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99 Royal Caribbean Vancouver Cruise Reviews

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
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
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
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
My wife and I left Austin, Texas on August 28 and flew to Seattle. We had free tickets on Southwest. We stayed at the Red Cloud by the ballpark. Very nice and close to the Amtrak station which was our departure point on Friday morning. ... Read More
My wife and I left Austin, Texas on August 28 and flew to Seattle. We had free tickets on Southwest. We stayed at the Red Cloud by the ballpark. Very nice and close to the Amtrak station which was our departure point on Friday morning. We arrived at the Amtrak station just in time to check our bags and immediately boarded the train. The train was cheaper than a flight from Seattle to Vancouver and the seats were much nicer and roomier. There were a few stops on the way and the train was a little more than an hour late getting to Vancouver but still arrived in plenty of time before departure. We took a cab from the train station to the dock which was only a few miles away. The boarding process took less than thirty minutes from when our luggage was unloaded from our cab to when we were standing on the decks of the ship. The ship was amazing. The ship was very large compared to other ships that we docked next to in ports. It was well taken care of and you could not tell it was several years old. The cabins weren't ready until 1:00 pm so we visited the Windjammer for lunch. The food was good and there was a wide selection. We ate in the Windjammer every time except for one evening when we ate in the main dining room. Most of the food that was offered in the main dining room was offered in the Windjammer also. We enjoyed the food and never had a bad experience. The cabin was ready as promised and was nice. We opted for an inside cabin on deck 8 towards the front of the ship. The cabin was a little small but there was plenty of storage to unload our four suitcases and then store them out of the way. The cabin steward was very nice and our cabin was always clean and ready for us. It is amazing how he so quickly learned our schedule and made up our room when we were not around. Our first day at sea was cruising the inside passage. A big deal was made of the Port and Shopping Show but it was a complete was of time as the staff giving the presentation told you which stores to shop at and if you didn't you were an idiot. Of course the stores are "owned" by Royal Caribbean. We lasted only 20 minutes of the three hour "show". The scenery was nice. Rolling hills, lots of trees and water everywhere. The weather for the entire trip was much cooler than we expected, especially on the water. It also rained everyday but one. Take plenty of heavier clothing that can be layered and that will stay dry. We chose to book our shore excursions on board that first day versus early on the internet. I guess I was expecting there to different offerings on board from the internet but it was exactly the same. I will go into more detail about the excursions in each port. Be prepared to spend lots of $$ on board for all the extras. Many activities cost extra and of course the shore excursions. Our credit card bill was $1500 heavier at the end of the cruise. KETCHIKAN It was a small, tourist town. The day we arrived it was sunny and warm which we were told only happens a few days out of the year. In Ketchikan was elected to do the Duck Tour which was approximately 1.5 hours long. The tour took you around the city and through the harbor and was well worth it. We saw plenty of bald eagles when touring the city. The tour guide was a local who lived there her entire life. We were the only ship in port that day which was also unusual. JUNEAU Juneau was the next stop. Not as clean as Ketchikan but still a nice place. The capital of Alaska looks like a normal office building. We chose to do a combination tour to the Mendenhall Glacier and whale watching. The visit to the glacier was neat but hurried. There was only an hour to visit the glacier. We saw a brown bear at the glacier from the bus and we were lucky enough the driver was able to stop for a couple minutes. The whale watching tour was excellent. The whales sighting were numerous including a baby with its mother. The operators of both tours were very professional and knowledgeable about the area. The tour guide on the whale watching trip was a local. SKAGWAY We took the train up to the White Pass. The ride was neat and a little scary at times due to the exposed ledges the train climbed up. Skagway was very similar to Ketchikan in look and feel. ICY STRAIT (HOONAH) Very small town. The Radiance had to anchor in the harbor and tender the passengers ashore. We chose to do the Spasski Valley wildlife tour which ended up being really neat. We saw seven coastal (grizzly) bears and lots of bald eagles. It was a little scary in that the guide was carrying a bow in case any bears were met on the trail. HUBBARD GLACIER This was probably one of the best parts of the cruise. The captain was able to get the ship within a 1000 feet of the face of the glacier. The glacier was very active that day with lots of calving taking place. It was very cold and I wished I had more clothes. Overall the cruise was everything we expected. There was only one time when the seas where rough enough to keep us in the room that evening. Disembarking was also very easy. Our bags were easy to find. We rented a car from Seward on Friday morning and drove north to Talkeetna to try and catch a glimpse of McKinley but it was covered in clouds. Don't wait to rent a car til you get there because there will be none left. Our flight back home left Anchorage at 1230 am on Saturday morning and we arrived back in Austin at 330 pm. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
Traveled on Serenade of the Seas to Alaska Aug 2008 in a group that included people in their 40s, 70s as well as 2 kids age 11. All enjoyed the trip a great deal but here is the breakdown: Flew to Vancouver on Cathay Pacific from JFK. ... Read More
Traveled on Serenade of the Seas to Alaska Aug 2008 in a group that included people in their 40s, 70s as well as 2 kids age 11. All enjoyed the trip a great deal but here is the breakdown: Flew to Vancouver on Cathay Pacific from JFK. While you can't argue with the service both flights (there and back) were at least 2 hours late getting us to Vancouver at 3:40am and home in NY at close to midnight. We were told that flight is delayed quite a bit. Embarkation was not particularly smooth. We were given numbers and had to sit in a large area for our name to be called to proceed to passport control. There was also a long line to check in as well. SHIP LAYOUT AND CABIN: The ship is very nice-looking but a little difficult to orient yourself (we went on Norwegian Sun this April and found it better planned) We had a balcony cabin and while everyone says it is a must on this cruise I disagree. One of the pleasures of a balcony is staying, sitting on it, etc. One minor complaint - no hair conditioner (I don't expect fancy lotions but at least a conditioning shampoo would have been nice) While it is pretty chilly out there most of the time - and that is in Aug. You get better views of Hubbard Glacier from the front of the ship (since you only have a one-sided view from your cabin). We did not use our balcony much - it was fairly uninviting. FOOD:The main restaurant was pretty good but the buffet area was not very tasty. It was often super busy, it was hard to find a table and the service was just OK. The waiter staff at the restaurant was superb. We did eat at the steakhouse Chops Grille ($25/pp) one night - it was excellent. KIDS' CLUB: Our daughters (11 yr twins) usually love kids' clubs on all cruises and resorts. Here they went once and did not want to go back - said it was boring and the staff was not nice. ENTERTAINMENT: varied from OK to great. SHORE EXCURSIONS: these things cost big bucks but they make the trip. On Icy Point we booked the bear search on Spasski river. We stumbled on a bear right in front of the tour bus but did not see any by the river. $99 a person inc kids was a bit steep to pay for a bus ride into the woods with nothing to see. Skagway - did the White pass train. We were lucky to be there on one of the two sunny days all summer, so it was particularly stunning. Juneau - big disappointment awaited us. My daughters had been dying to go dog sledding on a glacier getting there on helicopter. I had bought Era helicopters months ago. It turned out that the weather was particularly bad in the direction that Era flies so our tour got cancelled. I guess I appreciate that they cancelled instead of flying us in the fog. Apparently all other helicopter companies fly in the other direction so they were all operational. However, but that point all the dog sledding tours were booked up. We did end up using Coastal Helicopters for a flight on a glacier without the dog thing. It is a stunning experience. Landing and walking on a glacier felt as foreign as being on the moon. DO NOT miss the helicopter! It is expensive but worth every penny. DISEMBARKATION: was easy. I do not think transfers are worth it if you are more than 1 person. The cab to the airport was $32 plus tip. There was no line for the cabs. You have to walk 1 min from baggage pick up to the cab, and the driver loads and unloads stuff for you. Beats the $25/pp prepaid transfer. Overall, Alaska is a do not miss experience. Serenade is a pretty decent choice for it. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
I am fortunate enough to say that this was my second Alaska cruise in three years..the first (on Sapphire Princess) was a romantic getaway and this one was a family get together for my parents' 50th anniversary.....I thought there was ... Read More
I am fortunate enough to say that this was my second Alaska cruise in three years..the first (on Sapphire Princess) was a romantic getaway and this one was a family get together for my parents' 50th anniversary.....I thought there was a lot to like but some things that could have been better Embarkation...this was my sixth cruise, and I can say for sure that this was the easiest embarkation ever...Royal Caribbean had a lot of agents to help, and even getting my wheelchair bound father on board was easy Rooms....I was a little spoiled from having a mini-suite on my last Alaska cruise...we had three in our room this time, and the cabins were the tiniest I have seen since my first cruise on a older ship....I again make the suggestion that you should bring a surge protector with multiple outlets so you can plug ion several things at once...you MUST have a balcony on any Alaska cruise, as the scenery is as good as it gets Food and Service....I happen to be one of the few "buffet lovers" in my family.....for some reason, the welcome buffet was far and away the best one (they had sushi and a salmon pasta salad only on that buffet)....I was very surprised at the lack of diversity in the buffets, and the fact that there were many strange dishes during most of them.....the buffet food was OK, but not exciting....you will also get very easily frustrated at the lack of table spaces for breakfast and lunch.The dining room service was awesome (as always seems to be the case on every cruise I have been on)......the food choices were great and the waiters interacted wonderfully with our children Ship.....The ship had some wonderful features, we loved the elevator placements and the decor.....we have a lot of basketball players in our family, and we took full advantage of the sport court.,..the exercise room was spacious and well-attended, and each of the different activity areas (from the theater to the different bars and casino) were top notch Shipboard experience....The kids loved the Adventure Ocean program (my 9 year old son never wanted to leave, he discovered a new game called Gagaball (apparently a variation of Dodgeball)....our prior Alaska cruise had very few young families, but this was a well mixed crowd of old and young alike...we liked all of the comedians, but I did not attend any of the other shows due to other plans....there were many fewer "game show" type activities than on previous cruises, and there were also fewer karaoke opportunities (which is my son's favorite activity of all)...the only run in with any crew member was when they would not let my son sing karaoke on the last night as it was only for 18 and over...he had his grand finale of "We Will Rock You" all ready to go The best day of the cruise for me by far was the Hubbard glacier experience, which did not occur on my last cruise......the glaciers were "calving" everywhere you turned....definitely go to the top deck for this experience, and the hot chocolate was a nice touch Tours and ports: I was surprised to see Ketchikan was bypassed in favor of "Icy Strait", which still makes no sense to me...admittedly, I tried to book a kayaking tour the night before and it was already sold out, but that day was a complete waste....I loved the Yukon jeep tour my first trip in Skagway, and did it again, but for some reason, the off roading portion was much shorter, even though it was the same tour company...my wife and son did the dog sledding in the morning in Skagway, and loved it...all of us did the whitewater float/rafting in Juneau, which was very nice...stay away from the reindeer sausage!! Conclusion....For sentimental reasons, I will always remember the Princess cruise more fondly.....I think the overall Princess experience was better, although more costly....the Serenade of the Seas was definitely the better choice for a group with kids and a disabled adult......if you can only do one cruise in your life, make it Alaska! Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
My friend and I, both in our early 50s, went on this cruise together - did not bring along the husbands nor the kids. My friend has been on approximately 7 cruises and I have been on 20+ cruises. This is our second time on Royal Caribbean, ... Read More
My friend and I, both in our early 50s, went on this cruise together - did not bring along the husbands nor the kids. My friend has been on approximately 7 cruises and I have been on 20+ cruises. This is our second time on Royal Caribbean, have sailed Carnival many times, Princess, as well as cruises other lines (some no longer in business). Pre-Cruise: We flew Cathay Pacific Airlines, on their one non-stop flight a day from JFK to Vancouver. It was supposed to leave at 11:00 p.m. but left a half-hour late. Besides that minor detail, the airline was great. We were given our choice of 3 different hot and good tasting meals, blankets and pillows, headsets if you chose to watch one of the nice assortment of recently released to DVD movies, and later the cabin attendants brought around glasses of juice and water. On the return flight we had the same, in addition to a snack of peanuts and soda. Added bonus, we were allowed two checked pieces of luggage and one carryon at no additional cost. I would definitely recommend this airline. My friend used her timeshare points and booked us for two nights at Rosedale on Robson Hotel. The cab from the airport was $27.00 plus tip. It was a nice little one bedroom apartment conveniently located downtown. We took a cab to the Ballantyne Pier, which cost around $15.00 plus tip. A good part of that fare accumulated from the entrance of the pier gate to the dropoff point due to a slow moving line. Buses were given priority. We arrived at the ship around 11:45 a.m. and found relatively few people on line. We checked in and were on the ship by noontime. The Ship: The ship was in generally good shape. The staff works hard at sanding and varnishing the handrails throughout the week and keeping things polished. It would have been nice if when people walked onto the ship if they were given small pocket sized maps of the ship. This has been done on other cruises I went on and found it helpful. When I requested one I was told I would have to go to the Guest Services desk. The line was huge, even after the initial rush of passengers, but I waited and did receive the map. We went up on deck for the sail away party but that never seemed to happen. This is the first ship I've ever gone on where there wasn't a band playing out on deck and a festive atmosphere. Possibly it has to do with the itinerary because there never was entertainment outside, even though some people were sitting out there on the lounge chairs and kids in the pool - brave souls that they are. Maybe more people would have been out there if there had been some sort of entertainment. Our room was small but adequate and tastefully decorated. We selected an inside cabin. I know all say a balcony is the way to go but we decided to use that money for tours. We decided against an ocean view because the sun doesn't set until near 10:00 p.m. and rises around 3:30-4:00 a.m. I would have been up at the first crack of light. As it was my sleep system had a hard time adjusting to the four hours time difference and seeing a bright sky after eating our late dinner. The beds were comfortable. As everyone has said, the bathroom is small and the shower even smaller. I am a thin woman so it wasn't bad for me but a large built man or plus sized woman is going to get in that shower and not be able to move. The rounded doors did make it roomier. We were not provided robes in our cabin, which I certainly lived without but missed that perk that other lines have. Also, there was no basket of little toiletries, ex. Travel sized toothpaste, razor, various sample sized things, that I had become used to receiving. The adult only indoor pool in the Solarium was a very nice area that was underused. I went in the pool twice and each time there was only one other person using the pool. Some people were on the chaise loungers and others in the hot tub but it generally was quiet and relaxing. The dining room was very pretty. We chose the My Time Dining option and it worked very well. We requested a table for two by the window and that's exactly what we received. We loved the waiter we had the first night and asked if we could possibly have him serve us all week and that request was also