We loved this cruise.
First some information about why we did this cruise. My wife always wanted to cruise and to go to Alaska, while I was very skeptical of cruises in general. As
a long haul plane/car/bus/train/ferry/backpack traveler I thought a cruise would be too boring, but she chose the one way Northbound which would sail on 5/27/2018 and I wanted to try the experience after all. She said that the best cruises sail out of Vancouver, while those that sail out of Seattle have more open sea navigation and are subject to rough weather and sea. Also, the one way cruises allows you to see more ports instead of spending time going back to the port where you left and on a 7 days cruise "time is short". We finally bought the cruise and airplane tickets with me more and more skeptical and her more and more excited as the date of the sailing approached.
CHECK IN and EMBARKATION were quite easy. We dropped our luggage, but it was not immediately clear where to drop it. We eventually found the right place. We had 1 small backpack each and shared a 1 big 29 inch luggage. The terminal Canada Place in Vancouver is quite big and is near a not so good neighborhood in Vancouver. There was some waiting time inside the terminal and some briefing done in groups. Then some more waiting time standing in line for the immigration and passport check which was somewhat more than a waiting time for the TSA at JFK, ATL or major airports in Europe by my experience. We did not have priority boarding and there was a long line of people in front of us. After all, it was not that bad and we were in good mood. I did not see dramas or stress in the people around us. Actually people were very chatty and seemed very happy and wanted to meet new friends like on a school trip.
SHIP and PASSENGERS: The ship is big, but not as big as one of the latest generation behemoths. Big enough to have multiple choices on board, but not so big that one feels lost. Most passengers were Americans, but there were several Europeans and Asians. The crew was international with most of the waiters and cabin stewards and hostesses from Indonesia or South East Asia. Captain was British. The vast majority of the passengers were older people, with some younger and young couples. This ship has been refurbished in 2017 and can carry about 2000 passengers.
CABIN: Our suite cabin was nice and large enough. There was a queen size bed, a sofa with a coffee table, a desk, a flat screen smart TV and enough closet space. Our balcony was wide enough and we liked having a view of the sea. I also used it to take many pictures from the balcony during navigation and especially on the last day which was in open sea. We saw a lot of marine life. Weather was good and this contributed to me staying outside quite a bit during navigation. I also took a nap outside with my jacket on on one of the reclining chairs. Our two cabin stewards Subianto and Andri were very friendly, always smiling and courteous. Our cabin had a bathroom with separate shower box and Jacuzzi-like bathtub which my wife loved, double sink and big mirror.
FOOD: Food was good. Portions on the MDR and buffet were small and there were only a few plated dishes available at the time, but as a couple of them were taken, a few more were added for other passengers to take. Some of the dishes were self serve and some others were served, like meats and other hot dishes. The system seemed to me very efficient and avoided a good bit of waste by making sure not more that is needed is shown to the passengers. We liked the taco bar near the pool. We tried the burgers, but with most of the better and healthier food downstairs in the MDR and buffet, we went there most of the time. Also there was quite a bit of a waiting time and they gave you a buzzer that lighted up and vibrated when your burger was ready. We tried the Pinnacle Grill (Lucy was our good waitress) and the Canaletto (very good). Dining hours were oriented towards early lunch and dinner times and there was a somewhat inconvenient; almost a food black out between 9 and 10:30 which is our usual dinner time. I know that's late! There was some pizza available and a few other items during that time. The most smiling and friendly in the MDR Vista seemed this particular server called Michael Pena and I wrote his name down. MDR was full but we always found a table for us. Line was orderly and polite. We ordered food in our cabin a couple of times and on the last day since our debarkation time was early.
AMENITIES, ACTIVITIES and ENTERTAINMENT: We went to the main theater to see some shows and we liked James Cielen the magician and Mike Siegel the comic. Less the love songs Broadway show. We sat at the Piano Duel room with Trevor and Emily who entertained passengers singing and playing piano. We also listened to a classical music concert once and the blues rock live band. There is a lot of selling and some upselling, from jewelry to art, to tour packages, to photos, and souvenirs. The lectures were finalized to have people purchase something at the end. I guess this is part of the business. I spent quite some time in the main promenade walking towards my daily steps goal before dinner time, more than attending lectures. My wife spent time in the cabin resting or in the whirlpool bathtub. We watched a few movies in our stateroom during the cruise. Fun and annoying thing is that the movie "Bladerunner" kept stopping at the same point during the last part like the TV was running out of memory or something like this and we could not see the end of it.
ITINERARY: Vancouver, Inside Passage (great), Ketchikan (fun lumberjack show and totems in the town), Juneau (a great whale watching tour and 2 local museums), Skagway (our scenic train ride was cancelled because of a landslide on the train tracks, so we did a tour of the town and a saw small theater show), Glacier Bay (4 hours including 2 hours in front of a calving glacier), open sea navigation (lots of marine life including whales, sea lions and a few birds) and ended in Seward. Itinerary was good and we chose this one on the one way Northbound because we could see more places than a round trip cruise. We ended in Seward and took a bus to Anchorage with ACT Transportation who stopped along the route to many places (Exit Glacier, Alyeska aerial tramway, a wildlife refuge and a tour of Anchorage). The bus company provided us with lunch. We purchased all this but the Seward-Anchorage transfer through the cruise line. Most of the tour operators are in sync with the cruise lines arrivals and departures, but it was more convenient for us having the tickets printed and delivered to our cabin and after all the price was the same.
CONCLUSION: We really liked this cruise. I did not have many expectations and I did not cruise before, so I did not even have anything to compare this to. I was surprised at how much I liked almost everything. Ship was nice, our cabin was nice too, service was very good, we liked the food and dining especially at the Canaletto and Pinnacle restaurants. We really enjoyed the ports visited, the itinerary and the shore excursions, which were the main reasons for this trip.
On the minus side the early dining times and all the many selling attempts were the two things we did not like. Entertainment could have been a little better, but it was fine.