mother had been wanting to take an Alaska cruise for some time. After some family discussion, we chose to go in 2016, taking my wife and I, MIL, and my wife's younger niece. Did a bunch of research on the various cruise lines, ships, and scheduling options. Ended up choosing Celebrity due to reviews on CC, the planned Vancouver-Alaska-Victoria-Seattle itinerary, and the early May sailing.
Flew to Vancouver the day before we sailed, and enjoyed a wonderful afternoon/evening touring the city. It had been 12 years since we were there for our honeymoon. The metropolitan area has grown so much, but is still one of our favorite North American cities.
Stayed Thursday night at the Marriott Pinnacle Downtown, about 4 blocks from Canada Place. Had a late lunch at the hotel restaurant across the street, and then dinner at Cardero's, which has been a favorite of ours for many years. Cardero's is in the middle of the Coal Harbor marina, and an easy walk from most of the hotels in that area. Great seafood, drinks, people watching, and service.
We hadn't cruised from anywhere before (much less Vancouver), so we did a bit of scouting of Canada Place both the day before and morning of the cruise. There were 3 ships in port the day of embarkation, with the resulting large numbers of people arriving and leaving the port/terminal. On Friday, we dropped our bags off at Canada Place right at 10am. This turned out to make our lives much easier later that day.
Headed back to the terminal at around noon on Friday to check-in. My MIL has some mobility problems, which complicated (needed wheelchairs, on-board scooter) and assisted (got to the head most lines we waited in) our trip a bit. Upon arrival to Canada Place we got directed first downstairs to the cruise ship area, then upstairs to a conference space where they were staging the embarkees. Tried to get a wheelchair, and was directed by the extremely nice lady supervising things to find one + a Celebrity employee to assist. I walked back downstairs, found the chair+Celebrity guy, which got us to the front of the line to get checked-in/embarked. Talked a bit more with the supervisor, she mentioned that most of her staff was new.
Now assisted by the Celebrity guy+wheelchair, we got back downstairs, went through security, cleared customs, and checked in for the cruise. Overall we got onboard by around 1pm-ish, which is a much experience result than other people had later in the day. Kudos to the Celebrity crewman that wheeled my MIL around that day, we couldn't have done it without him.
Once on board we quickly got to our cabins (Sky Suites on deck 12), met our butler (Jacky), and then went down to lunch @ Luminae. After lunch we unpacked and looked around the ship, with the plan of being on deck when we departed. We waited until the planned lifeboat drill was cancelled, then waited a bit more, then attended the lifeboat drill (6-ish). After that everyone wanted dinner so we went to the main dining room. The ship didn't end up departing until around 7-ish, so we had plenty of time to eat and then get onto the Solstice deck to watch the ship sail through Coal Harbour, and under the Stanley Bridge; both awesome sights, especially in the twilight hours.
Spend the 1st full day at sea (Saturday) doing normal cruise ship things. Had lunch @ Luminae, and dinner at Silk Harvest. Was really impressed by the food quality and service @ Silk Harvest; an outstanding experience all around.
We arrived in Ketchikan on Sunday. My wife and niece-in-law did a rainforest hike, while MIL and I had lunch on board, then then walked around town a bit. Weather was pretty good, a bit overcast + 2 rain drops. Ketchikan was "fine", not too impressive of a stop, but the rainforest hike was fun, and it was nice to get on land for a few hours. Enjoyed dinner @ Luminae (see the trend here)?
Monday was a combination of the sail up Tracy Arm and Juneau. I got up at 5am to get us a seat inside at the Sky Observation Lounge. Made it up there at 515am, and got us 2 chairs in the 2nd row, at the front of the lounge/ship. After my wife and MIL arrived, I headed outside to exercise room observation area on deck 12. We all very much enjoyed the trip up Tracy Arm, and the view as the ship turned around to head back out was incredible. In Juneau, my NIL and I did helicopted dog sledding, and my wife+MIL did a floatplane glacier tour. They were supposed to do a helicopter glacier tour, but it had been cancelled as the company used by Celebrity had cancelled all of its flight operations due to an accident the week before. We were a smidgen disappointed, but they enjoyed the floatplane, and the money "saved" was subsequently "unsaved" in the spa and onboard shops :-). Everyone got back to the ship fairly late, so we at in Bistro on 5 for dinner.