met. My Time Dining patrons were seated on the upper level of the dining room. You were asked each night what time you wanted dinner. It seemed like they tried to steer you to some general times but that was fine by us. Some guests didn't like the idea of having to give a time because it takes away from the spontaneity that is associated with this option but we had no problem with it. Food: Upon arrival on the ship we went up to eat lunch at the buffet and tried it one or two other times. On most cruises I get my breakfast and lunch in that area and eat outside. This was not the case on this cruise. The food was lukewarm, which tends to be a problem with buffets in general. However, I was mainly disappointed in the lack of variety and the disappointing taste of some of the items. For example, the sandwiches were already made up and on a platter rather than you telling someone what you wanted on it, having a choice of hot pastrami or other hot sandwich items, etc. On other lines my favorite thing for lunch is usually the made to order grilled chicken breast on a roll or grilled burgers. Here the burgers were already cooked and did not seem to be grilled but baked and were placed in a chafing dish tray. I didn't come across any grilled chicken, only breaded and mixed in sauces. There was a lack of variety and everyday one whole section was dedicated to Indian food. The chef was Indian but I did not see any particularly large influence of Indian passengers so I'm unsure of why everyday I went there I saw this whole section of Indian food. Most of the beef items tended to be tough. At the carving station one day the meat being "carved" was meatloaf. Although that did turn out to be one of the better dishes of the lunch, I still don't expect to find meatloaf as the one carving board item for the day. Also, the buffet area was often crowded with guests trying to find seats while balancing their plate of food, packet of silverware (staff should set a silverware/napkin packet on each cleaned table to assist the guests), etc. Breakfast I usually ate in the dining room. I felt the quality of food was better. One strange thing was in the buffet area the orange juice was very watered down. There was a machine dispensing fresh squeezed orange juice but if you wanted this juice you had to pay $4.00 plus gratuities per glass. In the dining room, fresh squeezed OJ (or so they said) was free. Dinner tended to be hit or miss. The sirloin steak was tough and very dry, even when ordered medium rare. The people at the table next to ours sent theirs back numerous times. I decided to just eat mine. Another night I had chicken marsala that tasted like one of those prebreaded and precooked pieces of chicken that you buy frozen, with some canned sauce put over it. I am sure that wasn't the case but that is what it tasted like. I certainly knew I wouldn't starve but watching my weight wasn't going to be an issue. On Monday night we went to the Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre. This cost $50 pp but we had a great time. The story line is set over champagne in one of the lounges and the guests then go to Portofino's for dinner and wine. Between courses it continues to play out. Although I was looking forward to the great Italian food I hear Portofino's serves, we were given a choice of beef or shrimp. I ordered the beef and after a very nice antipasto plate that was beautifully presented, I was given a very tender and delicious piece of filet mignon. The theatre portion of the show was very funny or maybe it just seemed that way because they were very generous with the wine! We did intend to try Portofino's again for Italian food but never seemed to make it. The dinners in the dining room did have some up moments. The prime rib was tender. Be aware that the chef does tend to undercook it. Medium rare came out red and bloody. The waiter took it back for medium and returned with a piece that was still very rare all over. It was fine for me because I eat meat on the rare side but our waiter kept asking if I wanted it more well done because he thought it was way too undercooked. The soups were good - French onion and cold peach soup. The turkey was good and I was glad there were still lobster tails on the menu for the second formal night. I had been concerned when the cruise boards mentioned them being eliminated, but I guess that's only on the shorter cruises. The desserts were generally good, especially the warm melting cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The passing scenery was beautiful when looking out the windows as we ate. Entertainment and Activities: The Serenade singers were very talented - especially the young woman named Mimi. She had a beautiful and powerful voice. The main shows were "Stage to Screen" and "Vibeology" which goes back through music over the years. The entertainers did a good job on these shows. When they performed their 70s music in the Centrum they had a big crowd, as when they had 70s night in the Vortex, so I am unsure why the piped-in music by the pool areas seemed to be selected with a much younger age group in mind (hip-hop, Amy Winehouse, etc.- same music track with same songs every day.) The other nightly performs were good but nothing to Wow you. One show was billed as "The Comedy and Skills of Juan and Eileen." Juan had something similar to pool cue balls on the end of rope and does clacking on the floor and tricks with them. A chuckle here and there but not what I'd recall as a comedy show. Eileen, his wife, works in the Crown and Anchor Club and did dancing with him. Three other nights were also comedy shows, with one being comedy magic show by Chad Chesmark, who was pretty good. One comedy night was "Two Funny Guys Mario and Daniel" who had a cute routine and also did the same thing of the balls on the rope tricks. It seems that they know Juan. We only caught the end of the James Connolly show, which I was disappointed about missing because he seemed to be the funniest of them all. Another night's entertainment was the Love and Marriage Game Show which took place during our dinner time so we missed it. I wasn't too disappointed though because every ship has that show and I really didn't think any of them were note worthy enough to be called your main entertainment for the night. Cute but should be just a daytime activity. Speaking of daytime activities, there didn't seem to be that many. Again, this could be due to the itinerary and nothing at all going out on deck during the day. The last day at sea was filled with Texas Hold'em Tournament $75. Fee, Partners Massage Class $52., a lecture on the Alaska Pipeline, Blackjack Tournament $20 fee, Pilates $10 fee, Wheels in Motion $10 fee, etc. There was a Tango lesson with Juan and Eileen, as well as a seminar on Teeth Whitening, but neither of these really spelled FUN to me. I found this day's activities - or lack of them - a bust. I am certainly surprised by this because your last day at sea is really what sticks with you as far as the ship goes and this did not leave us with a positive memory. Ports: What's not to like about Alaska?! The beauty is indescribable. At Icy Strait we took a nature/bear search tour with Keith of Teckk Tours. In our van were also two fathers with teenage sons. Keith drove the six of us all over the backwoods roads and to look out points that provided unbelievable views. We did see five bears. The dads and boys had gone on the zip line before we arrived and loved it. We had Keith drop us off at "The Office Bar" for crab. The place is just what the name implies - a bar not a restaurant - though I don't think there are too many coming in from the office since the town has very little in the way of business. Names scratched into the bar, formica tables, but delicious crab. A large crab with a side of potato salad is $17. Part of the beauty of this stop was the idea that there is so little there making it very unspoiled. Next location, Hubbard Glacier. Our captain got us so close to The Glacier. We kept saying, "I guess he'll stop just up ahead... " and yet he kept on going. He did a wonderful job! The excitement of the crowd was contagious as we were lucky enough to see calving. It was like nothing at all that I imagined. The blue hue was quite something to see. In Skagway we booked the bus/White Pass Railroad tour through the cruise ship. We had a 7:30 a.m. tour and there were only about 8 of us on the bus. Part of the reason I generally avoid cruise ship tours is the crowds but obviously a lot of cruisers don't want to get up that early. We had a college kid from Utah named Tim as our driver and he was sweet and informative. On the train we were joined by many others but still our train car wasn't packed. The scenery was great and at times I had to make myself remember that this was a railroad built over a century ago by hand and not some Disney ride. I absolutely loved this tour and spent most of the train ride standing on the back platform enjoying the outdoors and taking about 75 pictures on this tour alone. Prior to Juneau we had booked a whale watching tour with Harv and Marv. You will not meet two nicer guys. There were only six people on each boat. Harv and Marv kept in radio contact between themselves and others to look out for whales and we weren't disappointed. We saw a group of whales "bubble feeding" and seeing them coming up out of the water and so gracefully swimming was something I doubt I'll ever forget. Harv (Pete) also had a type of microphone that he dropped into the water and we could hear the whales communicating with each other. A sort of ghostly sound. Marv (Jay's) brother drives the van that picks everyone up to go to the dock and was such a nice guy too. Took us past a salmon factory so we could see a lot of Bald Eagles that hang around there. Also a couple with us had left medication at home and had it FedEx'd to Juneau, their first port. They asked to be dropped near a bus or in the general area of FedEx and said they'd take a cab back to the ship. Our driver wouldn't hear of it and took them right there and waited. He also took us to Mendenhall Glacier for a 20 minute picture taking stop and for those that wanted to stay longer, they could take the shuttle back for $7. This is not part of their advertised tour but just him being accommodating. Again, everyone at the operation was top notch from Marv's wife, Eileen who took the booking and gave detailed instructions on where to meet, to our driver to Harv and Marv. Five stars for this group! Disembarking: This was very well organized and went quickly. We used RCI transfers to the airport and were glad we did. The cost was $25 pp. It was about a 45 minute ride to the airport so I'm sure it would have cost that much with a cab. Our luggage was taken from outside our room the night before and the next time we had to deal with it was at the airport where it was in a well marked area for our cruise ship with free carts to use to bring it to your check-in counter. We just handed Customs our filled out card when leaving the cruise terminal and were onto the bus. This is not the Direct service that is an add'l $20 pp. With Direct you don't even need to pick up your luggage at the airport. The transfer service made it so easy I really didn't feel like I needed to spend the extra money for Direct even if I had been able to, which I wasn't since we used Cathay Pacific and they're not participating. Overall, while we did have a fun time on this cruise, I believe the ports carried the vacation experience more than the ship did. I have to say that all the staff on the Serenade was so friendly and nice. I just felt the food had a bit more negatives to it than positives for us. With costs getting so high this may be the way of things to come for all cruise lines. Comparing Serenade to my cruise last year on the Crown Princess, the Crown blew this one out of the water for shipboard experience. I also felt Carnival's food was better than on this cruise too. The activities seemed to be lacking here too. Is it due to the itinerary, I don't know. RCI does win over Carnival when it comes to some of the ship's dEcor - though that hanging mesh sculpture on this ship was a big odd in the Centrum area. Seemed a bit '80s to me but not a deal breaker certainly. The dining room was beautiful and I did like the Schooner Bar. Overall, I don't believe you could have a bad trip on a cruise to Alaska. Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
My brother and I booked our family of 5 (our parents and 3 siblings) on an Alaskan cruise for our parents' 30th wedding anniversary. Why Alaska? Well, location was a big draw. With us living in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, the departure ... Read More
My brother and I booked our family of 5 (our parents and 3 siblings) on an Alaskan cruise for our parents' 30th wedding anniversary. Why Alaska? Well, location was a big draw. With us living in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, the departure point of Vancouver is only an hour-long flight away. We figured this would be a great "starter" cruise for our family to get a feel for cruising and spend some time together. Ballantyne Pier was a bit of a shock for me after expecting something more along the lines of Canada Place. Perhaps other cruises depart from shipyard docks, in my rookie state how would I know, but it felt a bit clandestine as if we were going to meet up with the big boss for a drug shipment or the like. But what a sight to see when we turned the corner and saw the Serenade of the Seas for the first time! I knew cruise ships were big but until that moment I literally had no idea just how big these boats could be. The staff were fantastic and attentive. They knew us by name almost instantly and left me a tad embarrassed when it took me a night or two to remember their names in return. They were especially fabulous with my younger sister who has Down's Syndrome. She was greeted by name wherever we were on the ship (even in the Casino! But then again she's 21 now and she found the slot machines to be a blast) making her a bit of a superstar compared to the rest of the family. After poring over the dress codes for the dining I did not end up wearing half the outfits I had packed. Guests were wearing jeans and sandals to dinner for casual nights although from what I read in our pre-cruise literature they still wanted us to wear slacks and blouses. If I had worn all the sun dresses and outfits I had packed I would have felt overdressed. That being said I still appreciated the formal nights greatly. It is always a treat to dress up and have a refined dinner. The food onboard was phenomenal but we also made an online reservation for Chops Grille for our parents' actual anniversary date. I can not recommend Chops Grille enough! They asked us for our comments with regards to the new online booking system. No complaints here! The drinks were not as pricey as I was fearing they would be. In fact beers and specialty coffees, including gratuity, were considerably less than what I would pay here in Calgary. The passengers on board were certainly of a younger variety with more kids than I was expecting. The activities available were perfect for my family as my brother is a basketball nut and I love to dance so the salsa/merengue/foxtrot/rumba lessons were wonderful for me. My mom is a line dance addict and they even had a line dance class which my whole family attended! That was a great time had by all. The solarium was wonderful although we only went late in the evening. Due to cooler weather children were permitted from 12-4pm and there was no way to do any laps in the pool at that time. Dad loves his cards so the casino was a big draw for him. Karaoke was enjoyed by everyone. And the comedic magician onboard provided us with laughs and inside jokes for years to come! As beautiful as Alaska is, I would have to say the big attraction for my family, other than the time spent together, was the ship itself. Nothing against Alaska, but being so close to the Rockies we did not see much that was extraordinary compared to things we have seen in the past. The one exception would be the glaciers. I have never been that close to glaciers in my life and watching all the calving and shooting was a fantastic thing. I think it is safe to say that my family will cruise again in the future. What a wonderful way to travel! But next time we'll choose a destination more foreign to us. I'd love to see the Panama Canal or the Mediterranean. Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
For my wife and I this would be our 4th cruise (Caribbean, Hawaii, Mediterranean) but 1st with Royal Caribbean. The other 6 members of our group were making their initial voyage. This group included my wife's 70-year old aunt and ... Read More
