Carnival Spirit Cruise Review by borq57
- Sail Date: June 2009
- Destination: Alaska
- Cabin Type: Balcony
We flew Delta from Atlanta to Salt Lake City to Anchorage on Monday the 15th. We used FF miles and booked Business Class the whole way. A good breakfast on one flight and a decent lunch on the other. We arrived in Anchorage at about 2:15 pm, and the view from the plane was gorgeous as we approached. The sky was nearly clear of clouds, and my wife got beautiful phone pictures of the glaciers.
We got a cab and proceeded to the Westmark downtown (it's where the Delta flight crews stay). The cost of the taxi with 20% tip was $23.00. We have a friend who lives in Anchorage, so we took her to dinner, and she drove us to several of the sites around the city. On the drive we saw 4 doll sheep (two within 30 feet) and a cow moose less than 100 feet away in a bog area. We finally got to sleep about 4:00 am Atlanta time (midnight).
On Tuesday, we rented a car from Avis - pickup point was 4 blocks from the hotel. The Camry was comfortable and roomy for our planned trip to Seward. The drive was beautiful along the Turnagain Arm and through the mountains. We stopped at Portage Glacier and Exit Glacier before arriving in Seward. We had lunch in town - we had never had rockfish before and it was great. At 3:30 pm we boarded a boat with Renown Tours for a 3-hr nature watching tour. We got beautiful pictures of the Bear Glacier (mammoth), whales, puffins, sea otters, sea lions. We've never seen so many birds in one place. The captain was very informative and funny on the trip. We picked up some wine at the Safeway there for onboard, and then drove back to Anchorage and crashed for the night.
Wednesday morning, we had breakfast in the hotel and walked around downtown Anchorage, hitting all the souvenir shops. Alaska Cruise Transfers and Tours picked us up at 12:30 pm for the drive to Whittier - the cost was $45/person and had a wonderful narrative along the way. We had a 30 minute wait at the tunnel, and arrived at the pier at 3:15 pm. It took us about 20 minutes to get onboard, and our luggage arrived at the door 15 minutes after we did. We had a balcony cabin midship on the port side Upper Deck. We went to dinner at about 7:00 pm and were seated immediately (anytime dining). They asked if we would mind sharing a table, so we sat at a table for six - no one sat with us and I had definitely showered that day. The meal was good, and the service was excellent (each meal in the dining room we asked to share a table - it was a wonderful way to meet new people each time we dined). We went back to the room and sat on the balcony relaxing. The tunnel was closed for 1.5 hours due to a motorcycle wreck and there were delayed arrivals, so the ship didn't sail until about 10:15 pm.
Thursday was College Fjord and a sea day. Beautiful scenery. Dinner that night was cruise elegant, so I wore a coat and tie and my wife dressed fittingly and beautifully. We noted that many men wore just dress shirt and tie - some wore jeans. Also, cowboy hats in the dining room really turn me off.
Friday we arrived in Sitka. We had not been there before. The tenders seemed to take forever to get from ship to dock. It was an interesting town. We walked the town and saw the major attractions in town, and then decided to walk to the Raptor Center. On the way, we went in a beautiful little church (St Peter's by the Sea), had beautiful views of the Spirit through the harbor, stopped at the fish hatchery, viewed the totem poles, walked through the National Forest, and arrived at the Raptor Center. Worth the price of admission. What these people do for injured raptors is truly amazing with the ultimate goal of releasing them back to the wild. Up close with eagles (bald and golden), hawks, peregrine falcon, owls, etc is a rewarding experience. We walked back to town, and had a late lunch (halibut) at the Westmark hotel restaurant. No excursion there - just a nice walkable town.
Juneau was on Saturday. We walked around town seeing all the jewelers and had a mandatory drink in the famous Saloon. We walked back to the dock and boarded a bus to take us to our 1:00 pm whale watching excursion and salmon feast we had booked through CCL. The boat was a two-level craft with lots of open space. Within 40 minutes, we saw a mother humpback and her calf cavorting in the waters. They were surface feeding and breaching for the full 30 minutes we were allowed to stay with them. Interestingly, Capt Larry was there at the same time. I believe the considerably higher boat we were on allowed a better angle for much better viewing and photography with no noticeable crowding at the rails. We photographed two other humpbacks, sea lions, eagles, and awesome views of Herbert and Mendenhall glaciers. We went back to Juneau for the salmon eat and were not disappointed. Salmon and chicken grilled perfectly with all the side dishes you could want. The area was picturesque with a beautiful waterfall - reminded us of Liarsville in Skagway.
