This cruise departs out of Seattle around 4 p.m. Sunday, travels out the Strait of Juan de Fuca, rounds up on the outside of Vancouver Island and heads north overnight getting you to Glacier Bay Alaska by mid morning. Then it meanders in a southerly direction to Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan then heads back out to sea, back into the Strait to Victoria (arriving at night) and departs late in the evening for a slow put back to Seattle disembarking Sunday morning. I will start generally from the beginning experience and with the disembarkation. I did not arrive by plane so I have no real experience with it. I was, however, picked up after the cruise at the airport so I got to witness the next group of cruisers being herded around. It looked fairly organized (although I did see panicked cruisers from every line looking for assistance). The guys wrangling the luggage were frighteningly rough with the luggage throwing pieces and surely breaking whatever fragile items were stored within. Not a good way to start your cruise. Pack fragile goods on you. Some packing notes: If you drink wine, bring it. Wine is expensive on board and the selection is mediocre at best. The corkage fee is in the $20 region. All liquor purchased on board is charged a hefty surcharge. It is worth the trouble, plus you get to drink something delicious. Pack a few warm layers and do not forget your raincoat with a hood. Don't bring a crazy amount of warm things because the ship is warm. The dressy nights (2) are actually dressy. Men in nice suits and occasional tuxes. Women mostly in cocktail dresses, but a few women were in gowns. Honestly, they were a little out of place. Bring a cocktail dress. OK, embarkation: This was the first cruise for me so I haven't anything to compare it to, but I found it to be very orderly and stress free. We were dropped by family so we had to find the way there on our own. It was easy to find and well marked. Porters meet you at the car and will handle your luggage. There are two short lines. One for those who filled out their forms online and another for those who did not. We did it on line. We were asked a few questions, gave them our forms and filled out one. Our pics were taken, we were given our docs to get on board and then sent to a queue to get on board. Easy and friendly folks. A good way to start. The line moves haltingly from here because of the picture taking and selling of various packages for onboard. A lot of people looked annoyed. Your goods are then quickly x-rayed then you are on your way on board. Something to note here. Your checked luggage sits outside in the elements for a LONG time. If you packed your lovely silk dress on top and your luggage ends up on the top of the stack... and it is raining (it IS Seattle!) I was lamenting not carrying it all on or not having packed in a hard sided piece. Luckily, it only sprinkled rain. Our rooms were not ready yet so we went to the Lido Deck (you have no choice) where we slogged through the hawkers again making way to a table. Many ravenous folks were rushing around and knocking over the less hardy for their chance to get a premade sandwich. Be warned. It is less dangerous to life and limb (especially fingers and feet) to hike out to the aft outdoor deck. 1:30 or so they announce it is time to head to your room. Finding your cabin is easy and there are signs everywhere to aid the lost. Your checked luggage arrives sometime before the evening. Plenty of time to get unpacked and freshen for dinner. Night one is casual. Oh yeah, this is the time when you are wondering about laundry and pressing. It is really expensive and no self-laundering/pressing is available like on other ships. Consider either bringing clothes that pack well or bringing a steamer (no irons). I was in one of the less expensive rooms. It was an outside stateroom with obstruction. It had an unopenable window blocked by a lifeboat, but if you stood high or got on your bed, you could see the water and land. We were a party of two women (my mom) and we were very comfy. There was ample closet space with hangers and room below beds to store smaller bags. Larger ones fit nicely in the lockers. Three COULD fit in the room, but it would be tight. Make sure you are really accommodating and close if you decide on a trio. The odd man is on a pullout couch. The other two are on an extremely comfy bed (or two beds). They are long singles and they are the highlight of the room. They tie with the pillows. My mom could not stop talking about the pillows and wrote the name of them down so she could get them for home. Really. Our first night out was pretty rough and she spent the evening hugging them for comfort. Her new best friend I guess. Anyway, the lav was plenty roomy. There was a short tub/shower, kitty corner toilet and a sink. The cabin includes a vanity where hairdryers are furnished and used. There is also a lighted makeup mirror with magnifier. The negative is that the lighting at the vanity is smoked and dark. I would apply my makeup there and then walk to the bathroom to see I looked crazy with uneven makeup because I could not see what I was doing in the dim light. The stateroom also has a loveseat, table and a chair. None of which we sat on. We used the table for room service and plunking down our junk on. Sheets are