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408 Royal Caribbean Vancouver Cruise Reviews

Serenade of the Seas - Aug. 29 thru Sept. 5th - Vancouver Started the trip from Houston to Seattle via SW airlines on a Thursday, giving us a few days in Seattle for sightseeing (no good air prices to Vancouver from Houston so we ... Read More
Serenade of the Seas - Aug. 29 thru Sept. 5th - Vancouver Started the trip from Houston to Seattle via SW airlines on a Thursday, giving us a few days in Seattle for sightseeing (no good air prices to Vancouver from Houston so we flew to Seattle ). Always love SW, no charge for bags and employee's are always friendly. A flight attendant that lives in Seattle gave us a list of restaurants for us to try. On our first evening we ate close to the hotel at Adobe (similar to Chipotle's). Good nights sleep at the Sheraton downtown, Priceline $90. On Friday we headed for Top Pot doughnuts near 3rd/Bell for the best doughnuts in town, we were not disappointed. Next Pikes Market, what wonderful produce and floral arrangements....cheap $5-$10 for a beautiful bunch of flowers. Ate lunch at the market in the square at the end of the market, lots of street performers and colorful singers to keep you entertained. We took the monorail to the space needle and a trip to the top to enjoy a 360 view of Seattle , $16ea. but a beautiful view. We took in a Seattle Mariners game Friday evening, beautiful stadium and the smell of garlic fries is still with me. On Saturday morning we took a cab $7 to the Amtrak station for an early train to Vancouver BC. If you've never taken a train it's definitely the way to go, lots of time to think and get your thoughts together while enjoying the beautiful trip from Seattle to Vancouver ($35pp one way). The train ride was a little late getting into Vancouver due to a couple in Bellingham Wa . Trying to run for the train, NOTE never run for a train arrive early this attempt delayed us 20min. No worries though we were not due to be on board ship till noon at the earliest. Vancouver....customs was a breeze off the train, a $25US taxi ride to the pier most of which was in line at the Balentyne cruise ship terminal, remember Vancouver has two piers Canada Place (new) and Balentyne (old)...NOTE, get the taxi driver to pull to the side and let you off if you have no trouble walking, only 100 yards and it'll save you $10 off the fare at the peak time. Vancouver drop off at the pier is one of the strangest I've ever seen, they make the taxis and buses back in slowing the process immensely. The process of boarding ran smoothly and very quickly compared to other ports we'd sailed from. Naturally we headed for the windjammer dining room since it had been hours since we'd eaten and we needed to get in shape for the week ahead. I'm sorry if you're looking for a long evaluation of the food on Serenade of the Seas, we ate all our meals at the windjammer neglecting the main dining room (Reflections). We've had a couple of bad experiences on the last several cruises with dining mates and waiters, so we've chosen to avoid the main dining rooms, besides they take too long and you spend too much of your vacation waiting on waiters. The food in the windjammer is of good quality and varies every day, lots of good salads and fruit, they can keep the sushi. The staff there is always happy to see someone and you can get lots of good conversations and information from this staff with a little friendly effort on your part. Serenade of the Seas ratings; Cruise director.....A Cruise Staff.........A Cabin Att............A+ Dining...............B Entertainment......B Tendering...........A Only one small problem kept arising and RCI is not at fault. There were just too many unsupervised children running the ship at all times. One even wandered into the casino into the area even adults are not allowed...behind the dealers. At dinner and breakfast we were always trying to find a quiet place to eat and it would never fail here's mom dad and little Johnny noise maker choosing to sit next to us. It would be ok if the parents instilled a little discipline in the kids teaching them how to act in public. Better get off this! First Day - At sea Tons of whales to watch for, the little ones are really fast and exciting to see for the first time. Second Day - Tracy Arm Fiord We got lucky today, sunshine weather and we got to see both sides of the Sawyer glacier thanks to our great captain. The second side which very few ships get to go to we actually saw the glacier cave in causing a charter boat to scurry away at the site, don't blame them. Third day - Icy Strait Point I have to admit, I was not sure going in what to expect from ISP, but we enjoyed a good hike to the town and another later in the day around the beach/zip liner area. NOTE...tours were not considered great and overpriced, the area's just getting started as a tourist destination, the people are very friendly though. Fourth Day - Skagway We took the train ride up to the mountain pass and back, for those that have never been before or never been to like Colorado or Utah train rides it is a good tour. For those that have been on tours like Salida Colorado , you can use the time for other things. We ate lunch back on the ship and went on an excursion booked a hike/float trip outside the ship through southwest tours a local agency in Skagway for $85pp, considerably less than the ship's price and we got a private float/hike. On the hike portion is where we got the thrill of a lifetime, not my wife's version. While hiking and observing nature we stumbled onto a brown bear eating salmon, we surprised him and he definitely surprised us. Our guide handled it coolly but did as she said pull her bear spray and pin out for the first time ever. This was her first real encounter for the year and the years almost over. We waited and made noise thinking that the bear had moved on we proceeded only to find he hadn't, we just kept making noise and got the heck out of there. We took the float portion back to near Skagway and a trip back to the ship with a story of a lifetime. Fifth Day - Juneau We took a float plane rid on Wings Air that was just great, you got to see plenty of the glaciers and wildlife areas around Juneau and the employees were great. I'd like to thank the 3 helicopter agencies in Juneau that charge 1.5 times the normal rate for a ride on their copters for turning me down. For those that don't know the chopper agencies all charge 1.5 times the price for someone over 250lbs or more, I'm a weightlifter in great shape for my age but 5lbs over their max allotment and not willing to diet on a cruise. I wrote e-mails to all 3 agency's and got a response from only one. They stand hard; even though my wife only weighs 100lbs they wouldn't budge on me or combine our weights like agencies did in Hawaii earlier this year. Anyway thanks, I had a great time on the floatplane and saved $$$. The Sixth Day - at sea Nice relaxing day to do all the things we wanted but didn't have the time to do, I love sea days. Packed late in the afternoon and enjoyed the peace and quiet. Seventh Day - Debarkation We left the ship at 7:30am for an early departure just as scheduled. Took Quickshuttle $35pp (bus service) back to Seattle for an early flight out the next morning. QS was a good experience, the driver makes stops so sitting for 3-4 hrs was not a hassle. The trip through customs went a little slower because we had New Zelanders on the bus entering the USA for the first time. Stayed ay Hilton Airport for the final night, eat out before you settle in for the evening. Delivery fees to the hotel and prices in general in Seattle are murder as far as eating goes. Great ship, great crew, great trip.... Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
My husband and I were extremely excited to take our first ever cruise. I had heard many good comments from friends etc about RCL, and comments here on CC were also pretty favorable. We arrived in Vancouver the evening of July 31 and ... Read More
My husband and I were extremely excited to take our first ever cruise. I had heard many good comments from friends etc about RCL, and comments here on CC were also pretty favorable. We arrived in Vancouver the evening of July 31 and stayed the night at a downtown hotel. Took a cab the next morning to the Ballentyne Pier and we were there shortly after 12 noon. The lineups to go through security, then US Customs all moved very smoothly, as well as the registration lineup. I think I counted 13 or 14 cruise line reps doing the passenger registrations. We weren't even on the ship when we encountered our first photo session. Arrival on the ship itself also proceeded smoothly. We had arrived before 1pm and the cabin hallways weren't open yet to passengers, so we headed up to the Windjammer for lunch. Wasn't terribly impressed with the food - it seemed rather ordinary and a little bland. We learned that day to avoid the iced tea - canadian iced tea is very different from US iced tea! We were very pleased with our stateroom and all the storage available - lots of cupboards and drawers. I had read on CC to take a power bar and I'm glad that I did. We had to get an extension cord from Guest Services for my husband's breathing machine and they were most accomodating. Our luggage arrived before 4 pm, then we attended the muster drill, then headed up to Deck 12 to watch the departure. It was very thrilling for me to be finally sailing away! Eventually the ship's horn was blasted as we left the Vancouver harbor and that was also exciting for me too - having seen it all in the movies! Day 2 was the open sea and it was a bit rough that day, but not enough to cause any ill feelings. We just "rolled" with it ! We kept ourselves busy exploring the ship, eating, drinking and just enjoying the experience. Dinner at Reflections was a great experience every evening - our waiter and assistant waiter and the bar waiter were all excellent! Day 3 - Monday saw us in Icy Strait Point. Weather was very smoky and hazy from the BC forest fires. We enjoyed the walk around town - didn't book an excursion as the port is very tiny - you can walk it all in 15 min. Nearly lost my camera's memory card when it fell out of the camera bag, through the slats in the dock, down into the brush below on the shore! We eventually found our way down to the spot and fortunately found the card... phew! Day 4 was Tracy Fjord Glacier and the Sawyer Glacier. The weather was fantastic and Captain Stig managed to get us in to see the Sawyer Glacier. We found out later that we were the FIRST SHIP ever to get in to see the glacier - usually the fjord is totally blocked by ice. But because of the warm weather , the Captain was able to make it. Something about the ship's thrusters being able to spin the ship 360 degrees also made it possible. Day 5 was Skagway and shopping. If you plan to buy diamonds, be sure you attend the ship's seminat about port shopping. If you go to Diamonds International, don't be afraid to haggle for the best price and ask to deal directly with a manager. We finally got a good price on a loose diamond. It's a cute town - lots of history there. We did an excursion to the Klondike Summit, Yukon Suspension bridge, then panning for gold - our driver was Audrey and she was fantastic! Weather was still very pleasant - still the smokey haze though. Day 6 was Juneau. We did the Glacier Gardens ( a great experience and beautiful to see), Mendenhall Glacier and McCauley Salmon hatchery - all very interesting. Weather was cloudier and still hazy but no rain! We weren't in Juneau as long as the ship only has a small window of time to leave the port due to the tides. Leaving even 2 minutes late can make for a tricky departure. Day 7 was at sea and we managed to keep ourselves occupied with bingo, various bits of entertainment etc. Tips - be sure you do your checkout Friday evening as Sat morning is a gong show! Watch your room account carefully on the TV channel and make sure there are no duplicate charges as I had heard of that happening more than once. Take a power bar as there is a big lack of outlets in the room. The ship's cruise directors were a great, fun bunch! Dennis Charles is the director and he's very talented! Overall we had a great experience for our first time cruise. So much, that we booked a second cruise for March 2011, on the new Oasis of the Seas to the western caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Let me just say that we loved everything about this cruise except for the cuisine. My wife and I are in our thirty's, from the south and were traveling as part of a manufacturers incentive program with aprox. 80 people from all ... Read More
Let me just say that we loved everything about this cruise except for the cuisine. My wife and I are in our thirty's, from the south and were traveling as part of a manufacturers incentive program with aprox. 80 people from all around the U.S.A. most of which we have never meet. Our travel day started at 2:30am EST Saturday the 8th of August leaving our home for the two hour drive to the airport for a 6:00am departure. Two flights and 2400 miles later we arrived in Vancouver at 12:15pm PST, the Vancouver airport was easy to navigate using the "USDirect" signs and the added convenience of Royal Caribbean's transfer program made going through customs and the 45 minute drive to the pier painless. We had a very short 35 minute layover in Detroit and I was worried about our luggage making the boat and since we were letting R.C. transfer our luggage the added worry of not being able to see our bags (which is clearly marked in all of your cruise documents) until they were delivered to our stateroom was a bit nerve racking but it worked like clockwork. Our bags showed up one by one and the last of four arrived about 6:00. What to wear seemed to be the biggest concern for my wife and I leading up to our cruise. Two people for this cruise should be able to pack every thing they need in two medium size suitcases and a garment bag. 1 suit with two dress shirts and two ties is the extent of the formal wear for any man. 3 pairs shorts, 3 pairs pants (khakis or blue jeans) half a dozen polo shirts, a few t-shirts, a swimsuit and enough under garments for the week is all you need. Really. As far as what a women should bring? You'll have to ask my wife. Our room was great, very clean with just the slightest beginnings of wear showing, Our stateroom attendant Marcelino was FANTASTIC!! He made our stay better and we made sure to show him our appreciation. On the first day we noticed that our refrigerator was not working, we called our stateroom attendant and he was there before I had stood up all the way, he, with my permission, removed the faulty unit and brought us different one as soon as they had one ready for us. The showers are very small but have great pressure and will get as hot as you need it too. The bed is better than a cot with nice linens and decent pillows. The love seat is just big enough for two people to sit but not really large enough to eat at. I will never cruise in a room without a balcony again, it really does make for a much more relaxed experience and would be well worth the money to me. I am the worst kind of smoker, an ex-smoker, I have not had a cigarette in two years and was worried that I would be inundated with smoke. This was not the case at all, the only place where it was an issue for me was in the casino which I spent very little time. One thing that R.C. does which really is nice, on Formal nights the casino is non-smoking, it seems that they have really thought this whole smoking thing through and are changing with the demand for more smoke free areas. The boat is great, we have only been on one prior cruise (the Carnival Holiday in'05) and know that that old tug is a far cry from the Serenade and I'm sure there are even nicer boats out there. After the Holiday experience we swore of cruising all together and figured a boat is a boat is a boat. Wrong! It really does make a huge difference, my wife who is prone to motion sickness was only ill for about 5 hours on the first morning because of 12'seas after that it was smooth sailing so to speak. The boat seemed very well kept, there was some maintenance going on but it was my no means an inconvenience to us. After a day or two the boat seemed easy enough to navigate and getting from one place to another was easy as long as you avoided the elevators during peak times. The company we were traveling with threw two cocktail receptions, both we very nice with hot hour d'oeuvres and a bar service with beer, wine, champagne and some cocktails. The R.C. staff was very professional at both events and made for very nice affairs. Speaking of cocktails, we were surprised at the very fair price of cocktails aboard the ship, Crown and ginger - Absolute and tonics both ran about $5.75ea and were pours like I do at home or better. I managed to keep my tilt on for most of the cruise for less then I had budgeted. We toured the spa and it was very attractive with what looked like clean and modern facilities, my wife did go for a polish change one afternoon which she had no problems scheduling at the last minute but that was the extent of our experience with the spa. The food. If you are familiar with Ryan's or The Golden Corral then you will know what to expect in the Windjammer, the dinning room was not much better but at least the service was nice. We went to Portofino's for dinner one night, my wife enjoyed her Halibut but my veal was, for lack of a better word, blah. I understand what a feat it is to pull off 19,000 meals a day on a boat but I really think it could have been better. Just my opinion but I thought the Carnival boat was leaps and bounds better as far as food goes then the R.C. ship. Tracy Arm Fjord. WOW!! I can not tell you how beautiful this was, the best way I can describe it is imagine if emerald green water flowed through the Rocky Mountains... with icebergs. For part of the day we sat all alone (which was nice) in the Safari Room which is on the very back of the boat watching as the icebergs hit us then rolled in to the wake of the ship. Very Cool. We saw two of the shows, the first was an English comedian that was brilliant and had everybody talking the next day, I am so glad I went to see him. The second was a musical number that my wife really enjoyed, I am not a big fan of musicals (hate is not to strong of a word in this case) so I will keep my opinions to myself. If you get a chance and are interested in the workings of the ship I suggest the Captians talk on the last morning of the cruise in the theater, it was fun and informative. Capt. Stig is quite witty and is not afraid to tell you about his family's profession as he was growing up. All in all we had a fantastic time and saw things we would never had seen if not on the boat, if you ever thought about an Alaskan cruise and you are okay with mediocre food then this is the cruise for you. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Serenade's Alaskan cruise was spectacular. This was the first cruise my husband and I have taken without kids (both are grown now). We were originally planning a northbound cruise, but opted instead for the round trip out of ... Read More
Serenade's Alaskan cruise was spectacular. This was the first cruise my husband and I have taken without kids (both are grown now). We were originally planning a northbound cruise, but opted instead for the round trip out of Vancouver, BC. This turned out to be a great choice, as it gave us plenty of opportunities to see the beautiful landscapes of Alaskan shorelines. Embarkation was a breeze. We actually arrived in Vancouver early on the day of sailing, so we checked all of our luggage in with RCCL's airport transfer point, then jumped on the newly-opened Skytrain into downtown Vancouver for a bit of sight-seeing before boarding the ship. RCCL's port was a short taxi ride from downtown Vancouver, and once arriving there, it took only a few minutes to get through registration and onboard. We had booked our excursions online prior to the sailing date, so we had the afternoon free to explore the ship, get a workout in, and get to meet fellow passengers. We did manage to change from late to early dining, as "My Time" dining slots were all full. The ship is magnificent. There were a few places that were under repair, but other than that, everything was in great shape! This was our second cruise with RCCL, the first being on the Navigator of the Seas, so we found the ship a bit smaller, but still plenty to do and easy to find your way around. The staff was terrific. The Cruise Director, Dennis, was so full of energy and vivacious, we really enjoyed him. The dining room staff was always on top of things (our waiter & asst. were Melroy & Melissa). Our cabin steward, Rommel, was the best! Unfortunately, his contract is up and he & his wife are heading home to the Philippines, but you may see them again next year! We had heard that the prior sailings had been plagued by rain, but had beautiful weather all week. In fact, on the day we sailed Tracy Arm Fjord, the weather was so great that we were able to sail up a usually-closed arm and see both sides of Sawyer Glacier...an opportunity which the Captain said he had only been able to do only 3 times on the Serenade. It was magnificent! To see a ship this size navigate through that narrow fjord makes you marvel at the technology of cruise ships and the expertise of the crew! The glacier was an amazing site, as well as Icy Falls. Our ports were Icy Strait Point, Skagway and Juneau. We hired a private charter in ISP to go whale watching (Dream Fish Alaska). This was a great adventure, being on a small fishing boat rather than a big, crowded tour boat. Frank, our captain, was able to get us up close and personal to several humpback whales, despite a thick fog. This was Frank's last season in ISP, however. If interested in a similar excursion, check out F.I.S.H.E.S. Whatever you do, definitely try some halibut pizza while in Hoonah...it's the best! (And sidenote...Frank may be leaving ISP, but is moving to eastern Washington, so if you have a trip planned there and want a hunting/fishing guide, try to find Frank Byrd!) Didn't do any excursions in Skagway, although everyone said the White Pass Railway was well worth it. We shopped around and hiked up to Lower Dewey Lake. It's an easy uphill hike to the lake, with 3 other trails available even farther up the mountain. If you are an avid hiker, make sure to do the trek around the lakes, as they provide more technical terrain. Juneau was our best excursion choice. We booked a helicopter glacier trek through the cruiseline. This was a 30 minute helicopter ride up onto the flow line of Mendenhall Glacier, followed by a 2 hour trek on the glacier itself. You cannot imagine how amazing this was...words cannot describe it! To be on a glacier, see how blue the ice is, and experience it first hand, is something everyone needs to put on their bucket list of things to do. The company was North Star Trekking, our guide was Amanda, and all were first rate! The only negative we would have from the entire cruise would be a lack of variety in the food. They offered the same choices for room service daily (we ate breakfast via room service),and had the same selections available in Windjammer for lunch each day. It would have been nice to see some other options available. All in all, it was a great cruise, a fantastic choice for a vacation, and worth every penny. Note: The Serenade will not be returning to Alaska, but I'm sure any other RCCL cruise would be just as great! Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
A bit about us:  I am in my mid 40's and have sailed on a majority of the other cruise lines over the last 10 years.  I was traveling with my son who is 22 who has sailed a few times as well.   We make the most of our vacations ... Read More