For my wife and I this would be our 4th cruise (Caribbean, Hawaii, Mediterranean) but 1st with Royal Caribbean. The other 6 members of our group were making their initial voyage. This group included my wife's 70-year old aunt and 84-year old companion, my sister (52), her husband (51), and their sons 23 and 21 year olds. This comprised a mixed assortment to entertain on this cruise. Day 1: Friday, June 20, 2008 - Embarkation & Departure We left RC arrange our air transportation and our flight was leaving at 6:30 am this morning from Pittsburgh, PA. This meant an early wakeup at 2:30 so we could be at the airport by 4:30 to make our arrangements with Air Canada. I was unable to do an online check in with them so we had to give ourselves ample time. We would take Air Canada to Toronto and transfer over to Alaska Airlines for the flight to Vancouver, BC. This was grueling with customs and security. It was a long day but RC was there for us every step of the way. They assisted with luggage and check-ins, etc which was impressive. They can only do so much about the airlines themselves. It took forever to get through the Alaska Airlines connection. Once we landed in Vancouver the RC personnel were ready for us. They loaded us up on a beautiful coach bus and headed for the port. This ride took around an hour and we were all wearing out but when our ship came into view the excitement arose again. With our Set & Sail documentation we were on the ship and in our staterooms within a half-hour. The couples had outside balcony staterooms on the 7th level and the boys were on deck 3 in an inside stateroom. Accommodations were very good with the exception of any plugs for my CPAP machine by the bed. I checked the 2nd day for an extension cord and the ship had given them all out. They may have gotten more but I never went back to check. Plenty of storage space in our rooms, which was very welcomed. When we were settled we made our way to the Windjammer for the Welcome Aboard Buffet. There was nothing to complain about because the variety was good and the food was tasty. They were selling Fountain cups, which provided for unlimited pop (soda) throughout the cruise at $6.00/day for adults and $4.00/day for children. We opted out of this because they always had water, lemonade, punch or something else to drink for free. The day was more or less a get acquainted with the ship day with Spa Tours, First Time Cruiser's Talk & Tour, Casino Gaming Lessons, etc all of which was detailed in the daily Cruise Compass. We actually just walked around ourselves to learn the layout of the ship and where the theater, dining room and other pertinent locations were on the Radiance. We, of course, joined in on the mandatory guest lifeboat drill and it was run smoothly. We attended the Sail-Away Deck Party but it was not much and the Sail-Away drinks, tasty but not complimentary, were served in plastic souvenir glasses (one survived the trip back to PA). The Welcome Aboard Show introduced us to some of the ship personnel including our cruise director, Warren. He did a good job throughout the cruise. The comedian that evening did not really do much for any of us. From there we went to dinner and met our waiter, Joel and assistant waiter, Nikki. They were both great the entire cruise. Selections were good as was the food. Although it was late we made our way up to the Starquest to listen to the DJ for a while, had a drink and headed back to the cabin. Before going to sleep we reviewed our Day 2 Cruise Compass. The daily Cruise Compass is a great guide to the ship's activities for the day. The front page always provided the forecast, the sunrise/sunset times, next port-of-call, highlights of the day, and dinner information (seating times and proper attire). Day 2 would be our first formal night. The Open Hours for the facilities were listed; Bar Service Hours and the Music & Dancing schedule were also provided. An hourly activity schedule was included which made it very easy to plan your day. Also included was the Shore Excursion Order Form for all the ports. Day 2: Saturday, June 21, 2008 - At Sea We were up at 4:30 am because of the time difference and the brilliance of the sun coming through our balcony windows. Something to get used to in Alaska is the 16-18 hours of daylight. After breakfast my wife had a massage that lasted for about 2 hours. She said it was great but with the cost of the massage and the additional add-on sales they convinced her to buy it was pricey. I meanwhile went to the Alaska Port & Shipping Show which was everyone was highly encouraged to attend - basically a sales ploy. For $25 you bought a book with numerous coupons for free items. It basically made each port a bit of a scavenger hunt. The free gemstones were very small and the pendants were OK at the best. We probably got our money back on the Del Sol travel bag, the lithographs of each port, and the charm bracelet was nice. If you have the time to get the coin collection it would have been a nice keepsake. Not sure if I would do it again though. We started our pattern of breakfast and lunch at the Windjammer buffet, competing in the various trivia contests and spending time at the Schooner Bar. That afternoon we prepared for the formal night and of course, cruise pictures! We attended the Captain's Welcome Aboard Reception with complimentary champagne - various options but none were outstanding. Dinner was at 8:30 and was very good. Formal or not you do not need a tuxedo and actually jeans and not so formal wear were seen throughout the dining room. The show featuring the RC orchestra, singers and dancers was very enjoyable. Hit the Starquest again for Disco night with a guest appearance by the Village People (cruise director and his cronies). Enjoyable but the music switched from 70's to just about anything. Not what was anticipated for the evening. Day 3: Sunday, June 22, 2008 - Ketchikan We arrived at 7:00 am and could start to leave the ship a half hour later. All the stores were awaiting us at that time especially since we had to be back on board by 2:30. The visitor information building was at the pier so we went in and got the walking tour map of Ketchikan. Then we started our scavenger hunt at Diamonds International and visited a lot of the shops. It was interesting and since we had no excursion planned there was a limited amount to do at Ketchikan. I did not get a lot of feedback from others as to the excursions that were taken but the Saxman Native TotemVillage and Lumberjack Show apparently weren't too bad. We decided to walk to the Tribal Hatchery & Eagle Center and Totem Heritage Center. It was nice enough but probably not worth the $12/person. A number of us decided to up to Deer Mountain Trail. It is a 3 mile hike up to a 3,000 foot summit and was very enjoyable. Of course we only had time to make it up 1 mile since we had spent so much time doing other things. Not sure if I could have made all 3 miles anyhow. The worst part of the hike was the walk up to the trail - it was 7/10 of a mile straight up a sidewalk and was harder than the hiking on the trail. We eventually ended up at Fat Stan's for a couple of Alaskan Ambers which tasted fine plus I had a coupon for a free glass - tough to beat. Actually if you followed the walking tour map you would have received a decent history lesson of Ketchikan. Got back on board for a quick lunch buffet, came in 2nd place in the trivia contest and got ready for the show. Vintage comedy from Marty Allen and singing from his wife, Karon Kate Blackwell provided an entertaining show. We went to dinner after that and up to the Starquest for Oldies Rock n Roll Night. Oldies were played for awhile and then music that we did not care for so back to the room. Day 4: Monday June 23, 2008 - Juneau We would be a Juneau for a full 12 hours so plenty of time to do whatever we wanted. As soon as you got off the ship there were tour booths offering all types of excursions. We walked down the street hitting some of the local shops and found the Juneau Sportsfishing Tour building (we were headed toward the Visitor Information Center) and priced some tours. We decided to do a City Tour which also took you to Mendenhall Glacier for an hour and packaged that with a Whale Watching Excursion. Probably saved about $20 per person and hoped for the best. We got it! The Glacier is something to see and should not be missed even if you just take the shuttle up and back which is around $15. Our Whale Watching turned into a private tour for the 7 of us that went. We saw 5 whales although they were not real active, bald eagles and sea lions. It was so nice having a boat to ourselves. The ship's tour was a large boat, same area that we were in, and had 150 to 200 people on it so we felt pretty lucky. After that we did some shopping and took advantage of coupon books. The Alaska Shirt Company is a good place to get cheap souvenirs but it also has some great stuff to buy. The boys got super looking jackets for $20. My wife and I took the Tramway up Mt. Roberts. It is an interesting view but at $24 each I would not do it again. We were back on board for the Sports Trivia but it was no contest, there were some very knowledgeable sports people on the cruise and it wasn't us. After dinner we skipped the show which was the comedian from the 1st night and a juggler. We did see the juggler later on the cruise and he was excellent. Motown night at the Starquest but DJ Diggy just did not play the Motown we knew so we did not stay. Day 5: Tuesday, June 24, 2008 - Skagway Another 12 hour day and we did book the White Pass Scenic Railway Excursion for 12:30. So we walked into Skagway (they have a shuttle for $1.50 because it is about a half a mile from the ship) and did our tour of the stores and it is a fun little town. At 10:00 I was at the Alaskan Brewing Company to drink the beer sampler and get a free ball cap. The sampler was $7.00 and consisted of 4 - 4 oz beers and actually tasted pretty good. We went back to the ship, lunch at the Windjammer and off for our train ride. It was a 3 ½ hour train ride but most of us really enjoyed it. Took another shot at the Sports Trivia and got wiped out again but gave us something to do before dinner. Skipped the magician but we heard he did a nice job and just listened to some of the other musicians on board. Checked out the Oldies with DJ Diggy but apparently we were too old because it wasn't what we expected. Day 6: Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - Icy Strait Point This port required tenders to get to the remote private area of Icy Strait Point. RC had tenders going back and forth constantly so you never really had to wait long to get back and forth to the ship. Numerous excursions are available but we just walked the beach and wooded area, checked out the shops and watched the Tribal Dance. We did not go into the actual town. A lot of people were doing the ZipRider which the world's longest and at 5,330 feet with a 1,300 foot vertical drop. The ride lasts 15 minutes and people seemed to enjoy it. We went back to the ship early and just relaxed. This was the 2nd formal night so we had to get ready for that but we did have time to squeeze in the Name That County Tune Trivia and finally won! We actually had the highest score the cruise person could remember as we got 39 out of 41 correct. We earned 6 RC baseball caps for the victory! Got a few formal pictures taken and went to the show, Piano Man. It was very good. Dinner was lobster and prime rib among other choices. Sat in the main lobby for a short time having a drink and listening to various music groups, skipped the Starquest. Day 7: Thursday, June 25, 2008 - Cruising Hubbard Glacier It started to hit us that this was the last day on the ship, although we were pleased to know we had our 4 day inland adventure still remaining. Most of the morning was taken up on deck or watching from our balcony as we approached and observed the Hubbard Glacier. It was fascinating to see. Hearing the rumbles and watching as pieces broke away and drifted out to sea was amazing. A lot of Alaska can't be described in words or pictures; you have to experience it live. Once we pulled away from the glacier we spent time packing, watching some of the week ending competitions, and exhibitions. The farewell show was entertaining, the juggler Ivan Pecel did a nice job and we had our final dinner. We then made our final preparations for debarkation at Seward. RC had done an excellent job of providing information on what had to be done so our luggage went to the right place and we got the transportation we needed to get to our next destination. Day 8: Friday, June 26, 2008 - Fairbanks This morning we went to breakfast and met in the Aurora Theater to wait for our group to leave the ship. From the ship we were loaded into a bus for a 3 ½ hour ride to Anchorage. It was scenic but does get long. At the airport we were assisted and took the flight to Fairbanks which was just about 1 hour. Our tour guide Scott and bus driver Shane and headed to our hotel for the evening. First we had to stop at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Museum. We would be there for about an hour and it was interesting to see. Then we went to Sophie Station Hotel, our luggage was waiting for us and it was a great place to stay. Everyone had their own suite. Food options ranged from the hotel restaurant, to taking a shuttle to Pioneer Park, walking to fast food restaurants or just going to the supermarket that had a variety of precooked meals. We shuttled to Pioneer Park and ate at the Salmon Bake. The food was good, it was all you could eat but it was $31/person. Toured the park awhile and went back for a relaxing evening. Day 9: Saturday, June 27, 2008 - Denali Part of our tour was going on the Riverboat Discovery, a sternwheeler riverboat ride down the Chena and Tanana Rivers. It was about 4 hours and a rainy day but still enjoyable. We got back on the bus and went to downtown Fairbanks. We had an hour and a half but we just had enough time to eat lunch and that was it. We ate a Soapy Sams and it was OK but slow. Then we were back on the bus and a 2 ½ hour ride to the Grande Denali Lodge. You do get a little tired of busses. Found ourselves at the top of the mountain and quite a view. We were given the keys to our room, our luggage was again being delivered and the accommodations were fantastic again. Thought we would relax and eat at the lodge but the $16 hamburger did not appeal to us so we shuttled down the mountain and found a pizza place to eat. The pizza was good but we heard the Salmon Bake was even better. Obviously did some souvenir shopping and shuttled back up to the rooms to rest. Day 10: Sunday, June 28, 2008 - Talkeetna We got on the park bus (school bus really) to go on our Natural History Tour of Denali National Park. It was a 4-5 hour narrated tour with stops along the way. Really did not get to see much wildlife and our driver although knowledgeable was not real exciting and it was a pretty long ride. Once we got back, my wife and I had enough time to do a short hike but it would have been nice to be able to do some of the longer hikes the park has available. At that point we were loaded on to the Wilderness Express, the glass domed railway car. The train itself had 5 cars for RC, 3 for Princess, 3 for Holland and was a nice change from the bus. It was another 4 ½ hours of traveling but wasn't too bad and was broken up by us going downstairs for dinner. The food was very good and the prices were the best for awhile, meals under $20. We arrived at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge and again the accommodations were wonderful. Shuttled down to the town which is basically a long street of Talkeetna. We stopped at the Left Rib Bar and had some good food (I had the Caribou Burger) and Ice Ale, the 9.25% alcohol beer. You are only permitted to drink 2 of these and they weren't bad. Once we got back to the lodge my wife and I were in the East Wing lobby and became part of the 30% club. That is how many people get to see the peak of Mt. McKinley. We were lucky because we happened to be talking to the hotel clerk whose one job is to watch the mountain and if the clouds clear has to call all the people who signed up for a Mt. McKinley phone alert. She pointed it out to us, we were not looking high enough, and did not make calls because she said it would be covered over in a minute or less. She knows her stuff because it disappeared shortly after. There was a sighting around 4:00 am and the rest of the people in my party had signed up so they did get a call and got to see it also. Day 11: Monday, June 29, 2008 - Anchorage My wife and I splurged and signed up for a Glacier Landing Flight for 10:00 am. We ate breakfast at the lodge, price was decent, food was OK but the serving size was huge. We took a short walk on one of the trails they have at the lodge, there had been bear sightings but we didn't see any. Since checkout was 11:00 am we had to have our bags set out before we left for our excursion. The shuttle from K-2 Aviation picked us up and took us to our 8-seater plane. She also told us a lot of the flights had been canceled lately and those that took off could not always land on the glacier. We were lucky! It was a beautiful day, 3 others joined us on the flight (my wife rode in the co-pilot seat) and we had a beautiful flight. It is one of those indescribable adventures. The landing on the glacier, getting out and walking around and taking off again was fantastic. We could only stay about 5 minutes on the glacier because our pilot felt the clouds were starting to come in and did not feel like staying on the glacier overnight, made sense to me. It was a great experience. We talked to a number of people who took the flight but were unable to do the landing. Once we got back to the lodge it was just sitting around waiting for the bus to come to take us to the railway station again. Back on the railroad for a 3 ½ ride to Anchorage, dinner was good but a little more costly because of the type of meals. I had the Prime Rib and it was good but $30 again. Unloaded, back on another bus to the Marriott in downtown Anchorage and ready for a night's rest. At this point we had all of luggage back so we adjusted everything to limit what we were carrying. We went down to the hotel lobby and printed out our Boarding Passes for the flights home and went upstairs to sleep. Our luggage had to be out by 3:45 am, we were being picked up at 4:30 am and our flight to Seattle was departing at 6:30 am. The only problem was the sun was so bright even at 11:00 am but we pulled the drapes and got a few hours of sleep. Day 12: Tuesday, June 30, 2008 - Home The RC shuttle and representatives were there to assist us and get us to the airport. Once there we experienced more delays and hassles with Alaska Airlines. Just understaffed I guess plus one of the security people took my sister's little snow globe which was definitely under 3 ounces but it wasn't worth the fight (it cost $2.50). The other security person left my nephew take his 4 through with no problem and he knew they were there. The rest of the flights home were fine and when we arrived in Pittsburgh via Seattle and Detroit our luggage was all there (some slight damage to a few pieces) and we jumped in our vehicles and headed home. We got to bed around 2:00 am but were all back safely! Summary When you plan to go on an Alaskan Cruise you have to realize it is probably unlike anything else you have experienced on a cruise and plan on spending a few more dollars than normal. Overall the trip was excellent and Royal Caribbean did a great job. The handling of our luggage from place to place, the accommodations on the ship and off were very good, and the documentation, etc were all in order. Those are very important. The minor problems were no extension cords for my CPAP machine, the flight times were not great but that is probably more the airlines than RC, and they did