changed one time during the trip and the blanket is covered with another sheet. The food and dining: Might as well get to that since lots of time is spent doing it or contemplating doing it. Are you sitting down? I LOST weight on the trip. I kid you not. I was not sick either. The food was just incredibly dull and uninspired even in the Pinnacles. Lots and lots of the same things every day. Lots of food rehashed (emphasis on the hash) day after day. Dining room food selections that I found myself saying (to myself) "well, if I have to select something (sigh), I guess I will have the pork chop." It would be slapped down in front of me in a very dismal way and I would pick through a pretty meager portion (they are ALL about portion control on this ship) trying to find the small nugget that was not overcooked or looked edible. Let me digress for a moment. Dining room info.: It was my mom's birthday. We were in open seating. I called when we got on board and asked if we might get a table near a window and maybe a table for two. We would take any time. NO. And we never ever could. And the man taking the reservations was RUDE. I am mad writing about it now. That and the men greeting diners at the front door were either strange and inappropriately familiar or rude and unaccommodating. I can only assume that we were not given a decent seat because our room was not an expensive one. We also tried arriving without reservation during the waning hours of dining to a emptying (about a quarter full) room and beg for a table either by ourselves or by a window and they told us it was not possible after asking our room number then there was no further conversation allowed. A ticket was printed and we were led to a center table with other bewildered diners. Everyone at the table commented on the empty window seats. No one was pleased. OK I feel better now. Sorry. Laughs~ The dining room food. I already mention... yuck. But to explain. They tout their culinary prowess on this ship. When they do people in the audience giggle (at the disembarkation lecture). It was good to know it was not just my mom and me (and our other lesser appreciated table mates). The only good thing I had in the dining room was a lamb shank. It was good. It was plunked atop a half cup of insipid mashed potatoes and sided with 2 small carrot balls the size of marbles. By the end of the cruise I dreamed of fresh veggies. Toward the end of the cruise I got a little gumption and if food arrived that looked simply too nasty or unsafe to eat I sent it back and asked for something else. Things served that were disappointing: . The last night my mom ordered scallops. They were rank, overcooked and one was a strange pink color. Chateaubriand asked for rare/ medium rare and arrived medium well with goo pastry. No taste to boot. Filet folks! That was the fancy night. Other things: Pasta (don't do it in the dining room), Salmon - they do not know what kind and won't go find out. Another diner had it, it looked overcooked and unappetizing. We were in the salmon capital of the world for chrissakes. The portions were usually smallish (except for pasta (but blech!) and lacked veggies. Mixed salads contained plenty of lettuce pieces that had gone bad and clinged secretly to other leafs. Watch for that. Caesars come pre tossed with oh so much dressing and iffy croutons. OK I do not want to discuss that anymore. I did like the chocolate cake. Of course it could have been pretty inferior and I would have loved it. I suggest they pour fudge over their entrees. The service. OK I will confess that in a former life I was a restaurant owner. I think that really great service can smooth over a rocky food experience. Bad food and robotic and startlingly abrupt service may account for my weight loss. I just found myself putting on a happy face, enjoyed talking to my fellow dining partners and tried to get it over with. Many servers have a real problem with English. That may account for the weirdness like "What do you want?" or not taking a beverage order or picking up a napkin from the floor and making a diner use it versus getting him a new one. Also, they do not take drink orders unless you ask and never before food ARRIVES. Sigh. Lido Dining. This is a quasi buffet area where you will eat breakfast and lunch and perhaps dinner. Mornings you can elect to freely select pastries and fruit. Other items (including hot) are doled out to you as you go through cafeteria style. Sausages were good and one day they had potato squares that were fried like McDonalds. They were also good. Everything else looked ick. I was amazed that people were eating the steam tabled pancakes and the limp and strange looking french toast. Grapefruit was grey. Raisin bread was pretty good, but don't ask that it be toasted for you. I elected to either have room service (which is good) pasties with juice and coffee or trundled up to the Lido for a bagel. I always scanned for the potato wedges. They never reappeared after morning one. They were replaced with gacky home fries. There was an asian style breakfast available with miso soup (and accoutrements) and plenty of congee which many a Southerner mistook as grits. Lunch on the Lido is a salad bar (see previous lettuce admonition) which included white tomatoes, purple coleslaw goo and potato salad, cukes and a rather rancid