A bit about us:  I am in my mid 40's and have sailed on a majority of the other cruise lines over the last 10 years.  I was traveling with my son who is 22 who has sailed a few times as well.   We make the most of our vacations and don't mind paying more to make the cruise fabulous - after all it is a vacation.   Arrival - VANCOUVER: We flew in the day of departure (around 11:00 am) - Immigration was very smooth and quick.   We decided to catch a cab to the cruise pier.  We went outside the airport after picking up our luggage and there were CABS - TOWN CARS - LIMOS and VANS all waiting passengers (EXTREMELY ORGANIZED) - we took a limo and asked the driver if he could give us a quick tour of Vancouver and take us to a few shops so that we could purchase some souvenirs before boarding the ship.   He gladly took us around town and to some shops downtown for some quick shopping.   I was amazed that he only charged us $55 for all of this.  I would recommend taking a limo or town car to the pier as it was only $15 dollars more than a cab but the limo had some added perks (we did not have to wait in the extremely long line to enter the pier with all of the cabs) we bypassed this long line and were dropped right off at the front.   Our driver was amazing and so willing to take us where we wanted that we tipped him $25 - so for a total of $80 we had our own private limo - some sightseeing and some shopping and still plenty of time left to board the ship prior to departure.   Let me also say that we had TONS of luggage (4 bags) and 2 carryon's.  Again, I highly recommend if you are flying in the day of departure to use the town car or limo service as they really expedited everything.  SHIP: The Radiance was a beautiful ship.   Very well maintained.  There were a couple of drawbacks - elevators are hard to come by.  They are in the centrum and there are 6 located in the centrum on each floor.   You had to really cram in them to get where you wanted to go because they were few are far between.  We learned to walk the stairs as much as possible.   That made for a lot of walking considering we were in an AFT cabin.   The dining room was amazing - as well as the Solarium - Windjammer - etc..... Really this ship is absolutely beautiful. CABIN: We were in an AFT cabin on deck 8.  I am a bit torn about this cabin.   It was an AFT which is usually wonderful because you can have loungers on your patio and spend a good amount of time on your own private balcony.   On this cruise we were told we are not allowed to have loungers on our balcony so - the balcony was really oversized for 2 people.   The stateroom was much smaller than I am used to.  We have sailed on 5 other cruise lines and this was by far the smallest actual cabin portion - balcony was great but actual stateroom was small.  I will add that it was smaller than anything we have stayed in but had far more cabinet-drawer space.  Royal Caribbean does a very nice job of using every square inch of space for storage - that was SUPER!!!!  FOOD: Main Dining Room:  The food was okay.  Nothing fabulous - nothing horrible.   The one thing that I noticed more than anything was the lack of variety.   If you wanted chicken you only had 1 choice of chicken and the same with steak - there was really only 1 choice, sometimes 2 - they always had the same side items.   Again, not complaining because it was far better than anything I can cook but I wish they had more of a variety. Pasta - chicken - steak.  If you like fish - you will love the menu as they had TONS of fish items everyday.  Windjammer:  Excellent variety - Hamburgers - hot dogs - pasta - Indian food - salads - pizza.  With this said, I wish they changed what items were in each area everyday as it did get old with the same items on each station daily.  DAILY ACTIVITIES ONBOARD: This area could use the most improvement - there was not much to do onboard ever.   I wish they offered some daily activities for someone in their mid 40's SERVICE: Service on this ship was good.   Not the best I have had but not the worst either.   I was really expecting exceptional service - food - entertainment while onboard since we paid more to sail on Royal Caribbean than other cruise lines in Alaska.  This cruise just seemed to lack the WOW factor that I am accustomed to on a cruise.    PORTS: WEATHER WAS HOT - 85 degrees the entire time except for Hubbard Glacier Ketchikan - we did a float plane - AMAZING!!!!!!! Juneau - Zipline - Fun Skagway - Just walked around town and shopped and had some wonderful food Icy Staight Pointe - again - just walked around and shopped and watched for whales all day (never saw any) Hubbard Glacier - we were able to get 300 yards from glacier - it was AMAZING Seward - Kenai Fjords tour - lunch - airport transfer - this was a great tour and a great way to travel to Anchorage to catch our flight home. If anyone has questions please feel free to ask and I will answer what I can.    Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Overall a great cruise on the Radiance.  Went  with my mom and 14 year old twins. Main advice- This cruise is about seeing Alaska.  Think carefully about what shore excursions you will take.  It was very difficult picking excursions ... Read More
Overall a great cruise on the Radiance.  Went  with my mom and 14 year old twins. Main advice- This cruise is about seeing Alaska.  Think carefully about what shore excursions you will take.  It was very difficult picking excursions for this trip esp. since we didn't know what the weather would be! To really experience Alaska you need to get out of the ports.   Private excursions are vastly superior to ship excursions!  These extra excursions will add immensely to your enjoyment, but some of the most spectacular are very expensive.  You don't want to come home kicking yourself for missing a once and a life time opportunity nor do you want to come home having spent the money you really should have spent on something else. Overall I think we balanced this pretty well. Pre cruise- easy flights from Baltimore to Vancouver.   We booked the Pan Pacificdirectly through the hotel's web site for $154 a night including breakfast. We   arrived   at the Pan Pacific late afternoon on July lst, Canada Day.  We enjoyed the end of the large street festival celebration in Canada Place, and then took a long walk along the sea wall towards Stanley Park.  Returned to Pan Pacific and watched glorious fireworks from the pool roof deck. The next morning we headed to the North Shore by ferry and Bus. Spent   much of day on Grouse Mountain.  Wonderful    in good weather.  Next morning took Land/Sea City tour and enjoyed it.  Loved Vancouver esp. Granville Island and Stanley Park.  They took us directly to the ship at Ballytine pier. Embarkation - Easy Our Cabin- Nice but small. The balconies to our left were extended balconies.  The balconies to our right were standard size.  The left   half of our balcony was extended part was not. The Life boat overhang kept us from looking directly down at the water. This didn't really bother us.   The Ship- Lovely, very well maintained.  Many      classy   touches.  Great indoor solarium/pool. Glassed areas great for viewing Alaska. Elevators ridiculously slow.  Service - Very good Food- The greatest weakness in this trip was the dining room food at dinner. All of the cruise lines have cut back to 3 courses over the past few years. While you could order both soup and salad our wonderful waiter Oliver was so busy and had so many tables that I didn't want to make any extra work for him.  The soups, appetizers and deserts were tasty if nothing special. The entrees were very weak. lst night prime rib was pretty good but downhill after that.   The steaks were tough.  Very small portion of dried out salmon. The lobster tail wasn't bad for a frozen ship lobster, but again the portion was tiny.  I am not a big eater and rarely finish meals in restaurants. I had lunch in the dining room several days and enjoyed these more than the dinners.  The salad bar   at lunch was amazing- not to be missed.  The waiter prepares it individually for you.  There are all sorts of ingredients to select from including shrimp, asparagus etc.    The buffet food was good as was the Sea view cafe on deck 12. Entertainment- The production shows City of Dreams and Piano Man were very good. We also enjoyed the comedians and the Welcome Aboard and Farewell Shows. The best entertainment of all was watching the glorious scenery from the decks and our balcony! On ship activities-   We missed not having a naturalist on board.  Didn't really understand why they had a Canadian Mounty as a speaker.  Enjoyed      the professor who spoke on totem poles and glaciers.  Loved the backstage tour, esp. visiting the dressing room.  The digital camera presentation was terrible. We were kept waiting about a   half hour   because the crew had a training in the conference   room.  When we finally got in the room, there weren't enough chairs   for everyone to sit.  They spent another 15 min trying to get the power point to   project to the screen.  They were never successful.  The photographer had to hold up the projector to try to let people see!  Most people left before it was over.  Our Weather-  Wonderful! Sunny in the 80's most days. Not typical Alaska! Ports- Our reason for being on the cruise! Ketchikan- Took a tour with Kat of Ketchikan taxi tours.  Really enjoyed it. Went to Potlatch Totem Park, Totem Bight, walked through Rainforest, tasted salmon berries, Went on a bear hunt and saw a little black bear eating the lst salmon of the season. Saw numerous eagles.  I somewhat regret not also taking a float plane tour.  You can book tours at the dock when you get off the ship for less cost than ship tours.   Juneau- We took the shuttle out to Mendenhall Glacier. A great bargain for $14.00 person. You can hike around to the waterfall.   We took the tram up to Mount Roberts then hiked to the top. Really enjoyed this.  Glorious views.  We had a perfect clear day.  Walked around town, checked out the Red Dog Saloon. Very touristy, but fun. If you have your heart set on a glacier helicopter/dog sled ride you can book this with Costal Helicopter or several other vendors' right at the dock for around   $400 instead of paying over $500 from the ship.  Don't delay; they were   sold out for the day by about 9:30.  Skagway- Went up to Emerald   Lake with Dyea Dave's friend Howard. Dave was full so he sent us with Howard.   Howard runs ALCAN MYWAY Tours and takes only 4 people in his SUV. What a great day and a bargain at $60 per person for a 7 hour tour. Howard is a retired engineer who wants to show you Alaska/Canada "MY Way"   He is definitely a rugged individualist.  We met   up with Dyea Dave at lunch and he was great!   I am very, very, glad we didn't rent a car. The scenery would have been too distracting!  After getting back to Skagway we walked around town.   We headed right   to the visitors center to pick up tickets for the National Park Service free walking tour. Very worthwhile! Icy Straight Point:  Went whale watching with TECCK outfitters. They take 6 but that day it was just the four of us. Went  with Sean and Dirk on the Corvina.  These guys are "whale behaviorists " who spend the summer in Alaska and the winter in Hawaii studying whales. They took us to a spot where they hoped to find whales bubble  feeding. When we weren't successful, they took us to another spot and kept us out longer at no extra charge! Saw lots of whales, but none breeched. Saw other wildlife too including a sea otter!  TECCK may be a few dollars more than their competitor but we think our money was well spent.    Hubbard Glacier - Wow!  Well worth getting up at 5 AM for! Captain said we got within 375 feet.   The record is 300 feet.  We didn't see a lot   of calving though.  We watched from Deck 12, crowded but manageable. . Dress in layers and wear a hat and gloves. Even if you think you don't need them at first it gets pretty cold after standing outside for several hours.   If you don't mind viewing through glass any of the inside lounges on the top 3 floors are great viewing areas.  Kenai Fjords -  Rather than booking on our own we went with a combined excursion transfer to Anchorage Airport. The advantage was minimizing hassles with luggage and concerns about making the airplane on time. The disadvantage-  We were off the ship by 9 AM and had 3 hours to kill  "shopping" before the cruise.   We didn't know this ahead of time but it turned out that we were able to go to the Sea Life Center in Seward before our Cruise. This is a small aquarium that certainly doesn't have the "WOW" factor of the Baltimore or Boston Aquariums, but turned out to be very enjoyable and gave us a lot of background on the wildlife we would see.  The cruise was the 5 hour Resurrection bay cruise.  We saw an abundance of wildlife including breeching Whales that looked like they were putting on a show in Sea World. Amazing!  Very enjoyable.  The prime rib/salmon meal   was excellent! Our ship excursion transfer was on the public Park Connection Bus.  The drive to Anchorage was magnificent.  I somewhat regret not spending the night in Seward and renting a car to drive to Anchorage stopping for the many sights on the way.    The highway was good and this drive seemed very manageable   to me. Flight Home - easy A sobering end to our trip- We   flew into Regan National as it was cheaper than going to BWI.This is highly unusual! We booked a shared ride home to Baltimore.  We shared our van with a family whose son in law was wounded badly in Iraq and was being treated at Walter Reed Medical Center.  This brave young man lost his leg while defending our country.  Driving through Walter Reed Grounds was a sobering sight in deed and made us very, very grateful for all we have and the cost some people pay to keep our beautiful land free. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
FLIGHT TO PORT OF EMBARKATION AND EMBARKATION All was well at the start of our adventure except that to avoid any potential problems, after departing Redlands, CA at 2:15 a.m. and dropping off our car at Wally Park and taking its tram ... Read More
FLIGHT TO PORT OF EMBARKATION AND EMBARKATION All was well at the start of our adventure except that to avoid any potential problems, after departing Redlands, CA at 2:15 a.m. and dropping off our car at Wally Park and taking its tram to Terminal 2, we arrived at LAX at 3:30 a.m., and the flight was not scheduled to leave until 8:40 a.m. Better early than late! But the wait was compounded by a broken water main at the terminal that caused all water to be shut off the entire morning. No potable water was available except at Starbucks, and no restroom facilities were open at two terminals except for 2 portable toilets that had been placed on the street outside Terminal 2. That was fine prior to going through security screening, but once at the boarding gate it was a five-hour wait to board the plane, and 2 more after that before any further relief could be obtained. Until then, we focused on other things. The direct flight from Los Angeles to Vancouver on Alaska Airlines, arranged by Royal Caribbean departed on time, was smooth throughout, and arrived in Vancouver a few minutes early. At the airport, our checked baggage went one way, and we another. We were told that cruise line representatives would pick up our luggage and put our checked bags on the ship. But there was no way of verifying that they had arrived with us. "But what if they never got on the airplane at all?" I asked a young Canadian customs agent, who quickly replied, "Oh, the cruise line is very good at tracking bags!" We were led to a large elevator that deposited us in a large room where cruise line representatives were present to herd us on waiting buses. But first we had to fill out a surprise public health sheet vouching that we had not coughed or vomited within the past 7 days. This was not an impediment for us, but I shudder to think about those passengers who have been recently ill, get to this point, admit to a recent poor physical condition, are sent for an examination by a cruise doctor, and can then be blocked from entry to the ship. It would seem a better and more economical time to deal with this issue would be prior to boarding a plane for passage to another country! It seems that swine flu currently looms large in the eyes of cruise line and public health administrators. Embarkation was ultra smooth and efficient. we were dropped off by the ship and quickly channeled onto winding ramps, at the top of which we went through a metal detector, handed in our public health form, were photographed, and were handed a plastic seapass, which would be our room key and boarding pass for the duration of the cruise. The only difficulty was ascending with two stuffed carry-ons apiece up three ascending ramps to the ship. But, exiting the cruise line bus to boarding the ship took only a matter of about 15 minutes. Very impressive! We dropped off our carry-ons in our assigned stateroom (where we had been upgraded from a deluxe outside cabin to a balcony stateroom to our great pleasure) without incident, and moved to the Windjammer Cafe for an eagerly anticipated lunch. I had only been mildly reassured by the customs agent about our luggage, and was even less assured 6 hours later aboard ship when only 1 of our 3 checked bags had reached our stateroom. But our room steward Xavier saved the day after he introduced himself and I reported this problem to him. He said that he knew some undelivered bags were still in the hold below, and he would check on this right away. Thirty minutes later, I heard a knock on the door, opened it, and Xavier was standing there, smiling, with our two missing bags in tow. He said that something about one of the bags raised concern (probably a chain-metal suitbag hanger), and the two suitcases had not been opened aboard ship but had been x-rayed by ship's security before being released. At this point I felt like Xavier had already earned the cruise line's recommended gratuity even if he did nothing further for us the rest of the cruise! DAY 1 CRUISING OUT OF VANCOUVER Dining at Windjammer Cafe presented us with a fine array of dishes, including spaghetti Bolognese, pepperoni pizza, potato leek soup, chicken and golden syrup soup, components for a complex salad, and excellent french fries. Passed by this day were penne pasta and Arrabatta sauce, grilled Nathan's hot dogs and cooked sauerkraut on buns, cheeseburgers on buns cooked medium well with a slice of not very well melted American cheese, tasty-looking deli sandwiches, a vegetarian and Indian cuisine section, and carved beef and pork. A strawberry-topped moist brownie topped off the excellent repast. A fine rock band outside by the main pool near the ship's bow provided a fitting sendoff as Radiance of the Seas left Vancouver Harbour and narrowly slid under Harbour Bridge. The ship left just a few minutes later than scheduled (about 5:00 p.m.), which was about 3 hours after we had boarded it. The weather was fair and the clouds clear. Much promise was in the air. Our initial dinner in Cascades Dining Room was very good, beginning with an interesting hot and sour soup, salad with choice of dressings, and a moist and tasty salmon filet resting on a bed of high-quality Chinese peapods, and served with a perfectly baked potato. Initially, special requests like chives met with some resistance from our server Norbert. But he said he would try, and always came through in the end. The only food items I didn't get that I would have liked were lobster tail with drawn butter and King crab legs with the same. Occasionally, a lack of knowledge of use of some food ingredients was revealed, as when our assistant server Leticia asked whether I wanted the chives ladled onto my salmon. After declining this offer, I opened my baked potato with a knife and asked her to spoon the chives there instead. I then added butter and declined sour cream. The food was very hot, and portions were generous. An unusual blueberry and peach cobbler completed a nice evening repast. I began this cruise hoping for a fine dining experience but having some trepidation based on the amount of cost-cutting complaints on food I had read about in recent Cruise Critic reviews regarding almost all ships. In retrospect, I have to say that there was nothing I ate aboard ship that I didn't like. Of the many items I sampled, the cuisine was uniformly excellent and tasty. And, a few unique items were extremely memorable (more on this later). The Welcome Aboard Show was very good, with a superb performance by Los Diablos Gauchos, who sometimes perform in Las Vegas. Here again, I hoped for excellent entertainment but feared the worst, based on other reviews I had read about the level of entertainment on Royal Caribbean cruises. Perhaps Royal Caribbean has raised the bar since reading complaints about the quality of entertainment aboard ship. All I can say is that the entertainment was first-rate at every level; the singers had great voices; dancers were impressive; musicians were great; David Curtis was the best pianist and singer I have heard at a piano bar; and the entertainment was the best overall that I have experienced in six cruising experiences. I live in Las Vegas, and the sets for some of the shows like "Piano Man" equaled sets found in major Vegas showrooms. Entertainment was 5+, and the word got out. For, later shows were standing room only in the Aurora Theatre. DAY 2 AT SEA Today featured a Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle with good company and good appetizers sponsored by RCCL. The event had to be held in the Schooner Bar because the Odyssey Room and Centrum staircase had been flooded by a broken pipe that burst just a few hours before the ship sailed out of Vancouver. Because of this and a closed staircase, it was difficult to navigate around the ship by foot. Exacerbating this problem were elevators that seemed to have a mind of their own. They would miss floors calling for them, go to unsought destinations, or let passengers inside and then refuse to move. Lunch today at the Seaview Cafe consisted of good New England clam chowder soup, a fairly good cabbage soup (I often opted to eat multiple offerings that showed promise), and very good chunks of fish and chips. The portions were ample, and the food very hot. And, here, cheeseburgers had really melted American cheese. Tartar sauce was excellent but the only vinegar on hand was balsamic vinegar. A request for malt vinegar was met with an expression of puzzlement and a proffered bottle of balsamic vinegar. Drizzled over the chunks of cod it tasted better than no vinegar at all. But it does not seem unreasonable to expect malt vinegar to be available with fish and chips. The solarium and its Thermal Suiteobtained on a special couple's plan offering for unlimited use for the duration of the cruise for $159were great, and well worth the extra expense. Included were a robe, locker key, and unlimited use of sea-view thermal lounges, a sea-view steam room, dry sauna, sea-view aromatic room, nearby spas, refreshing warm tropical showers, and icy drench showers that ejected thin crystals of ice and were fun to experience. Only the aromatic room was not very aromatic at the time of my visits, which turned out to be every day but one of the cruise. Ceramic benches in the coed steam room were even more palliative to sore muscles than the thermal lounges just outside. The solarium spa was rejuvenating although often overcrowded. The saltwater pool was refreshing, and warm showers nearby were a nice touch. The solarium's retractable roof kept the light rain of the day at bay. Dinner this evening in the Cascades Dining Room was delightful, a half notch above the previous day's tasty offerings. A bed of escargot with 6 snails covered by a tasty coating in sunken recesses of a plate began the repast. Lobster bisque was very good but pureed so that no chunks of lobster were present. Caesar salad was good. And, filet of beef with peppercorn sauce was medium rare as ordered, and well sauced with just a hint of pepper. Garlic mashed potatoes were very pleasing to the palate. Accompanying asparagus and mushrooms enhanced the dining experience. A little resistance at first a day before to providing Bearnaise sauce for my wife Diane's slices of beef this time gave way to production of the classic enhancer of meat's flavoring upon request, without protest. And, the sauce was very good indeed. After initially seeking classical sauces myself, I decided to instead take a new tack and try the offerings of the day without alteration, and was not disappointed with the tasty peppercorn sauce. I learned that it is good to sometimes take a chance and savor new, less traditional offerings of a ship's cuisine. Where better to experiment with food than on a cruise? It soon also became clear that if a food item was not liked, the head waiter stood ready to replace it with another selection. Delicious hot chocolate was secured from the other end of the ship in a glass for my wife, and additional desserts were offered for the second straight day. Decaf was strong and good, and Grand Marnier souffle and Cherries Jubilee with vanilla ice cream were both very tasty. A note on our table-mates: It was the most harmonious table I have experienced at sea thus far. Retired police detective Ron and teacher Linda were from Illinois, and dental school administrator Steve and accountant Sheila hailed from California. Steve and Sheila had requested a new table after being initially placed with a large family that spoke no English at the table. Steve and Sheila did not know what language was being spokenjust that it was not English. So, they wound up with us only because