We sailed on Ovation of the Seas out of Seattle, Washington in May of 2019 and visited the ports of Juneau and Skagway, Alaska and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Okay, I had to fly this time instead of just driving or ... Read More
We sailed on Ovation of the Seas out of Seattle, Washington in May of 2019 and visited the ports of Juneau and Skagway, Alaska and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Okay, I had to fly this time instead of just driving or taking the train. So, I’ll be up front, I don’t like flying because all of the checks make it inconvenient. Understandably so, but still not a relaxing part of my vacation. We flew on American Airlines (American). I booked directly with American months in advance. But, if I had waited about 4-3 months in advance, I could have gotten a slightly better hotel and flight deal on Expedia. However, I’m a planner, so that’s cutting it close for me.
We flew out of Philadelphia Airport (Philly) and I liked the fact that restaurants were right there where the terminals are. No need to purchase food on the flight. Also, airport staff at Philly were very helpful, Seattle Airport staff not so much. Seattle Airport restaurants also weren’t as conveniently located and were even pricier than Philly. It also took me awhile to find my luggage at the Seattle Airport.
I got baggage information such as how many bags I can carry on the airplane, dimensions, weights and costs for bags from Americans website. The website link was in the confirmation e-mail that American sent me. I went to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website for information on what I could pack in which bags. My Mom uses a motorized scooter, so I had to call American’s Special Assistance Desk to let them know about the scooter and her need for assistance since she can’t take any stairs. I also had to give them information on the scooter such as weight, total weight with rider, type of battery, dimensions and whether it was collapsible. Note that for lithium batteries there may be some special instructions that you have to follow. You’ll also have to get to the airport about 90 minutes early.
(I have to put some additional information here. I saw where a man’s scooter was denied for flight and he had to drag his self around his entire vacation. Even though this should never happen in my opinion, there are companies that rent scooters. Scootaround (www.scootaround.com) is one of those companies. We also saw rental scooters during embarkation to the ship right outside the port. They seemed really friendly and even approached us to ask about my mother’s scooter, which is a fancy collapsible one.)
Again, American treated my Mom and Dad (her companion) very well and Philly airport staff were awesome. As for the flight itself, there were no monitors in the headrests. Food was available for purchase beforehand, but I suggest just eating at the airport or ahead of time. You’ll have more of a selection and about the same cost. Soda, water and a snack, such as peanuts were included. Alcohol was available for purchase. I’m glad I had my Kindle and headphones since there were no monitors for a non-stop, cross-country flight.
I loved how our luggage was handled upon departure from the ship. The cruise line partnered with the airlines so that before departure you could complete paperwork for your luggage to be delivered directly from the ship to the airport. You pick-up your luggage at your destination airport, so don’t pack anything in your checked baggage that you’ll need for your flight. Except for getting the name on one of our flight tickets wrong, the process worked fantastically.
We stayed at the Country Inn & Suites SEATAC (by the airport). The hotel has an updated, contemporary look. The hotel was undergoing renovations, but the work occurred during the day and never bothered us. (By the time you are reading this, the renovations may be completed.) There’s a complimentary hot breakfast every morning. Coffee, hot water, tea bags, iced tea and cookies are available throughout the day. I highly recommend this hotel. The planned renovations look great. They’re adding an indoor pool, patio with fire pit, suites and a green roof among other updates.
There’s also a complimentary airport shuttle that we picked up upon arrival at the airport. Just check with the hotel ahead of time to ensure the shuttle is running at the time you arrive at the airport and where to meet the shuttle. The hotel also offered shuttle service to the pier for a fee (approximately $18 per person in August of 2019). I can’t remember if that was roundtrip, but the price was on par with Uber. I suggest taking the shuttle service from the hotel because these shuttles drop you and your luggage off near the entrance to the pier. My brother took a group Uber and they were told they had to be dropped off at the road that leads to the pier entrance. We were at Smith Cove Cruise Terminal at Pier 91 and it was a long walk from the road to the pier entrance.