Greek mixed salad. Pass. My fellow cruisers, lunch bliss exists in the sandwich department. I had a croissant sandwich with turkey, bacon and cheese, lettuce and tomato and it was good. Other times when I longed for something else (like asian lamb stirfry) I wished I had stuck with the sandwich. Incidentally, they dole the hot food out to you and start out with a tablespoon of meat mix with a cup or so of rice (in asian) they will hand that to you. You will have to speak up if you require more than that.and they will make you say more after each spoonful. I always regretted asking for more. Outside on the Lido is a hamburger and hotdog line and a pretty good self-serve taco bar. Room service. This is the highlight of the onboard dining. The bread on the sandwiches may be stale and the croissants are cold, but the food quality is better and the service excels. Raves to the club sandwich and breakfast pastries. Also the chocolate cake is fresher delivered to the room than in either dining areas. Confirm orders and ask for extra creamer. Pinnacles. Your server will be able to communicate with you here. Service was vastly superior. They actually timed your meal, did not rush you, attended to your drinks and bread and served without intrusion. We also got close to a window. Oh glee! I again had a filet here (the entrEe choice was minimal). It was overcooked again. I could have gotten a porterhouse. I was afraid the NY side of the porterhouse would be rubber so I opted for the filet. The side I cannot recall. It must have been unremarkable. I do however remember that I ordered Tuna sashimi for an appetizer. Easily the highlight of the onboard food. My mom got it too and we lamented every night thereafter that we did not simply have 10 plates each of that. Paper thin pieces of heaven. Ship in general and its entertainment offerings: The ship is pretty and new. Smoking is allowed on deck, in rooms (I know ick) and in the casino and bars. Thankfully no smoking in halls or dining areas. I was with a smoker. Sigh. Cheap rooms lack ventilation for smoking. Also I thought it was strange that you cannot have an iron in your room, but you can smoke like a chimney in them. The library area is roomy and pleasing with lots of books (check out early for best selection - I saw one woman in the early moments of the cruise with a stack. She must be a veteran). They rent DVDs there too. You can buy your favorite coffee drink and sit in nicely appointed seating areas to play games and read books. I camped out here a lot working on crosswords. Here is where you can access the internet for a heft hefty hefty price. They also have wireless available. I skipped the net for a week. Live entertainment was not what I expected. The shows were strange and uninspired and the singers often off key. Instead, go for the karaoke competition where the true talent lies and laughs can be had. It is done in a series of competitions with the winner being crowned on the way to Victoria. There was a quasi-calypsoish band in the atrium area one day. Very loud, did lots of Caribbean and Jimmy Buffet songs done like elevator music. The woman singing should consider a career change. OK a moment to retract my claws! Many folks were abuzz about the bingo. I did not go, but the major boat's main constituency was of the more mature set so... you figure it out. The pools were all for adults and children. No separate pools. They were often empty even though our cruise was sunny. There were a few takers for the Jacuzzi and many felt at ease enough to take a pass through the casino and other areas in their robes. I thought that was amusing. It horrified my mom when a man sat next to her at roulette wearing his bathrobe. Casino: Poker is by video table and is only in tourney form. They play 60 and 120 buy in games. Humans run the roulette and blackjack. The house's take is massive. Slots and video gaming... look at the payout. I never got bored enough to toss my money away at slots. Also there is a woman on a wireless mic talking a lot of the time. She is loud and can induce a headache. She was touting some running lottery or guessing game. Take comfort that she will eventually tire and stop. Gym: Big and good equipment. Windows open to a beautiful view. You will want to spend time here. Lots of treadmills with one always available. Aerobic classes and pilates are available for a fee. I was on the lookout for the water aerobics class, but it never happened. There is a sauna, but I did not use it. I also did not use the spa. It looked nice (I examined it at about 4 in the morning night one when everyone was in their rooms vomiting - I do not get seasick). It also seemed expensive, but... you are on vacation. Cinema: Lots of currentish movies. I went a few times and enjoyed it. It was relatively empty. They should offer drinks with the popcorn. There is a concession stand, but it stood empty. Generally, the ship is clean and nicely done. There is one glass stair system, but it was blocked the entire cruise so it was look, don't touch. No grand stairs on this boat. I do not know what other boats looked like, but it does not seem as open as other boats look like on commercials. It WAS clean though and there were elevators open to the port and starboard water views. I nice touch. I spent a ton of time on deck. Decks are