nothing to acknowledge our anniversary. The first day on the ship was our anniversary and on the RC site it was listed under our info so I guess I anticipated something but nothing. Radiance of the Seas - The ship was very nice. It was clean and the personnel were very helpful. Documentation - Everything was in order, provided in a timely manner and accurate. On-Board Activities - The Cruise Compass kept you well informed and there was always plenty to do. No matter what your preferences are you should be able to find something to do every hour of the day, the problem is you probably have to decide between a few of them because you can only be in one place at a time. Shore Excursions - Every port and stop on the tour had a variety of excursions to do and I did not hear complaints about any of them. As I stated you can save a few dollars by taking a chance and getting them once you leave the ship but sometimes knowing what you are doing ahead of time is worth the extra money. Prepare ahead of time to see what your budge will allow you to do because most of the excursions cost a good bit. Anytime you are flying or sailing I guess you have to anticipate this though. Music & Entertainment - The evening shows were pretty good for a cruise. It really depends on your personal likes and dislikes. As mentioned we had some evenings at the Starquest that did not meet our expectations but there was music all over the ship if you felt like listening to something. Our favorite group was Rosario Strings, a duo consisting of a guitar and a violin that made great sounds. The Lucky Trio was also enjoyable to listen to. Food - Overall we thought the food was good, not excellent but we certainly did not go hungry. The Windjammer Buffet for breakfast and lunch gave you plenty of choices although you had to watch how long some things were left out because they did not seem to stay hot. Desserts were just OK. The dinner meals were very good and we can't comment on how the breakfast and lunch would be in the actual dining room because it just didn't fit our schedule real well. We did go to lunch once but the menu that day did not excite us so we just went back to the buffet. The Seaview Cafe offered sandwiches, etc that were pretty good according to my nephews. We did not go to Portofino's or Chops Grille and did not get a lot of feedback on them. Would I take this cruise again? Yes and I am sure I would enjoy it again but I would do some things different. Some different excursions and I would pack less formal. You need some dress up items but long sleeve t-shirts, jeans and a light jacket ended up being my normal daily attire. I would not hesitate to travel with Royal Caribbean again and with the free membership to the Crown and Anchor Club I can look forward to some membership benefits. Little ones at first but after a lot of cruises you get treated to some nice features. Hopefully this gives you a little insight into an Alaskan Cruisetour and will assist you when planning your trip! Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
We arrived at departure pier at about noon. We were on the ship at 12:50. We went to our room right after a quick lunch at the Windjammer and it was ready with our suitcases outside the room. A very strong odor of sewage was evident at ... Read More
We arrived at departure pier at about noon. We were on the ship at 12:50. We went to our room right after a quick lunch at the Windjammer and it was ready with our suitcases outside the room. A very strong odor of sewage was evident at the end of our hallway, close to the centrum elevators. This continued throughout the cruise. Some days were better than others. Where was the sail away party???? A couple employees for RCL put on a CD with some music and that was it. No dancing, no band, no nothing. My wife looks forward to this event and it did not happen. We brought four other people on the cruise with us and we all sat there waiting for the sail away party and nothing materialized. My wife had been telling them how much fun this was. I cannot believe that this saves money by not having a sail away party or did RCL decide that Alaska cruises don't get this event???? After dinner I found out that you have to pay for an espresso this year. I may not remember correctly but I am sure that on the same cruise last year espresso, cappuccino or latte's were included with dinner. I was surprised to find out that there is no longer a late night buffet on Alaskan Cruises. We had told the four people that we took on this cruise what a great spread this was. What a disappointment for everyone! Smoke free night in the casino is a joke. Some of the "regular" gamblers smoked at the table anyway. When I told them it was no smoking night they told me to mind my own business (yes breathing in someone elses smoke is my business) I asked the pit boss to uphold the no smoking policy and he just shrugged his shoulders. One great part of this cruise was the sunny day (the only one) at Hubbard Glacier, how close we got and the extended period of time we got to stay there. What a magnificent site this was to behold. (must have been the Canadian Captain's doing) Our cabin steward, waiter and assistant waiter all did an exceptional job. RCL will keep cutting out services that repeat cruisers like myself expect and I am sorry to say they will also suffer the consequences of being cut out of being the cruise line of choice by me and probably many others. Too bad. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
Just returned from the June 21st sailing of Serenade of the Seas to Alaska. I'm writing this review to help those of you like me who faithfully use these boards for help in selecting a cruise vacation and will answer some of the ... Read More
Just returned from the June 21st sailing of Serenade of the Seas to Alaska. I'm writing this review to help those of you like me who faithfully use these boards for help in selecting a cruise vacation and will answer some of the questions I had before leaving for the trip. Background: Our group consisted of 11 adults, 9 kids, ranging in ages from 4 - 80. We spent 3 days in Vancouver and stayed at the Marriott on Hastings - great central location and within walking distance of many shops and restaurants. Embarkation: Get to the pier early, before noon, and you will walk right on with no delays. Lunch is available when you board, but cabins are not ready until 1:00 pm. Cabin: We had a balcony cabin on the 7th floor - balcony is really worth it for Alaska and we used it often to hunt for whales which we saw many of. Dress Code: Was pleasantly surprised at the more relaxed atmosphere in the dining room compared to other non-Alaska cruises. Jeans are totally acceptable on the three "casual" nights, and nice slacks are okay for the "smart casual" nights. Next time will skip bringing the formal clothes for the two formal nights and either eat at the buffet or one of two specialty restaurants, Chops and Portofino, which are excellent. Food Quality: Overall, the food on ship, except for Chops and Portofino which was excellent, was average. This is my 5th cruise, 3rd with RC, and next time I'll book a higher end cruise line for better quality of food. Don't get me wrong, the food is fine and acceptable, but not great. There were some standouts on the nightly menus, but on average, the food was just okay. Definitely go to Chops or Portofino at least once - they are both wonderful and the food is great! Service: Excellent all around - employees very nice and accommodating. Excursions: very expensive, but you have no choice and need to do them in Alaska. Be sure and book online before your trip because slots fill up fast. If you don't book online, get in line at the excursions desk as soon as you board, because a line forms quickly. Entertainment: Average - typical cruise type stuff, but we did have a comedian the first night that was excellent. Trivia contests in Schooner Bar throughout the week were fun as well as "The Quest" - adult game show on Tuesday night. Kids club: my son loved it - went every day. Packing essentials: Be prepared for all kinds of weather and take rain gear as well. Be sure to include gloves and hat as it is very chilly in Alaska and especially cold on deck when you go to Hubbard Glacier. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
We are a couple in our early to mid-fifties. We love Alaska and had some wonderful experiences on this cruise. We also had some disappointments, but we are of the mind that positive thinking is important to enjoying our vacations so we ... Read More
We are a couple in our early to mid-fifties. We love Alaska and had some wonderful experiences on this cruise. We also had some disappointments, but we are of the mind that positive thinking is important to enjoying our vacations so we didn't let the disappointments spoil our good time. Climate: The weather was generally overcast this cruise. There was also more snow prevalent than past early June cruises. U.S. Direct: We arrived via U.S. Direct as we had visited Vancouver on two past cruises. This was well executed by airport personnel. We arrived on the ship at 3pm and avoided the wait others experienced due to a total sanitizing ofthe ship due to Noro Virus, hence the "Purell" part of this review. More on that later. Cabin: Our cabin, 9256, was a great choice for an Inside Passage cruise. We love the larger balconies and usually book the long balconies on the hump but opted for an aft balcony this trip. We were very pleased with this cabin and are aft converts for future Alaska sailings. The long walk to our cabin didn't bother us at all. There was a large fruit plate in our cabin upon our arrival. We can only guess this was from the Loyalty Ambassador since there was no note. In fact, we had problems all week receiving various invitations and such to our cabin. The RFS got our tuxedo rental and Meet and Mingle invite among other things. This was the last week for the Loyalty Ambassador and she was shocked to hear of our delivery problems. We sailed with her on Jewel OTS, so we knew it wasn't her service that was lacking. She was training a replacement and could only guess this new person was not well organized. Dining Room: The dining room was using new menus. Some dishes were the same while others were different. Being this was an Alaska cruise, fresh salmon and other regional fish was plentiful. The salmon on the first night was prepared very nicely. Also, I found the shrimp cocktail to be fresher than our two previous Jewel cruises. The Filet of Beef on the 1st formal night was also superior to that of Jewel. It may be that RCL uses a different supplier out of Vancouver; that would account for the differences. We enjoyed the company of our table mates at dinner. This was a group of seven who all knew each other and traveled together previously. We've joined tables with other large groups of folks before and have never experienced a problem with this. Dining - Other Sea View: The Sea View Cafe has an outstanding crew. Rakesh (manager) and Julia standout in particular. They are clearly the happiest crew on the ship. Splenda was available at all the dining venues without asking. Windjammer: For those who like Indian food, there were about 8 Indian dishes available in the Windjammer at lunchtime and one entrEe at dinner. Anyone wishing to book a specialty restaurant on the Serenade Alaska sailing would probably be safe with booking on Wednesday. That day stuck out as the one I would have skipped. Miscellaneous CONCIERGE: Rahul was the concierge. We addressed any Guest Relations issues/questions (very few) with Rahul and were very fortunate to be able to do so. Unfortunately, we heard some other guests had bad experiences with Guest Relations. SPA: I found if I arrived before 6:45 am, there was no problem getting a treadmill. By 7:15, there was a wait. CASINO: Although I didn't totally ignore the slots, I stuck mainly to the table games and managed to break even at the casino. PORTS INSIDE PASSAGE: I always enjoy cruising the Inside Passage. There is so much green! Unfortunately, Sunday was overcast but we still got to enjoy the scenery. The captain did not take the ship through the Inside Passage upon our return until we approached Vancouver Island. I was so disappointed! He never mentioned why. Normally, they take you between Banks & Pitt Islands and Aristazabal & Princess Royal. ISP: We woke up to snow capped mountains in Chatham Strait. This promised to be a sunny day. Yeah, right that was just a teaser. The weather was overcast and drizzly by the time we reached ISP. We went whale watching with Floyd from F.I.S.H.E.S. at 11 am. http://www.visithoonah.com/fishes Floyd takes no more than six guests at a time. We were fortunate to share our excursion with two wonderful couples that we "met" on these boards. Floyd was waiting for us as scheduled. He took us on a short ride to the harbor in Hoonah. First Floyd tried to find bears along the shoreline, but they weren't cooperating so it was off to Pt. Adolphus to see the whales. The whales were plentiful. We saw blow holes and tails, but no bubble feeding or breaching. The sea lions were playful as always. On the way back to the harbor we saw a bear and her cubs but they were camera-shy and ran off when we got close. Now that we have been to ISP, we can say that we prefer Ketchikan. We can always go whale watching in Juneau, but we prefer Misty Fjords flight seeing. We might have a different opinion if we fished or got really excited about bears. This is merely our preference. We certainly didn't have any complaints about ISP and would recommend F.I.S.H.E.S. Before returning to the ship, we spent some money in the high school store. Hubbard Glacier: We had the most SPECTACULAR glacier day!! The captain got within less than a half mile from the glacier and spent quite a bit of time there. That glacier wouldn't stop calving! It calved large chunks and smaller chunks. We had an excellent view on deck 13-forward coming into the bay and remained there for quite sometime until the captain turned to starboard. We walked back to our corner aft cabin and were rewarded a great show from that angle as well. Even the weather cooperated with sunshine. I later told many first time Alaska cruisers they got an unusual show as Hubbard does not normally calve this frequently. Skagway: Another overcast day, but as others have said the weather improved the further we drove past the summit along the Klondike Hwy. We booked the drive-only Carcross excursion with Chilkoot Charters. http://www.chilkootcharters.com We rode the WPYR just two years ago and wanted to see the area from a different vantage point. We will definitely take the RR again sometime in the future as that route offers alternate views and is a pleasant excursion. For those of you interested in the Cinnamon Cache, between Carcross and Emerald Lake, re-opened this year. Since we were there on a Wednesday, Chilkoot's train passengers drive up to Emerald Lake first and then take the train from Carcross to Lake Bennett, get off, have lunch and then take the train to Skagway from there. As it happened, we also shared the first half of this excursion with the same two wonderful couples from ISP. We rode up to Lake Bennett with these folks, plus others, and had Larry all to ourselves on the return trip along the Klondike Hwy. Larry reminded me of Barry Corbin, the actor from Northern Exposure. On the way up north, we were pressed for time since we had to get the train riders back to Carcross by 10:30 for their departure. We snapped pictures of Emerald Lake very quickly. This excursion afforded us some time in Carcross. It was nice to see an authentic small town. On the trip back along the Klondike Hwy, the sun was shining from time to time and we had beautiful views and plenty of opportunity to stop and snap pictures along the way. Larry dropped us off in town at our requested location and we were off to do some damage to our credit card account. When did all those jewelry stores invade Skagway?! I remember the overabundance of the Caribbean jewelry stores in Ketchikan, but don't remember Skagway like that. I am proud to say that I exercised restraint and I didn't stop in one jewelry store the entire trip. Juneau: We drew the short end of the stick and had to tender in Juneau. I was prepared for this disappointment as I consulted the schedule and saw the dreaded AIF for our docking position. Here is the site to check: http://www.claalaska.com/schedules.html I finally convinced my DH that we should take a helicopter excursion to the Juneau Icefield. We went with Coastal http://coastalhelicopters.com/tours.htm and landed on Taku Glacier. As many have said before, this is a great excursion. We loved it! Walking on the glacier was a wonderful experience. I see many posts where folks ask, "Which would you choose --- a glacier landing or flight seeing?" We are probably in the minority where if we had to choose between flight seeing over Misty Fjords or a helicopter landing on a glacier, we would choose flight seeing. The tie breaker for us was the landing in a mountain lake. The area is so pristine and loaded with beautiful vistas. Back in town, we shopped before boarding the ship. We stopped at Alaska Knife Works and bought three more Ulu knife sets --- an additional one for us and for our adult kids. We had the knife sets shipped home. For those of you who remember Galligaskins, as I do, the owners retired. That shop is now replaced with Once in a Blue Moose. They have a great selection, good quality and seem to have lower prices than Galligaskins. In fact, they had the same Alaska Amber sweat shirt for $5 less than the Alaska T Shirt Company. For those of you booking independent shore excursions, I highly recommend you re-confirm your reservations before you depart from home. Noro Virus Precautions: The ship has been plagued with Noro virus since early May. There was Purell EVERYWHERE, not just in the dining establishments. We heard they declined passage to folks attempting to board sick. While over-the-counter headache meds were readily available in the gift shop, no intestinal-related OTC meds were available there. We assumed this forced sick folks to go to the Medical Center for complimentary treatment. Our cabin steward said there were only 7 or 8 outbreaks of Noro this cruise and the numbers were steadily declining each weekly sailing. In the meantime, the housekeeping and dining crews are exhausted from extra precautions for 7 weeks straight. Other precautions noted: • Late embarkation due to total sanitizing of the ship • Our cabin was missing writing paper, pens, room service menus, even soap when we embarked. Our steward did get the items we needed once asked, however. • No salt and pepper shakers anywhere. Pepper mills were used by the asst. waiters and packets of salt and pepper were available upon request. • No books in the library • No daily news sheets • No extra Cruise Compasses in the slots across from Guest Relations • No help-yourself hors d'oevres anywhere. Waiters brought hors d'oevres to guests during the Captain's Cocktail Party and C&A Party. • No large help-yourself salad bowls served at the table (this was fine with me, as I'd rather they be plated anyway). • Concierge Lounge o No help-yourself hors d'oevres or petit fours o No extra Cruise Compasses o No daily menus available o Continental breakfast was served every morning, however Some passengers felt they were living in a Petri dish. It didn't bother me to sanitize my hands at every turn as long as we didn't get sick. I am glad they took the Noro outbreak seriously and denied passage to those who could have been carrying the virus. For those of you planning an Alaska cruise on Serenade, ENJOY! Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