we were an English-speaking foursome. I have preferred tables of 6 to tables of 4, because by the law of averages there is a greater chance of getting along well with at least one couple, and I imagine that just 2 couples at a table of 4 who find they have nothing in common could make for an unpleasant experience. This day ended with a superb show in the Aurora Theatre called "Piano Man" that was presented with three fine piano players, four excellent lead singers, good dancers, luxurious and colorful costumes, and eye-popping sets with very innovative lighting effects. DAY 3 Ketchikan In Ketchikan, we left the ship early to go on the Duck Tour, followed by The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. On our return, we tried lunch in the Cascades Dining Room, and were not disappointed. I probably ate more than I should have. A salad with a choice of about 20 ingredients, including shrimp and grilled eggplant, and about six dressings, made by a dining room food service worker, could easily have been an entree. But I pressed on. Vegetable broth was tasty, followed by ziti tossed in a tomato-based sauce with tomatoes, ham, and peppers, and B-29, a muffin-like confection with a chocolate center. Banter at our table with four members of the Widows Club of Augusta, Georgia and a few other fellow passengers was very convivial and enjoyable. More steam rooming, spaing, and reclining on a thermal lounge inside the ship's Thermal Suite ensued to knock off water weight before dinner. This time neither the aromatherapy room or the dry sauna was "on". A dinner at the ship's specialty restaurant Portofino was memorable and worthy of praise. Service by lead waiter Oscar Perez of Peru was impeccable, and most dishes sampled, like starter Risotto al Gamberetti, large tiger shrimps sauteed with fresh herbs, on a bed of creamy and satiny saffron risotto, were delectable. Zuppa Gran Farro, traditional Tuscan bean soup with barley pearls and garlic, was very good and a different take on traditional pasta fagioli. Insalata Alla Cesare, romaine lettuce with herb croutons, shaved Parmesan, and traditional dressing, prepared a la minute, was also very good. Pappardelle Mante Cate con Crema al Mascarpone, Funghi Arrosto E Timo, ribbon pasta with roasted mushrooms and fresh thyme lightly tossed in a mascarpone cream sauce, was heavenly. Saltimbocca Alla Romana, thinly sliced veal wrapped with fresh sage and proscuitto, pan fried with porcini mushroom risotto and Marsala jus was excellent, with the mushroom flavoring clearly evident but subtle. Slices of veal were tender and devoid of fat. Marsala jus was a bit thin but tasty. We ordered and received more. The only downside was a crotini that was a bit burned. Dinner at Portofino in every way supported its admiring reviewsand was worth every penny of the $20 per-person surcharge. Risotto al Gamberetti and Pappardelle Mante Cate con Crema al Mascarpone, Funghi Arrosto E Timo were two of the finest dishes I have had the pleasure of eating. Dinner was advertised as a 2-hour affair but it took 2-1/2 hours for us. So, we missed half of the excellent live tribute to the Beatles by Revolution. But, the half we saw, too, was well worth our time. The only discordant note regarding the evening entertainment was Casino Royale's electronic money counter short-changing me 75 cents. I had just stacked into dollar amounts and hand-counted the coins in my tray prior to leaving for the cashier, and they were 24 quarters. Then, after handing my small bucket of coins to the casino cashier, and watching her toss the money into a bin for counting, the machine registered only 21 quarters. I was too shocked to point out the discrepancy, and couldn't figure out how to prove it anyway, since all evidence had gone down a metal drain into a bag to mix with other coins. So, I accepted the $5.25 without comment. The amount of difference was small, but I lost confidence in the ship's casino and did not play slots there again. DAY 4 JUNEAU Breakfast today was a fine repast of scrambled eggs with ham, hash browns, fried potatoes, sausage, bacon, and OJ at Windjammer Cafe. Much of the day was spent in pouring rain on the float trip excursion in Juneau. Upon our return, the solarium's Thermal Suite was running both steam room and sauna today, and in addition to reclining on a thermal lounge and soaking in a spa outside, this was a good way to relax and ease sore muscles after a rugged excursion (or sustained shopping). Dinner tonight at the Cascades Dining Room consisted of a robust tomato and beef ragu soup, a tasty Asian salad, moist planked salmon with baked potato, butter, and chives, and a delicious rhubarb pie ala mode. The Variety Show in the Aurora Theatre this evening starring singer Matt Clark and comedian Steve Smith was excellent as usual, and entertaining. Afterwards, pianist David Curtis's Billy Joel and Elton John tribute at the piano bar inside the Schooner Bar was first-rate and standing room only. The only discordant note was ordering a Coca-Cola from a waiter who set down a napkin but never returned with the ordered drink. DAY 5 SKAGWAY Today I gobbled down a lunch of a grilled Nathan's hot dog and sauerkraut on a bun, french fries, spaghetti Bolognese, and a slice of cheesy pepperoni pizza in Windjammer Cafe. For, we had a train ride to catch. Dinner this evening was a tomato-based minestrone soup, Caesar salad, vegetarian chili, chicken Marsala with asparagus spears, and chocolate cake ala mode. The chicken Marsala and the chili were very good, although I decided after this filling meal that from now on just one entree would suffice; all else was excellent. Judy Kolba put on a funny and entertaining show in the Aurora Theatre, which is large and comfortable with good sight lines except for those who are seated behind pillars. Someone unknown ripped off my Cruise Critic magnet on my stateroom door, which had held. With good foresight, I had ordered two identical magnets and left one at home, so the loss was minimal although a bit aggravating at the time. On future cruises I no longer plan to so mark my room. DAY 6 ICY STRAIT POINT This was a memorable day. We left the ship by tender to Icy Strait Point and had very good halibut fish and chips at Cook House Restaurant on the dock before we left by bus on a wildlife and bear search excursion. Coming back by tender at least four whales breached, waved their tails, and frolicked around us, and I took some memorable photos with my telephoto lens. The antics of the whales went on for over an hour, and became the focus of most aboard. Dinner this evening was at Radiance of the Seas' other signature restaurant, Chops Grille. I dined on a great Beef Tenderloin and Eggplant Tower, crab cake, shrimp cocktail, great Onion Soup Gratinee w/ Gruyere cheese, Chops' Signature Cobb salad, a 10-oz. filet with excellent Bearnaise sauce and both a good baked potato with drawn butter and chives, outstanding rosti potatoes, and excellent crimini mushrooms and asparagus. In this dinner shared with two friends we met on the Cruise Critic message boards before the cruise, Craig (Sinbad) and Denise, we pulled no punches, and savored as much food as we could handle. We ended with a large slice of a great chocolate mud pie and a very good apple pie with caramel sauce. Renato was a fine waiter. We each enjoyed this meal enormously. I only regret that we could not get surf and turf at such a fine steakhouse. Renato opined that Chops' shrimp was better than the lobster tail served one time in Cascades Dining Room (which we missed), and, from what we later heard by our main table mates, I dare say he was probably correct. Once all cruise food was of the greatest quality and size, but now it is clear that the best and biggest cuts are reserved for the specialty restaurants where a premium is paid to savor them. As with our experience at Portofino, dining at Chops was also well worth the $25 per-person premium. But the food of Radiance of the Seas was still excellent everywhere else I sampled it, too. Because our expansive dinner at Chops also took 2-1/2 hours to complete, we only saw one-half of this night's "City of Dreams" production. What we saw was very lavish and entertaining. We would have liked to have seen the remainder of the show. This became a constant refrain. We would have liked to do many things offered aboard that we never got around to try. For, there was only so much time. We heard a shopping presentation that seemed more aimed at getting people to frequent certain shops ashore who had paid a promotional fee to the cruise line for the endorsement, but missed several interesting sounding lectures and culinary demonstrations. We visited various musical venues late at night but three musical events commonly occurred simultaneously. So, one could not be everywhere. We never played pool or miniature golf aboard ship, and my wife never tried to climb the rock wall she had planned to ascend prior to our departure. But, I'd rather have too much of a good thing available than not enough. So, this is not a complaintjust an observation. DAY 7 CRUISING BY HUBBARD GLACIER This day began very earlyin front of the eerily beautiful Hubbard Glacier. Our captain, Claus Andersen, outdid himself, bringing the ship within 35 yards of the glacier. This is where our balcony really paid off. We jumped out of bed, quickly clothed ourselves, donned sweaters, and with long camera lenses and binoculars enjoyed and memorialized our views of the majestic, icy blue, calving glacier. We ate lunch in the Seaview Cafe again today, this time for me a bowl of clam chowder, a generous-sized tuna melt, fries, a moist brownie, and Coca-Cola. This was followed by a lengthy stay in the Thermal Suite and the Solarium spa. Heavier seas than usual caused water to come flying out of the swimming pool. Aiming spouts of water at my shoulders, I turned the saltwater pool into a makeshift hydrotherapy aquaspa. Dinner in the Cascades Dining Room included shrimp cocktail with good Royal cocktail sauce, Caesar salad served family style, turkey and mashed potatoes with fine brown gravy, tender brussels sprouts, cranberries, and key lime pie. The Farewell Variety Show in the Aurora Theatre starring comedian Steve Smith and singer Melissa McLaughlin was again excellent. Nostalgia gripped the audience, for we would all soon be leaving our comfortable sea lodgings. The officers walking on stage and the captain personally wishing each of us safe passage back as we left the theatre were nice touches. We hung on to the night as long as possible, going to the Colony Club to enjoy a Jazz Cabaret and further song stylings by Melissa McLaughlin and Matt Clark backed by the Radiance of the Seas Orchestra. It was a nice ending to a great cruise. DEBARKATION DAY 8 We arose very early, had no time for breakfast, and met at the Aurora Theatre as directed before 6:15 a.m. Less than 15 minutes later we were ushered with our carry-ons off the ship, down ramps, and into a waiting coach for our 3-day Cruisetour #5 to Denali and Fairbanks. No customs formalities to surmount, and no hassles. The efficiency of the operations of this cruisetour was just as impressive as that of embarkation and debarkation. Porters moved luggage in the night, and it was in our rooms when we arrived by coach. Our lodge room keys were handed to us by the cruise tour operator as we dismounted the bus at a new lodge. We were let off in Anchorage for 1-1/2 hours to explore the city a bit and have lunch on our own. We ate in Rumrunners Olde Towne Bar & Grill, where we enjoyed excellent potato skins, and a good french dip sandwith with excellent au jus and french fries. This $70 meal was gobbled down in less than 30 minutes so we could meet our bus at the appointed time. Then we passed through Wasilla, where Sarah Palin was once mayor, and moved on to Miller's ice cream emporium. From here we continued on to Denali, and by early evening reached McKinley Village Lodge. Here we dined at the lodge's Gold Dust Room, where I ate an excellent Caesar salad with a very good Gold Nugget Meatloaf and mashed potatoes and gravy. Following this, we were picked up at the lodge at 9:00 p.m. for an optional excursion, the best of our trip, hosted by Denali ATV. From 9:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., in complete daylight in Alaska's midnight sun, my wife and I, led only by our private excursion guide, rode up and down rock-strewn ravines, washes, and hills, and ran into a towering female moose and her two calves leaving a forested area to enter a clearing. I was a little recklessly wearing my camera with standard lens around my neck as I drove. But, it paid off. We dismounted our ATVs, and I took some memorable photographs of wildlife in their natural habitat. A few times it felt like my 4-wheeled ATV might overturn, but it never happened. And, the close calls just made the experience more thrilling. It was my first time on an ATV, but it will not be my last! At the conclusion of our excursion we were driven home by van, and then quickly packed our bags and went to bed to be ready for the next day to be primarily spent inside Denali National Park and Preserve. DAY 9 DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE/FAIRBANKS The Denali National History Tour was excellent. We had a Ph.D. biologist as our guide, and I am pleased to report that the cramped school buses have been replaced by slightly larger buses that have comfortable seats and whose upper windows can be lowered to take photographs without having to shoot through glass. Although we were told that a bear has only been sighted during this abbreviated tour about every 65 days and the clouds surrounding Mt. McKinley (Denali) only part about every 30 days, my tour group had the luck of having both events occur at the same time. On one side of the bus a 400-pound grizzly bear suddenly appeared and stayed for about 5 minutes foraging for berries, and at the same time the sky cleared on the other side of our bus, and Mr. McKinley was revealed in all of its over 20,000-foot white-peaked majesty. Camera shutters briskly captured both phenomena. And, later we stopped at a clearing and were able to see and photograph Mt. McKinley from outside the bus. We also saw a snowshoe hare, a squirrel, seagulls, ptarmigans, and other creatures. The historic movie presentation about Denali at the visitor's center was excellent, guides' narrations were interesting, and the ham and cheese sandwich and chips box lunch supplied by the McKinley Village Lodge for the bus tour was a very welcome carry-on as serious hunger quickly arrived. We eagerly anticipated the arrival of the Wilderness Express. When it arrived at Denali Station, we were escorted onto the train by our Royal Celebrity tour director without needing a ticket, climbed a few spiraling stairs, and sank into our leather seats in our impressive double-decker dome car. From here we had a great panorama below us as the train departed the station northbound for Fairbanks. Soon we were invited to descend to the dining car, where we enjoyed an excellent meal. The advertising literature praised the dining aboard the Wilderness Express, and I can report that these accounts were not exaggerated. Besides being seated in a fine dining car reminiscent of train parlor cars of old in the United States, behind a white-linen tablecloth and china-filled table, the cuisine was of gourmet quality. We enjoyed an ample shrimp cocktail, tasty crab bisque soup, fine chicken breast stuffed with ham and cheese, rice pilaf and green beans, and a fancy and delicious strawberry treat with vanilla ice cream for dessert. The dinner for two cost $75 but was worth the price. We were probably in the dining room for 1-1/2 hours, and then went back upstairs. The train moved along at a moderate rate of speed. The only blight on the skies was smoke from two nearby wildland fires that had erupted a day before and together had already charred thousands of acres. We arrived in Fairbanks in the early evening, were met at the train station by our coach, and entered it for a short ride for our new accommodations at Pike's Waterfront Lodge. The name was not a misnomer. We were generously assigned a deluxe room with a king bed and a balcony overlooking the Chena River where the sun still shined until at least 2:00 a.m. Diane and I enjoyed just standing on the balcony for a few minutes and viewing waterfowl on the reflecting water below. DAY 10 FAIRBANKS The last full day of our cruisetour was jam-packed with activities. We were first bused to the El Dorado Gold Mine where we boarded the El Dorado Express and were serenaded by a Johnny Cash impressionist as the train moved deeper into the mine property. While I was not really looking forward to panning for gold, and did a lousy job at it, the activity was much more interesting and enjoyable than I anticipated. With help Diane retrieved $12 worth of gold, while on my own I recovered a whopping 30 cents worthprobably a record low! We then reboarded the bus and were dropped off in downtown Fairbanks for lunch. We had good potstickers and an undistinguished individual pepperoni pizza and root beer at a hotel restaurant but were able to view a Duct Tape Boat Parade wending its way down the river as part of Gold Rush Days Festival activities. It was fun to watch and photograph the colorfully decorated watercraft and their occupants engage with each other. The bus arrived and took our group to a segment of the Alaska Pipeline, where we were allowed to get off for a much closer view. I considered this diversion a welcome bonus, because it was not listed as part of our scheduled cruisetour activities. Then we continued on to a pier, where we soon boarded the sternwheeler steamboat Riverboat Discovery III. Here again, we were treated to a variety of experiences. Besides enjoying the sights ashorechiefly interesting custom homesa bush plane took off and flew right next to the boat; we saw a team of sled dogs quickly haul an ATV with driver aboard on dry land; and we disembarked at the Chena Indian Village where we were able to view wood and sod-covered cabins and hear historic information about the Athabascan Indian culture, before boarding again for more sightseeing and free samples of salmon. Bused back to the lodge, we freshened up and returned to the lobby for our planned excursion to the Alaska Salmon Bake in Fairbanks. The salmon, halibut, and other edibles were all moist and excellent, and it was "all you care to eat." So, we had a veritable feast at the Salmon Bake. Bees hovered near us but did no damage, yet after seeing some large pieces of ash from the still raging wildfires fall from the sky, and considering our impending 3:00 a.m. departure from the lodge, we decided to go back to the lodge at about 8:00 p.m. Here we packed, weighed bags on the lodge's scale (a helpful touch), threw out a few items like aloe vera, and repacked until we made the airline's weight limit for checked luggage. I put the luggage out at 12:30 a.m., and we retrieved it at the airport after our bus transfer there less than 3 hours later. DAY 11 HOMEWARD BOUND TO LAX Our plane left for Seattle at 6:00 a.m. as scheduled and arrived about 15 minutes early. So, we had sufficient time to make our connection, and our second flight also departed on time for Los Angeles, and we were happy to see that all three of our checked bags were there to greet us at baggage claim. We lugged (mostly kicked) them and our carry-ons to the curb just outside, and soon hailed a Wally Park van. By 4:00 p.m. we were outside the environs of LA, headed for home after the conclusion of a great and seamless cruise and cruisetour. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Radiance of the Seas Alaska Northbound (Vancouver -> Seward) July 31 through August 7 Embarkation: Upon arrival at the Vancouver airport, we checked the price for the RCI transfer to the ship: $35pp. Well, we know from past experience ... Read More
Radiance of the Seas Alaska Northbound (Vancouver -> Seward) July 31 through August 7 Embarkation: Upon arrival at the Vancouver airport, we checked the price for the RCI transfer to the ship: $35pp. Well, we know from past experience that a taxi is less than $50, so that's cheaper (there were two of us, so $50 < $75). Sure enough, the taxi was $45 including a quick stop for snacks. I've never been on a cruise where embarkation was this easy. We got to the pier around 1:00, where a porter immediately came out to get our bags from the taxi. They gave us the blank luggage tags, then whisked them off to our room - the bags all arrived within 1 hour. We went inside, security took less than 10 minutes. We waited about 15 seconds for a check-in, where we get our seapass cards. The upstairs area is normally full of people waiting for US customs, so we were expecting to sit for a while. There was nobody there. We walked straight up to a customs agent, gave them our paperwork, and went through to board the ship. The entire process, from arrival to physical boarding, took less than 1/2 hour! Stateroom: We had an aft balcony cabin, room 9660. This is our third aft balcony, and well worth it for an Alaska cruise. We had great views of the harbor at all stops, and a nice large balcony. One note: it appears that RCI is officially removing chaise lounges from the aft balconies. We only had the two small chairs, and a large area of empty space. We asked our room steward, who told us that they're not supposed to be back there any more. However, there are always a couple people who ask, so they keep some chaise lounges in the "back room" and was able to bring them out to us. The interior of the "D" balcony cabin is more spacious than the "E" balcony cabin, with extra storage and a longer couch. Very comfortable. There were some drainage issues with the sink, and the shower had a curtain instead of a sliding curved door (like on Serenade) which led to some water splashing into the rest of the bathroom. Nothing major. Food: Overall, the quality seems improved from our past few RCI cruises. Steaks came in larger portions, soups were well-seasoned, etc. A couple issues to mention: * I had prime rib multiple times. It was cooked properly the first time (medium rare). The second time was bleu, and when I sent it back I got a response from the kitchen that it was cooked medium rare, but they can cook it medium well if I would like. Rude response, and the steak was nowhere near medium rare. The new "medium well" steak was only cooked medium well on one side, still uncooked on the other. * I normally enjoy the chilled fruit soups, but the took a couple out of rotation and replaced them with repeats. For example, we didn't get the green apple soup, but got three versions of wild berry (once adding cranbeerry, once adding pineapple). * The two "tarts" (vidalia onion & brie-and-asparagus) are really quiches, but are not correctly named. I don't mind a quiche, but they should call it what it is. I would like to especially mention the high quality of MDR food for breakfast and lunch. The breakfast was delivered promptly (good for catching early excursions), and always delicious - eggs benedict with proper poached eggs, oatmeal that wasn't too mushy, bacon that wasn't underdone. The two MDR lunches had a wide variety of tastes. Both meals had made-to-order stations in the middle, such as hand-mixed custom salads. Other eating establishments: Seaview cafe is a hidden gem on the Radiance-class ships. Food is made promptly upon ordering, the menu is small but consistently good. My wife loves the onion rings, I love just about everything: fruit plate, chili, clam chowder, Nathan's hot dogs, Reuben, vegetarian burger, etc. We visited Windjammer at different times of the day, except dinner (always MDR). The food was always decent and varied, although not as fresh as the other eateries. They always have an omlette/egg station for breakfast, and an Indian Vegetarian section for lunch. Some people don't like the Indian food, but I don't see a problem with it. It provides native food for a good section of their cruisers who are Indian, as well as providing a decent variety for the Vegetarian cruisers. I think my favorite Windjammer entree the entire cruise was the honey-stung fried chicken, although the steak-and-mushroom pie was also good. Entertainment: Definitely the best entertainment we've ever seen on a cruise ship. The "Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers" were all good. Normally only some of the singers are good, but this time they all had strong voices and stage presence. Normally some of the dancers are off or appear unenthusiastic, but they were all together and did a great job. Both performance shows were new, and they were great. "Piano Man" was alot of fun, with music from Billy Joel, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and a couple others. "City