We had scheduled the Mendenhall Glacier, Whale Watching & Wildlife Quest (JU40). The tickets had us meeting in the theater. They issue everyone there a number that corresponds to the excursion that you have booked. Then the sitting and waiting started. I knew from reading the reviews that the tour timing was tight and that if you wanted to get to Nugget Falls and up next to the Glacier you would need to walk at a reasonable pace, but it should have been doable.
By the time we got off the ship and to the bus we were running over an hour late. When we finally arrived at the Mendenhall Glacier the '12 year old bus driver' (his words and he didn’t look much older, although he said he was actually 22 in college and this was his 2nd year driving the tour bus there) said that we would have to be back to get on the bus at 4:45. There are only 5 bus spots at the Glacier visitor center and it was so crowded that we got dropped off in another spot and walked from there. The driver let us know that he wouldn’t wait if you weren’t back in time and would leave even if everyone wasn’t back to make it to the whale watch. When I was getting off the bus I told the driver I intended to make it to the water fall and glacier and he said I wouldn’t make it.
We got off the bus just after 4:00 and that left less than 45 minutes for all of us at the Glacier visitor center. I decided that I would make it to the falls and glacier. I literally ran for a good part of it getting there leaving my wife behind as she was walking as fast as she could. I made it to the Glacier and Falls and took a couple of quick pictures. Then I started the run back. I met my wife on the trail and we found a spot to get a couple of quick pictures of us with the Glacier and Falls off in the background. When we got back on the bus others said they didn’t even get to see the short video in the visitors center as it is shown at scheduled times. At 4:45 there were still 2 people missing and the driver started to pull away as the 2 came running up to the door, so they just made it. It didn’t help that there were 4 cruise ships in Juneau that day either, making the visitors center very crowded.
Then it was off to the Whale watching portion of the trip. That part went well. We saw sea lions, bald eagles and orcas. We were told that they normally don’t see orcas on the trip and mostly see humpback whales, which we didn’t see any humpbacks. The boat had 3 levels (2 enclosed areas with seats) they also provide binoculars to use on the boat. Nice boat (they have several boats, all look to be the same) and crew. Plenty of good picture taking opportunities on the trip.
When we got back to the dock it was about 8:30 PM (later than we were supposed to get back) and meaning we really couldn’t go to a restaurant in town. One had been recommended, but it was too late for that. By the time we got a tender back to the ship and through the metal detectors it was just after 9:00 PM. We went up to the main dining room and they did seat us. I let them know that there were many others in line waiting to get back to the ship. She got on her radio and told them to keep resetting tables until 10:00 PM. That was nice since the cruise line had so badly botched getting everyone off and back on the ship on time. Although they should have announced that they were still seating people for dinner. We talked to another couple the next day and they just figured that since it was after 9:00 when they got back that they would just have to eat dinner at the buffet on deck 14.
So, ½ the excursion was really pretty good, but the first part was a complete waste for at least most of those who went on it. When I went to complain at the excursion desk, they had obviously heard from others as they immediately credited my account for a 30% discount. I probably should have argued for at least a 50% discount, but I didn’t want to waste my time. I also figured I would be letting anyone who checks the reviews read about it and make their own decision on what to do or not do in this case.
Read BBMU's full Celebrity Solstice cruise review