My husband and I are 50 years 44 years and celebrating Dave's 50th birthday. We already had a great pre cruise week, spending 3 days at the elegant Fairmont Pallisair Calgary. Lovely decor, but practices a little rigid and faux ... Read More
My husband and I are 50 years 44 years and celebrating Dave's 50th birthday. We already had a great pre cruise week, spending 3 days at the elegant Fairmont Pallisair Calgary. Lovely decor, but practices a little rigid and faux English, afternoon tea(e.g. need 24 hrs notice for a cream tea???, Strange for the class of hotel) none the less I loved the grandeur and was determined that this was the hotel for me prior to travel, I did not change this opinion. Calgary was dusty and dismal after the snow. We found little other than shopping, eating or walking around the Malls. What will remain with me as an impression of Calgary however, is not the Fairmont, but the street people and numbers of mentally ill walking and sleeping on the streets. Truly shocking, florid illness passes by the tourists and business people, with little interaction between these 2 social classes. We boarded the Rocky Mountaineer for a two-day Gold Leaf journey to Vancouver, with a stop in Kamloops. Our favorite leg of the journey was Kamloops to Vancouver. We found the landscape breathtaking however; we saw most wildlife on the Calgary to Kamloops line (4 bears, 2 wolves, mammottes, beavers, multiple dear and bald eagles) We pre-booked the lumberjack show, but having arrived late in the evening we had no time to wash up and I really did not want to go. It was a funny talented show and the salmon was the best I had in Canada and Alaska. Truly wonderful service from Jennifer Roberts (Welsh Roots) and her wonderful team every communication from the service crew aimed to make you feel at ease, comfortable, indulged, looked after and very privileged indeed. Kevin, commentary was just a perfect mix of interesting information and quiet reflective periods.. The service was excellent, likewise the food standard, considering the small train galley kitchen. Food was gourmet standard, always hot and served by the waiters who were completely charming. Congratulations team I thought you were so very good at what you do. The little touches, such as CD's of the journey for all and Canadian Rockies reference books for birthday gifts, brought tears to Dave's eyes, because it punctuated a lovely ending to a perfectly wonderful trip. I must say Canadian service was outstanding and very well organized, throughout our two week stay and I am saying this despite a 24 hrs flight delay home, certainly Canadian service puts British transportation, moving and handling people and baggage to absolute shame. Our next stop was the Pan Pacific Hotel, Wow Wow! Wow, I thought I was Julia Roberts for 3 days. Our room on the 9th floor which had two picture windows with outstanding city views, sparkling with lights by night. The bathroom was lovely with a separate WC swinging door ( very clever) We enjoyed the room for room service breakfasts rather than the busy restaurant breakfast cafe. Here the busy pace meant cold food and poor overall service. Room service was delivered on wheel in white clothed tables with silver salvers and fresh flower buds, just splendid with the lovely views and a chaise lounge on which to read the local papers. The proximity to shopping areas and view of cruise ships and water traffic was just lovely and allowed a perfect balance of interesting views and relaxation. I loved this hotel and will definitely return. In fact I just loved Vancouver, which is strange for me, I seldom like city stays with the exception of Paris or Rome. Stanley Park, Gas Town, Granville Island, Cappilino suspension bridge I loved them all. Lovely green spaces, shinny high-rise, tastes and smells and friendly services. And now the Serenade of the seas! I thought the ship was truly beautiful, lovely glass viewing panels, shinny pretty well lit lobby bars, I absolutely loved the art deco style glass lifts, designed to look down on the floors, over the lobby or out to sea, Very lovely. We were on the 9th deck room 9642. The balcony room was as expected and very similar in size to the concierge class we had on the Celebrity Millennium. I previously read the cruise reports and passengers have commented on a sewerage smell. It was evident at times and seemed related to the sinks or plumbing. It was not of a degree that caused me any complaint, I expected it and it came and went. We saw little of our cabin assistant; however, we always had ice, clean well made beds, a clean room and laundry taken care of. The Windjammer food was good, great selection but always over crowded. The sea view cafe was lovely, chilli, or chicken or burgers with a fab view at the top most aft of the ship. I was disappointed with the main dinning room food, if I am totally honest and there was no comparison in the standard of food, between the Celebrity Millennium class and the Serenade, I tried not to compare and constantly encouraged Dave not to do so because we could well leave ourselves with a sense of dissatisfaction (and we did not) We opted for second seating because we just could not consider eating at 6pm. My husband was mainly happy with the food. I found the food semi warm, the standard of seafood poor and poor food presentation. I did ask on two occasions to change cold food or if I did not like my selection and Rupesh was very obliging indeed. We dined with a German couple who were very nice but somewhat shy to speak English and we can only manage a bit of Italian and French, which was a shame coupled with 8 empty settings around the table. We had fond memories of dining in the company of a very funny New York family on our last cruise, we chose to stay where we were and enjoy our own company rather than seek more cheerful dining. We pre-booked our wine for a 25 % saving, after all the holiday was far from an economic decision, so you have to save a buck were you can find one! We decided to take 2 whale watching trips and preferred the Icy straight point trip overall, rather than the Juneau whale watch, salmon bake and glacier experience, which was very rushed indeed. In Skagway the European cup final was top of Dave's agenda. After fruitless searching to find a bar playing the match and passing a few wailing fans also looking for that illusive big screen we found Skagway Simon! Simon phoned around and took us and another couple to a private members bar, where we watched the game in the Eagle club, a quaint colonial bar complete with huge Victorian mahogany mirrored facade. David originally from Manchester now in San Francisco , wife Heather and mother Jeanette from Glasgow originally, were truly wonderful company and could not be dissuaded from picking up the days drinking tab. Lovely people hope they will visit with us. Skagway Simon was our MUFC saviour and a Celtic fan himself. Alaskan scenery was a wonder to behold. We loved waking at 4 am drifting in and out of sleep watching the twinkling silver sea and wonderful pine clad snow peaks, picture postcard scenes play past the patio windows. This is just glorious and this alone is the most delightful memorable aspect of cruising for me. The endless sky and sea, I am simply in love! One serious issue, There was an outbreak of D&V on board, I understood that around 40 staff and cruisers were ill and confined to cabin. The public health measures adopted were quite swift however, seldom went far enough or insisted that awkward or non-English speaking travellers understood the importance of good hand, toilet hygiene. Reading the reviews on my return it would appear that the ship had already had the outbreak 3 weeks previously. Clearly there are some very concerning public health advice needs that should extend further than nightly announcements in English at least 30% of travellers were non-English speaking. Some of the entertainment was good the comedy appealed to our humor. The cruise director Carly was very sweet (Welsh Lass) however some of the singing was just dreadful. Most people seemed to express they liked the shows, so we kept any negative opinions to ourselves. The only other experience, was related to irresponsible parents encouraging teenage drinking. Strangely, we experienced American teenagers who were drunk, rude and out of control. Several couples complained at the Schooner bar and disco and we were assured that this behavior was intolerable and would not be further permitted. Unfortunately, the same group continued to drink in the same bar and remain confrontative. I was shocked its British kids who usually have drunkenness problems, rather than the USA or perhaps I'm mistaken its all kids if it's condoned. This event spoilt the end of a formal night for us, but we just avoided the group and areas thereafter. Embarkation and disembarkation was hassle free and very well done. We opted, although expensive for the 4 hr Vancouver excursion. I must say I loved it, Capalino suspension bridge was simply lovely and likewise so was Granville Island. Unfortunately, a mechanical plane error meant an extra night at the airport Marriott. If only we had the power of clairvoyance, we would have gone straight from ship back to the Pan Pacific. The Marriott was very good considering and the food excellent. I will definitely cruise again, because I think I have the cruise bug! I had a wonderful holiday and wonderful cruise, however it would only be an excellent price option that would lead me to select this cruise line, next time, rather than preference alone. The staff overall deserved their excellent service reputation and I have never seen Dave part with so much tip money before. The bar staff in the lobby bar and the schooner bar were great. There is a handsome waiter who sings with the pianist occasionally; well worth a listen, he has an outstanding voice. I hope this review is helpful and you enjoy your cruise as we did Lorraine and Dave From WALES Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
NWA flew us from CLE-Vancouver via DTW. 4.5 hour flight with food that must be purchased, beverages by the glass not the can, even peanuts are $2 a bag. Amazed that the toilets were not pay toilets. Late as usual after blowing an engine ... Read More
NWA flew us from CLE-Vancouver via DTW. 4.5 hour flight with food that must be purchased, beverages by the glass not the can, even peanuts are $2 a bag. Amazed that the toilets were not pay toilets. Late as usual after blowing an engine over Lake Erie on the first leg but the flight waited for us to board in Detroit to Vancouver. In Vancouver we are sent to a green area of the airport where US Direct has taken our luggage to the ship, and they have us pass thru immigration in a speedy manner & board buses to the ship and we are told we are sealed and no one was to leave or they are on their own. We passed thru all security when they see a taped shut bus door with the US Direct tape on it. Wish all ports did this, since 9/11 it has gotten very unruly. On board Radiance, we go to the dining room to check out our table for 2 and find out we got a table for 8. But we were moved to a table for 2 in a small dining area with 7 tables. Felt very rich & very quiet for all there. The best of waiter worked it and the head waiter became a great friend the entire cruise, as he was everywhere! Our stateroom 8276 (AFT D1) was nicely appointed but the bathroom reeked of sewer smell for the entire 14 night cruise. Guest Relations did nothing but tell us about other guests who flush oranges, apples, silverware, diapers, etc down the toilet so we should talk to them. So our balcony door remained open the entire cruise even in 40 degree nights to keep the air fresh. Night 14 at midnight we have a guy banging on our door to deliver an envelope from the Hotel Manager giving us 20% off our next cruise. Too bad it took 2 weeks to do it. Other Group Cruises, a gift was on the bed each night, but this cruise we got only 6 - DVD zipper case, a compass that is a clock also, pens that light up & unscrew to be a light, tote bag with Royal Caribbean scarf, backpack looking item that is actually a duffel bag with a Royal Caribbean scarf in it & what resembled a bench seat that actually the felt blanket pulls out to be a waterproof Royal Caribbean poncho which we used in 4 rainy days at ports. We are Diamond members and on other Member Cruises we had FREE Seattle's Best Specialty coffees (Latte, Espresso, Cappuccino as well as regular & decaf) but not this one. The Concierge Lounge is now for Suite Guests only. We have a Diamond Lounge which past Member Cruises had the machine with china cups & plates for continental breakfast for all Diamond & Diamond Plus to enjoy. This Diamond Lounge on Radiance had a plastic push button coffee server with paper cups & milk on ice. 30 minutes after it was delivered the coffee was cold. But the free cocktails in the evening had the best of bartenders (Richard & Merwyn) keeping everyone very happy. We had the Starquest bar for all of us & the bar actually spins at a good speed. Funny to see someone leave their drink to go get hors de oeuvres & come back to no drink & me pointing to where it was for them to get. 575 guests were our entertainment from 5-8:30PM, talking & laughing at stories. Made some great friends for future cruises. The ports were wonderful: Ketchikan with the jumping salmon headed to spawn & die, great people to talk with and the breathtaking mountains to see. Skagway with the White Pass Railway trip which is a photographers paradise. Juneau with their Juneau Icefields helicopter tour where we walk on glaciers with glacier boots on and then we hear & see a blue crater appear & we are to run to get on the copter for safety. As we takeoff the waterfall we see appear in the massive crack told us it was time to leave. So to the Mendenhall Glacier we go in the pouring rain & winds which blew my umbrella backwards. A Salmon Bake afterwards under a tent which also had chicken & ribs. Sitka for a very quiet location that you can visit the stores on the last day they are open for 2007. 75% off everything so shopping was great. I got 2 fleece Alaskan jackets for $15 & $20 not $120 each! Ice Strait Point with all the waters surrounding it with feeding humpbacks & playing orcas around. Many of the Indians that live there entertained us & were selling ointments for $1200 a gallon & we saw folks buying it. Then we get a sea day cruising the Inside passage to relax after 6 days at ports. Now the NW Pacific week starts. Our first stop is Seattle with a city tour including the Space Needle from the 60's World's Fair but 45 minute wait to get to the top & 10 minutes for photos til we have to get back to the bus, then to the Market with flying fish at one of the famous stands. 6 underground floors were built but only 3 are now open as they celebrate their 100 birthday with it. We also saw Microsoft & Bill Gates' 60 acre world in his forest as the tour guide named it. Many houseboats from the movies that go for $500,000 now but no property taxes. Next day, Astoria Oregon with a 3 hour ride, each way, to Mt St Helens which looks quite well for the 1980 eruption. But she was spewing sulfur so she is ready to blow again but not with us there. Then a sea day to relax again & watch dolphins & whales with a great captain announcing their locations for folks to be ready for photos. Now we get San Francisco with the great location of "Streets of San Francisco" TV show with Michael Douglas that is now home to "Monk". The streetcars that were used in the Rice-a-Roni ads are now more like buses with no charm to them. We walked to Pier 39 with their great shops to look at, the people with purple, gold, silver (not grey)green hair. 5 ships are in town and they even have signs on the street telling us the pier to return to. Pier 39 became famous when sea lions started taking over the docks in January 1990 shortly after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. This was the best of the City to me, viewing them for hours, 2 times that day. Then a sea day and we are in Los Angeles, headed to LAX for our CO flight home (Non stop) arriving at midnight. But we had a great time, which could have been better in our stateroom's bathroom and the hallway to the Centrum, but we fought to have a great time with hundreds of friends. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
Intro: I am 60, my wife 54. This was our 7th cruise, 4th with Royal Caribbean (RC), 2nd to Alaska. We booked online, our fourth time. Air travel made by RC as part of cruise package. Embarkation: Upon arrival in Vancouver, we followed ... Read More