of Dreams" had a variety of songs based around a general idea of love songs. The sets and costumes were a bit weird, and there wasn't really a storyline, but the singing was great and the dancing was FANTASTIC. Vibeology was always my favorite RCI show, and I was initially disappointed that it was gone. I liked both of these more. We saw most of the headliners: * Los Diablos Gauchos is always a good show, this is the 3rd or 4th time we've seen them. They do a variety of Argentinian entertainment - singing, knife dancing, bolaros, and the Tango. They also teach a couple of Tango classes on the ship, and Eileen works in the C&A future booking lounge. * Paul Boland is also a great showman, we have also seen him 3 or 4 times. He does alot of voices, and does them really well. * Billy Garan performed two nights. Both were paired with a brief set from one of the Radiance of the Seas Singers, who did well but were on the short side. Mr. Garan was hit-and-miss. It was worth going, but not as entertaining as Paul Boland or the production shows. * Jody Kolba was the only one we didn't see, but our traveling companions saw her and loved it. She sang a few songs but was mostly a comedianne. Service: The service was amazing. Every person we met greeted us with a smile. They were all friendly and helpful. We would walk down the hallway and other room stewards would say hi and ask if our room was OK. We were in the Windjammer and we'd have offers to help carry our plates or get us drinks. Ship (general): This ship looks great. No signs of wear at all. The flooring and carpeting all looks good, the walls are clean, etc. Excursions: We don't go on cruise-ship excursions for two reasons. First, they charge more than booking directly, and give the tour provider a cut rate. For example, a given tour operator's price might be $100. The cruise ship will charge $130, and only give the operator $70. Same bus and tour guide, but you pay more and the tour operator gets stiffed. We know this to be true for at least one of our excursions, but I don't want to say which and get them into trouble. I'll just say that they were very nice, we clearly got better service as a result. Second, the ship tours are forced to sacrifice quality in the name of throughput. For example, we had a really informative tour in Skagway, going up the Yukon trail way past where the regular tours end. We went to a few gold-mining towns, and visited Emerald lake. We were gone 7 hours, way longer than the regular ship tours. We also had flexibility to stop where the ship tours can't, because our tour only had 14 people instead of 50. For another example, our whale watching trip in Hoonah spent over 2 hours in the pod area; the cruise ship excursion's boat only spent 40 minutes. We watched them leave long before most of the whales were even up. We got to see a full breach, and some tail dancing (when the whale keeps its body under water and flips the tail around in the air). Also, after the excursion was over, we wanted to walk around Hoonah for a while before heading back to the dock; the owner gave us her cell phone, and said to call when we were done and she would take us back to the ship. You can't get service like that from a cruise excursion. The complete list: Ketchikan: we simply walked around and went to the lumberjack show. We got the tickets at 8:30 for the 10:45 show, there were no problems. Juneau: We did the four-glacier-and-dog-sledding with Era helicopters. It was a bit hazy because of fires in Canada, but the helicopter rides were beautiful, and the dogsledding was a blast. Be careful if you book through the ship, as there are multiple different helicopter tour operators. Era is the only one that travels over the four glaciers, giving info on different types and ages. That was really cool. http://www.erahelicopters.com/content/ Skagway: Our tour up the Yukon trail was with Dyea Dave. We had Becky, who was really knowledgeable and informative. We called her "nature Becky" because she's a total nature freak. She hikes up the mountain to the lakes during the winter so she can cross-country ski. She and her daughter like to hike to the glacier-fed lakes to go swimming. This was a great tour. Becky took her time and stopped very often. She was terrific. http://www.dyeadavetours.com/ Icy Strait Point / Hoonah: We went on a tour with a Glacier Wind Charters. It's run by a really nice husband and wife. She made fresh blueberry muffins for the ride out, and drove us to & from the ship. He's the captain. He knows right where he's going, and has an underwater microphone so we could hear the whales talking to each other as they woke up. We stayed out in the bay for a couple hours, slowly trailing the whales as they swam around. As I mentioned above, she was kind enough to drive us back to town after we grabbed some crab legs at the Office Bar. This saved us some money, as the cruise ship charges $8 for the shuttle (round-trip). http://www.g-wind.com/ Seward / Anchorage: Instead of the simple bus or train over the mountain, we got a private custom tour with Salmonberry tours. This was a huge tour, lasting nearly 10 hours. Nicole, our tour guide, met us at the dock in Seward. She was really nice & friendly, very patient through the entire trip. She took us to Exit glacier, and let us decide the level of hiking we wanted to do. Then she took us through downtown Seward to look around and purchase some souveniers. We took a beautiful drive up to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, where we could take pictures of Elk, Moose, Reindeer, Caribou, Musk Ox, Brown Bear, Black Bear, Lynx, Eagle, and Owl. It was really cool, you can get really close through the fences. After that, she took us up to Alyeaska, the Alaska Ski Resort. We took the tram up to the top and had a really good lunch, and took some pictures. We also watched a hangglider or two take off, then slowly wind around to the valley floor. After that, we headed up to Anchorage. Nicole took us to a cool lookout over the city, then to the airport. There was some confusion with the billing, but the owner straightened it out with no fuss. http://www.salmonberrytours.com/ Enrichment: They had an interesting series of presentations by a Mountie, talking about the life of a member of the Canadian Mounted Police. They had a couple giving Tango lessons, who also performed the first night. They had a couple cooking classes. Disembarkation: They have a new way of coordinating disembarkation, which we really liked. There are three main waiting areas, and these are the only areas that will announce when a group is ready to leave - if you're not there, you won't know if you're cleared. However, they give each group a time estimate. Our disembarkation time was 8:45, so we showed up at our area at about 8:35. They let us go at 8:50. This seems to have a few advantages: It gets more people out of their staterooms sooner so the room stewards can start flipping the rooms, you don't have a series of mad rushes all over the ship, and they can send people out in smaller batches which makes it easier to find your bags once you're out. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Reading all reviews below, it seems like I was on different ship... Anyway I'm not that kind of person that only see negatives, but that's exactly what I want to highlight in this review. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my ... Read More
Reading all reviews below, it seems like I was on different ship... Anyway I'm not that kind of person that only see negatives, but that's exactly what I want to highlight in this review. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my cruise a lot, but comparing to other 5 cruises that I took previously (this one was first on Royal Caribbean) I would say it was towards the bottom of the list. Did I become too picky? Maybe. But here are my impressions...   Alaska cruise- Serenade of the Seas. July 18- July 25 Vancouver round trip.   We arrived to Vancouver from NY on the morning of the day of the cruise. The first surprise that we had - we were stopped by RC representatives as soon as we exited the plane with the question: did you put your cruise tags on your luggage? -Yes we did.- They say that in this case your luggage will go to the ship directly so we do not have to go to baggage area. Convenient? Yes - for elderly people definitely or if you know about this in advance! In our case - we did not! We actually wanted to take something out of our luggage before going to the port! No luck. We've been told that our luggage will not even be in the luggage aria - from the plane it will go straight to the ship. OK, we said, that's fine, but I would still appreciate that if I would be informed in advance regarding such things - so we would have a choice! Next thing they said that we can use they bus shuttle service to go to the ship and we would avoid the customs all together. The price is $79 for two people (twice the price of the taxi). We agreed, even though originally we wanted to take the taxi, but without the luggage we wanted to get on the ship ASAP and decided to save time on customs. We got on the ship around 11:15AM. By 4PM we still did not receive our bags!. To tell you that we were concerned - that would be huge understatement! We did know what to think. Did RC picked up the luggage in the airport? Was it even reached Vancouver? (you know, luggage can get lost during air travel) On the front desk they said that there is no way to verify if our bags are on the ship.. And it could take up to 9 PM to get our bags! Finally by 4:15 we got the first suitcase, but still no trace of the second one. We ask our cabin attendant to check and around 6PM (after the ship left Vancouver) we got a phone call from security office to come and pick it up! The reason why it was there? They founds through X-ray machine a manicure scissors, but since they are not allowed to open and verify it they asked me to open and show them scissors and only after that I was allowed to take my bag to the cabin. There were about 150-200 bags held in security office and passengers that I saw there had exactly the same problem! (manicure scissors or someone had an iron) As you can imagine after all that, we were not in the mood for anything on that day...   Regarding the food.... In the restaurant it was good. Better than it was on Norwegian cruise we took last year. But in their Windjammer cafe - not good at all! First, there was almost no variety neither during breakfast or lunch!. The pastries were the same all seven days! (all 4 of them). Breakfast was also exactly the same (common, you CAN have different things even for breakfast) And what's up with Indian food? Is this the most favorite food of the captain? Why have it every day and dedicate the entire area (cart) out of 4 available to the Indian section? We are in Alaska not in South Pacific; I would think Russian food would be more appropriate. Or at least change it to different ethnic food like they do on Princess (or at least that's was the case 3 years ago).   Regarding the ship (remember this is negative review only, so I will only describe things that I did not like) For Alaska cruise, I would consider it a small ship. The problem is the combination of the weather and itinerary. We spent total 3 days in sea (including visit to the glacier). Weather was pretty cold so spending significant time on the deck is impossible. I'm not even talking the pool area. So everyone had to find something to do inside the ship. Apparently there is not enough room! You have Casino, shops, lounge on the back of the ship and the central area by the elevators. Most of the people were either in shops or in that central area. Again, if I said that it was crowded - it would be an understatement. Especially when they have a band playing near the Information desk, it was almost impossible get trough. Also because of the weather, finding a table in Windjammer cafe was very very difficult (nobody wanted to sit outside). They even have to announce repeatedly to vacate the tables once you are done eating.  You got 20 minutes to eat your breakfast or lunch - like in McDonalds.   Prices and other charges. It looks like with every cruise we take, photos cost more and more. It is up to 19.95 now. And teenagers that make them have no idea about the composition. They got pretty good DSLRs cameras but most of them do not even know how to use it properly! I noticed that most of them use their cameras on "Auto" setting! Regarding drinks. Near the glacier, when it was really cold and windy, they were selling a hot chocolate in souvenir glass for $8.95...... To get a hot chocolate in the regular cup - you need to go down to deck 5  to Seattle cafe. It used to be when cappuccino and espresso were part of free beverages - not anymore - even during dinner in the restaurant.   Ports. For some reason our ship was docked in the farthest point of the terminal in Skagway and Juneau. There were few other ships in the port but for some reason the worst available dock was given to Serenade of the Seas. Could it be that Royal Caribbean is regarded as second rated company? Or this is the cheapest dock in the port? And in Juneau they even charge you extra $3 to get you into town....   Embarkation.  Long an unorganized. We were given 9:10AM time. Or color was called at 10:40AM. And for some reason they do not make announcements on the radio. You must be in your designated are along with other people.... Why? I'm not even saying about another huge line to get through the customs once you get off the ship. May be it is Canada issue and not Royal Caribbean..     Don't get me wrong. I did enjoy my trip a lot. Especially that Alaska is one of the most beautiful places in the world and I will definitely visit it again (probably not on Royal Caribbean). I just wanted to highlight only negative things as they might be helpful for people who are looking and comparing different Alaskan cruises.   Thanks and Regards,   DG Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Traveled aboard the Serenade July 4-11, 2009.  Along with me, came my husband, 10 year old son and 16 year old brother in law.  I was the only previous cruiser- everyone else was a first timer.  Traveled to Vancouver by air and stayed ... Read More
Traveled aboard the Serenade July 4-11, 2009.  Along with me, came my husband, 10 year old son and 16 year old brother in law.  I was the only previous cruiser- everyone else was a first timer.  Traveled to Vancouver by air and stayed at Pan Pacific at Canada Place.  Got that room on Hotwire for $90 and was upgraded to a suite for free when we got there.  Boarded ship next day.  Ballayntine Pier is about a 5-10 minute ride from Canada Place.  We arrived around 10:30 and had no problems getting in security, then on to check in.  Had done everything online and check in took less than 5 minutes.  It's not the most attractive terminal/embarkation facility ever- but RCCL had it running smoothly and efficiently.  We boarded in the third group- early around 11:30 am.The ship itself is extremely beautiful and we loved all the open spaces- glass elevators and public areas.  We found it to be very clean and maintained well.  By the end of the second day, we all had a good lay of the ship and could find our way around without deck plans and directions for the most part.  Plenty of places to just relax if you wanted to read or sit and watch the spectacular scenery going by. Mini golf was fun and rock wall awesome.  I also loved the Solarium pool- they did open it up to families for about 4/5 hours a day- which I liked.With regards to food, we found it to be generally very good.  My husband and I dined at Chops Grille once- and that by far, was the best meal on the cruise- service impeccable and professional.  Worth the service charge.  We ate in the main dining room on 2 other occasions- using the My Time Flexible Dining program which generally worked very well.  Once we did wait about 15 minutes for a table- but other than that, were usually seated right away.  Service in the dining room was excellent- particularly from head servers.  Energentic, friendly and attentive.  Food in main dining room was good.  Windjammer Cafe (buffet) was occasionally hit or miss but for the most part very good food.  Their salads were the best I have ever had on any cruise, as were the desserts- most of the time, they were to die for, regardless of where they were served.Stateroom:  We had a balcony "hump" cabin.  Furnishings and linens were very pretty and comfortable.  At first, we thought we would never survive in it- but there is good storage space and utilizing all of it, including space under the bed- the four of us managed extremely well.  Beds were comfortable and both my brother in law and son- had no issues with the fold out or the bunk.  Our stateroom attendant was by far the most attentive and kindest I have ever had on any cruise, including Disney Cruise Line.  His name was Marcilano.  If you sail with this ship- I hope you are lucky enough to have him tend to you and your cabin.  I couldn't say enough good things about him.  The shower was the best I ever had on any cruise ship.  My husband is a big guy and he had no complaints whatsoever- showers were hot and water pressure fantastic. Entertainment: Someone posted that the cruise director, Mike, reminded them of Tom Green- and boy, was that ever spot on.  He was hilarious.  Cruise activities were fairly good- could have used a little more variety though.  My son and BIL were in different age groups and didn't want to be split up so they didn't use their age level programming at all. There was only one meet and greet with the Captain during the whole week- and the picture opportunity only lasted 15 minutes.  They do a fabulous Q and A with the Captain though and backstage digital photo tour the last day at sea- which we loved.  The other members of the cruise entertainment staff were funny and engaging.  Activities manager Andy was very friendly also.  We saw 2 stage shows: one was Jonathan Clark- musical impressionist and comedian- very good.  Also saw Vibeology- pretty good as well. 2 of the singers- Jay and Shvonne- did their own R and B matinee show on the last day- they were fantastic. Ports:  We did all RCCL excursions.  Whale watching in Icy Strait.  It was fine and we did see several humpbacks- but the boat was big and it was crammed in outdoor viewing areas.  If I were to do it again, I would book a private charter.  In Skagway, we did the Sled Dog Camp.  It was unseasonably warm so they cancelled the cart pull as the heat was too much for the dogs.  They showed us other stuff instead- like harnessing and such.  We loved the dogs, hearing the musher talk about the races and seeing puppies but not doing the cart race was a bummer.  In fairness, we received notice of that before hand from the camp and RCCL.  In Juneau, we did the Salmon Hatchery and Mendenhall Glacier.  Interesting and Mendenhall was fabulous.   We were able to go to Tracy Arm Fjord- a venture the entire crew, including our captain was thrilled about- and he did an amazing job - got us 8/10 of a mile from Sawyer Glacier.  The most amazing scenery ever.  Unforgettable. The only tender was at Icy Strait Point, and that was handled smoothly and efficiently, with tours going out first in order of the time they were to meet.   Generally, Skagway and Juneau's downtown areas were sort of boring to us - the streets were lined with the typical jewelry and souvenir stores.  Had I known we wouldn't find much other than that, I would have booked us on two excursions a day.  Getting out to outlying areas offered us chances to see more landscapes and animals- including bald eagles- which is what the trip really, for us, was all about.  Service in general was excellent.  There were a few crew members who I found to be not very friendly, but for the most part we came across folks that were very friendly, helpful and kind.  Guest Relations staff in particular were quick and efficient in answering questions and concerns.  Our arrival back into Vancouver was delayed due to currents in tight straights that necessitated us going slower- and we got plenty of notice of that- I think 3 days notice, so we were able to get express departure way in advance, not to miss our flights.   The captain made informative and fun announcements at least once, sometimes twice daily, telling us about weather conditions, routes and other info when necessary.Disembarking was even easier then embarking- we had express departure and by the time we got to our assigned area to wait- they were already offloading passengers and we literally walked out the door with no waiting whatsoever.  There were plenty of staff members to guide us through Customs and out of the pier to transportation to the airport.On a scale of 1-5, I would give the Serenade a 4- 4 1/2.  Wouldn't hesitate to return to this ship again and I definitely will cruise with RCCL again, based on this cruise.  We had a fabulous time and loved our time onboard.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Day 1So here we go... Me my partner and neighbor book this cruise kind of last minute (less than 60 days out) so we utilized RCI's travel arrangements. The good on this was that the airline prices were comparable at the time to ... Read More
