This was my first cruise, and I went in with very few expectations. I was traveling in a group of 25, for my grandparents anniversary. We were a good mix of ages, with some kids around 10, a handful in their 20s, the parents in their ... Read More
This was my first cruise, and I went in with very few expectations. I was traveling in a group of 25, for my grandparents anniversary. We were a good mix of ages, with some kids around 10, a handful in their 20s, the parents in their 40s/50s, and then the grandparents and a couple of their own friends. It was because we had such a large group that this cruise was fun, someone was always willing to do something with you.
Embarkation was a breeze, we showed up at 12pm at the dock in Seattle and were on board within 30 minutes. As we expected the buffet was a zoo, and we found a cozy spot in the additional seating area in La Cucina that ended up being our main go-to place to sit when we went to the buffet. I highly recommend hitting the pool on the first day, its pretty much the only day we were able to comfortably be in the water. The whole family was on the deck drinking and dancing, it was great. At least two people in every cabin had the unlimited beverage package, and the servers in general were happy to give up to two, sometimes more drinks per card, so everyone was able to drink for free during the course of the trip. The only hiccup we had here was in the Brazilian Steakhouse where they only let us charge drinks to the person who had the card. Some staff at OSheans were a bit testy about this as well, but I think it only happened twice.
Food on the cruise overall was average at best. The buffet is probably the safest way to go because you can always find something you like. At the sit-down places like Tsars and Azura, plates are very hit or miss. My medium rate strip steak was a disaster. No flavor, no seasoning. It must rank among some of the worst beef I have ever eaten. I have better tasting beef in economy class international flights. Several times some of our group members went to the buffet *after* the sit down place to fill up. In buffet the Indian food was always quite good, sweet potato burrito was memorable, as was the turkey sandwich with ricotta. Crepe station was really tasty, getting the chocolate fondue mixed w sour cherry compote was a highlight. The appetizers at the paid Brazilian Steakhouse were amazing, the meat was meh. Probably not worth the cover charge. OSheans was a great spot, all of their food was quite good, we usually ended up grabbing snacks and beers there every day, and especially hit it up after late night dancing/entertainment at Spinnaker. Pound cake was excellent.
The ship itself is old and somewhat outdated, which didn't bother me much, but its without many public places to relax and spend time at. Mostly bars, which didn't bother me much! The children's activities seemed way too cheesy for our kids, so they just stayed with us the whole time, which ended up being fine. Library and game room fill up super quickly. The library literally has only 4 tables to work at, so I ended up doing my work in restaurants with my laptop. Gym fills up early in the morning, but thin out pretty quickly. Its a nice gym, if a bit musty. It was always a little confusing for me to find a public bathroom or a trashbin. While dated decor-wise, the ship was clean and well maintained. Towards the end of the trip, deck 9 aft smelled like sewerage in the hallway. The staff regularly came and "refreshed" the hallway with airfreshener, doing the best they could. I appreciated the effort.
Entertainment was good. We enjoyed JP the comedian/magician and Rob Long the comedian. They were sharp and funny. Fire and Ice musical impersonations, especially Michael Jackson were a highlight. We really didn't take advantage of entertainment/activities until the night time; I didn't appreciate the Ciruqe-esque shows nor the acrobatics, but thats just me, most of the family liked them. If you're a night owl, Spinnaker lounge is really fun to listen to music, grab drinks, and dance the night away. The best views of the icebergs and sunset are seen here too.
Service was average. I had the impression that cruise ship staff go above and beyond the call of duty and can be almost saccharine in their demeanor, but I didn't find this to be the case at all. Everyone was courteous , but nothing out of the ordinary. Our room was always made up very quickly, which I deeply appreciated.
The Ports were quite fun. In Ketchikan, we were lazy and just walked around the town and got some local food. The self guided walking tour is really good and there are several museums you can check out. As soon as you get off the boat just go to the visitors center and get a map from the helpful staff there. Interesting history of prostitution and frontier life in this town.
In Juneau, we saw the Mendelhall glacier, for a 30$ round trip shuttle, I bargained down from 35$ since we had a large group. I recommend this excursion, and that you take the trail to the falls. It takes about 1.5 hours total from leaving Juneau to getting back to the shuttle station, we were a bit rushed and didnt get the time to check out the visitors center as long as I like because we were running out of time to get on the boat. Good food in Juneau, get the crab bisque from the main crab shack. Avoid the Red Dog Saloon, I found the staff to be abrasive and rude not to just our party, but to many others that were on our cruise.
In Skagway, half of us walked the town and the other half did a bus tour that mirrored the train. Bus folks loved their tour, we loved walking the town. Library has a good museum with really wonderful artifacts. Check out the Skagway Fish Company for lunch. It is expensive, but well well worth it. The mussels and crab were the best I have had in my life. Spicy, but worth the burn! We got to the boat 1 minute before our call time, and were really ashamed to be so late. The fun part however was watching other people from our balcony come on to the boat later than us. It felt like half of our side of the boat was on their balconies "cheering on" the latecomers.
I stayed on the boat in Victoria with a few others. Family went to Buchart gardens and liked it. For this port, you arrive at around 3pm (rather than early morning) so everyone is trying to get off the boat at the same time. Don't wait in line. Head up to OSheans and relax and wait for the line to die down around 4, and walk right off the ship.
We bought the unlimited internet package and were happy that we did. The speed was more than satisfactory and while I am not sure I can say it was "worth" the money, I'm very happy we had connection. We got our bill every other day and were not hit with any "surprise" charges during the course of the trip that we need to later rectify.
Getting off the cruise was pretty simple, we chose to carry our bags and walk off. Took an uber to the airport and that was that.
-do your duty free shopping early, we didn't realize that it would be open only for an hour on the last day
-you get charged tax for your beverages as you leave Seattle and are in American waters. Its not much, (maybe 80 cents to a dollar a drink) but some people were not happy to see that charge
-bring dramamine. we had one night where very few people got a full nights sleep because the boat was rocking so hard. I suppose this is something to note, the boat *does* sway a bit during the day and at night it is certainly noticeable as you're trying to doze off.
-Buy super strong magnets from Amazon. The walls are magnetic and its really handy to have extra hooks (thanks cruisetips tv!)
Overall I'm glad we took this trip, but given how expensive it was and considering value for money, I don't think I would do this cruise itinerary again, and certainly wouldn't go on this ship. Read Less