Intro: I am 60, my wife 54. This was our 7th cruise, 4th with Royal Caribbean (RC), 2nd to Alaska. We booked online, our fourth time. Air travel made by RC as part of cruise package. Embarkation: Upon arrival in Vancouver, we followed the US Direct signs. Note: Your bags MUST be pre-tagged with ship name, and cabin number prior to checking your bags at your first US airport. Your travel agent must supply you with the special tags. The Canadian end of the US Direct program went very well. We had to wait about 30 minutes in the bus holding area waiting for the bus to take us to the ship. Princess and NCL passengers had four buses before the first RC bus came. There was a 35 minute drive from airport to pier. From the time we stepped off the bus until we were on the ship was 10 minutes tops. Grade B+ Stateroom: Balcony stateroom, Deck 7. When we arrived the room was clean and set up. The flowers I had pre-ordered were there. Overall the room was small, but functional. Negatives: Desk could have been a bit bigger. Oval table in front of the loveseat was 24 inches by 9 inches, not overly useful. Positives: Bed was very comfortable, good quality linens. Bathroom: Small, typical for a cruise ship. Shower was small. You young honeymoon couples can forget about showers for two. However shower was round so instead of a curtain it had sliding half doors, the floor did not get soaked as with curtains. Great idea needs to be copied. Balcony was plenty big with two chairs and a small low table in between. Our room attendant was Maria from Nicaragua. She made that extra effort to know us fast. Not only was her service first rate, but she made sure each day we were getting what we needed. Stateroom, Grade B - Stateroom Attendant, Grade A++ Dining: Three times we ordered Room Service coffee. Never took longer than 10 minutes. Coffee came in big carafe, creamers, sugar and a good selection of sugar substitutes. They will bring extra if you ask. Breakfast and Lunch: Windjammer Cafe, buffet. Food B, selection B+, service A. Marc from Quebec took great care of us in the Windjammer Cafe, whenever he was there. We had lunch once in Seaview Cafe, no extra cost. You order the food, they give you a number you place on your table, they cook the food and bring it to you. My wife had a Cuban sandwich, fries and a diet Coke, I had a Reuben, fries and a Coke. Food B+, Service A. All except once, we ate dinner in the Reflections dining room. Food B, which is a good grade for this, when you consider that they are cooking for about 1300 people a seating. Service: Eric, our headwaiter from Chile, Grade A+. Hira, our waiter from Jamaica, Grade A+. Our Assistant waiter, Grade C. She was totally out of sync with our waiter and it is her job to be in sync with him. We ate once in Chops Grill. Everything A+. The only negative is the quantity of food, a lot; I mean a lot! Best onion soup I have ever had. We did use the Coffee Bar. The first time the barista making my latte did not know how to "finish" it. Other than that Grade B+. Entertainment: Never got to any of the big shows, wanted to but nothing we really wanted to see. Did not go to the screaming loud music clubs; did that sort of thing, when I was younger, now my hearing isn't so good. We did get to listen to individuals and groups play in small venues. Grade B+ for the entertainment we saw. Lounges: Our pre-dinner hangout was the Schooner Lounge. We would have a pre-dinner drink, listen to the piano or guitarist and people watch. All during the week we were served by Jeronio, from India. He was absolutely dead-on perfect. Grade A++. We did go to The Quest in the Safari Club. What a hoot. Leave the kids, adults only. Sitka: We took the Russian America/Raptor Tour. St Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral. The original cathedral burned down about 40 years ago and was rebuilt. Most of the relics and icons were saved from the fire. Smaller than you might imagine a cathedral to be, but then this was frontier town. The Raptor Center was where injured raptors: owls, hawks, falcons, ospreys and eagles, are brought back to health and returned to the wild. They have two resident eagles whose injuries prevent them from being released. We got up close and person with Sitka, a just mature, female bald eagle, who lost one of her talons, analogous to your thumb. With that talon, she is unable to grasp food and would starve, if released back. It is hard to describe being no more than six feet from her in a room. From there it was a 30 minute show of Russian dancing, very good. Lastly it was the Sitka National Historical Park for a trail walk viewing totem poles in a setting as totems were originally displayed; plus a small museum exhibit on the Tlingit Indians. Grade A Hubbard Glacier: This is one of the reasons we came on a second Alaska cruise. Hubbard Glacier, a tidewater glacier, 6 miles wide, 200 to 500 feet high. You enter the estuary in front of the glacier surrounded by large and small pieces of ice. The oxygen in the ice, compressed by the glacier, pops out as the ice melts. It sounds like you are in a bowl of Rice Krispies. You hear boom, white thunder, and look to the glacier and see pieces of ice as big, if not bigger than your house, fall into the water. Some of the splashes must reach 100 feet high. The ship gets to about 360 yards from the glacier. You are there about an hour; one ship at a time. I cannot even count how many times the glacier calved while we were there. If this is not on your 100 Things To See Before You Die List, it ought to be. It is unthinkable to grade something like this. Skagway: We took the Skagway Streetcar Tour. When we were in Skagway before we took the White Pass Train ride. If you go, take the train and squeeze in the streetcar if you can. The women who do the streetcar tour do a great job, it is a performance. Grade B+. Skagway itself was a gateway to the Klondike Gold Fields. It was there to mine the miners; it now exists to mine the tourists. I swear half of the stores must be jewelry shops, many of which are also in the Caribbean. Juneau: We went on the Whale Watch and Orca Lodge Salmon Bake. Saw orcas (killer whales) and humpback whales. One humpback whale actually got to within 10 feet of the boat, and looked at us for a minute. The on board naturalist had never seen this before. The salmon bake at Orca Lodge was great. They give you the recipe for the salmon. Grade A. Juneau is a wonderful town, unfortunately the ship left only an hour after we were dropped off from the Whale Watch. There is great real Alaska shopping on North Franklin Street, on South Franklin are the usual jewelry shops. Things Not Used: We did not use the Spa, but I think if my wife sees a full massage at a reasonable price, she will try one on the next cruise. Did not use the gym; a few hours on a treadmill will not erase a life of sloth. Did not buy any art. I wonder how many Joe Nameth signed jerseys there are? Debarkation: When it came to getting off the ship; great. RC had it set up going out like the US Direct coming in. Every time you came to a turn there was an RC person pointing the way. US Customs and Immigration was done at the Vancouver Airport. Very smooth, very good. Grade A General thoughts or things that don't fit elsewhere. We were both impressed by the friendliness of the staff. It is not the old friendly, which was very good, now there seems to be a very conscious effort to have the staff approach people with friendly greetings. I am sure that for a lot of people this helps their comfort level. Coffee. Since this was our 4th RC Cruise we have come to the inescapable conclusion that all RC coffee in the main dining room is uniformly made by a sect of people, from an unknown country that boil their coffee for days on end until black smoke wafts from the vessel. By the way, I have been to Egypt, where they do boil their coffee, and it isn't like this. Everywhere else on the ship the coffee was fine, a little stronger than we normally drink, but it was good West Coast coffee. The first night in the dining room it was burnt, and I mean burnt. Then our assistant waiter put skim milk in the creamer dispenser. I am not sure that heavy cream would have helped, but it might have. Smoking. Yes, my wife and I are both smokers. Unfortunately, our kind cannot die fast enough for the anti-smoking nutties (where did they go before non-smoking sections). The 2008 RC smoking policy, will in all likelihood, make this our last RC cruise. It is too bad that RC cannot just impose a flat $100 smoke-in-your-room cleaning fee. $250 is ridiculous, plus they are going to hand out warnings and what ever, maybe floggings. It is all part of their Wellness Program. If they are so hot on wellness why don't they cut out alcohol? Stop laughing out there. You non-smokers watch out. Soon we will be dead and THEY will tell you that you are living too long and cannot afford you. Soylent Green anyone? Overall, we loved the ship and our cruise. Grade B+. Point: We gave ALL people graded A+ for service or higher, additional tips above the recommended tips. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
This was our second cruise, both with Royal Caribbean. Last year we sailed Alaska's inside passage on the Vision of the Seas. This year we stepped it up a bit, in ship size, stateroom size and tour length. We flew into Vancouver a day ... Read More
This was our second cruise, both with Royal Caribbean. Last year we sailed Alaska's inside passage on the Vision of the Seas. This year we stepped it up a bit, in ship size, stateroom size and tour length. We flew into Vancouver a day early so we wouldn't run into the same flight delay problems as last year. That will be our standard from this cruise on. We stayed at the Metropolitan Hotel in downtown Vancouver. Very nice hotel, on the chic side. The next day we casually made our way to the dock. Boarding was a breeze with our Set Sail pass filled out in advance. This year we actually got to walk around the ship before we left the dock. I was able to get a good deal on a GS and we were amazed at the amount of storage space, the size of the bathroom, and the balcony space. We were eventually greeted by our stateroom attendant (Dexter) who took good care of us. With the GS we also received access to the Concierge Club. Hats off to Willie who also took real good care of us. Our waiter (Ketutu "Darmah") and assistant waiter (Enrico) were great. We sat at a table of eight and had a good time getting to know each other. We were usually the last to leave the dining room because we kept talking. This year I planned our major excursions with companies outside of the cruise line based on other cruise critic tips. In Ketchikan I chartered a floatplane with Island Wings. A great small company made the flight so much more personal. The pilot and owner (Michelle) made my nervous wife feel much more comfortable with the idea of small planes. The plane was immaculate and comfortable, and my wife actually enjoyed the flight and would do it again. We also booked a Wildlife adventure in Hoonah, our favorite port, with a highly recommended Teckk Outfitters. Although Keith, the owner, turned out to be busy they were able to send Bob from Forget-me-not Outfitters. We got a tour that was better than the one the ship provided last year. We got to see more bears and wildlife and the trip was much more personal. In Skagway we tried a new excursion the ship was offering. It was a glass blowing experience at Garden City Glassworks. The glassblowers were amazing and we were able to help create our own glass ornaments that were shipped home to us. And actually made it in one piece! The tour included a lunch and a garden tour, very well done. The highlight of the cruise had to be Glacier Bay. After traveling through a little bit of fog we arrived at the glaciers. The skies cleared and we were able to get really close and got some fantastic pictures and footage. WOW The cruise ended in Seward where we started the land portion of the tour. Debarkation was a breeze and we were soon on our bus to Anchorage. The "coach" driver (Jon) and the tour director (Joanna) were very knowledgeable and friendly. After a night in Anchorage we went to Talkeetna, where we stayed two relaxing nights. It's a very small and friendly town where the breakfasts at the Roadhouse were the best. We were able to get some great photos of Denali from the back patio of the Hotel, which we were told was a fairly rare site. From there we caught the Wilderness Express train to Denali. In Denali we went to Jeff King's dog kennel (Husky Homestead) to see some dogs in action and pet some puppies. We also toured Denali National Park and enjoyed the vast expanse of unspoiled land. From there we caught the train again to Fairbanks, went on a riverboat tour and visited a gold mine and panned for gold. Later that evening we scheduled a tee time at North Star Golf Club (the northernmost course in North America). Since the sun didn't set until 11:30 we had plenty of time to play this challenging course. Most of the challenge was finding your ball in the fairway. The land tour included all transfers so our luggage was waiting for us in our rooms when we got to each hotel. The last transfer to the airport went very smoothly. I'm sad to say that after two trips to Alaska we still have only scratched the surface. We will defiantly be back and defiantly with Royal Caribbean. Maybe next year? Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
This trip was originally for my husband and 20 year old son. At the last minute my husband could not travel (he has stage IV cancer and the chemo treatments caused his white cell count to plummet- no travel for him). Royal Caribbean could ... Read More
This trip was originally for my husband and 20 year old son. At the last minute my husband could not travel (he has stage IV cancer and the chemo treatments caused his white cell count to plummet- no travel for him). Royal Caribbean could not have been better in handling this last minute change. We flew to Vancouver from Toronto a day ahead. I discovered we had been upgraded to a junior suite which did give each of us more privacy. We had a large balcony, somewhat obscured view as we had the last stateroom at the aft end of deck 10. It was still better to have the bigger room. The boarding experience was fine, although later arriving passengers were delayed due to the U.S. Immigration computers going down. I found the stateroom clean but there was a strong sewage odor in the bathroom which dissipated after we set sail. We had the later dining time and our table companions were great. On the only other cruise I had been on we had "any time dining". I didn't think I'd like the assigned table aspect but we lucked out. I would say the food in the main dining room was good, not great, with very good service. The Windjammer buffet could use more variety and hotter hot food. The ship overall was great- lots of glass and windows (could have used more elevators, especially at dinner time and other busy times). With one exception, the ship staff was friendly and helpful. The man at the excursion desk was condescending and not helpful at all. My son liked the fitness center, the adult pool (the staff was good about getting younger kids out of the pool at the 4:00 deadline), and the food. He was too young for the casino and too old for teenage activities but found enough to do. In Sitka, we did not plan an excursion through the ship but with a small group booked a local guide at the pier for a sightseeing tour. He was great and it was much more personal. In Skagway we took the train up the mountain and loved the views. The only annoyance was the family in our rail car who allowed their kids to talk incessantly so no one could hear the guide. In Juneau we went to the Mendenhall glacier and the salmon bake. The salmon bake was a bit touristy but they had live music and a decent lunch. It was too short a day in Juneau- the ship sailed at 3:30 and the ship was a long walk from the town center. The best was the day we were at the Hubbard glacier- the captain got us very close and stayed long enough for a good look. I also enjoyed a couple of lectures by a geologist on board. My suggestions to Royal Caribbean- better variety and quality in the Windjammer, don't serve lobster tails if you are going to serve a 2" tail and go something about the smelly bathrooms! Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Radiance of the Seas Review: September 16, 2006 Pacific Northwest Cruise My husband and I departed from Vancouver, British Columbia on September 16, 2006 on a seven night Pacific Northwest one-way repositioning cruise aboard Royal ... Read More