Day 1So here we go... Me my partner and neighbor book this cruise kind of last minute (less than 60 days out) so we utilized RCI's travel arrangements. The good on this was that the airline prices were comparable at the time to booking the flight myself. The bad we did not get non stop flights and I hate flying and they still get you for a luggage fee...After a slight flight delay from Phoenix to San Francisco (we flew United all the way) we made our connection to Vancouver (now when I found out our flight was delayed for up to 4 hours I did call RCI to inform them and get direction in case we missed our flight they were not much help although I don't know what I would have expected).After arriving into Vancouver clearing immigration we found that one of our bags was missing we went to the united desk (boy 1 guy for a ton of flights and was he swamped) and found out the bag had been scanned into Vancouver so the bag was somewhere. after about an hour and a half  some kids just happened to look behind the curtains where the luggage belts comes into the terminal and saw our lost piece of luggage (long story short if you cant find you luggage and it says it has arrived look behind the curtain).With delays and finally catching the transfer bus to the ship we made it through US Immigrations and made it onboard by about 4:30 pm. Set sail was great.Now don't get me wrong I am not complaining I know these are the hazards of flying I just wanted to share so if others run into these kinds of situations they have some options.Day 2 Sailing by the Isle of Vancouver we had about a 1 hour delay as the Canadian Coast Guard had to come and evacuate a medical emergency we heard that the person was fine but it was in the best interest of the passenger to be taken to a medical facility immediately. Other then that the sailing was uneventful and the weather was great. Dinner was formal so it was the Windjammer for us.Day 3Icy Straights Point, weather wise this was our worst weather day in port that being said it was not cold just mostly overcast with a few sprinkles. This for us was a leisurely day we did not have any tours planned so we waited for the mad rush to leave the ship and then we took the tender to shore to look around. ISP itself was ok they had some shops and museums with some interesting information not only about ISP but Alaska in general. The big thing to do in ISP seems to be the zip line (I know they have other tours but lets be honest I think more did the zip line then anything else). I did see a whale and a bald eagle from the ship so that alone to me was worth the stop.Day 4Tracy Arm Fjord Sawyer Glacier, this was fabulous the trip through the fjord in a ship as big as the Serenade was awe inspiring and the weather just made it more so. Besides seeing whales seals and other wild life on the way in and out of the fjord Captain Stieg made some stops to allow us to photograph and just take in the beauty of the area and many natural falls. I understand that he is one of the few captains that do this and the views he gave us were to die for. When we reached the glacier all I could do was marvel at its massiveness, we saw it calve a couple of times but over all it was just a sight to behold. On the way out again we stopped and spun to allow everyone to see some of the falls and other site around the ship.Day 5Skagway, other then the glacier and fjord this was defiantly the high light of our trip. We decided to do the White Pass railroad trip in the club car (this gave us a Champaign or sparkling cider toast at the summit, a tour guide in our car and a number commemorative keepsake). Again the weather was great (ok really hot according to the locals I talked to) we got of the ship around 11 am so we could walk around town (if you are going to go back and forth to the town and ship through the day buy the all day pass for $5 its $2 each way). The town was nice it has a lot of restored and new buildings that make the town look like it did in its glory days. We walked up and down the main street careful to avoid all the shopping traps (OMG Diamond International is taking over the world along with Del Sol) but did enjoy the little hiking/walking trails and all the historic markers throughout the town. After our walk and site seeing we returned to the Serenade for lunch and to relax before our train trip. Our tour tickets told us to be at the end of the pier at 4 pm so we exited the ship and took the shuttle to the end of the pier. around 4:14 or so some tour guides came by and told us the train would be along shortly (the train drives up next to the ships) at about 4:30 or so the train pulled in and unloaded its passengers then the engine disconnected and moved to the other end of the train (notice I did not use from or back because the engine will run from both ends during your trip) hooked up and we were ready for boarding. All of the train cars have a designation for ship and tour type so you will be directed as to which car you will ride in. After a brief stop at the railroad excursion center (to pick up last minute riders) we were off for our train ride 20 miles or so up the mountain. Inside the town/city limits you are not allowed to stand outside on the rail car platforms but once we were out of Skagway I was out taking some pictures and soaking up the fresh air. The general tour narrator was giving out general information and our car guide gave us a lot more detail and answered any question we might have had. Another nice thing about paying the extra for this ride was the fact that the car was not overly full (I don't think we had more then 20 folks in our car) thus allowing us to move around freely and use the outside platforms to take pictures. The scenery was awesome and the ride was enjoyable (this may have been a result of the great weather but I am sure the trip is always great) and our guide was great. On the way up and down we crossed many bridges and 2 tunnels we also got to see another train about 20 minutes behind us moving to the top of the pass. When we reached the summit the engine de-coupled and changed positions so it could bring us back down the mountain. After our toast and the train that was behind us passed beside us on the side tracks we started our journey back down the mountain again the views were awesome. After returning to the port we got off the train and headed back to the ship (although the tour was listed at like 2 and a half to 3 hours I think we were close to 3 1/2).Day 6Juneau, Juneau seems to be a good jumping off place for other tours and the great weather probably helped. The town itself was not that interesting but it was very clean. I believe that because of all the ship traffic to Juneau that most ships only stay about half a day (which was fine with me) we got off ship rode into town walked around and were back on ship before lunch time. I am sure that Juneau has a lot to offer for the shopping crowd but that's not me so I came, I saw, I didn't bother with the T shirt.Day 7At sea, I need a day to rest, this was the second day of misty foggy weather (but hey its no like I'm going ashore so) and the sea's seemed a little choppy. All the ship stuff was happening like the last chance auction the jackpot bingo all the last minute sales but I expected it and I enjoyed people watching.So here are some other items that may interest you. If you are eligible for a handicapped cabin you will not be disappointed. The facilities in the cabin were great there was enough room for a wheel chair or even a scooter if you needed on. The bathroom shower was spacious and even had a pull down seat. They also provide a phone and an assistance chord in the bathroom and next to the bed. They have a text capable phone in the room also.The food is about what I have come to expect from RCI, I will say the quality has slipped a little from my first cruise in 2003 but with the economy it is not unexpected.The service as always was first rate, our cabin steward figured out our schedule (which was like no schedule) and always had our room ready. Our waiter and assistant waiter were great and always had the diet coke ready for my table mates.The ship is still a beautiful lady the size is great and her up keep is maintained well. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Our trip to Alaska on Serenade of the Seas was a very wonderful experience.  Here is an overview of the trip:   Embarkation- Three groups of two flew into Vancouver from Edmonton, Calgary & Toronto the day of departure.  We ... Read More
Our trip to Alaska on Serenade of the Seas was a very wonderful experience.  Here is an overview of the trip:   Embarkation- Three groups of two flew into Vancouver from Edmonton, Calgary & Toronto the day of departure.  We took a limo ($110 with tip-cheaper than two cabs) to the pier, arriving just before 11 AM.  We were at the front of the check in line and made it through check in and US customs and were the first on the ship by about 11:40 and dining in the Windjammer by noon. We had great weather by comparative standards for Alaska.  The two sea days travelling up and down the coast were cloudy with fog and cool, but we had lots to do on the ship that it didn't matter.  The first two days in Alaska at Icy Strait and Tracy Arm fjord were beautiful with sunny skies all day and temps about mid 70's.  Skagway and Juneau were cloudy with temps in the mid 60's, but with no rain. At our stop in Icy Strait, we took a private whale watching tour with Glacier Wind Charters.  We had the whole day and boat to six of us.  There were numerous viewings of humpback whales and it was painful to leave so that we had a bit of time back at the port prior to the ship departing.  Also saw lots of bald eagles, sea lions, porpoises and a grizzly bear.  I would strongly recommend this excursion rather than the ship's tours...it is more personal and cheaper. Our day cruising up the Tracy Arm fjord was magical.  The captain made a decision to go up Endicott Arm as the ice conditions were better than in Tracy Arm.  The three hour trip up the fjord was great with ice flows dotted with seals and magnificent waterfalls cascading down the shear granite cliffs.  When we got to the end of the fjord, the captain pushed the ship through about a half mile of solid ice to get to open water within about a mile of the glacier.  It was an incredible site as he rotated the ship twice so all could see the end of the glacier.  Calving was taking place intermittently and looked like bombs going off as the ice fell into the water.  We got to see the scenery again as we took the three hour trek back out of the fjord. In Skagway, we did another private tour through Chilkoot Charters.  While most people in Skagway want to see the White Pass via the train, this tour split the trip between a bus and the train.  We took the bus up the mountain and the train back down.  It provided two perspectives of the valley and pass.  The bus allowed us to stop at various locations while travelling up the mountain to view the valley and wildlife, which was not possible on the train.  That said, the train ride was incredible and I would suggest taking it down as you get a better perspective of the valley.  Again, this tour was more personable, at least on the bus, and permitted more sight seeing than going on the train both ways.  It was also cheaper than the train up and down via the cruise ship excursions.  We were back in lots of time to do some shopping in the town before catching the ship again. In Juneau we did not book any tours and kept this as our shopping day as our port time was short.  There are lots of shops in Juneau varying from the typical big city stores with merchandise with Alaska logos to the small shops selling more unique wares native to Alaska. The ship was in wonderful shape and the crew was great.  We had no problems what so ever and I will leave the major comments on the ship to the other plentiful reviews on this and other sites.  The food in main dining room & Windjammer was outstanding, although seemed like there was less choice than the Voyager and Freedom class ships we have previously sailed.  Chops was just out of this world as we have come to expect and well worth a night and the $25 pp cover charge.  The RCCL productions shows were well performed, but didn't pique our interest as much as previous shows.  The other headline entertainers were great and brought the house down.  The regular shows- Love & Marriage, The Quest, Serenade Feud, etc were all good for a laugh.  There was a show band, Casablanca, playing Elvis, Roy Orbison, The Beatles, etc that was outstanding and got rave reviews. Debarkation- This was well organized by RCCL.  We went to the theater at our appointed time (9 AM) and 10 minutes later we were leaving the ship.  It took about 30 minutes to get through Canadian customs.  It would have been faster, but many of the non-Canadians did not have the customs forms completed properly and this took time as they got to the front of the line.  The biggest jamb was after luggage collection.  There is restricted access for cabs and limos at Ballantyne pier and this created huge lines and wait times.  It took us almost an hour of waiting to get the pre-booked limo back to the airport.  Others were there longer and in a snarlier mood.  Make sure you plan accordingly to either get off the ship early or book your flights with enough time to get to the airport.  We had three flights at 1 PM and finally got there about 11:30, just in time for a quick bite (after Windjammer withdrawal) and to catch our flights. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
If you have not been fortunate enough to visit Alaska please start saving your money and plan the best trip to this beautiful state that you can afford.  Forget about fancy clothes and pack your best walking shoes or boots.  Alaska is ... Read More
If you have not been fortunate enough to visit Alaska please start saving your money and plan the best trip to this beautiful state that you can afford.  Forget about fancy clothes and pack your best walking shoes or boots.  Alaska is for scenery lovers and for wildlife lovers too!  We first came to Alaska two years ago and this is our second trip back.  By far, Royal Caribbean has the right line-up of places to see and come too!  We loved this trip because of Seward and Hoonah.  We came back to Alaska to try our hand at Halibut fishing and king salmon fishing and we were not disappointed on this trip.  We love our cabin on the Radiance it was a little smaller than we normally book but it was right on the hump close to elevators!  We love our room stewart from who made great animals each night in our room and always thought of us in special ways!  Our head waiter Arturo from the Phillipines and Asst. Waiter Susann from Brazil were fantastic!  We shared a table in the back on the 4th floor of Cascades not the best location but we were well taken care of by the two of them.  Elena was our female head waiter and she really worked the room!  The food in the Main dining room is just okay.  It cannot compare to the high standards of the Serenade of the Seas right now.  But Chops & Portofinos were utterly great again.  Sous Chef Peddy from Indonesia really was outstanding and he even made a special meal for me and my husband on our last night since I love Indonesian food so much from my travels to the Amsterdam and some of its great Indonesian restaurants.  I personnally think that with all the nationalities of individuals working on RCCL ships now it is about time that the menus in the MDR reflect the heritage of some of their workers now. Why not change up the menu once in a while and add chef's favorites from some of the workers countries instead of all the cuisine dishes from India which are just too much right now on the menu.  Yes, I realize RCCL thinks that the indian food is for the vegetarians who eat on RCCL ships but come on why not honor the Brazilians, the Phillipine staff, the caribbean island staff and others who work for RCCL with a dish from their countries once in a while.  Make one night Alaskan foods night please instead of Italian night.  RCCL is using a Royal Mountie officer who is retired now to tell his organizations history onboard.  Was not too impressed.  I really did not want history on this trip but I wanted to hear about the wildlife, the birds, the waterways, the glaciers etc..We did not spend that much time in Canada afterall!   I would like to see "real cooking demostrations" not sales pitches for ULU knives in the gift shops!  I would love to learn more about preparing good seafood from Alaska and the food products of Alaska that we cannot experience in the 48 states.  How about some great Alaskan chefs giving talks on the ship in the Theatre or the Colony Club instead of doing the garnishing and towel shows in the Centrum area that is too tight. I do believe the activities on board need some revamping. I would like to see more fun things that change over time.Did not see much of whales on this cruise until we came to Seward.  We did take a private fishing charter in Hoonah Icy Straits area with Dream Fish Charters.  They are GREAT and I would encourage everyone experiencing real Alaskan fishing trips-we were not fortunate to see whales but we did see a mink at the dock area!! We also booked another fishing charter in Seward with Crackerjack fishing charters.  UTTERLY FANTASTIC MUST DO!  THIS CITY IS WORTH SPENDING TIME IN EVERYONE!  We drove to Kenai, Alaska and also went through the wildlife refuge on the way to Kenai.  GREAT!!!!  We booked the Kenai Fjords Northwestern Tour for 9 hours to the Northwestern Glacier.  THE IS THE BEST EXCURSION I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED ANYWHERE IN THE WHOLE WORLD!  I do not want to spoil your planning but Kenji Fjord tours are a MUST DO!   We saw tons of humpback whales, Orca Whales, otters, stellar sea lions, puffins, alaska birds of all types and water fowl.  We were fortunate to get the Northwestern Glacier  closer than the Hubbard Glacier experience on the Radiance of Sea.  We saw tons of calving at the Northwestern Glacier this trip.  This entire experience was highly emotional and beautiful to say the least.I thought our Radiance of the Seas trip to the Hubbard Glacier was better than the Glacier Bay experience I had two years ago on Princess. The ships captain got us very close 4 tens of a mile in   this made this experience worth getting up at 5:30 am for to experience fully in the early morning.  We had foggy overcast weather the entire trip but no rain!  It was quite chilly compared to those that traveled in May but it is Alaska and part of Alaska's charm is the weather to me!Lastly, I took only one excursion from RCCL on this trip and it was on the Bering Sea Aleutian Ballad ship which is also parked right outside of the Radiance of the Seas port landing area at the Ketchikan port.  This excursion is worth the money and they showed us and talked with such passion about their careers as professional fisherman that I truly fell their love for our earth and its bounties.  Take this excursion as it is not "tv Hooky" at all.  It is extremely well done and I such respect for these humble souls that tell their own life stories on the seas of Alaska.  We did Discover Skagway with Gwen in Skagway and they are just great. I really good a lot out of her tour and she took such good care of all of us during our tour to see why she loves her beautiful state.In Juneau, we walked through the City as we have been there before and I bought some beautiful soap from the Glacier Soap company, we went to the bookstore in Juneau it is a great find!  Lastly, we had lunch at the Twisted fish in Juneau and also had a great Alaskan Brewery beer the White Summer Ale is excellent and worth trying.  We also went to the Red Dog Saloon and had an Alaskan Brewery Summer Ale too.Everyone, please enjoy the Radiance of the Seas, spend some time getting to know some of the great staff on this ship, and take a moment to experience sea life in Alaska from the excitement of the wildlife, the whales, the otters and the sea lions point of view!  Take also some time to see the wonders of small towns in Alaska.  I am so happy for Alaskan celebrating this year its 50th birthday!CincinnatiGal Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
We chose Royal Caribbean's 'Serenade of the Seas', sailing from Vancouver, as there was a special offer available. This avoided entering the USA at an airport, with all the associated infamous problems with US immigration ... Read More
We chose Royal Caribbean's 'Serenade of the Seas', sailing from Vancouver, as there was a special offer available. This avoided entering the USA at an airport, with all the associated infamous problems with US immigration staff. Having spoken to passengers from Princess, Celebrity and Holland America, in different ports of call, we could have had a better cruise for little or no extra cost. Almost certainly we would have had better value for money. Cabin size seemed small compared with what one would find for the same price on other lines. Sound proofing was fine and we didn't hear noise from our neighbours at all. We took a length of string so that we could wash our socks and knickers and hang them on our balcony to dry. Royal Caribbean always seemed to go for the cheap option: they use Ballantyne Pier (in the bonded commercial docks) rather than the newer, more stylish, centrally located and better Canada Place Cruise Terminal; at ports of call they berth out of town and leave early (presumably to save money again); they charge for things that other lines offer for free. Our cruise price included a $50 per head on board credit. However, when we went to pay our bill, the pursers denied all knowledge of it saying, "Miami have no record of it. You'll have to sort it out with your travel agency on your return." This appears to be down to Royal Caribbean in the UK not communicating with Royal Caribbean HQ and was not the fault of staff in our travel agency. Living in south Wales, we found it to be cheaper, and easier, to fly to Vancouver from Cardiff via Amsterdam than to travel all the way to a London airport with all the crowds, hassle and stress involved. The aeroplanes were comfortable and on time. Travel time, from leaving our house to touchdown in Vancouver, was less than it would have been had we flown from Heathrow. Looking online for an hotel we booked the Holiday Inn Express on East Hastings Street for our overnight stay. It was considerably cheaper than those in the centre of town. As others have said in their reviews, the hotel offers more than adequate accommodation. They offer to pick one up from the airport for a very reasonable fee (much less than taxi or coach transfers). They also offer a free shuttle to Ballantyne Pier (for Royal Caribbean) or to Canada Place (for the other cruise lines). To ensure that you can avail yourself of the transfers, make sure that you have a confirmed booking for them from the hotel before you leave home. Their response to e-mails was the worst aspect of the booking and we had to telephone them to confirm our airport transfer. Others have moaned about the (included) breakfast but we found it quite satisfactory. However, the breakfast room is small and was at times rather crowded. If you decide to stay there, tell them that you will have flown from Europe and would appreciate a high floor room facing away from the street so that you can sleep soundly. We were on the top storey. The transfer to Ballantyne Quay took only a few minutes and although officially, check-in started at noon, we arrived before this time to find that they had already begun the process. Having read other reviews, we were concerned about the long waiting times and attitude of the US border officers. We found both the Canadian staff and US border officials were friendly. If you arrive early, you may find, like us, that you will be aboard within an hour. Once aboard, we were surprised by the number of children around. We found out that mid June is too late to avoid school children; they break up that week in some parts of the USA so there were lots on board. The first or second week of June is better if you want to avoid all the youngsters. Dining As on other Royal Caribbean ships, breakfasting in the dining room can be a rather protracted affair, especially if you share a table with others. However, it is the only place that one can order, my favourite, eggs Benedict. If you can do without them, you are better off taking a buffet breakfast in the Windjammer where you can have as much as you like in whatever order you like. Their porridge was acceptable but their croissants were not up to the calibre of European ones. If you want to dine as a couple, rather than be forced to share a table with up to eight others, book "Anytime Dining". Those who really did not want to share a table were able to ensure that they always had a table for two by booking for the opening time of the restaurant. With "Anytime Dining" you are not guaranteed to have the same waiting staff for every meal. However, if you book your dining time (up to two days in advance) you will be with the same waiters. A big advantage of "Anytime Dining" is that one is seated on deck 5 'upstairs' in the restaurant with a greater chance of a window table than in the main dining room on deck 4. Food was OK but only three courses were listed in the restaurant even for formal meals. More savvy passengers were able to turn their meals into five or more courses by asking for both soup and a salad starter, having fish and meat for the main course and having two sweets. Waiters, who were universally excellent, had no problems with these requests and willingly complied. If you do ask for two dishes from the same course make it quite clear which you want first otherwise you could end up with the meat before the fish or a salad before the soup. What was "Dress Code" for evening meals is now merely "suggested attire" and basically anything goes. For the formal meals a DJ was not really necessary. The ratio of formally dressed diners was quite high by modern standards but most men were in suit and tie rather than 'black tie'. An excellent compromise might be a black blazer with bow tie, cummerbund and black trousers if you want to look more formal than in a suit. They sell water on the ship for day trips but you can fill your own bottle for free by picking up beakers of water in the Windjammer cafeteria and emptying them into your bottle. Some staff will even fill your bottle for you at the drinks station. They sell a package of fizzy drinks on board. You pay a fee and have all your soft drinks for free but lemonade is freely available anyway. We even witnessed one couple taking the lemonade to use as tonic substitute for their G&T. The chocolates on the pillow each night have gone in yet another penny pinching move so if you want to have chocolates with your after dinner coffee you'll have to bring your own. Ports of Call At no port did we take a ship's excursion. Although the calibre of some was good, they were pricey and often did not give one enough time at a location so we decided to plough our own furrow. At Icy Straight Point there is not much to do except savour the beautiful local scenery. Our walk through the woods under the grey skies was very atmospheric. Even in this remote place many of our fellow passengers were more interested in looking at the jewellery on sale than exploring away from the settlement. At least the money spent at this port of call goes to locals and contributes to arresting local depopulation by giving them a source of income. Tracey Arm Fjord, is not technically a port of call as we did not berth anywhere. The ship took us to within a few metres of the glacier, sailing through the ice floes, with the sea lions lazing the day away on them. As is standard practice, here the ship slowly rotated within its own length offering views of the glacier calving every few minutes. As others have reported, it is very cold (below 10 degrees) and we were pleased that we had learned from those reviews and wore hats, gloves and layers of clothing. In Skagway, as in all ports of call, the cost of the ship's excursions was steep. A great alternative is to choose a trip from Dyea Dave. Look up his web site and do a price comparison. His trips are in minibuses as opposed to big coaches so the service is much more personal AND cheaper and we saw far more than those on the ship's trips. If you want to stop to take a photograph you have only to ask. We were able to see both golden and bald eagles and stopped at the roadside to see a black bear less than 10 metres away grazing quite unperturbed by our presence. At the end of the journey, at our request, we were dropped in the middle of Skagway. It was only then that payment was made for the day. Travellers' cheques or cash were accepted. The town was quaint with wooden pavements with low kerbs. It was small enough to stroll around easily. In Juneau there were four cruise ships visiting. The Serenade of the Seas was berthed furthest from the town centre. The other three were either in the town centre or adjacent to it. Their passengers simply walked off their ships and into the main shopping area. Most passengers from the Serenade of the Seas who were not booked on a ship's excursion paid for a shuttle bus to take them into town, over a kilometre or so away. There was no queue for the bus into town but for the return trip, it was long. Again ship excursions were expensive. The one to Mendenhall Glacier, which interested us, allowed insufficient time to wander and take in all that was there. Having read reviews on this site before we left, we simply went to one of the kiosks at the base of the cable car (called a 'Tramway' by locals) and paid $7 each way to the glacier and $3 each to enter the visitor centre (well worth it). The buses left every half hour and we were able to spend three unhurried hours there in pleasant temperatures of 21 degrees or so. If you don't walk to the Nugget Falls for a close up of the glacier and the waterfall you can cover everything in two hours. Unlike the other shipping lines, we had to be back on board at 14.30 in order to sail away earlier than Princess, HAL and Celebrity. "Is this to reduce port fees?" many passengers wondered. Re-reading this it seems as if we had a terrible cruise. This is not the case. We did all that we had hoped to and saw all the sights that we wanted, including a glacier calving, hump back whales, orca, sea lions, seals and sea otters, all from the decks of the ship. The crew members we met were exemplary and the trips we undertook were first class. It's just that Royal Caribbean seem to be suffering from a touch of "ha'p'orth of tar" syndrome. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