wide, scrubbed, equipped with lots of blankets and ample sturdy (yet lovely) teak loungers (you can purchase one). The only time you are allowed up on the very front part of the bow is at Glacier Bay. The rest of the time you go just inside. You can go all the way to the stern. A side note about cleanliness. There are many men devoted to polishing the public areas, but we found our bathroom handle and door to the cabin grimy and sticky. I cleaned it with an antibacterial wipe they offer in the public restroom. Every morning around 6 a.m. they walk a catwalk outside the bedroom window to clean the liferafts. Be sure to close your curtains before going to sleep. It is unpleasant to find them gawking in as you wake. General notes: You will have many many times where photogs will be scrambling to take your pic.. You will be given many opportunities to buy things like jewelry and other things you did not know you needed. You will pay for seminars that do not involve something being sold to you, the classes were unbelievable dull, but the lectures on wildlife were the ship's highlight as far as entertainment value goes. It was free. There is a TV in room where you can watch the view from the stern and one from the bow of the boat. I watched that a lot. There is also a channel with revolving screens providing ship info. Like very general track, ship's speed, time, air temp, sea conditions... I liked that. What would have made it even better would have been a sort of GPS display instead of they far off general map they use. I wanted to know what body of water I was in and what I was looking at land wise. Also there was very little offerings over the loud speaker about what we were looking at. Many folks were annoyed by that especially at Glacier Bay. Also, speaking of loudspeaker announcements, during the first night they did an evening crew safety drill. The man announcing it could not speak easily understood English and I could hear a commotion of folks in the hallway wondering if there was an emergency (they sounded alarm). The captain had to get on and tell people it was for the crew to go to muster stations and not for passengers. I won't get into what is to do at each port of call since I have seen other descriptions that would be far superior to mine. I will speak generally about them. I loved each stop, but then again our weather was absolute perfection. Getting on and off the boat was a cinch even the day we used tenders. They were tender towards those with disabilities. I thought that was nice to see. Some gangway security fellow was rude to my mom. I did not witness it, but she was fairly hot about it. Personally, outside big excursions, I would wait until I got to port to book it. If the weather is bad what is the point of shelling out tons of money to appreciate a view shrouded in clouds. The tour groups are plentiful at dock and the prices seem better with an addition of competition. Each town is enjoyable and the locals surprisingly accommodating considering the ships probably double town population and we wander around dazed and into traffic. There is always an exception to the kindness of locals. Best to brush it off and get over it. A small thing about one of the stops... Victoria at 6p.m.? Really? Why bother? The brochure sez no trip to Victoria is complete without a trip to Butchart Gardens... but it is night? Also the ship docks outside of Victoria and you have to hoof it a mile and a half or bus in. Stores are closed and areas of town can be dangerous and crowded with bums, beggars and drug addicts roaming in the shadows. A walk on the jetty and back to the boat is better. What else? Highlights: Glacier Bay. Amazing even without calving. Good binoculars are a must as is a good camera. I brought binocs with image stabilizer. Great for bear spotting. The wildlife lecture. The guy giving it was interesting and entertainment and lots of the pics he used were his own. He should have been providing running loud speaker commentary in Glacier Bay or at least doing a deck walk about answering questions on the fly. Disembarkation: You fill out a form prior to cruising with your departure particulars and are assigned a color/number ticket corresponding to travel urgency. You wait for that color number to be called and you proceed to gangway. Easy and orderly. I was last off since I was in no hurry. My room attendant was not pleased that we were last off and demanded we vacate the room. You can opt to have express checkout of sorts where you get off first and bags are transported to the airport for you and checked on to the flight. It is a pay service, but a nice touch I thought. Big bags are put out in the hall the night before for collection and await you in the port. I elected to carry mine down since I packed lightly. I was glad for it. There was a minor scrum to get aboard Grey Line busses to the airport and the ticket taker seemed confused when I gave her an online confirmation ticket versus one bought through the cruise line. I had to stand there and explain it. If it were raining I would not have been so patient. Grey Line driver was pleasant and entertaining. A nice way to end a cruise. Follow the admonition about breakable goods in the luggage on the outbound portion if going Grey Line. They are the same tossers used for the inbounders. OK That's all she wrote.