TOUR OF SEATTLE:
For the first time I booked an excursion through TripAdvisor. Royal Caribbean didn’t have a tour of Seattle before the cruise, just after. We flew in two days early in order to be able to tour Seattle. I booked the Premier 3-Hour Seattle City Tour. The tour operator was Tours Northwest. I chose the tour that would pick-up at our hotel near the airport. I called the tour company to ensure they picked-up at our hotel. (Also, let the tour company know in advance if you need a handicap accessible tour bus. The tour company needs to know in advance if you need a tour bus that can fit a mobility device on it.)
The tour was great. We stopped at the Freemont Troll (for pictures), Pioneer Square, Commodore Park (where Chittenden Locks are) and Kerry Park Viewpoint. The tour guide also gave us the option to be dropped off at the Space Needle or back at our hotels. We chose to be dropped off at the Space Needle.
The stop at the Fremont Troll was short, just long enough to get a picture with the troll. The stop at Pioneer Square was a nice rest stop and allowed me to get a nitro at Caffe Umbria, a coffee shop recommended by our tour guide (Yum!). The locks were amazing, a must see especially for the wildlife, and Kerry Park provided the best views of the city.
The Space Needle was nice, but, again, the best views of the city were at Kerry Park. I liked that the Space Needle ticket included free online photos that you could choose a background for and down-load. (Other attractions that charge extra for pictures should take a cue from the Space Needle.) From there we went to Chihuly Garden & Glass, which was included in our Space Needle ticket. The glass art was absolutely beautiful and left me wondering how they did all of that with glass. Then we were off to Pike Place Public Market where we visited the famous fish market. We watched them throw fish and went to the near by Spice Market where I bought some spices and coffee. (Note that Seattle Airport had me open my luggage so they could test my spices and coffee.) We took an Uber back to our hotel and ordered in-room food delivery. It was a jam-packed day and we were exhausted.
We got a good night’s sleep and caught the shuttle to the pier in the morning after eating the complimentary hot breakfast provided by the hotel. The shuttle dropped us off not too far from the building entrance and helped us with our luggage. Luggage drop-off was right where the shuttle dropped off as well. The check-in process was relatively fast and easy since we checked-in online ahead of time and have priority boarding. (There’s also a separate line for the handicapped.)
Once on the ship, we were directed to The Café @ Two70 (The Café), which is included in the price of the cruise fare and is considered a deli that has hot sandwiches, salads and soups. The Windjammer Buffet (Windjammer) was apparently full. But The Café was too small to redirect all the people coming onboard to. So, we were redirected to the Windjammer, which is also complimentary. This is the first time I felt like I was being herded once on the ship during embarkation. Normally, I find a lounge to sit and relax at while sipping the drink of the day. Then, I go to the Solarium Bistro Restaurant for the complimentary lunch buffet there to avoid the crowds. But, since we were being directed where to go, we went to the Windjammer, which was packed. I didn’t like the herding. The food at the Windjammer was good, as usual though.
We stayed in an oceanview balcony, which was decorated very chicly and used a design that utilized the space well. There were two separate closets, so two people could get to their clothes at the same time. The desk pulled away from the wall, so it could be used as a table. The bathroom had plenty of shelving, pegs on the back of the door and a good-sized capsule shower. The sofa bed was very comfortable and could be converted to fit one or two people. (When the sofa bed is converted to fit one person, then there’s plenty of room to get to the balcony and my Mom’s collapsible scooter could fit in the corner in front of the desk and balcony window.) The balcony was a good size with two chairs that could recline, two foot-stools and a small table. We still had room to maneuver around and take amazing pictures of the Alaskan scenery from our balcony.
1. MAIN DINING ROOM – We were assigned to the Chic Main Dining Room for dinner, but all the main dining rooms have basically the same menu each night. Meaning the menu in the main dining rooms changes every night, but each night all of the main dining rooms have basically the same menu between them. Dinner was always good in the main dining room and the atmosphere was nice and occasionally festive. We shared a table with another couple and their friend. The staff sometimes danced and sang which made it fun and once they know the drink you like they automatically bring it to you every night. (Mine was lemonade. Iced tea, lemonade, coffee and water are included in your cruise fare. Alcoholic beverages and specialty coffees are not included.)