My husband and I are in our mid-30's. It's our 4th cruise, our 2nd RCI cruise and our 1st trip to Alaska. We treated ourselves to an aft balcony on deck 7 and while we certainly would have enjoyed the cruise without it, it just ... Read More
My husband and I are in our mid-30's. It's our 4th cruise, our 2nd RCI cruise and our 1st trip to Alaska. We treated ourselves to an aft balcony on deck 7 and while we certainly would have enjoyed the cruise without it, it just made the cruise that little bit better that was so worth it.In brief, the ship was fantastic with so much glass we could always see outside and enjoy the unbelievable views no matter where we were. Alaska was so much better than I even imagined - if you're thinking about Alaska, just do it. Without writing pages and pages...Embarkation was fast and efficient though getting through customs was a bit of a chore. The service was exceptional throughout the cruise. We never had a bad experience or even an average experience. All staff were so friendly and made a point of saying hello and asking how our cruise was going. In the dining room the assistant waiter Freddy kept our wine glass constantly refilled without us even noticing. The waiter Myla was so friendly and efficient and at the end of each meal would give us highlights of the next day's dinner's and our dining options. The head waiter even came over every night to personally ensure we were having a good experience. I was really impressed with all the dining staff and the dining room food was the consistently best food I've yet had on a cruise. Of course buffet of their staff on Serenade of the Seas.Great cabin on deck seven aft, right in the middle.  Decent size with lots of storage space for 2 people.  Wonderful spot for Alaska because you can see everything from the back and especially in Tracy Arm there is no wind so even though it is cold at the the top its nice on the balcony and you can order some nosh from room service and enjoy hot chocolate right on the balcony viewing the glacier.  Just above Safari Lounge but only noisy one day during karaoke for about 30 mins around 5pm.  No engine noise but there is vibration from the engines when the ship is at top speed (which only happens on the first and last day).  No hallway noise and dead quiet but quite a walk to the elevators/stairs which are mid-ship.  There is a crew space where they collect and wash dishes right across the hall but I never heard them. The cruise director Mike was great (is it just me or does he look a lot like Tom Green?) and very funny. I would also say the entertainment staff and daytime activities was some of the best and most varied we've seen. Everything from trivia games (lots of them actually), dance classes, naturalist lectures, games, language classes, mixology, wine tasting and on and on. Lots to do during the day if you can tear yourself away from the amazing views.The evening entertainment was good but not as good as experiences on Princess and Carnival. First of all, we have late seating and I really don't like having to be ready for the pre-dinner show at 7pm. Of course we could just miss it but I really enjoy the shows. The 3 production shows were good. The had guest entertainers, a comedy magician who was good but we've seen better, a comedy musical impressionist who was a better singer/musician then comedian or impressionist, and an Olympic gymnast who was very good. They were all fine and an entertaining way to spend 45 minutes but I would have preferred a good magician/illusionist (skip the comedy), a good musician/singer (skip the comedy and impressions) and a good comedian. Do as the gymnast and stick to a strength rather than try to be everything to everyone. Anyway, since that's my biggest criticism it was obviously an excellent cruise. A couple of other small points so I won't seem that I'm mindlessly loving everything, I wish Serenade had a Crow's Nest for a quiet read, the Vortex is similar but the music playing was loud and not conducive to relaxation plus the smoke from the night before was disgusting and kept me away. Also a piano bar would have been a nice addition. There is a piano in the Schooner Bar which could be used for singalongs but we didn't see it used for that which is a shame.The weather was fantastic by the way and really added to the experience. No rain the whole time and sunny for most of the trip, at least in the afternoons. Icy Strait Point - Rating: 5We booked through Glacier Wind Charters to go on a 4 hour whale watching tour. The boat was very nice and there were only 6 of us all together. Captain Shaun took us out and the scenery was beautiful. It would have been a great day even if we hadn't seen any whales but we did. We saw perhaps 20 humpback whales, sea otters and a bear and its cub on the shore. I can't say enough good things about the experience. It was cool but not cold and the sun came out for awhile which was beautiful. We noticed the boat for the cruise and there was well over 100 people which must have made it hard to actually see anything so I felt we made the right choice. Endicott Arm Fjord - Rating: 5+Not a port but a destination for sure. We were supposed to go to Tracy Arm Fjord but it was iced in so we could have only got about 1/3 of the way so I'm glad we went to Endicott Arm. I was afraid it would be disappointing since I had really been looking forward to Tracy Arm but Endicott was spectacular. There were fantastic views everywhere and we got all the way in so we were so close to the glacier (I think Dowes Glacier but I could be wrong) and just spun around 2 or 3 times. It was pretty full in the front both on the helipad and all the decks but we got a goodish spot for viewing. Then when we got there we went down to our balcony, ordered room service and enjoyed the view while drinking hot chocolate with Bailey's. It was much warmer there then on the helipad so were were in light sweaters and very comfortable in the sun. Plus we got to watch the glacier and the views while we left Endicott Arm. Skagway - Rating: 5Great port. It was clouded over in the morning and the mountain tops were fogged which I suspected would happen when I booked our train ride. So we spend the morning hiking around the area and had a picnic lunch, then came back to the ship in the early afternoon and took the 4:30 train trip. The sun was out by noon and it was spectacular weather for hiking (it was actually quite hot by early afternoon and pool weather) so we were glad we layered. And the lighting was perfect for the train ride. The train was actually even better than I had expected. We got on the left side going up but actually spent most of the time on the viewing platform between cars which I would highly recommend to anyone taking the train. The views were spectacular and the staff were excellent. There was a really good commentary over the speakers which could be heard in all the cars and the staff were across the board very friendly and helpful (with the exception of the sales agent at the downtown Skagway office who I strongly suspect was high as she couldn't manage to string together a single sentence). Juneau - Rating: 5Took the ship excursion Photo Safari by Land and Sea run by Gastineau Guiding. I was very nervous as I am not a tour person, more of a DIY person but it sounded really good. And it was very good. The tour guide George was really knowledgeable both about Skagway, the wildlife and photography. We drove to Aucke (sp?) Bay where we saw tons of bald eagles before boating an odd speedboat with inflatable sides. Anyway it was very fast (but mostly smooth) and no bathroom on board so we had a bio break before boarding. Saw some seals and bald eagles then we went to a spot with tons of sea lions all on a rock. George was great about giving us tips on how to take the best pictures and how to set our cameras for the shot. Took many pics then we were on our way again and did see two humpback whales and later saw a buoy with a bald eagle at the top and 3 cows and 1 male sea lion at the bottom - so cool! Then we returned to Aucke Bay and took the mini-bus to Mendenhall Glacier. Took some pictures there and continued on to a nice hike along one of the trails around Mendenhall. Then we returned to the ship. The tour was a great 'sampler pack' of Juneau and packed a lot into about 4 hours. The only way to have improved the experience would have been to have another hour or two for a slightly more in-depth experience but that's just me.All together, a great ship, a great destination, great ports, great staff and great food all made for a perfect vacation. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
We were happy to embark on our second cruise of the year, we are young 40-somethings with a 9 and 12 year old. We booked excursions pre cruise, and tried to select active ones to burn some energy. We flew from Chicago to Vancouver the day ... Read More
We were happy to embark on our second cruise of the year, we are young 40-somethings with a 9 and 12 year old. We booked excursions pre cruise, and tried to select active ones to burn some energy. We flew from Chicago to Vancouver the day before, and stayed at the Westin BayShore, ate an early dinner on the water across from the hotel, and enjoyed the beautiful indoor pool/jacuzzi and gym. Being on EST we were  up early, took part in the breakfast, walked Stanley Park, and took a swim/gym break before heading to the port at 11 ish. Taxis are Prius here and it is a struggle with 4 large suitcases and carryon backpacks but we did it.Serenade is gorgeous. I was nervous that it would be too small after taking our last several cruises on Independence, Liberty, Adventure. I should not have worried, the ship was perfect, the children had the layout on the first few days and our 12 year old was able to navigate herself,with a walkie talkie, when we let her. She enjoyed the 12+ teen group. Our 9 year old did not seem to miss the flow rider, he enjoyed the children's activities as well. We did not let him wander alone, though.My favorite things, the elevators with glass views of the scenery, the Champagne lounge for predinner drinks (soda for the children, champagne for me, beer for DH), the vortex in the eve, the platinum parties, our lovely table mates from the Great State of Texas with good Diamond Plus travel tips.We were those kooks in the hot tub when everyone else had on jackets. Children were allowed in the Solarium pool from 1-3 pm, we took advantage of that most days. Someone tried to put their swimmie diaper baby in the hot tub, it was stated on the prohibited list, they claimed not to understand english and gave the attendant a hard time. Yucky doody diaper in the hot tub. We skipped the hot tub that day. The hot tub did get very crowded in the Solarium, the outdoor hot tub was less crowded, as was the pool bar. We played minigolf, triviva, wii bowling, family wii, childrens talent show. We spent one eve at chops with our well behaved children, and one at portofino, we wish the main dining room had crystal wine glasses and such attentive service. Oh well, we shall have to return to the chops and portofino, for the filet mignon and seafood skewer and attractive desserts, as well as french press coffee and window view of the Inside Passage.I decided to skip the spa and concentrate on the fitness center this cruise, so I did spinning class, personal training, and a circuit training class. I enjoyed this very much. I also bought the week long sauna pass, but only ended up going 3 times, and once couln't get a heated lounger. Should have just bought "a la carte" pass, sometimes the steamroom had an odd odor.We had connecting balcony cabins, which afforded us great balcony views, lots of room for the 4 of us, and most importantly 2 bathrooms, and 2 tvs. Our room attendant was great. Our waitress was good, our ass't waitress was funny, giving me pepper when I told her 3 times, "no pepper, please". The maitre d' did see this and woke her up from her reverie.All in all, I would do it again in a minute!! The production shows were great, I agree with a previous poster, impressions and comedy singers don't impress me as much. We tried to keep the excursions to a reasonable cost and did not do heli tours. There is a reason to go back next time!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
We flew to Vancouver from Los Angeles the night before the cruise.  We stayed one night at the Days Inn downtown, clean but very small, but for one short night it was fine.Pre-cruise we took a 3.5 hour city tour with Land Sea tours.  ... Read More
We flew to Vancouver from Los Angeles the night before the cruise.  We stayed one night at the Days Inn downtown, clean but very small, but for one short night it was fine.Pre-cruise we took a 3.5 hour city tour with Land Sea tours.  They picked us up in the hotel lobby and took all our luggage on the van.  They then switched us onto another van and we were a little worried whether they would get all of our luggage, they did, everything was fine.  The tour was very good, we saw and learned a lot. We went through Stanley Park with a stop at the totem poles and a stop to look at Lion's Gate bridge.  We also had a short stop in Granville Market which was a pretty cool place, one could spend several hours there and not be bored.  We then went to the observation tower and had a short walk through gas town.  The tour dropped us at Ballentyne Pier. People were friendly in Vancouver in the hotels and restaurants, even on the street when we needed advice about public transport.  I would love to go back and spend more time in this beautiful city.Embarkation was delayed, so large crowds gathered, but they had the lines arranged very efficiently.  The back up was due to the previous cruise being delayed because the tide was too high and they had to wait for it to go down so they could get under Lion's Gate Bridge!  We waited in line for about 45 minutes and then we were getting onboard the ship.  The cabin was ready so we were able to drop our carry on luggage there, then we headed to the Windjammer for the welcome aboard lunch.  As usual, the food in the buffet was spotty, some is delicious, other things not so good.  One reason why my DH and I love RCL is their ships are so beautiful and the Serenade is no exception.  I really enjoyed the glass elevators, what a view.  In fact, the views are great everywhere.  The decor and artwork on the ship was wonderful from the whimsical statues on the pool and golf decks, to the more classical pieces. It is in wonderful shape. We had an Ocean View quad room, two beds pull out from the ceiling.  The room was well laid out and we had plenty of room.  Having a window at ocean level was kind of cool.  Our fellow cruisers ranged from babies to elderly folks.  Lots of multi-generational family groups.  As usual, Adventure Ocean was pretty wonderful and our 11 and 9 YO sons enjoyed that.  They spent less time there than usual because they are old enough now to go on excursions and Alaska is the place to do that (more on ports later). Not too many rude passengers, some bad habits/behavior at the buffet, but that is becoming normal and a reason I try to avoid the buffet.Our cabin steward was very efficient and pleasant to us.  She took pride in her job and asked us many times if everything was good, it was.  Our wait staff in the dining room was the same, not overly friendly, but efficient and pleasant.The captain was Canadian and on our cruise the last day was Canada day.  They decorated the ship with flags and red and white.  The many Canadians onboard wore appropriate patriotic t-shirts.  The day we docked was the 4th of July and again they decorated.  It was a little strange to be in Canada on the 4th..Glacier, we went to Dawes glacier and the captain got the ship up close to it.  It was fun to see the floating ice on the way there and how it increased as we got closer to the glacier.  Got some amazing photos up on deck.  It was cold up there but not as bad as on our whale watching tour.The rest of the cruise we had warm and sunny weather.  The kids were finally able to rock climb and mini golf.  So a very complete cruise.Entertainment:  A comedian that was not that funny.  Magician who was really good and did a close up magic show in one of the lounges on the last day.  One guy did singing impersonations, he was really good and funny.  Cruise director was a young man, he was good, funny.  Entertainment was not that great compared with some other RCL cruises, perhaps this is where the cruise line is cutting back?Disembarkation was fast, we are Diamond members and were in the customs line by 8:15.  Customs line was long probably took .5 hour.Spent one final day in Vancouver.  Stayed at the Pan Pacific an amazing hotel.  Took public transportation to Grouse Mountain, and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. The view from the tram was wonderful. Then took public transport to do some shopping on Robson.  The weather was about 80 that day.  Ended the day by walking to the Spaghetti Factory in gas town, dined al fresco, good food, reasonable prices, excellent service, highly recommende.  Did a little souviner shopping, the kids got one of the Olympic mascot fuzzy creatures.An excellent cruise and vacation, all the preplanning really paid off. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
Embarkation:  Embarkation was, frankly, a mess - tide issues delayed disembarkation of the previous cruise, creating a two hour delay in EVERYTHING, including the muster drill and depature.  I don't fault RCCL for the delay, but ... Read More
Embarkation:  Embarkation was, frankly, a mess - tide issues delayed disembarkation of the previous cruise, creating a two hour delay in EVERYTHING, including the muster drill and depature.  I don't fault RCCL for the delay, but they could have handled some parts better - for example, having staff in the parking garage explaining why there was a line wrapping AROUND THE PARKING DECK and how to safely get a porter to take your luggage with the traffic (vehicular and pedestrian); having all chairs set out in advance in the holding area, rather than putting them up as they ran out, which created issues when they started to call folks in for check in (presumably, given where you were sitting, by when you arrived at the pier).  People's attitudes didn't help much, either.  To the very cranky Diamond cruiser who wanted to jump ahead of everyone else:  was your vacation that undone by the delay?  When they say that embarkation starts at noon, there's a reason.  Don't be cranky if you get there early and have to wait because of an unforeseen problem. Cabin:  3447, large interior.  The usual oversized walk-in closet RCCL passes off for an interior cabin.  The finishes, while in decent shape, are showing their fashion age and wear - blond woods and faux bronze.  If I were redesigning the space, I would rethink either the shape of the bed or the length of the desk/vanity area - there is not enough space to get around that side of the bed without catching an ankle on the base woodwork - or just push the bed to the side as in the Sovereign class, and admit that it's a small cabin.  As the ship had recently repositioned from Asia, we still had the electric water pots for in-room tea.   LOVED THAT!  That should be standard on all cabins.  However, they should ditch the Lipton version of Earl Grey tea - it's about as Earl Grey as flat diet Coke.   Really missed the interactive TV we had on Jewel (our last RCCL sailing).  Michael was our cabin steward - friendly, articulate (while we don't make a big deal of the fact that many service staff speak with a heavy accent, having someone who we could easily understand was a lovely plus), eager to please, with great attention to detail.  Apparently, I blew through (no pun intended) enough Kleenex because of my rampant allergies that, our first night, he brought me an additional box of tissues and put them on my side of the bed.  Radiance still has the icky fabric shower curtains that tend to contain the faint whiff of mildew at first, though the smell dissipated during the week: they need to ditch them altogether or wash them more regularly.   Dining:   Ate late traditional seating - it seemed very sparse;  wonder how many early-dining folks switched to My Time Dining when they couldn't get it? We were four seated at a table for six and saw similar seating arrangements around the dining room.   Boni(face) and Noel were our table stewards - efficient, well-humored, and earnest.    Overall, we had the best service I've ever experienced on a cruise ship - equaling, if not eclipsing, my first sailing to Alaska on HAL eight years ago.  The food was okay - nothing phenomenal, nothing horrible, just okay. Well, that is, except for the rock-hard rolls; maybe because we were so late eating, they'd cooled off too much?.   Same thing in the Windjammer for breakfast - seemed to be the same thing every day, not much variety;  not awful, just not exceptional.     Still, we managed to keep ourselves well-fed. Public Rooms and overall ship activities:   The ship's layout is very counterintuitive - we had a difficult time trying to orient ourselves as to where things where vis-à-vis our cabin. Vibrations on this ship much noticeable in the dining room and upper areas (solarium, pool, Windjammer).  The ship is also showing signs of wear and tear - trim/paint the Solarium seemed especially faded and washed out and the windows on the Lido Deck were not well-cleaned (most noticeable as we were sailing Tracy Arm Fjord).   This was our third Alaska cruise, but our first with Royal Caribbean (the other two were with HAL).  I must admit, HAL has Alaska down - we missed the naturalist and native artist on board.  The shops opened on a staggered schedule - booze/'sundries' the first night, perfume/costume jewelry the second night, all others on the third.  A staff member in the perfume shop said that they got 44 pallets of merchandise in Vancouver and were redesigning the displays, so they wanted to give staff enough time to lay it out properly.  I have to admit, the selection was kind of underwhelming in all the shops, regardless of how much time they had to stock.  The Cruise Compass was of limited use because it was never correct - the 'morning show' that the CD and AD taped always had corrections as to locations or times of events.  We would have taken advantage of the 'flat-rate laundry bag' special, except the handout never stated what day(s) it was for, and by the time we asked, it was over.  Most annoying:  the main dining room closed a half-hour earlier than stated on the Compass/disembarkation handouts.  I understand we were repositioning, and this was their first sailing of the season into Alaska, but doesn't anyone proof those things?  Having said that, we almost NEVER see the stage shows, because they often take place before dinner, when we're getting ready, and don't want to rush dinner to catch a post-meal show, so cannot comment on them, nor on the casino, as we didn't spend too much time there (we blew our $20 on slots and video poker). Ports of call:  Juneau - did a whalewatching tour with Captain Larry.  Success (of course) - though it was so sunny out that we saw no bald eagles!   Learned that Galligaskins had closed its storefront downtown - was very saddened to learn this.  Skagway - rented a car and drove to Whitehorse for a photo safari.  Kind of interesting, but probably wouldn't drive that far again.  However, it was great weather for photo shoots.  Ketchikan - took the city bus to Totem Bight and wandered around at our leisure.  No crowds, no rush - and no charge for the bus that day!  Found a wonderful small store that carries beautiful, unique, and very reasonably priced jewelry and glass art - Trinkets on Main Street (across from the artists' market).  Most highly recommended - way better than some of the other stuff that's hawked at the big box jewelry and souvenir stores along the main drags.  Tracy Arm Fjord was interesting - there was too much ice in the water for us to get very close to the glacier, but the sail in and out was impressive.  We missed not being able to visit Glacier Bay, though.   Disembarkation - smoothly done!  As Platinum cruisers, we were on the 'first colors out'  but our inlaws weren't, so we waited with them until their colors were called.  You're assigned a lounge to sit in until your color is ready to be led out by a staff member.  Much more civilized, even if my inlaws did have a time finding their luggage (ours were sitting forlornly by themselves in the first section!). Overall:  the service we received throughout our cruise really did make a big difference to us - we'd forgotten about the 'ugly start' within hours of sailing away.     I don't know that we'll go out of our way to sail RCCL to Alaska unless the price is right and/or we can do a Radiance-class ship, but the stellar service we received will definitely keep them in mind as an option to HAL.  Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Background - Three Sorority sisters from College and one Husband along for the ride. We are in our mid 50s and all of use have cruised before. I am from GA, one sister from the FL Keys, and the sister and husband from CA. We have all ... Read More