Sunday morning we arrived in Skagway. On our previous trips we had ridden the White Pass Railway up the mountains to Fisher in British Columbia (a must if you've never done it), so this time we rented a Camry from Avis and drove to the Yukon. The drive is beyond awesome - nothing compares to the scenery you view. We stopped in Carcross for ice cream at Matthew Watson's - an interesting store and good ice cream. It was Aboriginal Day in Carcross,, so we were fortunate to see many people in Native attire and the Mounties were in full dress. We drove on to Emerald Lake with a stop at the sand desert area along the way. The drive back to Skagway was similarly stunning scenery. If you do this drive, watch the speed limit. We saw 4 Skagway police radar units on the descent from British Columbia to Skagway. We got back to Skagway around 2:30 pm, walked the town, and easily got back on the ship with plenty of time to spare. It was extremely windy on the walk back. When we departed, the Captain said that the wind was 30 knots and we were travelling 20 knots directly into the wind, so the actual wind on the balcony was in the neighborhood of 50 knots. Once again, great scenery and the naturalist Michelle had interesting tidbits of info along the way to Ketchikan.
We arrived in Ketchikan at 11:00 am on Monday. We really like Ketchikan in spite of all the souvenir and jewelry stores. It's quaint. We visited the downtown stores and picked up all the freebies from the merchants. We walked back to the pier at 1:00 pm and boarded the bus to the George Inlet Lodge and Crab Feast excursion. When we got to the Lodge, we donned wet weather gear and went on a boat to pull up some crab pots. The first pot was filled with huge Dungeness crabs and a couple of starfish which we all handled before releasing them back in the water. Our guide, Paul, was very interesting and knowledgeable. When we returned to the lodge, they served all-you-can-eat crab. Our table overflowed the shell waste container, and the crab just kept on coming. On the return bus ride, we saw more bald eagles and huge salmon forcing their way up one of the creeks. We walked to Creek Street, the old brothel street, and watched a young man catching crab off the bridge - he caught three keepers while we were there. We then walked back to the ship, sort of dreading the fact that we would only have one more day aboard.
The Inside Passage was on Tuesday. Once again, the scenery was beautiful. We passed quaint lumbering towns, lots of fishing and sail boats, and some gorgeous oceanview homes. I did see two humpback whales from the balcony that were close enough to photograph.
Vancouver, Wednesday, debarkation. We had breakfast in the buffet, and departed our cabin reluctantly at 8:15 am. The cabin stewardess had told us we could stay til 8:30 without causing her any delay. Since we were staying in the city one night, we didn't need an early debarkation number. Ours was 28, and we were off the ship and on our way to the Park Inn at 9:45. We checked in and then walked to Granville Island in the light rain. This was the first day that was rainy. Granville Island is an interesting collection of fish and produce markets. We had our last halibut fish and chips for lunch on Granville Island and a great Indian dinner near the hotel.
Home on Thursday. We took a cab to the airport for our return Delta flights to Atlanta. It's nice to clear US Customs in the Vancouver airport. We had a short flight to Salt Lake City and then, with a 40 minute turnaround, on to Atlanta, with a very good dinner and wine in Business Class.
Service on the Spirit was very good. The dining room wait staff was exceptional - seemed to have time to talk and give advice. Our cabin stewardess was nearly invisible, but efficient; and, the towel animals were appreciated as always.
Food on board was also very good. We had breakfast in the room, at the buffet, and in the dining room - all very nice. Surprisingly, we never saw a crowded buffet area and never waited for a table in the dining room using anytime dining. Dinners at both the buffet and dining room were also good. The prime rib in both was very good, cooked medium rare the way it's supposed to be done. My wife thought the crème brulee was good, and she's a connoisseur when it comes to that dish.
The Entertainment started off poorly but got better as the week progressed. The first show routine was very poor - no energy, poor choreography. Then we went to the Blues Brothers show. Chris (the cruise director) and Mark (assistant) gave the best performance of the week - it was outstanding. Then, the final dance show was much more memorable. The comedians and so forth were average. And, the Legends Show was a great topping on the cruise.
Looking back, it was a great cruise - relaxing, fun, entertaining, and certainly memorable. The weather was unbelievably beautiful. We love Alaska, and the Carnival Spirit was a great way to visit.
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