Noordam - Alaska

Noordam Cruise Review by 21 Knots Plus

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: June 2007
  • Destination: Alaska
  • Cabin Type: Large Outside Stateroom (fully obstructed views)
This cruise departs out of Seattle around 4 p.m. Sunday, travels out the Strait of Juan de Fuca, rounds up on the outside of Vancouver Island and heads north overnight getting you to Glacier Bay Alaska by mid morning. Then it meanders in a southerly direction to Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan then heads back out to sea, back into the Strait to Victoria (arriving at night) and departs late in the evening for a slow put back to Seattle disembarking Sunday morning.
I will start generally from the beginning experience and with the disembarkation.
I did not arrive by plane so I have no real experience with it. I was, however, picked up after the cruise at the airport so I got to witness the next group of cruisers being herded around. It looked fairly organized (although I did see panicked cruisers from every line looking for assistance). The guys wrangling the luggage were frighteningly rough with the luggage throwing pieces and surely breaking whatever fragile items were stored within. Not a good way to start your cruise. Pack fragile goods on you.
Some packing notes: If you drink wine, bring it. Wine is expensive on board and the selection is mediocre at best. The corkage fee is in the $20 region. All liquor purchased on board is charged a hefty surcharge. It is worth the trouble, plus you get to drink something delicious. Pack a few warm layers and do not forget your raincoat with a hood. Don't bring a crazy amount of warm things because the ship is warm. The dressy nights (2) are actually dressy. Men in nice suits and occasional tuxes. Women mostly in cocktail dresses, but a few women were in gowns. Honestly, they were a little out of place. Bring a cocktail dress.
OK, embarkation: This was the first cruise for me so I haven't anything to compare it to, but I found it to be very orderly and stress free. We were dropped by family so we had to find the way there on our own. It was easy to find and well marked. Porters meet you at the car and will handle your luggage. There are two short lines. One for those who filled out their forms online and another for those who did not. We did it on line. We were asked a few questions, gave them our forms and filled out one. Our pics were taken, we were given our docs to get on board and then sent to a queue to get on board. Easy and friendly folks. A good way to start. The line moves haltingly from here because of the picture taking and selling of various packages for onboard. A lot of people looked annoyed. Your goods are then quickly x-rayed then you are on your way on board. Something to note here. Your checked luggage sits outside in the elements for a LONG time. If you packed your lovely silk dress on top and your luggage ends up on the top of the stack... and it is raining (it IS Seattle!) I was lamenting not carrying it all on or not having packed in a hard sided piece. Luckily, it only sprinkled rain. Our rooms were not ready yet so we went to the Lido Deck (you have no choice) where we slogged through the hawkers again making way to a table. Many ravenous folks were rushing around and knocking over the less hardy for their chance to get a premade sandwich. Be warned. It is less dangerous to life and limb (especially fingers and feet) to hike out to the aft outdoor deck. 1:30 or so they announce it is time to head to your room. Finding your cabin is easy and there are signs everywhere to aid the lost. Your checked luggage arrives sometime before the evening. Plenty of time to get unpacked and freshen for dinner. Night one is casual. Oh yeah, this is the time when you are wondering about laundry and pressing. It is really expensive and no self-laundering/pressing is available like on other ships. Consider either bringing clothes that pack well or bringing a steamer (no irons).
I was in one of the less expensive rooms. It was an outside stateroom with obstruction. It had an unopenable window blocked by a lifeboat, but if you stood high or got on your bed, you could see the water and land. We were a party of two women (my mom) and we were very comfy. There was ample closet space with hangers and room below beds to store smaller bags. Larger ones fit nicely in the lockers. Three COULD fit in the room, but it would be tight. Make sure you are really accommodating and close if you decide on a trio. The odd man is on a pullout couch. The other two are on an extremely comfy bed (or two beds). They are long singles and they are the highlight of the room. They tie with the pillows. My mom could not stop talking about the pillows and wrote the name of them down so she could get them for home. Really. Our first night out was pretty rough and she spent the evening hugging them for comfort. Her new best friend I guess. Anyway, the lav was plenty roomy. There was a short tub/shower, kitty corner toilet and a sink. The cabin includes a vanity where hairdryers are furnished and used. There is also a lighted makeup mirror with magnifier. The negative is that the lighting at the vanity is smoked and dark. I would apply my makeup there and then walk to the bathroom to see I looked crazy with uneven makeup because I could not see what I was doing in the dim light. The stateroom also has a loveseat, table and a chair. None of which we sat on. We used the table for room service and plunking down our junk on. Sheets are changed one time during the trip and the blanket is covered with another sheet.