Background - Three Sorority sisters from College and one Husband along for the ride. We are in our mid 50s and all of use have cruised before. I am from GA, one sister from the FL Keys, and the sister and husband from CA. We have all cruised before, myself and my roommate over 12 times each.My roommate and I met up at the airport in Seattle on the day before the cruise as we were coming from different states. We met up with the other couple on the ship. We stayed at the the Seattle Ramada Suites as we wanted just to sleep and get back to the airport the next day for Quick Shuttle over to Vancouver. The Ramada was clean but shabby but for the money and the time we were staying, that was all that we needed. It has a very drab looking Asian place in the lobby but I had read many reviews that said that the food was wonderful and they were right on. I had a Thai dish and my friend a Chinese dish and both were excellent. The next morning we got the shuttle back to the airport. We took Quick Shuttle to Vancouver. The driver said about 4 hours and he was right. It was during the Swine Flu scare so customs was being very slow. They did not even let us come in to clear at the border for over 30 minutes as they were "in a meeting". But the bus was decent and I would use Quick Shuttle again as Customs is not their fault.The only bad thing and believe me it was a nightmare on this whole trip was embarkation. There were 3 cruise ships at Canada Place, us, an NCL ship, and a HAL ship. All 5500+ passengers were in ONE long line to go though the scanners. The line was out of the parking deck, up the street in front of the hotel, and down two blocks. It took us 2 1/2 hours just to get past the scanners then RCCL had issues and it took another 30 minutes to get on the ship even being in a suite and platinum level. But once on the ship, the bad things were behind us, other than very tired and throbbing feet. Let me state up front that we had sunshine the whole cruise except for the morning in Ketchikan. Remarkable and you are able to see Alaska at it's best with sunshine. Everyone in the ports told us about how rare this weather was but I was taking it with a smile on my face. That in itself made this cruise about the best that I have been on. The other couple and us had each booked a Grand Suite on either side of the ship so be able to see things from both sides. We really enjoyed this suite. I have been in all levels of suite on RCCL and other than the Royal, this is my favorite, especially for the money. It is square and the bath is on one side as you enter with the beds and vanity on the other side. The opposite side has the closets out to the hallway, a bar with drawers and a fridge under it, then there is a large L shaped sofa that would open out to a bed. There are also two chairs that can be moved around to sit right in front of the windows to watch the world go by. The bath has a deep tub good for soaking sore muscles and a nice shower head that lifts off. There are two sinks so each of us had one to ourselves. There are shelves behind the mirrors in the bath and behind the mirror at the vanity desk/table. On either side of the vanity were drawers and shelves. There was a double closet and a single closet with drawers in the bottom. More than enough storage space is tucked away in the cabin. We had a Chinese steward who was well educated and we had many great converstions about our respecitve homelands as we were in the room most mornings as he cleaned. The room was spotless at night when we would return and there were towel animals all but the first night. We went to find our table after we first got on the ship and even though there were 4 of us, we had requested a table of 8 - 10 to meet others. Well it was just inside the door so we would have been bumped and prodded the whole time. We were to be at early seating. They asked us if we would like My Time Dining as it was the first time that they were offering it on this ship. I only did this as I was able to sign up the first night for the large table of 10 every night AND get it at the same time of 6:30 every night. We ended up having a lot of people repeat at that table with us so it was fun and we did get to know the others. I was pleased to have Ginny and Chris that I had been chatting with on our M&M thread before the cruise several nights. The food was better than the last time that I was on RCCL. It is still not goumet but it was very good and served at the appropriate temperature. We had to sign up for the prepaid gratuities to participate in this but as I do that anyway, it was not a big deal to me. I only had one dealing with the front desk and it was nice. The young lady was from Liverpool so we talked Beatles while she was looking up what I had requested. I did not try to go when it was very busy. We went to one show and that was OK. I am not a big show person but it was doing songs from Barry Mannilow, Elton John, and Billy Joel so right up my alley. I liked the reserved seating for the suite guests so that we could just walk up and get great seats up until about 10 minutes before showtime. I played some in the casino and love that it is now smoke free but upping the lower limits from $5 to $6 at the BlackJack tables just set wrong with me. So therefore I did not play much. I know it is only a dollar but you cannot just bet a single chip so had all of these ones added to your stacks. Obviously I am not a big player as the odds are not in your favor on a cruise ship, even BlackJack which could be better with some things like surrenders and holding on a soft 17. Juneau - Went out with Captain Larry of Orca Enterprises and had a great time. There were only 16 of us besides the crew on the boat, which was nice too. Saw 5 humpbacks and even a mother and her calf. Got some great pictures. He kept us out longer than expected which was nice. The trip back by Mendenhall Glacier was nice too. Actually got to see a bear there.Skagway - Took Chilkoot Tours for the train ride up to Fraser and then the bus up into the Yukon. Remarkable scenery that is different than on the coast. We had a wonderful guide and there were only 5 of us so he really was able to give us some great background and history and answer questions. He stopped a lot for photos too. I would highly recommend this. It is 7 - 8 hours but well worth it. Tracy Arm Fjiord - All I can say is that it was the most beautiful area I have even been in. I had been to Glacier Bay twice so was not looking foward to this but it was wonderful. I am sure that pure sunshine helped but where both time to Glacier Bay there was a lot of mist, fog, and rain, this was just grander in the fact that it is closer to you and has steeper walls. Wow is all that I can say.Ketchikan - I just walked around after the morning of rain moved on and that was about it.I am not into totem poles or lumberjack shows. The last day at sea was the only day that the seas were over 6 inches high and you did read that right, 6 INCHES. It was about 3 - 5 feet that last day as we were out of the inside passage but that was nice and really made you feel like you were on a ship. We had felt nothing in movement before that. Embarkation was very nicely done. We were able to wait in the upstairs dining room as we were in a suite and then just walked off when we were called. Customs had done their thing in the fiasco getting through Canada Place so we just hande our form to the agent and kept on walking. We stayed at the Marriott Waterfront that night. We got to the hotel at 9;30 am and they gave us a room. Sweet. The bellhop set us up with a Town car for the ride to the airport the next day and it was only $2 more than a cab and much, much nicer and cleaner. We walked up to Pikes Market and did the tourist thing that day and visited the Seattle Aquarium that afternoon. After the Georgia Aqurium that I have visited 8 times, I would describet this one as "quaint". We had dinner at the Crab Pot that evening and had wonderful crab legs. All of these things were within walking distance of the Marriott. As I said at the first, the third time was the charm. It took me 8 years to go back to Alaska but I will not stay away that long next time. AND I will be going back in May as there were very few children and the weather was glorious. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
We are just back from a repositioning cruise on Rhapsody of the Seas, May 8, 2009 - May 15, 2009.  Over all, it was a truly great cruise. This was our fourth Alaskan Inner Passage cruise, and our third on RCCL. OUR BACKGROUND: First, ... Read More
We are just back from a repositioning cruise on Rhapsody of the Seas, May 8, 2009 - May 15, 2009.  Over all, it was a truly great cruise. This was our fourth Alaskan Inner Passage cruise, and our third on RCCL. OUR BACKGROUND: First, about us.  My DH and I love to travel and we do so every summer.  He is retired and I still work part time as a college professor so we have our summers free.  I am somewhat disabled, and I navigated the airports in a wheelchair, although I walked around the cruise ship on my own. We tend to be very active, enjoying nature, photography, and of course, lots of good food!  We decided to take this particular cruise because the price was fantastic.  We were a bit unsure of the itinerary, as many had said that the seas could be rough going in or out of Seattle, and because others had posted that the Tracy Arm Fjord is not as beautiful as seeing other glaciers (Hubbard, etc.)  But, more about that later.VANCOUVER: Arrival at the aiport and passage through immigration and customs was  average in terms of the wait. As I was in a wheelchair, the line was much shorter for disabled passengers.  It took about 5 minutes of waiting in line and it was handled efficiently. The line for able bodied passengers semmed to take about 20 minutes. Baggage was delivered to the carousel quickly.  We rented a car from Alamo, and the distance to the car rental kiosk is quite far.  There is construction in the airport (updates for the Olympics) that requires international passengers to walk through the parking garage and out the opposite side to access an elevator to the rental car level.  There were NO signs outside the terminal telling us where to go, as they had all apparently been removed due to the construction. It's a long way and pretty difficult to tell where to go.  We arrived the evening before the cruise and stayed at the Delta hotel at the airport.  It wasn't fancy, but it was certainly clean and satisfactory.  We made the reservation through Priceline and paid $70. The hotel is right next to the airport. Quiet, with nice personnal. It's in a large Asian neighborhood and there are excellent Aisian restaurants nearby. We ate at the Restaurant Number 9, and we found it to be very authentic Chinese food, with a huge menu.  It was very good. It's a fairly large restaurant in a mall and we were the only Caucasians in the place (and it was full at dinner time). The restaurant is a 5 minute drive from the airport.EMBARKATION: Well, this was definitely the worst part of this cruise.  Normally, RCCL cruises out of Ballantyne Pier in Vancouver.  We had cruised out of Ballantyne three times previously, and while it wasn't an attractive place, it was run efficiently.  I'm not sure why, but for this one repositioning cruise only, the cruise departed outy of Canada Place, the main cruise terminal in Vancouver.  RCCL never otherwise departs from this pier. Therein lies the problem.  We were scheduled to begin embarkation at noon with a 4:00 pm sail away.  We arrived at the pier at 10:00 am because I needed to make sure I could find a place to sit while waiting for embarkation, due to my disability. I did not bring my own personal electric scooter with me on this trip. We had made arrangments to return the rental car right at the Canada Place Alamo office at the pier, which is very handy. When we drove up to the terminal, we found several confused employees.  It was the beginning of the cruise season, and employees directing traffic at the pier didn't know where to direct my DH to drop me off, or where he could turn around, or how he could drop me off and then go the rental car area without his having to exit the terminal garage, drive around three bkocks of traffic and re-enter the garage. There was A LOT of traffic, and it seems there must be a better way to do this, but we never found one. This took about 30-40 minutes.  The terminal itself is beautiful as you look at the outside of the building, but quite nondescript on the inside. There were no chairs available inside the waiting area. There were about five or six chairs total for the entire space where three cruise ships were preparing to embark.  My DH walked outside to the area  where the cars pull up, found a folding chair, and carried it inside for me. There were MANY complaints about the lack of chairs from other passengers. Also, there were two toilets for the entire waiting area (again, three cruises worth of people).  Notice, I didn't say two bathrooms.  There were two generic toilets for everyone to try to share, both male and female. Again, long lines as the day progressed.Check-in was scheduled for 12:00 noon.  That time came and went, as the one check-in line grew and grew and grew into monstrous length. Again, this was one line for all three ships. Then 1:00 came and went.  At this point there were thousands of people in a line that didn't even fit in the waiting area. It snaked all around the room leaving no room for the disembarking passengers to get through as they were departing their ships. Fortunately, I had the folding chair, which personnel were kind enough to let me park near an entrance for the disabled check-in. When I needed to move, my DH carried the chair with us. Then 1:30 came and went.  We were told that the ships were not ready, except for one.  Then they decided to let everyone from the "ready"ship go through the line first. They streamed right through, past quite a number of disgruntled passengers, some of whom had been standing in line for three hours or so. Finally, they told us we could begin check-in!  We were among the first to begin processing through the luggage and personal scanners, because I entered via the disabled entrance.  This was quick, as the personnel all seemed to be trying to rush as fast as possible due to the lateness. We progressed to the RCCL area where you check in for your specific cruise.  We were handed a form to fill out regarding the Swine Flu and it was collected as we approached the RCCL counter.  The employees at the counter looked up at us and said, "We're not ready.  It will be at least an hour more.  We are just beginning to set up our computers. They shouldn't have begun letting you in here."  So, they gave us all back the filled out Swine Flu forms and told us to sit in the waiting area. The RCCL employee told us that there were only 250 seats there and she didn't know what she would do with the other passengers,  as the scanning area was continuing to send passengers through to this RCCL area. She was right, it was a mess.  People were sitting on the floor, standing in front of the seating area in hopes of cutting the line (which was established by seat row).  The did serve us cookies (and strangely, they were better than any cookies we had on the ship!) Eventaully, RCCL was ready to receive us and they had three lines: one for suites, one for Platinum & higher plus disbaled, and one for everyone else.  They loaded all three lines at once, but there didn't seem to be any advantage to being in a priority line. The employee telling people when to approach the counter gave no prioity to any particular line.  This resulted in many disabled having to wait (or stand in my case) for 30 minutes or more.  It really could have been handled so much better.  Everyone was grumbling by this point.  When it was our turn to approach the counter, it was a lengthy process because the employee was being trained by another, it was her first day, and she needed to repeat every action a couple of times before it was done correctly. From what I could see, this seemed to be the case at every work station. Finally, at 2:30 we boarded!! And we were among the first 50 or so to board.  Well, this was such a mess that we didn't leave the port until around 5:30 or 6:00. It was without a doubt the WORST enbarkation we have experienced. RCCL employees told us: 1. that there was a problem with the gangplank, 2. that the pier wasn't prepared, 3. that the employees on the pier didn't know what they were doing so they had to bring employees off the ship to help....etc, etc., etc. I don't really know what the truth was, but at 5:00 people were still boarding.FINALLY ONBOARD: We went straight to register for My Time Dining, which had a sign-up desk right as we entered the ship.  This process was fast and easy.  Then, on to the Windjammer and the honey stung chicken! OK, so I know it's just frozen fried chicken pieces, but eating it tells me I am finally on my cruise!  CABIN: Our cabin was a handicapped JS, 8550, our first time in a JS.  I don't think I can ever go back to a balcony! It was so nice to have the extra room. While the decor was a bit tired, the bed was very comfortable, and there was plenty of storage.  I loved it.  As far as accessability goes, the cabin is easy to navigate in a wheelchair, even in the bathroom and shower (with built in seat). The only accessability issue is the balcony, which has a lip of about 2 inches to cross.  We had pre-ordered wine and it was waiting for us. I had also pre-ordered extra pillows via the handicapped request form, and they were there upon our arrival.CABIN SERVICE: It was just fantastic! Our attendant, Wilton, was always available and eager to fulfill any of our requests.  One night, when I didn't go to the dining room for dinner because my back was giving me too much pain, the housekeeping supervisor stopped by the cabin to make sure I was OK.  Wilton had told her that I wasn't feeling well. I really appreciated that concern.FOOD & MY TIME DINING: The food was pretty good. After all, it's hard to feed 2000 people three (or more!) times per day on a ship. Given that, most of the meals were good.  Not great gourmet cuisine, but prefectly acceptable.  The only exception was the lobster tails, which were mushy and tasted pretty fishy.  We could not eat them. We ate at both the Windjammer and the MDR during the cruise.  The standout entree was the prok medallions on the first night.We liked My Time dining mostly because it seems to result in a faster service.  We generally finished our dinner in about an hour. When we did not have a reservation for a given night we were seated within 5 minutes. The flexability is great. This was the first cruise that Rhapsody has offered MTD, and it went very well.  It seems that the waiters don't love it because they have no breaks during the dinner service.The Windjammer gets very crowded for breakfast and lunch, but that's always true on every ship. I thought that the Windjammer on this cruise was superior to the last couple of cruises I've been on. The only exception was the bacon, which looked like it was barely cooked (but then, I shouldn't eat it anyway!). ENTERTAINMENT: This ship had the best entertainment of any ship we have been on (RCCL or Celebrity). The ventriloquist act on the first night was the best.  He is fabulous.  We also had an Elvis impersonator one night.  This sounded like it would be awful, but he was actually quite entertaining. On another night there was a comedian that was truly funny. The only inconvenience was that we needed to arrive at least 20 minutes before the show to get a seat.PORTS: We enjoyed at our ports of call.  We only did one excursion, as we have been to these ports many times before. However, this was our first time passing through Tracy Arm Fjords.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that we enjoyed it more that either Hubbard Glacier or Galcier Bay.  While you don't get super close to a glacier, the ride going through thre fjord is just breathtaking. We preferred it to the other two glacial areas we have seen.DISEMBARKATION: We were concerned about disembarking at pier 91 in Seattle as it is a brand new pier, just opened a few weeks ago.  But, the process was VERY fast, seamless, and five minutes after leaving the ship we were aboard our bus to the airport.  They had MANY helpful employees directing passengers.  It was an excellent experience.OVERALL: Another wonderful vacation, and I'm sad for it to be over....until next time! Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
This cruise was in honor of my daughter's graduation with her doctorate in Audiology.  It was my fourth trip to Alaska and our second mother/daughter cruise to this destination.  Our first was a round trip from Vancouver onboard the ... Read More