Radiance of the Seas Review: September 16, 2006 Pacific Northwest Cruise My husband and I departed from Vancouver, British Columbia on September 16, 2006 on a seven night Pacific Northwest one-way repositioning cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas; a relaxing voyage calling on Nanaimo and Victoria in British Columbia, Astoria Oregon and San Francisco. Our final destination was Los Angeles, California, with two days at sea. As you may already know, the Radiance has a seasonal itinerary that takes it to Alaska in the summer and to Hawaii and through the Panama Canal before arriving in south Florida, where she winters. We had a very enjoyable cruise and wouldn't hesitate to do it again. Not every aspect of the cruise was perfect, but we didn't have any major issues that put a damper on our vacation. And we found the ship, our accommodations, service and overall value to far exceed our expectations. Ship Overview The Radiance of the Seas is the first Radiance class ship to be built; it is slightly larger than Royal Caribbean's Vision class ships and a little smaller than Voyager class ships. Its design incorporates the best of both ships, including a solarium and lots of glass everywhere, making it perfect for Alaska and the Pacific Northwest as the glass provides lots of windbreaks. It also has a lot of the features that have made Voyager class ships so popular, including a rock climbing wall and two alternative restaurants. If you ask people who are familiar with Royal Caribbean's fleet, they will tell you it has many Voyager class ship features without the hoards of people. As a fan of Voyager class ships, I can see why so many people consider the Radiance class of ships their favorite. Its interior is done in muted colors and has a very upscale feel to it. The designers did a great job incorporating all the windows - those glass elevators overlooking the water while the ship is in motion are not to be missed! The Radiance was built in 2000, making it six years old. It's a fairly large ship, weighing in at around 90,000 tons; it can accommodate around 2500 people, though it was announced that we had about 2100 people. The ship was surprisingly well maintained and sparkling clean; there had been another Norwalk Virus breakout a few weeks earlier, so all the public areas were kept very clean. This issue also had a few negatives; until the captain gave the order to relax the 'outbreak procedures' no one could serve themselves in the Windjammer Buffet. This caused long lines and a lot of headaches, as they didn't bother to open up the formal dining room to ease some of the congestion. Eventually, by mid-cruise, we could serve ourselves in the buffet lines, but until then, it took twice as long to eat breakfast or lunch. Embarkation We flew into Seattle and took the cruise line bus to the port in Vancouver. After collecting our luggage, we checked in with the Royal Caribbean reps who handle the bus transfers. We waited about 20 minutes, got on the bus and arrived at Canada Place three hours later. The bus ride over took longer than our flight to Seattle! The tour bus that transported us wasn't in the best shape, but it was convenient and we arrived exactly like they said we would. We got off the bus, checked in and found that our cabin on Deck 7 wasn't ready. A land-based company was replacing all balcony dividers, and they were still working on the cabins on our deck. About the time they were announcing the lifeboat drill was when we finally could go to our room. Was it a little irritating to not be able to get to you room? Sure, but what can you do; we went to eat a late lunch and then it was off to the lifeboat drill. By the time we returned to our room, our luggage was outside our door, so we proceeded to unpack; then it was off to the Concierge Lounge to decompress. Our Stateroom We had a low-end balcony on deck 7, a very 'standard' stateroom with a nice balcony towards the front of the ship which we received as an upgrade. It was tastefully decorated; our two beds were moved together and made up as a queen size bed. The beds were okay, and by cruise end, we got used to it. But they weren't in the best of shape - some lumps and bumps mostly. I understand that the Radiance is scheduled to get new beds, so by the time you cruise, this may be a mute point. As a side note, I never sleep that well in strange beds, so more often than not, I have to make due with what we get. The only exception was on our last Carnival cruise in February; that bed was better than any other we have had on a cruise! The room had a small couch, a glass topped coffee table and a lighted vanity desk. Storage wasn't a problem, as we had two night stands, shelf storage in and around the vanity with a few drawers, as well as a divided closet with shelves and hangers. There was a minibar/refrigerator in our cabin though we never used it. Our on-board telephone had a great voice mail system, so new friends and people traveling with you can leave you a message anytime. The bathroom came equipped with shampoo and soap, but no conditioner. The shampoo can double as a nice body wash, but I wouldn't recommend it for your hair. There was a hair dryer in the vanity - it worked quite well, so I never used the one I packed. I found the storage space in the bathroom more than met our needs, and I always seem to over pack when it comes to toiletries, so I'm pretty sure you too will find the storage space adequate. All in all, I really had no disappointments when it came to our stateroom. At 200+ square feet plus another 45 on the balcony, we found our room very comfortable. Our balcony was everything you would expect a balcony to be. I know people who would never cruise with anything less than a balcony stateroom; but I have to be honest with you, those times we cruised in inside or outside accommodations were no worse than our balcony, as we never spent much time in any of our rooms. Having the additional square footage that comes with a balcony is by far the best benefit I can see. But on most new ships, even inside cabins these days have larger rooms. At least that is what I have noticed. It's up to you whether it's worth spending the extra money on a balcony. If you do, I recommend you make an effort to use it! Public Areas of the Ship All in all, the public areas of the ship such as the Aurora Theater show lounge, the many bars around the ship, the pool areas and the dining room were tastefully decorated. The Radiance is now six years old, and with constant use, it does in places, show some wear and tear. But for the most part, it's in good repair and it's very clean. Everyone from officers, to management to custodial staff to service personnel were for the most part friendly and professional. What Is There To Do? You will find destination & shopping lectures presented by cruise staff and guest lecturers, a fully equipped Shipshape Fitness Center with state-of-the-art gym and aerobics room, and a full service spa with sauna/steam rooms and massage. There are three swimming pools, including one with a retractable roof and several whirlpool spas. There's also a couple of 'way cool' self-leveling pool tables, a sports court with basketball (no volleyball), a jogging track and a rock climbing wall. All in all, you will find quite a bit to keep you entertained when you are NOT in ports of call. Like Voyager class ships, all Radiance class of ships were designed for the more active person in mind. Formal and Informal Dining A lot has been written about the food one can get on a cruise ship, and yes, you'll find plenty to eat on the Radiance of the Seas. But the quality of the food one gets today is NOT what it used to be, even if the quantity is the same. I found the dinners we ate in the formal dining to be very good, but NOT outstanding; meaning it was comparable to the quality you would expect from a mid-range restaurant. I always managed to find something I liked. Our meals were warm, but never piping hot; the service was excellent and special requests were accommodated cheerfully. This is NOT four star cuisine, however, the menu items were tastefully presented, and offerings included escargot, refreshing cold soups, and lobster tail and rack of lamb. Suffice it to say, everyone at our table came away having enjoyed their dinner. The Windjammer Buffet is where we ate breakfast and lunch most days. It was standard buffet type food; nothing out of the ordinary, but lots of fresh fruit, home baked breads and pastries for breakfast as well as eggs and pancakes. At lunch, there were sandwiches and hot food items, a salad bar and even pizza. The Windjammer buffet was always busy, so staff was constantly refilling empty food containers with fresh items. As I mentioned earlier, the formal dining room was never open for lunch on days we were in port. It was such a chore to eat in the Windjammer early in the week - long lines, rude people everywhere cutting in, overworked staff members serving the food, and finally, never being able to find a clean table! Thankfully, the 'outbreak' procedures were relaxed by the fourth day and the Windjammer got back to normal! On the two days at sea, the dining room was open for both breakfast and lunch and we made a point of eating there. The lunch menu was just okay, and the quality of the food wasn't really any better than what you could get up at the Windjammer, in my opinion. But you didn't have to fight the crowds, so it was more relaxing and much less stressful. I never ate dinner up at the buffet, but heard it was 'just okay'; people remarked that many of the same dinner items served in the formal dining room were available in the buffet but were consistently less fresh and dried out. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly It's been a while since we took a "perfect" vacation; our trip to the Maui Four Season's a few years ago comes to mind. Although enjoyable, our cruise had a few minor "issues" that are probably not even worth mentioning - they weren't enough to put a damper on our vacation. Suffice it to say, they guy who ran the Concierge Lounge had his 'favorite' past guests' and pretty much ignored everyone else. This was by no means a problem for us, as we stuck pretty much to ourselves and we had no problems going up to the bar to request drinks. Willie, the Concierge, had a tendency to be short with some passengers (like me) when asked for assistance; others we spoke to felt he was the best Concierge ever! Therefore, please take my comments with a grain of salt - I have never met this person before, so it could be he was just having a bad day! In case you are wondering, the Concierge Lounge is a very nice past guest perk for Diamond and above Crown & Anchor Society members (Royal Caribbean's past guest program - Diamond level is 10 cruises or more) and for high-end suite passengers where they serve complementary drinks every night from 5:00pm-8:30pm. The evening lounge was in the Hollywood Odyssey Lounge, Deck 13, but the Concierge was located on Deck 10. Our second "issue" really wasn't Royal Caribbean's fault, as it had to do with rude and aggressive passengers. Not sure why there were so many aboard this particular sailing, but they were out in-force EVERYWHERE! The 'outbreak' procedures in the Windjammer probably caused this, however, once they relaxed a bit, it did get better. Ports of Call The reason we booked this cruise was for the ports of call. We had never visited Nanaimo, Victoria or Astoria, so it was a real treat to explore these ports of call. We also called on San Francisco, and made the decision to visit areas we had never been to, so getting off the ship was a real adventure. In San Francisco, Nanaimo and Victoria, we booked shore excursions through Royal Caribbean. They were well run and enjoyable. We took a walking tour of the city in Nanaimo - it was very informative and I came away learning about its culture and history. In Victoria, we visited Buchart Gardens and a small winery. I felt we didn't have enough time at the Gardens, so next time I would NOT do a forma tour, but rather go on my own. In Astoria, we had access to a car and drove up and down the coast - from the mouth of the Columbia River to CannonBeach. That was by far the best day we had in port. In San Francisco, we took a tour to Muir Woods and Sausalito; it was okay - however, one hour was not enough time at Muir Woods. Sausalito was okay if you liked strolling up and down a tourist hot spot - restaurants, tee shirt stores and art galleries. About Us We are in our 40's - work full time and have no kids. We enjoy scuba diving, skiing and hiking vacations and although we do enjoy cruising, it's not the only type of vacation we take. I lead 'active' cruise groups for Cruise Critic a few times a year and occasionally we cruise to simply 'get a way' - as was the case this time. I also used to consult for the cruise lines 'education' programs years ago when they restructured their kid's programs. We run into many 'cruise experts' who cruise all the time - they are on a first name basis with ship staff and seem to be 'in the know' when it comes to the ship all the time! Many work in the travel industry or are retired. Many cruise to cruise - the ports of call tend not to always be that high up on their list of priorities. I am just the opposite - the ports of call are more important to me than the cruise 'experience' or the ship. Sure, when given a choice between identical itineraries I will go with the ship that gets the better reviews, is recommended or somehow offers me 'something special'. But please note that I base my decision to cruise on the itinerary. Please don't hesitate to email me if you have any questions. Read Less
Sail Date September 2006
We had no problems getting from the airport to the ship and getting onboard. Having been on a Disney cruise (Disney Magic) in January we were a little disappointed with our room compared to the Disney cruise. It was a little smaller and ... Read More
We had no problems getting from the airport to the ship and getting onboard. Having been on a Disney cruise (Disney Magic) in January we were a little disappointed with our room compared to the Disney cruise. It was a little smaller and only had a shower (or closet as I called it) and no tub. We both complained that neither of us could touch the floor while sitting on the toilet! What's up with that?? Our first day sailing we basically just explored the ship. One thing about the Alaska cruise is it's usually a tad bit chilly to be laying on the top deck, so you are more or less confined indoors until you reach a port. There was plenty to do. We really enjoyed the Safari Lounge and played a lot of backgammon. The Safari Lounge and the Schooner Bar were our favorites. The only complaint was they are designated smoking areas. Both of us are non smokers and being around the smoke was not pleasant. Second day we made it to the Hubbard Glacier which was breathtaking. They said it was the nicest day they have EVER been there and were able to get the closest to the glacier ever (within 800 feet). Third day we made it to Skagway. Skagway is nice and the shopping is fun, but it's a very small town, so I highly recommend a shore excursion to take up some time. We opted for horseback riding. We were picked up by our guide, Laura and driven to the ranch. I was happy to see that the horses were VERY well cared for. The ride was about 1 1/2 hours and very enjoyable. We didn't go over a walk, so it is good for even people who have never been on a horse. They provide helmets and even long slickers in case of rain. Fourth day was Juneau. We got married in Juneau, so that was our shore excursion. I had read some reviews about the RC wedding coordinator not being great so I was not surprised when they never bothered to respond to any email inquiries. I used Royal Occasions http://www.royalwed.com/ and was VERY happy with everything they did. We were picked up by a Lincoln Town Car at the dock and driven to the Rainforest Glacier Gardens where we had the ceremony. Of course it ALWAYS rains in Juneau, so we had to have the ceremony inside. But it stopped raining long enough after the ceremony to go outside for some really nice pictures. I had my hair done in the salon onboard and wanted to make an appointment to have my makeup done, but they said they don't do it. I asked in the cosmetics store and they said they do it, but because they are duty free they aren't open in port....so, Leslie went out of her way and got special permission from the captain to come to my room and do my makeup for me! Thank you Leslie, you rock! Fifth day was Ketchikan. We both decided we liked Ketchikan the best. It was small town enough to be charming, yet big enough to have good shopping and bustle. We did the zipline shore excursion and both really enjoyed it. I have to admit it was rather scary at first, but once I got the hang of it, I had a blast. We saw bears in the woods below us and some eagles. It was great! Before we went back to the ship we decided to get something to eat. We went to Steamers. I HIGHLY recommend you go there! We had the steamed clams which were to DIE for, clam chowder which was incredible and fish and chips which kicked butt! We also opted for the Alaskan Brewing company beer sampler and were very surprised to find that each and every beer we tried was better than the last! I particularly liked the Summer Ale. Last day onboard was a cruising day....basically just to pack, etc. OK, as for the ship....we did like the ship and enjoyed the cruise however we both agreed that Disney was just 'this' much better when it came to everything. I believe this ship is a 4.5 star and Disney is a 5 star. It showed. There were times we felt like cattle. While our room was acceptable, the bed SUCKED. We asked as soon as we got on board for an egg crate, but were told they were all gone. The bed was basically 2 cots pushed together. We are cruising in Oct 07 to Hawaii for 2 weeks on this same ship and, although we have been told that RC is replacing all the beds, we are bringing an air mattress with us. The bathroom was acceptable, but the toilet was WAY too high! The shower was small and had some mold growing in the corners. One night we went to the Schooner bar (directly below us 3 decks) and it smelled like sewage (or as someone else mentioned in another review it was like the blue RV water). We got to our room and the smell was so overwhelming we had no choice but to call maintenance. They came and poured a gallon or so of Clorox down the drain, but it didn't help much. We ended up sleeping with the balcony door open. The next morning the smell was gone. They had a lot for kids to do but we found times that there were kids just running wild around the ship. SO many times we went to get on the elevator only to find that the little rat who just got off pressed all the buttons before they got off! Most nights we dined in the Reflections dining room. Our waiter Salvador was INCREDIBLE! HE made our trip enjoyable. The food was ok, nothing fantastic, but it wasn't bad. We went to Chops one night and I swear I had the best filet mignon I've EVER had. We went to Portofino the night of our wedding and were equally impressed. The food and service in those restaurants is unbelievable! The buffets....well, they were buffets. We did NOT like the seating when it came to breakfast in the Reflections dining room. We went by ourselves on this cruise and when we went there for breakfast they wanted to seat us with 4 other people. I didn't mind that for dinner as we sat with the same group every night and got to know each other, but we did not like open seating for breakfast, so most mornings we opted for the buffet. Take a tip and only buy one soda package. I think it's really cheesy of RC to even CHARGE for soda (again, Disney includes it). We paid $5k for a friggin' cruise and then they want $42 each for soda? We bought 2 soda packages and vowed we're only buying one for Hawaii. We went against the grain and DID smuggle our own alcohol onboard. We just wrapped it very well and put it in our checked luggage and had no problem. We felt that every time we turned around RC was trying to charge us for something else or sell us something. We opted for in room internet and it was $100 for the week. The connection was dial up and very temperamental. We opted to pay $20 each and have them handle our bags to avoid customs, etc. only to have our bags not show up at our home until a day later! The entertainment (shows) on board were ok, again...Disney blows it out of the water. It was standard comedians, singers, dancers...nothing out of the ordinary or anything I can WOW, that was great. There WAS one comedian one night that we only caught the tail end of the show and wished we had seen the whole thing. Would we do this cruise again? Probably not, but only because it was a trip of a lifetime. Will we sail RC again? Yes, in Oct of 07 to Hawaii, but we both commented on how we didn't know how we'd stand 2 weeks on that ship. At least we have friends coming with us to Hawaii, so I'm sure it will be better! Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