Skagway was our Tuesday destination, with a 1240pm YPNR railway trip planned. Overall I'd say Skagway was the nicest slice of Alaska we saw, with the town, shopping, railway, scenery, and great weather all combining to make a fantastic day. We got back to the ship at around 5, and then had dinner in Tuscan Grille at 6pm. If you're looking for a special experience, eat in Tuscan Grill during the departure from Skagway; the view off the back of the ship is tremendous at that time of day.
Wednesday was another at sea day. Had lunch and dinner at Luminae, and stayed up pretty late enjoying the bars and music that night (more details below).
Thursday included sailing the final distance to Victoria, with a delayed departure off the ship due to customs issues (400 people that needed to be seen in person by Canadian border controls before the ship could be cleared). Boarded our bus to Butchart Gardens, and enjoyed a fantastic 1.5 hours touring the Gardens at sunset. I highly recommend going there; it's a very special place.
Arrived in Seattle by 5am on Friday, had breakfast 1 more time @ Luminae, and the off the ship by 830am. No problem finding our bags or getting through US customs, and we were at SeaTac by 1030am for the flight home.
Overall we thought the food was pretty good, with a notable exceptions. Solstice seemed to do the following things very well: salads, soups, appetizers, Asian entree's, sandwiches, sweets, coffee drinks. Solstice did chicken and fish entree's pretty well, but most of the beef entree's (steaks, burgers) were disappointing, except for the Mast Grill burgers which were great.
Restaurant-wise our favorite was Silk Harvest, followed by Luminae. We really enjoyed Luminae, for the quality of the food, fantastic service, and generally unhurried/uncrowded atmosphere. Not sure if that's enough for most people to justify the cost of a suite-class cabin, but it certainly was for us. Caffe Bacio was outstanding for coffee drinks and desserts, and Bistro on 5 did a good jobs with soups, sandwiches, and crepes.
We ordered breakfast room service several mornings via the door hanger card, which really helped us the 3-4 days we had early activities planned.
We also ate @ Tuscan Grille. Drinks, salads, and appetizers were fantastic, but our steaks were pretty disappointing. Service and the view though were amazing.
We all had the classic drink package as part of the 1-2-3-Go offer, which we upgraded to premium for an extra $11/day. Not sure exactly if we got our full money's worth, but we certainly tried :-). It was very nice to be able to order just about anything and not worry about extra costs, and my wife+NIL were cocktail drinkers anyways which probably would have gotten expensive without the premium package.
All of the bars fit into our plans at one time or another. We regularly hit Sky Lounge bar at 3-ish for Trivia, Molecular Bar at 5pm for pre-dinner cocktails, either Passport Bar or Ensemble Lounge for after-dinner drinks, Martini bar for during/post show drinks, and then up to Sky Lounge for later night live music + drinks. We only went to Quasar once, but the post-show late night party always seemed to be at Martini Bar (live DJ).
This was our 1st cruise, so we didn't quite know what to expect. Overall the ship didn't seem very crowded on this trip. I'd say the average age of the cruisers was older than us (mid-40s), but we didn't have any problem meeting and talking with people. It seemed like there were quite a few guests from Australia and the UK.
On board fun for us included working out in the morning, followed by reading, trivia at 3pm, the drink schedule mentioned above, and then music at night. My NIL and MIL went to and enjoyed Brent Nixon's and Miss Amanda's presentations, as well as the evening shows. I enjoyed the band Funky T during their multiple shows.
We really enjoyed our Celebrity and Alaska experience. The ship included enough restaurants, bars, and activities to please everyone in our multi-generational party, and the service was fantastic. Our Sky Suite butler was extremely helpful, especially when facilitating all of the little things my MIL needed. We're definitely looking to do another Celebrity cruise, maybe next year to Europe.
Kudos to the Cruise Critic community. Everyone's info+opinions on Celebrity and Alaska was invaluable in making this a fantastic vacation. Read Less