We wanted a low-key, mid-sized cruise experience. Overall, it was very relaxing, and the mostly Indonesian crew made it a very pleasant experience. The Lido Market casual dining food was sometimes subpar, the entertainment choices we liked ... Read More
We wanted a low-key, mid-sized cruise experience. Overall, it was very relaxing, and the mostly Indonesian crew made it a very pleasant experience. The Lido Market casual dining food was sometimes subpar, the entertainment choices we liked were usually very late in the evening for us, and the menu in the Pinnacle Grill was just okay. Reservation confirmation was spotty: we were advised that we'd receive a confirmation card on the morning of our dinner reservation, and got a card for the first dinner but not the second later in the cruise. The Pinnacle Grill was not very full on either night. The Vista Grill seemed to be very busy, and the food was just as good, if not better, so the upcharge for the Pinnacle Grill was really for the atmosphere.
We chose a Seattle round-trip for this cruise, and booked a balcony stateroom in the front of the ship on the starboard side, which gave us a great view heading north and also for most of the return journey. We drove up from the South Sound area and arrived shortly after lunch time, although we could have arrived earlier and started eating! Embarkation was smooth and quick, with just an enhanced Washington State driver's license needed, not a passport.
We got a free add-on Pinnacle Grill dinner for two via Costco Travel, and added another dinner beforehand. In-room bar and alcohol prices seemed reasonable for a cruise, and as we are not heavy drinkers, we actually had trouble using up all of our Costco Travel shipboard credits ($100 per person plus $235 for the room, total $435). We spent the extras on souvenirs and still ended up with a credit, which I'm trying to add to our room stewards' tips. Water in a 1.5 liter bottle was $3.95 in-room or $3.25 for 1 liter from the Vista Grill. Sodas were $1.75 a glass or $2.25/can in-room. We brought LifeStraw bottles but ended up buying bottled water as the ship's bathroom water tasted terrible even with the LifeStraw.
Our room stewards worked hard, so we tipped them about $5 cash per day and it made an embarrassingly huge difference. Seriously, I do not need my room made up 2-3 times per day, and a towel animal on my bed each evening, and my laundry cleaned and brought to me in record time, but it sure was nice to be pampered!
We ate breakfast in-room almost every day, which worked out well as we were so far from the breakfast venues. We woke up, got ready for our day's shore excursions, and breakfast was delivered promptly as requested. It made it extra easy to make early shore excursions on time. We usually ordered extra muffins or bagels to snack on later, and our stewards kept our fruit basket stocked. We're not supposed to take food into ports, but know that some people grabbed sandwiches and did so.
We booked our shore excursions through Costco Travel, and they were okay (nothing to compare them to, right?). The "Sitka Scenic Tour" by Sitka Wildlife Tours was super, with stops at the best vistas and scenic points, easy walks through old growth forest and totems to a salmon spawning ground, a quick trip to the Fortress of the Bear rescue and rehab facility, etc. Our guide, Fran, was very knowledgeable and pleasant, with lots of stories on history and wildlife and plants. She also helped us find the local artists and artisans galleries and shops that sold made in Alaska and Made by Native Alaskan items. Avoid the port-front shops that sell items that just LOOK native-- the carvings are done in Bali, etc. and we've seen the same items in WA state for a fraction of the prices in those Alaska shops. If it isn't labelled with the official Alaska/Alaska Native logos/tags, you can bet it's made elsewhere.
The only thing we know about the ship's shore excursions is that one of their Ketchikan excursions got screwed up ("miscommunication about the departure time of the ship" or "bad weather" depending on who was telling the story) and they returned very late. This was doubly bad because the Ketchikan stop was very rushed, and we couldn't shop much after our tour and couldn't leave the ship even though we were across the street from the shops, AND our arrival in Victoria was so late that the ship's shore excursions were cancelled. Our Victoria stay was shortened to about four hours, after sundown, so we didn't even bother to leave the ship. That was very disappointing! Fortunately for us, we had not booked a Victoria tour at all-- if we had, we would have lost the money.
We loved Sitka and Ketchikan, and would even like to see Juneau again. The next time we visit, though, we'll probably just fly in and stay longer. The cruise was nice enough, but the towns, the scenery, and the people were the real attraction. Read Less