For breakfast, one of the dining rooms was for buffet and another was designated for ordering off the menu. However, we could still order off the menu after being seated in the one designated for buffet. So, that’s what we did every morning. (Breakfast in one of the main dining rooms is less crowded than in the Windjammer.) The breakfast was excellent. I don’t think I tried anything I didn’t like and the French toast was awesome. (Juices, like orange juice, tea, coffee and water are complimentary. I’ve heard something about fresh squeezed orange juice costing extra, but the regular orange juice is normally great.)
We occasionally ate lunch in the main dining room, but we preferred the Windjammer for lunch. We liked being able to get smaller portions, the varied selection and the taste of the lunch food in the Windjammer.
2. WINDJAMMER – We only ate dinner once in the Windjammer. It was very good and it was the night we returned from exploring Skagway. There was sushi on the buffet that was so good, yes, on the buffet!
We only ate breakfast in the Windjammer about twice. It could be really crowded in the morning for some reason so crowded that it was hard to maneuver around to see what was on the buffet. (People would walk around aimlessly and just stop in the middle of the aisles for no reason. So, I think there needs to be a map and larger signage, especially when all you want is some scrambled eggs, waffles and turkey sausage. LOL)
Lunch in the Windjammer was good. Just find a table before getting your food and have someone in your party hold it. That will prevent your food from getting cold while you’re looking for a table. I really loved being able to order a soda from my seat and having it brought to me in the Windjammer.
3. SPECIALTY DINING, WONDERLAND – I purchased specialty dining at Wonderland in advance through Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner, which was less than purchasing it onboard. The food was delicious and the experience was fun and unique. It’s not as out there as you may think, so definitely try it. Your “guide” will try to get a feel for what you like and choose your courses based on that. There were three courses (and there was three of us so the number of items per course may change): three appetizers, three entrees and some desserts. Everything was shared by the table. I don’t want to give too much away because you really need to experience Wonderland for yourself.
I was worried that the top deck activities wouldn’t be open since it was an Alaskan cruise. No worries, the top deck attractions were only closed when there was rough seas and high winds, which was one day. Try to schedule as many activities as you can before you get on the ship through Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner. Activities showed up in the Cruise Planner to reserve sporadically. I would find out a new activity was available to book through word of mouth from family and friends I was sailing with or through the Cruise Critic message board for the particular sailing I was on. (Cruise Critic is good site to use and normally you can sign-up for a Cruise Critic reception held onboard the ship.) Note that most activities are included in your cruise fare.
Unfortunately, my iFly session was scheduled the day the entire top deck was closed. I heard that you can get in-line and maybe take a no-show spot, but I don’t like lines, so I didn’t do iFly. Note that there’s no extra charge for iFly.
One day we put on our wetsuits and hit the Flowrider, which was so nice. The Flowrider is no extra charge as well. Now, even if you filled out your activity waivers online (which I highly recommend that you do), you will still have to get wristbands (that remain on) before you can do the Flowrider. It probably works the same for the Rock-Climbing Wall, but I didn’t rock climb this time. I believe the place to get the wristbands was near the entrance to the iFly. Don’t worry about having to keep the wristbands on, they’re waterproof. But you’ll have to do some strategic posing so it doesn’t show up in your photos. Hahaha
Next, we went on the NorthStar. The views from NorthStar were amazing. The only times available when I reserved online were during port days. I’ve heard that the best views are when the ship is sailing. But I loved the views in port at Skagway. We brought binoculars, but they also had binoculars available in the NorthStar pod. You can also stand in-line and wait for openings if you didn’t get a chance to reserve it online before sailing. There were definitely more activities such as bumper cars and skating in the SeaPlex, but I didn’t get a chance to do them. I heard the line for the bumper cars was long, but I didn’t experience it myself.
I went on a tour of the spa on the first day of the cruise, entered the spa giveaway and didn’t win. Hahaha. One of my Platinum Crown & Anchor loyalty member perks was a 15% discount at the spa, so I scheduled a bamboo massage. I was massaged from head to toe. That massage was so good. I highly recommend a bamboo massage if a regular Swedish massage is not enough to relax your muscles. Some say that the spas on cruise ships are overpriced and maybe some treatments are, but I compared the massage prices to Hand and Stone non-member prices and they’re on par.