The food and dining: Might as well get to that since lots of time is spent doing it or contemplating doing it. Are you sitting down? I LOST weight on the trip. I kid you not. I was not sick either. The food was just incredibly dull and uninspired even in the Pinnacles. Lots and lots of the same things every day. Lots of food rehashed (emphasis on the hash) day after day. Dining room food selections that I found myself saying (to myself) "well, if I have to select something (sigh), I guess I will have the pork chop." It would be slapped down in front of me in a very dismal way and I would pick through a pretty meager portion (they are ALL about portion control on this ship) trying to find the small nugget that was not overcooked or looked edible. Let me digress for a moment.
Dining room info.: It was my mom's birthday. We were in open seating. I called when we got on board and asked if we might get a table near a window and maybe a table for two. We would take any time. NO. And we never ever could. And the man taking the reservations was RUDE. I am mad writing about it now. That and the men greeting diners at the front door were either strange and inappropriately familiar or rude and unaccommodating. I can only assume that we were not given a decent seat because our room was not an expensive one. We also tried arriving without reservation during the waning hours of dining to a emptying (about a quarter full) room and beg for a table either by ourselves or by a window and they told us it was not possible after asking our room number then there was no further conversation allowed. A ticket was printed and we were led to a center table with other bewildered diners. Everyone at the table commented on the empty window seats. No one was pleased. OK I feel better now. Sorry. Laughs~
The dining room food. I already mention... yuck. But to explain. They tout their culinary prowess on this ship. When they do people in the audience giggle (at the disembarkation lecture). It was good to know it was not just my mom and me (and our other lesser appreciated table mates). The only good thing I had in the dining room was a lamb shank. It was good. It was plunked atop a half cup of insipid mashed potatoes and sided with 2 small carrot balls the size of marbles. By the end of the cruise I dreamed of fresh veggies. Toward the end of the cruise I got a little gumption and if food arrived that looked simply too nasty or unsafe to eat I sent it back and asked for something else. Things served that were disappointing: . The last night my mom ordered scallops. They were rank, overcooked and one was a strange pink color. Chateaubriand asked for rare/ medium rare and arrived medium well with goo pastry. No taste to boot. Filet folks! That was the fancy night. Other things: Pasta (don't do it in the dining room), Salmon - they do not know what kind and won't go find out. Another diner had it, it looked overcooked and unappetizing. We were in the salmon capital of the world for chrissakes. The portions were usually smallish (except for pasta (but blech!) and lacked veggies. Mixed salads contained plenty of lettuce pieces that had gone bad and clinged secretly to other leafs. Watch for that. Caesars come pre tossed with oh so much dressing and iffy croutons. OK I do not want to discuss that anymore. I did like the chocolate cake. Of course it could have been pretty inferior and I would have loved it. I suggest they pour fudge over their entrees.
The service. OK I will confess that in a former life I was a restaurant owner. I think that really great service can smooth over a rocky food experience. Bad food and robotic and startlingly abrupt service may account for my weight loss. I just found myself putting on a happy face, enjoyed talking to my fellow dining partners and tried to get it over with. Many servers have a real problem with English. That may account for the weirdness like "What do you want?" or not taking a beverage order or picking up a napkin from the floor and making a diner use it versus getting him a new one. Also, they do not take drink orders unless you ask and never before food ARRIVES. Sigh.
Lido Dining. This is a quasi buffet area where you will eat breakfast and lunch and perhaps dinner. Mornings you can elect to freely select pastries and fruit. Other items (including hot) are doled out to you as you go through cafeteria style. Sausages were good and one day they had potato squares that were fried like McDonalds. They were also good. Everything else looked ick. I was amazed that people were eating the steam tabled pancakes and the limp and strange looking french toast. Grapefruit was grey. Raisin bread was pretty good, but don't ask that it be toasted for you. I elected to either have room service (which is good) pasties with juice and coffee or trundled up to the Lido for a bagel. I always scanned for the potato wedges. They never reappeared after morning one. They were replaced with gacky home fries. There was an asian style breakfast available with miso soup (and accoutrements) and plenty of congee which many a Southerner mistook as grits. Lunch on the Lido is a salad bar (see previous lettuce admonition) which included white tomatoes, purple coleslaw goo and potato salad, cukes and a rather rancid Greek mixed salad. Pass. My fellow cruisers, lunch bliss exists in the sandwich department. I had a croissant sandwich with turkey, bacon and cheese, lettuce and tomato and it was good. Other times when I longed for something else (like asian lamb stirfry) I wished I had stuck with the sandwich. Incidentally, they dole the hot food out to you and start out with a tablespoon of meat mix with a cup or so of rice (in asian) they will hand that to you. You will have to speak up if you require more than that.and they will make you say more after each spoonful. I always regretted asking for more. Outside on the Lido is a hamburger and hotdog line and a pretty good self-serve taco bar.