This cruise was in honor of my daughter's graduation with her doctorate in Audiology.  It was my fourth trip to Alaska and our second mother/daughter cruise to this destination.  Our first was a round trip from Vancouver onboard the Celebrity Galaxy back in May of 2000.  I have also done roundtrips from Seattle with my husband onboard the Vision (2006) and the Rhapsody (2008).  This was my first "one-way" trip experience.   This was a northbound leg from Vencouver to Seward with our return flight from Anchorage.Pre-Cruise:  We flew into Vancouver on the Thursday before we sailed since the earliest flight from DFW into Vancouver arrived around 1:00 p.m. and we didn't want to run any sort of risk of missing the ship.  We did book a room at the Hyatt Regency through the cruise line.  The transfers went pretty well and we want to thank the bus company employees who told all of us that if we could pull our bags across the street to the Hyatt from the third stop at the Fairmont we'd be off the bus 25 minutes earlier.  We did just that.  Check in was a breeze and we had the most helpful bellman that we've ever had.  We followed his directions for our afternoon tour of the Robson street shops and enjoyed a sidewalk dinner out in the beautiful weather followed by more shopping and a walk down to Gastown and Canada Place.  The next morning we enjoyed breakfast at a nearby coffee shop and another walk down to Canada Place to see what ships had come in.  Our bus ride to the pier was delayed since there wasn't a bus due to first of season hold-ups.   The ride to the pier was interesting since our group leader instructed the driver to drive past several of the 2010 Winter Olympic venues.  Embarkation:  A few hang-ups here which I can imagine will be worked out for those following behind us mainly to do with problems with the security equipment.  The lines to get sea pass cards were long, but we were able to use the diamond line.  Others had delays there as well.  Our sea pass cards weren't available and they had to make others for us and there was another slight delay because the machine broke.  I swear I can mess up anything mechanical even if I don't come any where near it!  It's interesting that after going through all the normal procedures, it is also necessary to go through US Immigration since getting on the cruise means you are really leaving Canada.  (We've done the same flying home from Canada - i.e. gone through immigration at the Canadian airport.)  Once onboard, we were able to go straight to our cabin.Cabin:  We were in Junior Suite 1560 which is on the rear of the "hump" in between the Royal Suite and a Grand Suite.  This was DD's first Junior Suite.  I hadn't told her we had a larger than D1 cabin and expected her to say something when she first saw the cabin, but the reality didn't hit her until she see went into the bathroom expecting one the size all the cruise directors love to joke about and saw the bathtub.  We both enjoyed having one.  We also loved the walk-in closet.  Our attendant was Jason Aguilar from the Phillipines and he was the best.  I know why he's the guy in charge of the suite cabins.  DD and I just reaped the benefit of having him because of our location.  By the way, I am an aft cabin junkie, but I did love the central location.  I'm not sure if I want to give up my addiction for cruises to warm locations since I dearly love sunning in private on the aft, but this was perfect for Alaska.  Ship Condition:  Very good everywhere I looked, but then I don't go out of my way to search for items.  This was my second cruise on the Radiance and I find her very easy to naviagate. Dining:  We signed up for My Time Dining, but ended up only eating in the dining room once on the second formal night so DD could have lobster.  That went well and we ate with a young couple from the Houston area and were served by a fun (and competent) waiter named Raymond who is from Jamaica.  I will ask for him again when I am back on the Radiance in May of 2010.  We ate at both Chops and Portofino and enjoyed both with a preference towards Portofino.  Other dinners were in the Windjammer.  We did lots of excursions and it was very nice not having to worry about getting cleaned up and in the dining room by a certain time.  We found a variety of options there and especially enjoyed the night they were grilling small steaks, chicken breasts, etc to order. Ship Activities/Shows:  We missed three of the shows.  We saw "City of Dreams", the Four Diamonds (fantastic), Judy Kolba (very funny) and the final night's show.   We donated a little money to the casino - not too bad. I listened to the Captain's Corner.  Other than that, we just "excursioned", read and relaxed.  Oh yes, I did miss the Meet and MIngle because we signed up for a yoga class.  I am cherishing the instructor's comment that my body is made for yoga.  I've been waiting a lot of years to find a physical activity that someone thinks I am made for!Weather:  We only had one day of rain.  Everyone in the ports kept thanking us for bringing good weather with us.  Having spent a rainy week in Alaska last September (and on my other two prior cruises), I was most appreciative.  I called my husband one morning and told him I was looking at something I never thought I'd see - sunlight in Juneau.  This really made this trip very special.Hubbard Glacier:  We got within 500 yards!  I finally got to see a glacier calve.  I enjoyed the view from the promendade on Deck 5 especially being close to the crew when they launched the rescue boat to "go get themselves an iceberg".  Their enthusiasm was contagious.  I have also been to Glacier Bay, but viewed those glaciers from quite a distance so this was special.Debarkation:  Very easy for us since we were part of a tour.  I heard everyone else being told that there was an hour delay - again more early season problems.  Our group leader breezed us right through everything.Departure from Anchorage:  Also very smooth.  We arrived in plenty of time and even checked another bag.  (We did use the luggage valet so we wouldn't have to hassle with our bags.)  We took off at 12:05 a.m. on Saturday morning with streaks of the sunset still showing.  Can I go back again, please?I didn't see Seward on the pull down menu.  We purchased a Seward/Kenai pennisula tour through the ship that included a transfer to Anchorage.  We were given a bus tour of Seward which we enjoyed and time to shop which we enjoyed as well.  We were then transferred to a ship that took us around the Kenai pennisula area and which served a surprisingly good lunch.  The park ranger on board was very informative. We saw three kinds of whales, eagles and more.  We all especially enjoyed an old sea otter who was just lounging around the water on his back and the porpoises who chased the ship for awhile.  The transfer to Seattle was just fine.  We did have time between the end of the pennisula cruise to buy sandwiches for the road.  The drive to Anchorage was beautiful. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
We loved our Alaska cruise and tour afterward.  So much to see and do.  The ship was beautiful and smaller then the Adventure of the Seas, which we have been on.  Vancouver is a very pretty city, we stayed there 2 nights and took the ... Read More
We loved our Alaska cruise and tour afterward.  So much to see and do.  The ship was beautiful and smaller then the Adventure of the Seas, which we have been on.  Vancouver is a very pretty city, we stayed there 2 nights and took the city tour on the trolley to see Vancouver.  We stayed at the Hyatt which was very nice.  Beds were very comfortable.  On the day we departed for the ship we did have to wait a good while for the bus to pick us up as that same bus had to drop off people departing the ship that day.Our ship, "Radiance of the Seas" was very nice inside.  Our room was too close to the main lobby though, and we did hear music in our room till midnight each evening.  We sort of fell asleep to it!  The Windjammer buffet was so crowded at times it was hard to find a seat.  This was mainly at breakfast and lunch as we ate all our dinners in the dining room.  We had the "anytime dining" and that worked well for us.  I did miss the "Promenade" on this ship that "Adventure of the Seas" had.  This ship has shops, but not the Promenade.Clothing:  Before our cruise we could not find much detail about clothing.  Some cruisers did have winter coats.  We are from Virginia and we just layered our clothing.  T-shirt, sweater, rain proof jacket with hood, hat and gloves is what I wore on the cold days and I was fine.  Our only cold days were standing on the ship to see the Hubbard Glacier and some light rain we had in Skagway.  Most of the time it was just "jacket" weather.  Fairbanks turned out to be in the high 70's and no jackets at all!I enjoyed seeing some kind of land as we cruised to Alaska.  It was very seldom all you saw was the ocean.  We enjoyed riding on the train and bus to our ground tour destinations.  Only bus we didn't care for was the ride thru Denali Park.  That is a school bus and very cramped.  The train was beautiful and very comfortable.  The food was a bit pricey, but worth every bit.  I took movies and beware of the glare on the windows of the train!  Drop me a line if you have any questions, as I will be happy to answer them.  This trip was a dream for us.  I can't get it off my mind!  We are ready to cruise again! Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
This was my third trip to Alaska on a cruise. I had done a southbound on a Princess ship, a roundtrip on a Celebrity ship, and this year a northbound on a Royal Caribbean ship, the Radiance of the Seas. My girlfriend and I flew to ... Read More
This was my third trip to Alaska on a cruise. I had done a southbound on a Princess ship, a roundtrip on a Celebrity ship, and this year a northbound on a Royal Caribbean ship, the Radiance of the Seas. My girlfriend and I flew to Vancouver, Canada a few days early to enjoy the highlights of this city before setting off on our voyage. We stayed at the Ramada Inn and Suites Downtown Vancouver on Granville. It was a modest hotel but neat and clean. We spent one day on a tour to Victoria and loved it. Met several people who were going on our same cruise. Spent another day on the hop on hop off red bus and toured the city of Vancouver. Also spent some time at Granville Island. Great place for food and entertainment. Our embarkation went smoothly and without a hitch. Loved our room. Our balcony was a little larger than others because of location on the ship. It was wonderful. I'm writing because my favorite port was Icy Strait Point. The best stop ever. I love the others but this port still has a very wilderness feel. You tender off the ship and end up at a beautiful place where you can sit by a big bonfire and watch the whales play out in the water on the point. Great food is available, a little pricy, but what the heck you are in Alaska. There is a zip line there that is a MUST for everyone even if you are one that's afraid of everything like me. I made myself do it and boy was I glad I did. This is the best thing going on any cruise. You take a bus up to the drop point where you get a free tour of the town Hoona as you drive up the mountain. After you are strapped in your harness you drop over a thousand feet going 60 mph. It takes about 90 seconds before you end up at the beach. The view is spectacular. Don't miss it. My friend and I were so excited that we did it. She is 66 and I am 57. The Hubbard Glacier cruising was the best one yet. We were less than a mile from the face of the glacier and spent several hours there watching and listening to the calving and the beauty of it all. The Radience was a beautiful ship. The food, entertainment, and staff were the best. The captain on this ship was very informative and people oriented. Our disembarking went very smoothly. Arrived at the airport by bus transfer and rented a car for the week to drive to Denali. We stayed at a bed and breakfast in Anchorage, wonderful and warm... Big Bear. The breakfast was wonderful. Stayed at the Touch of Wilderness B & B at Denali. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Just back from Alaska, sailed out of Vancouver, roundtrip, 5/23/09, on RCCL Serenade of the Seas. Flew into Seattle, then Amtrak train to Vanc. Ended up switching from Amtrak train to bus for ride home.Pics say a lot, so here's links ... Read More
Just back from Alaska, sailed out of Vancouver, roundtrip, 5/23/09, on RCCL Serenade of the Seas. Flew into Seattle, then Amtrak train to Vanc. Ended up switching from Amtrak train to bus for ride home.Pics say a lot, so here's links to our pics:Denise's pics, one album from start to finish (Seattle to Vancouver, cruise, and back)http://picasaweb.google.com/defitz3/...KDvp7uly-DG-AE#Erika's pics, Skagway, drive to Carcross and Emerald Lake, saddle/paddle at Spirited Adventures:http://picasaweb.google.com/defitz3/...Mzl8afGk7CxjgE#The cruise was good, Alaska is beautiful, the Serenade is a nice ship. The D1 cabin was plenty of space for the 3 of us, although at first we did wish we had a GS (D1 did not include robes, so I guess we got them last time because of being in a GS). I'm not sure if I'm a good person to ask about the food, because we tend to get tired of the ship food by the end of the week as it's much more rich and salty than what we're used to, so we plan to eat off ship while in ports. It's not that the ship food is bad, just seems one meal is very much like the next, and we just don't like the "ambiance" of the Windjammer for lunch/breakfast, esp since this particular cruise had some really pushy, unfriendly passengers on it ... in fact, my DH and I were seated w/ a couple for lunch one day and they wouldn't even acknowledge we were there, no eye contact and def no smile! Overall, the dining room food was good and we had a wonderful server (Hazel) and assistant, but we did really enjoy the food that was served at Portofino's during the murder mystery (Pedro and Bruno are great at Portofino's), but preferred the steak over the shrimp. Note: this passenger group was not like past cruises where everywhere we went we met friendly people and started some lifetime friendships, I'm hoping this is unusual. Although we did meet quite a few very nice people and some we hope to stay in touch with, there was a large number of unfriendly, pushy passengers which had an impact of the feel of things on the ship for us. We know we weren't the only ones who experienced this, someone else we met wondered if it might have something to do w/ the fact there were passengers from 65 different countries so some language and cultural differences. It was strange because I'm a friendly person by nature and can normally strike up a friendly conversation pretty much with anyone, anywhere.Our luggage got lost the first day, so we were a little stressed our first day not knowing if we were going to have to get by w/ just the clothes on our back (RCL offerred us 3 size L tshirts and some almost useless toiletry bags that had 1-use toothpaste the size of a perfume sample). Tracy who is in charge of tracking lost luggage was super nice, the other customer service people I question why they were in their positions as I didn't get the sense the really cared about the customers ... the rest of the staff were wonderful. The good thing about the lost luggage was that we needed a quiet place for some "stress" comfort food ;-) and we found the Seaview Cafe at the far aft of the ship, deck 12 the first night ... great place that felt more like a cafe at home, good food, and good servers. Our luggage showed up at just before midnight, never did find out where it had gone missing to. Lesson learned, go back to making sure I pack some essentials, plus, in a carry-on.Alaska is gorgeous, and this was a beautiful time of the year to go while the snow was still plentiful, and lakes not fully dethawed. I would like to go back to Alaska some day, but not on a cruise. ISP/Hoonah was nice w/ just our ship in port ... lots of whales, even swiming just yards from our ship. We went on a whale watching trip with Teckk Outfitters. The boat only holds 6 passengers, there was just the 3 of us because the other 2 didn't show up. It was great, ended up being a private excursion w/ lots of whales, and very serene. When we got back to port, Keith (owner of Teckk) asked if we'd like to go find some bears. Those of us who'd done whale watching on his 2 boats hopped into his van and off we went. He gave us a tour of Hoonah, and drop us out to a pretty area where he pointed out a couple bears that he calls Jack & Jill. Then he stopped the van and told us he could get the bears to come right to the van, but we needed to promise to stay in the van while he was gone. He grabbed a rifle from the back of the van and disappeared into the bushes. We was gone quite a while, then all of a sudden, here came the 2 bears running up the road w/ him running behind them. Then got right near the van then dashed into the bushes. On the way back to Hoonah, my DH spotted another bigger bear sitting just feet off the road ... Keith hit the brakes and went into reverse so we could all see that bear.The original itinerary was for Tracy Arm and Sawyer glacier, but we went to Endicott Arm Fjord and Dawes Glacier instead. The cruise up the fjord was beautiful. Our Captain was great at maneuvering the ship and got us w/in I believe a few hundred yards of the glacier which was very impressive. There were quite a few seals lounging on the floating glaciers.Skagway we rented a car through Avis and drove a little ways beyond Carcross to do the saddle/paddle with Spirited Adventures ... it was nice to have a purpose and destination for the drive, and there were spectacular views along the way ... saw 2 bears at different locations so pulled up and watched them grazing and looking for bugs under rocks just feet from our car.Juneau: 5 ships were in port, so very crowded. Luckily we avoided the crowds with our heli-glacier excursion. Also found a cute little place called Paradise Bakery Cafe, not a tourist cafe. Then had some spare time so hired a cab w/ a driver who was a Juneau local who took us to some nice uncrowded areas/parks, as well as a little tour of the town, out to Mendenhall, across the bridge, then back to our ship ... it was worth the $55/hour, he was very knowledgeable.While much of the ship entertainment was the standard cruise entertainment, the comedian was good and we also enjoyed the "side" entertainment that included staff karaoke, and games such as weakest link. Cruise Director, Mike, was funny.  Captains reception and Meet and Mingle were both well done, and the Cruise Director, Mike, was very good and we enjoyed his sense of humor. The farewell show was really good too, with a 2 time US Olumpian who was quite funny. We did use some of the spa facilities and treatments, although overpriced, and after a relaxing spa treatment frustrating to be hit up w/ a sales pitch. I can get a great massage from my massage therapist at home for $60, why are ship massages more than twice that?   Paid for a couple spin classes in the gym, good work out but could have used a more motivational instructor ... we'd hoped for Damien who we'd met on our last cruise and was also on this cruise, but unfortunately he didn't do the either of the spin classes we signed up for.  Should have more free full-length exercise classes, paid classes such as yoga, pilates, spin should be less than $12/class - maybe offer a package deal.  With 3 of us attending the classes, it could add up to the cost of a good gym membership at home!Irritating that most the seminars end with a sales pitch too.Miscellaneous notes:We flew in/out from SEA-Tac, then train to Vanc, bus back. Cab from SEA-Tac to downtown was $40 ... return from downtown to SEA-Tac is $32. Really enjoyed Seattle, found it to be clean and friendly. Bus is free in the tourist/downtown area. Pikes was fun to explore, we ate on the 3rd floor of Lowell's which was good, Underground Tour, interesting but could have been done in half the time (maybe 30-45 minutes instead of 1 1/2 hours), we actually really enjoyed dinner at the Space Needle restaraunt. Had heard other people say the food is not worth the price, but since it included the ride up, the pork chops at $36 included the elev ride ($16 value), so priced well at $20 + $16 elev ride ... dinner lasted about 2 1/2 hours and 3 rotations during sunset, then we had addtl time to go out on observation deck (which we all agreed wouldn't have been worth the $16 ride). There's no reason to get to the Amtrak station any earlier than about 6:45am for the train (and we traveled on a sold out train Memorial Day weekend). We got there at about 6:40 and only had a couple people in front of us at luggage ck-in, and were 9th in line for seat assignment (which is just that, you don't pick your seat), and seat assignment doesn't open til 7am. Train ride is scenic and relaxing, do bring a book, ipod and something to keep kids entertained. We saw flocks of Bald Eagles along the shore. Same w/ the bus, no need to get there way ahead of time, it loads 1/2 hour before leaving. We picked up food and drinks to take on the train w/ us ... glad we did as the train food smelled horrible. Cab was easily accessible at both ends.First impression of Vancouver, after being in very clean and friendly Seattle, Vanc from train station to Ballantyne pier is not very clean and not very friendly. Our cab driver would barely answer a question (and I'm very friendly) . Cab driver got on his cell phone w/ what appeared to be a personal call in his native language the majority of the drive ... spoke English well when he got into a verbal confrontation w/ a longshoreman. The longshoreman were grumpy and complaining that they shouldn't be working because it was their lunch time. Embarkation at Ballantyne could use some improvement, learned to keep our passports out and handy since we had to show them at least 4 times from the time we were dropped w/ luggage to when we actually boarded the ship.So this was probably WAY WAY more than you wanted to know ... I can type as fast as I talk, though, so it tends to be easy for me to go long :-) Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
As you can see from my ratings and the title, this cruise was Awesome!  This has been our 5th cruise, first with Royal C, and by far the best.  The food was incredible in the main dining room, service was top notch.  The roasted lamb ... Read More
As you can see from my ratings and the title, this cruise was Awesome!  This has been our 5th cruise, first with Royal C, and by far the best.  The food was incredible in the main dining room, service was top notch.  The roasted lamb was the best thing I had on the cruise the last night.  We ate one night in Chops which was good (had steak) but was no better in quality that what we had in the main dinner providing you don't order a steak in the main dining room.  I had ordered steak one evening in the main dining room and it was tough so I sent it back and Vipin brought me whatever I wanted.   However, the service and ambiance in Chops was stellar, including witnessing some whales doing their whale thing.  A wonderful sight.We had a balcony cabin.  The room was well appointed with a nice bed, a sofa, a TV, and a very nice balcony with two chairs and a small table.  There was ample storage for all our clothing and stuff.  The bathroom, albeit small, was functional and served its purpose for all bathroom needs including showering.  I had read where the showers were incredibly small and tight but I had no issues and found it very usable.  The water quickly came to temperature.  Our cabin steward, George, was incredibly efficient.  We rarely saw him but he always seemed to know when we had vacated the cabin and seemed to get all his work done in no time.  We had very nice views from our balcony.  Although we were on the bow of the ship to observe the glacier, we went to the cabin as the ship was departing Tracy Arm and still had wonderful views of the glacier there. I thought the shows, and we attended them all except one I thing, were exceptional.  Mike, the cruise director, was very funny.  Chad, the magician, was excellent and hilarious.  We saw two of his shows and I also participated in his close-up show.  Still not sure how he knew the word I picked out of the book.  I can't remember ever laughing so hard as when we saw the premier of Fountains.  Indescribably funny.I will describe our three excursions in the section on ports in this review.  But be it known, THEY WERE GREAT!  Tracy Arm is not considered a port but we went to the glacier there which was beautiful.  The captain brought the ship very close, as close as the law would allow.  Some of the crew jumped into the icy water to retrieve a chunk of floating ice and bring aboard and turn into an ice sculpture.My only complaints are the smoking smell that reeks out of the casino and permeates into the other decks.  A better ventilation system could help or less people smoking.  On the plus side, it was so bad in the casino that I did not stay there long enough to lose much money.  My other complaint is the short time we spent in Juneau.  We went on the whale watching excursion which was inspiring and wonderful but did not have the time to actually spend any time in the town.  If I had a third complaint would be the slowness of the elevators and my fellow passengers would stack up in front of them.  Unfortunately since they were so slow, many of my fellow passengers did not follow elevator etiquette and allow riders to get off first and barging in front of others who had waiting for an elevator much longer than they had.Even with those few complaints, it was a stupendous cruise which we would do again in a heartbeat.  However, a 14 night Hawaii comes before I am ready book Alaska again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
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