The gym had weight machines, weights, plenty of treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical machines and a SoulCycle studio. I went jogging on one of the treadmills, used the free weights and did some yoga from memory in the small open area that they have. I also brought The Essential Guide to Yoga magazine by Yoga World, which had poses in it as well. I think of it as a way to have a wellness cruise without booking a wellness cruise. They also have yoga mats for use and, of course, plenty of wipes to wipe down the mats and equipment. Unfortunately, no punching bags, so no need to pack the gloves.
The shows I saw in the theater were: The Beautiful Dream, Live. Love. Legs. and Two Funny Guys comedy show. I really enjoyed The Beautiful Dream and Two Funny Guys. The Beautiful Dream had a story behind it and was so imaginative. Two Funny Guys was hilarious (and pretty clean, which I like) and the brothers headlining the show were very talented beyond being hilarious. Live. Love. Legs. was a dancing, singing and feathers old time Vegas show, which was good. I just prefer plays, Cirque du Soleil or alternative dance type shows.
There were also movies shown under the stars on the pool deck. They provided blankets and hot chocolate or you can get the drink of your choice from the bar. I saw Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse in the theater and Bumblebee out on the pool deck. Of course, Into the Spider-Verse was awesome! Bumblebee wasn’t bad either. (Bumblebee happens to be my favorite Transformer.) Also, all of the entertainment I’ve mentioned is included in the cruise fare.
1. JUNEAU - I booked all of our excursions through the ship ahead of time online through the Cruise Planner, which saved us some money. We booked Mount Roberts Tramway in Juneau. Mount Roberts Tramway was just a short walk from the ship and the cruise line’s price was about the same as I would have paid at the Tramway. How far a walk you have to the Tramway depends on the pier your ship docks at. Mount Roberts had a lot of activities at the top of the mountain. I really liked the video they showed about the native people. I learned about the other activities at Mount Roberts from a free Alaska travel guide I had mailed to me from Alaska’s official travel website www.travelalaska.com.
2. SKAGWAY - In Skagway, we didn’t schedule an excursion. We walked into town, which was a nice not short, but not too long walk. We passed a small trail, the Pullen Creek Trail, on our way into town, which I walked a little of on the way back to the ship. I bought the best coffee I’ve ever tasted at one of the shops, Raven’s Brew Coffee Double Dead Dark Roast Coffee. Don’t let the name fool you. It’s really smooth. We visited a few gift shops and then returned to the ship for a late dinner in the Windjammer where they had sushi on the buffet! The weather was great, really warm for the end of May and I saw some ducks in the water near the boat piers.
3. VICTORIA - We went on the Butchart Gardens Tea and City Highlights excursion in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The tea was at Butchart Gardens and was so filling and tasty. (Don’t eat before going because there’s plenty of food.) Butchart Gardens is beautiful and huge. You probably won’t be able to see it all, so pick the top spots you really want to see. You’ll be provided a map upon arrival. Try to remember how to get back to where you started and to get back early enough to check-out the gift shop.
Note that all of the excursions were handicap accessible for individuals that use a collapsible, power scooter and can walk short distances. Definitely contact the cruise line to discuss your handicap needs and if a particular excursion can accommodate your needs.
I loved that the cruise line partnered with the airports so we could check our bags right on the ship. Now, this means you will not have access or even see those bags again until you arrive at your destination airport and retrieve your checked bags. We didn’t have any issues with this and had no lost bags. However, we should have left the ship early with those carrying their bags since we were carrying our bags. But we went to breakfast in the dining room and left at our designated time. The port was a mess. If it wasn’t for some lovely people letting is in front of them, we would still be there. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but the lines were long. Especially so when we didn’t have to worry about getting bags. However, by the time you read this, the Port will probably have worked it out. We had roundtrip shuttle service back to the hotel, which worked perfectly. We caught a nap at the hotel and then took the hotel shuttle to the airport. Awesome, once in a lifetime vacation over. (I always say once in a lifetime vacation and then we do another once in a lifetime vacation, so stay tuned to PhoenixBlue Designs & Travel on YouTube for some of my video vacation reviews. LOL) Read Less