We are from Montreal, Quebec so we know what winter, snow and cold weather mean. So when I told my husband that I wanted to go to Alaska for the summer he was a little bit hard to convince. But we did no regret the trip at all. there were six of us: my husband and I, our daughter, my niece, my mom and my aunt who flew all the way from France. We flew the day before from Montreal to Vancouver and stayed at the Sandman Signature Suites near the airport. The hotel offers a shuttle that take us from the airport to hotel and back. That was very convenient. The hotel is nice but ask for a room that does not face the highway if you go. It gets noisy early in the morning due to the traffic. The next day, the shuttle takes us to the airport with plenty of time to spare and we flew to Anchorage Int'l Airport. We booked transfer with an independent company named Aurora Limousines in Alaska. They sent a bus and a trailer to pick us up at the airport. They are on time and quite efficient. The only thing is, they required a deposit and full payment even before you get there. Everything is OK but when I got back home and check my credit card statement, I realized that they charged us twice. I have been trying to call them but it is very hard to get to talk to someone and when finally I got hold of the owner, Howard, he was in a rush. He said he will get back to me in a few days but I hoped that things will be straighten out soon. I'll have to get back to you guys on that...This is our 7th cruise (3rd with Carnival)so we are familiar with the embarkation stuffs. We boarded in Whittier. It rained and foggy so we were wet and cold and miserable. The Spirit is nice and clean with plenty of public room. It never seems to be crowded. Maybe it is because it is an Alaskan cruise not a caribbean cruise so people tends to do more things that just lying around the pool. Also , the age average of this cruise is older. You see kids but not tons of them. There are also no young adults trying to get drunk to impress the girls. The people on this boat are here for the scenery and the beauty of Alaska and not for the partying and the booze... The food is good but after a few cruise with carnival, you have the same menu coming back like clockwork. One thing that got us disappointed is there is no seafood that comes from Alaska.Even the salmon came from I don't know where but it is not the fresh wild salmon that is the trademark of Alaska. The balcony cabin that we booked was nice (we booked a balcony once on Disney cruise and since then can never go back to an inside cabin). It is convenient to have your coffee and breakfast and look at the scenery that passes by without having to go to deck 9 or 10.
I don't want to get in more details about the boat since all the carnival ships are more or less the same. I want to tell you more about the ports of call. We always booked our excursions with independent tours operators since that the only way that the money spent will go back to the community.
In Sitka, we booked with Sitka Sound Tours (Jim Seeland). Since there were six of us, we were able to have the whole boat to ourselves. Jim took us to see whales, otters and puffins for less than what the Carnival tours charge. We saw tons of whales. They were so close that we thought they will hit the boat. I highly recommend this tours. Jim is very knowledgeable and reliable. He was right there at the time and place he said he will be. In Juneau, we booked the helicopter ride to the Hebert glacier and the sled dog ride. We booked through Dolly Varden tours in January to make sure that we got the time that we wanted. I highly recommended this tour. It is amazing to see the glacier from high up and then land in the dog camp. My daughter and niece loved the whole thing and will not hesitate to do it again (even a the high cost of $450 US+tx per person). In Skagway, we did the Liarville Gold rush and salmon bake. It was nice but a little pricey for what they offer (a lunch with salmon...) but we did not wanted to sit 3 hours in a train with kid ans teenager. We shop a little bit but did not find anything that we can not find in the other ports. In ketchikan, we did not booked any tours and just walked around town. My husband bought some Vodka at the Alaska Duty Free shop for $5/bottle of 1 liter. He said that In Montreal, he would have pay around $30 for them.