Room service. This is the highlight of the onboard dining. The bread on the sandwiches may be stale and the croissants are cold, but the food quality is better and the service excels. Raves to the club sandwich and breakfast pastries. Also the chocolate cake is fresher delivered to the room than in either dining areas. Confirm orders and ask for extra creamer.
Pinnacles. Your server will be able to communicate with you here. Service was vastly superior. They actually timed your meal, did not rush you, attended to your drinks and bread and served without intrusion. We also got close to a window. Oh glee! I again had a filet here (the entrEe choice was minimal). It was overcooked again. I could have gotten a porterhouse. I was afraid the NY side of the porterhouse would be rubber so I opted for the filet. The side I cannot recall. It must have been unremarkable. I do however remember that I ordered Tuna sashimi for an appetizer. Easily the highlight of the onboard food. My mom got it too and we lamented every night thereafter that we did not simply have 10 plates each of that. Paper thin pieces of heaven.
Ship in general and its entertainment offerings: The ship is pretty and new. Smoking is allowed on deck, in rooms (I know ick) and in the casino and bars. Thankfully no smoking in halls or dining areas. I was with a smoker. Sigh. Cheap rooms lack ventilation for smoking. Also I thought it was strange that you cannot have an iron in your room, but you can smoke like a chimney in them. The library area is roomy and pleasing with lots of books (check out early for best selection - I saw one woman in the early moments of the cruise with a stack. She must be a veteran). They rent DVDs there too. You can buy your favorite coffee drink and sit in nicely appointed seating areas to play games and read books. I camped out here a lot working on crosswords. Here is where you can access the internet for a heft hefty hefty price. They also have wireless available. I skipped the net for a week. Live entertainment was not what I expected. The shows were strange and uninspired and the singers often off key. Instead, go for the karaoke competition where the true talent lies and laughs can be had. It is done in a series of competitions with the winner being crowned on the way to Victoria. There was a quasi-calypsoish band in the atrium area one day. Very loud, did lots of Caribbean and Jimmy Buffet songs done like elevator music. The woman singing should consider a career change. OK a moment to retract my claws! Many folks were abuzz about the bingo. I did not go, but the major boat's main constituency was of the more mature set so... you figure it out. The pools were all for adults and children. No separate pools. They were often empty even though our cruise was sunny. There were a few takers for the Jacuzzi and many felt at ease enough to take a pass through the casino and other areas in their robes. I thought that was amusing. It horrified my mom when a man sat next to her at roulette wearing his bathrobe. Casino: Poker is by video table and is only in tourney form. They play 60 and 120 buy in games. Humans run the roulette and blackjack. The house's take is massive. Slots and video gaming... look at the payout. I never got bored enough to toss my money away at slots. Also there is a woman on a wireless mic talking a lot of the time. She is loud and can induce a headache. She was touting some running lottery or guessing game. Take comfort that she will eventually tire and stop. Gym: Big and good equipment. Windows open to a beautiful view. You will want to spend time here. Lots of treadmills with one always available. Aerobic classes and pilates are available for a fee. I was on the lookout for the water aerobics class, but it never happened. There is a sauna, but I did not use it. I also did not use the spa. It looked nice (I examined it at about 4 in the morning night one when everyone was in their rooms vomiting - I do not get seasick). It also seemed expensive, but... you are on vacation. Cinema: Lots of currentish movies. I went a few times and enjoyed it. It was relatively empty. They should offer drinks with the popcorn. There is a concession stand, but it stood empty.
