We chose this cruise because of the wonderful ports of call in AK and CAN. We ended up with fantastic weather which made the cruise even better. We had extended time in most of the ports of call. Our favorites were Juneau, Ketchikan, and Victoria. Icy Strait Point does not offer a lot if not doing an excursion. The town of Hoonah is close by, but transportation there and back was challenging (no bus drivers available). It's just a town and not geared toward tourism, so nothing to do or see.
The age of the ship showed itself in the dated decor and constantly faulty toilets. The one perk was that an inside stateroom on this older ship was bigger than more modern ships. Our biggest complaint was the SLOW service both being seated in the MDR (no reservations were available) and once seated. It took 2 hours to get through the main course and we had to skip dessert on a couple of occasions to make it to the show in time. The buffet left a lot to be desired. Very cramped space and not that many options compared to other cruise lines. The theater is quite small without a balcony, and, even with 2 shows every night, cannot accommodate a full ship. We had to stand in the back of the theater to watch one of the production shows.
The cabin was quite large for an inside cabin with lots of closet space. The bed was very comfortable with good pillows. Shower had good water pressure. They have motion-sensor lights on the nightstands and in the closet area outside the bathroom. While this sounds good, in theory, it actually was distracting and kept us awake. If one person went to the bathroom at night, the whole room lit up. Sometimes the closet light would go on in the middle of the night if the hangers moved with the motion of the ship.
We took the free shuttle from the cruise port into the town, which had a pedestrian area on the main street. We were able to go inside the Russian Orthodox church (which had limited hours), walk up the hill for a view, and wander the downtown area. We wanted to go to the Fortress of the Bear, which is outside of the town, but after calling ALL of the shuttle and taxi services in town, couldn't get a ride. This might be better if planned ahead of time. We were able to walk along the waterfront to the Sitka National Historical Park, which had trails lined with totem poles. We exited the other side of the park and walked about 300 meters to the Raptor Center, which was interesting. As we were there on a Sunday, restaurants and pubs in the town closed early, but there is a pub at the cruise port. We had to wait in a long line at the library for the shuttle bus back to the cruise port.
We didn't have any rain, but we also didn't have any sun. Therefore, it was very foggy and we were unable to see/hear the glacier calving. We were able to get fairly close. We also had hoped to see some animals nearby, but nothing. This is a hit or miss kind of thing.
We were able to walk right off the ship and into the town, which is about 4 blocks long. The free museum associated with the visitors center was well done and provide a history of the area. We purchased tickets for the White Pass & Yukon Railway at the station. They had several going each day for the same price (or a little less) than what the cruise ship was charging. The one advantage of purchasing it as a cruise excursion was that the train pulls up to each ship. However, it's really not that far to the train station. The train took us through beautiful landscapes all the way into Canada (no passport needed) and then turned around and back the way it came. It was a 2.5-hour trip. In the town, we also explored the Moore House and had a drink at the Red Onion. It was not nearly as packed later in the afternoon (3 deep to the bar at lunch time).
Because there were 5 ships in port, our ship's had to tender to shore while the others were docked. Tender operations were suspended for 40 minutes later in the day due to another ship leaving. Fortunately, we were in this port later in the evening. We considered taking the public bus ($2pp/each way) to Mendenhall Glacier, but it drops off on the main road and requires another 1.5-mile walk to the visitor center. So we opted to pay $45pp roundtrip purchased at one of the many vendors on the pier. Once at the glacier, we walked to Nuggets Falls and back (2 miles round trip) and then to various photo spots. Spent a little time in the visitors center and caught the bus back. We walked around the downtown area with shops and restaurants. Took the free shuttle from Alaskan Brewery restaurant to the brewery's tasting room about 10 minutes away. We really enjoyed trying flights of beer and ordered food from a food truck next door, which delivered to the tasting room's back courtyard. The free shuttle brought us back 1.5 hours later.
While I appreciate that the local Tlingit community worked with the cruise lines to create this port, there's not much going on here, and I'd skip it in the future. After walking off the ship, there are two gondolas. The one on the left costs $50, I think, to go to the top of the mountain where there is very expensive zip lining. The one on the right is FREE and goes across the other side of the mountain to the fishing area. There was an old cannery converted into a museum/shops, a couple of restaurants, and a cultural center that performed shows at a cost. Hoonah, a Tlingit town, is only 1.5 miles away. Some people walked there and back. We purchased round trip shuttle tickets for $5pp. However, we had to wait 45 minutes as only one bus was running (the rest of the local drivers were operating tours for the ships). Once in Hoonah, we had a drink at the local brewery ($8/beer), but I think there might have been a local pub with cheaper drinks. There were a couple of souvenir shops, but the town is just that...a town, not a tourist site. We waited 45 minutes to get a ride back as the bus driver left for the day, and we had to rely on the kindness of a tour operator to pick us up.
We were able to walk off the boat and were right in the downtown area of Ketchikan. I downloaded a free walking tour of Ketchikan ahead of time, and we used that to guide us around. We crossed over to Creek Street, the home to a stretch of former brothels and now shops. We walked along the river/creek to see the salmon ladder. We looped around the waterfront and to the Totem Pole Heritage Center, which was only $6 pp and worth it to see a little more about the history and culture behind the totem poles we had seen throughout our trip. Once back to the main part of town, we ended at Asylum Bar on Water Street, where we were hosted by a quirky bartender/owner and had a lovely time sitting in the beer garden.
We had a long day in Victoria. There were paid shuttle buses and pedicabs available, but we opted to walk 30 minutes to the downtown part of the city. On the way, we passed Fishermen's Wharf, a very cute little area with floating houses and businesses. A great place to get a beer, ice cream, or meal. In the downtown, we did a self-guided tour of the Parliament building, but free guided tours were also available. We went inside the Empress Hotel, which was very large on the outside (not that exciting inside). Then we walked down Government Street with shops and restaurants, along the wharf, and then to Chinatown and Fan-tan Alley.
We cruised out of and into Vancouver. The cruise port is easy to get to via the SkyTrain (Waterfront Station). You can ride SkyTrain and city buses using a Compass card, which you load with money and provides a reduced fare. Ferries do not use the Compass Card. All of these modes of transportation can also be purchased using a credit card on the bus or ferry, etc.
We were able to drop our luggage at the cruise port upon our arrival and take a free (tip-based) walking tour of the downtown area that left right from Canada's Place. When we returned, we took the False Creek Ferry to Granville Island (historic buildings with shops, restaurants, and a public market), continued on the ferry to Yaletown (trendy area with restaurants and services). We spent happy hour at the Yaletown Brewery. We bused to Chinatown. However, the Chinese garden was closed on Tuesday, the day we were there. We didn't find a lot to do or see there. Gastown has lots of restaurants and the 1970s steam clock. We took a free shuttle bus from Canada's Place to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Tickets were pretty pricey (about $50 US), but worth it. Midweek, midday was not too crowded. Able to maneuver through the treetop course, cliff walk, and nature walk easily. Once back to the city, took public bus #19 into Stanley Park. The looping train and shuttles are no longer in service so the only way to see it is via the Hop on/Hop off, renting bikes (6 mi loop), or by foot. We opted to walk around and see just a small portion of the park, including the sea wall on the cruise ship side of the harbor, the rock garden, and rose garden. We ended our time in Vancouver along English Bay in the West End, where there is a nice beach and variety of restaurants. Would recommend CRAFT Beer Market.