Generally, the ship is clean and nicely done. There is one glass stair system, but it was blocked the entire cruise so it was look, don't touch. No grand stairs on this boat. I do not know what other boats looked like, but it does not seem as open as other boats look like on commercials. It WAS clean though and there were elevators open to the port and starboard water views. I nice touch. I spent a ton of time on deck. Decks are wide, scrubbed, equipped with lots of blankets and ample sturdy (yet lovely) teak loungers (you can purchase one). The only time you are allowed up on the very front part of the bow is at Glacier Bay. The rest of the time you go just inside. You can go all the way to the stern.
A side note about cleanliness. There are many men devoted to polishing the public areas, but we found our bathroom handle and door to the cabin grimy and sticky. I cleaned it with an antibacterial wipe they offer in the public restroom. Every morning around 6 a.m. they walk a catwalk outside the bedroom window to clean the liferafts. Be sure to close your curtains before going to sleep. It is unpleasant to find them gawking in as you wake.
General notes: You will have many many times where photogs will be scrambling to take your pic.. You will be given many opportunities to buy things like jewelry and other things you did not know you needed. You will pay for seminars that do not involve something being sold to you, the classes were unbelievable dull, but the lectures on wildlife were the ship's highlight as far as entertainment value goes. It was free. There is a TV in room where you can watch the view from the stern and one from the bow of the boat. I watched that a lot. There is also a channel with revolving screens providing ship info. Like very general track, ship's speed, time, air temp, sea conditions... I liked that. What would have made it even better would have been a sort of GPS display instead of they far off general map they use. I wanted to know what body of water I was in and what I was looking at land wise. Also there was very little offerings over the loud speaker about what we were looking at. Many folks were annoyed by that especially at Glacier Bay. Also, speaking of loudspeaker announcements, during the first night they did an evening crew safety drill. The man announcing it could not speak easily understood English and I could hear a commotion of folks in the hallway wondering if there was an emergency (they sounded alarm). The captain had to get on and tell people it was for the crew to go to muster stations and not for passengers.
I won't get into what is to do at each port of call since I have seen other descriptions that would be far superior to mine. I will speak generally about them. I loved each stop, but then again our weather was absolute perfection. Getting on and off the boat was a cinch even the day we used tenders. They were tender towards those with disabilities. I thought that was nice to see. Some gangway security fellow was rude to my mom. I did not witness it, but she was fairly hot about it. Personally, outside big excursions, I would wait until I got to port to book it. If the weather is bad what is the point of shelling out tons of money to appreciate a view shrouded in clouds. The tour groups are plentiful at dock and the prices seem better with an addition of competition. Each town is enjoyable and the locals surprisingly accommodating considering the ships probably double town population and we wander around dazed and into traffic. There is always an exception to the kindness of locals. Best to brush it off and get over it. A small thing about one of the stops... Victoria at 6p.m.? Really? Why bother? The brochure sez no trip to Victoria is complete without a trip to Butchart Gardens... but it is night? Also the ship docks outside of Victoria and you have to hoof it a mile and a half or bus in. Stores are closed and areas of town can be dangerous and crowded with bums, beggars and drug addicts roaming in the shadows. A walk on the jetty and back to the boat is better.
What else? Highlights: Glacier Bay. Amazing even without calving. Good binoculars are a must as is a good camera. I brought binocs with image stabilizer. Great for bear spotting. The wildlife lecture. The guy giving it was interesting and entertainment and lots of the pics he used were his own. He should have been providing running loud speaker commentary in Glacier Bay or at least doing a deck walk about answering questions on the fly.
Disembarkation: You fill out a form prior to cruising with your departure particulars and are assigned a color/number ticket corresponding to travel urgency. You wait for that color number to be called and you proceed to gangway. Easy and orderly. I was last off since I was in no hurry. My room attendant was not pleased that we were last off and demanded we vacate the room. You can opt to have express checkout of sorts where you get off first and bags are transported to the airport for you and checked on to the flight. It is a pay service, but a nice touch I thought. Big bags are put out in the hall the night before for collection and await you in the port. I elected to carry mine down since I packed lightly. I was glad for it. There was a minor scrum to get aboard Grey Line busses to the airport and the ticket taker seemed confused when I gave her an online confirmation ticket versus one bought through the cruise line. I had to stand there and explain it. If it were raining I would not have been so patient. Grey Line driver was pleasant and entertaining. A nice way to end a cruise. Follow the admonition about breakable goods in the luggage on the outbound portion if going Grey Line. They are the same tossers used for the inbounders.
OK That's all she wrote.
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