Warning -- this is long, so just skip to the parts you are interested in and enjoy. I'll be glad to answer any questions. This was a nearly perfect vacation for us, thanks to both the great weather and the advice I got from here and ... Read More
Warning -- this is long, so just skip to the parts you are interested in and enjoy. I'll be glad to answer any questions. This was a nearly perfect vacation for us, thanks to both the great weather and the advice I got from here and another website. Precruise Flight: My husband, daughter (age 12), and myself flew from Charlotte, NC to Seattle on Northwest. We left Charlotte around 9:30 am and we changed planes in Detroit after a quick layover. We knew the layover would be too short to eat so we had packed a cooler with lunch for the plane. About 20 minutes in the air out of Detroit, we were peacefully eating our lunch enjoying the blue skies when the plane suddenly bumped, then dropped 500-1000 feet. My sandwich literally flew out of my hand and hit the roof of the plane. The lady behind me lost her shoes, and everyone was screaming. It continued to shake for about 90 seconds. Then the pilot came on and said maybe it would be best if we kept our seatbelts on. Thankfully it was smooth "sailing" from that point on. Our only other glitch was that we discovered that we had forgotten to transfer all of the shows we had purchased for our iPod so it forced the 12 year old to read and play her PSP. Guess what? We lived. Seattle: We landed in Seattle around 2:00. It took forever for the luggage to come out but it did finally make it. I was still glad that I had done all that cross packing, and I was doubly glad that I had tied colorful ribbons to our black suitcases. We rented a trolley and shuffled on out to the taxi/ shuttle area. I had a reservation with Shuttle Express which turned out to be a very slow option. Next time I will just take a taxi for $3.00 more. At 4:00 we finally made it to the Comfort Suites where we met my SIL. Now we were running about 2 hours behind schedule so we didn't have time to visit. We changed clothes, got a cab and headed for Ballard. We really enjoyed the Chittenden Locks and the fish ladder. There were a lot of fish running in the ladder, and we saw several boats go through the locks. From the locks we walked 0.6 miles along a pleasant bike and pedestrian path to Ray's Seafood. We had reservations for the nicer restaurant part, but when we got there it was such beautiful weather on the deck upstairs that we opted for the Cafe. We had dinner with a couple, son and girlfriend of an old family friend, whom we had not seen in about 18 years. Fun! The best part of the meal, other than the view, was when they started passing out blankets as the evening chill set in. It was hilarious to see 50 people wrapped up in bright orange blankets just to get the opportunity to sit outside. From Ray's we took a taxi back with the most eccentric cab driver I have ever met. He gave us a mini tour on the way back, showing us the Lenin statue and the Freemont Troll. He dropped us off at the Space Needle where we got wonderful views of the nightscape. The next morning after our continental breakfast, we stored our luggage with the hotel and headed for Pike Place Market. The food, the flowers and the art were a beautiful site. We picked up lunch at Two Girl's Bakery (delicious!), which we consumed on the harbor tour. Loved the harbor tour and the great sunny weather. I'm not sure but I think it was in the low 80s. From here we walked to Pioneer Square to take the Underground Tour. It was interesting. Then we went to the Gold Rush museum which was also very fascinating. I wish we had had more time there because it closed at 5:00. After a series of short (free) bus rides we made our way to the Avis car rental to pick up our SUV. By 6:00 we had retrieved our luggage and were on our way northward. Ferndale: After stopping for supper at the Eastlake Bar and Grill on Lake Union, we drove about 90 minutes out of Seattle to visit overnight with the mother of the family friend we had met for supper. Ferndale is just above Bellingham and has spectacular views of Mt. Baker. Vancouver: After stopping at a grocery store in Ferndale to purchase our 1.5 L of wine per person, we headed across the border. No glitches at the border. We told them that we had 4 bottles of wine and 2 bottles of gin& no problem. We stopped at the border information station to get maps and to purchase discounted tickets to Grouse Mountain. First we stopped at Lynn Canyon for a little hiking and a picnic lunch. This is a beautiful park with a fabulous suspended bridge. I highly recommend it. Though we did not go to the Capillano Bridge, it appeared to be quite crowded, not to mention costly. We loved Grouse Mountain. The views were stunning. We saw the Lumber Jack show, the bird show, and we rode the scenic chairlift in addition to the gondola ride up the mountain. We also saw the bears play in a pile of leftover snow in their wildlife refuge. My daughter and husband also played around in the snow even though it was a sunny 80 degrees. At about 5:00 we headed back down the mountain for the supposedly 15 minute drive into Vancouver. Multiply that 15 minutes by four around rush hour to get across the Lion's Gate Bridge. We were really getting nervous about returning our car by the 6:00 deadline. We decided to scratch our plan of dropping off the luggage at our hotel and head straight for the car rental agency. After finally getting into Vancouver we were greeted with thousands of bikers blocking every street and every intersection! It got so bad that we finally called Avis and they directed us around a back way. Even though we were late in returning the car, Avis kindly waived the late fee because of the bike rally. A short taxi-van ride and we were at the Times Square Suites, a true gem for anyone not requiring a full service luxe hotel. We had an 8:00 reservation to eat at Liliget Feast House just down the block. This is an authentic First Nations dining experience. The restaurant was very interesting, extremely atmospheric and romantic, but the food was way overcooked. I'm still glad we experienced it. From there we caught the action at the beach just after the sun set and walked back to our apartment. The next day after sleeping in a little, we rented bikes and biked the 5.5 miles around Stanley Park, which was delightful, even though I hadn't been on a bike in over 15 years! For supper we had the best meal of the trip& a meal we cooked ourselves. We stopped at a gourmet meat shop and got baseball sirloin steaks with twice-baked potatoes. Then we went to an organic grocery store and got some tasty bread and vegetables. The Time Square Suites has a rooftop Barbecue grill and tables where we enjoyed our fabulous meal surrounded by beautiful views. The wine went down well with this superb meal. The Cruise Embarkation and Grand Suite 1554: After a leisurely morning we got to the cruise terminal around 12:00. We basically walked right onto the ship, only stopping to take pictures. We toured around the ship for a bit, then headed to deck 10 to wait for the go ahead to get into our room. Since it was 15 minutes until 1:00 we decided to wait in the lounge overlooking the Centrum. Sharply at 1:00 they opened the doors and we got our first look at Grand Suite 1554. It was pretty much just what I expected, very spacious, gorgeous balcony, ever so slightly worn and a tiny bit dirty in places (such as the walls and corners.) The bathroom was stunning though I noticed some soap scum on the marble in the shower, and the faucets were mismatched. 1554 is a special Grand Suite because it is the only one on board that has a continuous wall of windows. The balcony doors open in the middle and are not separated by a partition of wall. Our balcony was about 20 feet long and four to five (or more) feet deep. We had one lounger, four chairs and a table. Overall it was a pretty suite. We had to ask for the slippers but that really wasn't a big deal since we had to ask for two extra robes anyway. We dumped our carry ons and went to the Windjammer for lunch. We snagged a waterside table out back and enjoyed our meal. The rest of the day was rounded out with a spa tour, a quick look at Chops, unpacking and an introduction to the best part of the ship&the concierge lounge. That night we discovered that it is a good thing that RCI is replacing their beds, but not fast enough for us! The main bed was lumpy, the foot was about 5 inches higher than the head, and the gap literally was about 2 inches. My SIL slept on the pullout couch which was rock hard. My daughter had the best night's sleep of all of us. She slept on a single sized air mattress. Although we had asked our cabin steward to make our beds up with an extra foam pad, that didn't happen until the next day when we told Maritza, the concierge about it. After the foam was added, things were much improved. The foam helped with the lumps and the gap. The sofa bed was still hard. I could kick myself for not asking for several layers of foam for the sofa. I'm sure Maritza could have arranged for that to happen if we had only asked. The Spa and Pool: One of the best things we did on the ship was to purchase a thermal suite pass. My husband laughed at me when I told him I wanted to lounge around on rock chairs, but it didn't take long to convince him. We also enjoyed the saunas and steam rooms. The first day at sea there was no ice in the thermal suite, but we never had that problem again. My SIL had a full massage/ facial combo that she said was exquisite. My husband had a basic massage which he enjoyed immensely. My daughter and I had the mother daughter massage which I thought was a good value. However I do have to complain here because on the website with the information about the Y-Spa it specifies that for the teens, they will always be assigned a same sex therapist which we weren't. I was a little more than uncomfortable knowing that a male was massaging my daughter's behind. Asking for a female wasn't an option on the day of our treatment, since they were all booked by that point. And by the way we booked our appointments at 2:00 on the day of embarkation. The solarium was great. Yes, there were kids in there from 1:00-4:00, but I never saw any of them being unruly or loud. We also enjoyed the whirlpools. Once and only once did I actually get all the way into the solarium pool. It was very chilly. Only used the gym once. It was OK. The lockers in the changing room were a little strange. They never had any keys yet they were all empty. Nonetheless we did enjoy the spa. The Food: Our dining room experiences were great. We had a nice table for the four of us at the second seating. Our waiter was Dedhi, and he was fantastic. He interacted with my daughter and several times brought us seconds of something without our asking. It's not 4 star dining by any stretch, but it was palatable. I thought the food was much better than the Disney cruise which is the only other cruise we've been on. The only dish we had that wasn't good was the chicken off of the alternative menu. It was overcooked, dry, and bland. Most of the people were dressed nicely. I didn't see anyone who was sloppy with the exception of one guy in shorts and one in a ball cap. We noticed very few tuxes on formal night. The guys seemed to all be wearing suits. For formal night I didn't see a single woman wearing a "Sunday church dress." They were all wearing cocktail and evening dresses. We had one smart casual night, and I'd say 65% of the men wore sport coats. Personally I didn't like the dEcor of the dining room. I thought it was a little "plasticy" looking. IMO it was kind of ugly. We ate at Chops on Friday night of the cruise. Although our view was blocked by the window washing equipment, the atmosphere was nice. The steaks were OK not great. I actually had to send my filet mignon back. I had ordered it rare, and it was medium at best. The rest of our party ordered their steaks medium rare. SIL and husband got theirs close to medium and only my daughter's was close to medium rare. (She probably got mine.) It was worth going to. The appetizers and Mud Pie dessert made it worth it. They even gave us extra to take back to the room. The service was not any better than what we got in the main dining room. For breakfast and lunch we tried it all, preferring the main dining room over the Windjammer. Actually I hated the Windjammer. They never seemed to have what I wanted (a light salad with a little grilled meat to go on it) and I despised the hustle bustle atmosphere. By the time you walked around the room three or four times to find a table, your food was always cold. We are definitely not buffet people. We would never eat at one of those "all you can eat" joints at home so it wasn't a surprise that we didn't like "the sanitize your hands before pigging out with a thousand other people" place. The Sea View was pretty good but their choices were too limited to eat there every day. I thought the pizza by the pool was OK but my husband thought it was soggy. Mine was probably fresher since I got the kid friendly pepperoni and he got one that the kids weren't wolfing down. Breakfast was definitely better in the dining room, much more peaceful and elegant. Room service was a slight disappointment. I couldn't even get a boiled egg. They told me that they weren't allowed to have raw eggs in the room service kitchen so don't ask me what they made the omelets out of, especially since the choices were egg beater omelet and real egg omelet! Teen program/ Activities for kids: We could not keep our daughter out of the teen club, Fuel. She loved it. The first night we sent her to the meet and mingle session at 9:00 even though that meant she really didn't get to eat supper. She instantly hooked up with a group of kids and from that point on we rarely saw her unless we forced her to stay with us. We were evil parents who actually made her do this occasionally. Our daughter participated in all the organized activities and never got bored. I really like that RCI groups her age (12) with the younger teens. As a middle school teacher, I feel that 12-14 year olds have much more in common than 10-12 year olds as some other ships do it. This was one of the deciding factors in which cruise to take. Even though our daughter doesn't usually drink a lot of soda we still bought her the drink package. Good move. She drank 7-10 Shirley Temples a day. I do have one gripe about the rock climbing wall. My daughter is a regular rock climber; she climbs and trains weekly on a climbing team. The first day she went up there they let her climb as much as she wanted to, and they did let her climb with her own rock shoes. She would just get in the back of the line and wait her turn. Then the day before the teen climbing contest, she wanted to work on her speed since she's more of a technique climber. She climbed her two climbs in under 25 seconds each, and then they wouldn't let her climb any more! Now let me point out that there was NOT A SINGLE PERSON IN LINE. There were three belayers just standing there with nothing to do and they wouldn't let my daughter climb more than 45 seconds that day!!! They gave me some lame excuse about it being Royal Caribbean's policy to limit everyone to two climbs per day so that their muscles didn't ache and ruin their vacation. Then will someone please explain to me why RCI wasn't concerned about that when they took my $89 for her to go on a 3.5 hour rock climbing excursion??? This was my biggest gripe of the whole cruise. I certainly can understand limiting the climbs when someone else is waiting, but beyond that, I've signed the waivers and I think that they should provide the service. Afterall they don't limit anyone to a 45 second work out in the gym, do they? I really don't know who to complain to about this, but it was upsetting. She did win the teen climbing contest, and they gave her a nice gold medal. Skagway: We booked a morning heli-dog sledding excursion independently with Temsco. We walked to their headquarters from the ship which was quite a hike. We probably could have asked them to pick us up. After the embarrassing part about weighing in, they suited us up in overshoe boots and orange vests. I was wearing a coat over a sweater over my t-shirt and knew that I would get hot, but they encouraged me to wear it all since I could just store it at the dog camp if I needed to. It was a flawless sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. At the dog camp, they told us that it probably would get in the upper 90s or even 100s up at the camp that day because of the lack of cloud cover. Needless to say, I shed my outer layer. The views from the helicopter ride were stunning. Our pilot told us a lot about what we were seeing, plus he answered tons of questions. He was very informative. Our pictures don't quite capture the beauty, partly because they also captured the reflection of our orange vests. Next time we will hold the camera lens closer to the glass. Up in the air everything is deceiving. Your perspective is off. You look like you're going to hit a mountain when it is really a mile away plus you certainly don't feel like you are going 120 miles per hour! We enjoyed our time at the dog camp. We played with and held two different puppies. They want the pups to be handled a lot so that they become people friendly. Our driver, Mariah, was a young girl who had just graduated from high school. Mariah answered all of our curious questions about living at the camp for six days at a time. The sled ride was fun. It really is just like the video on the Royal Caribbean site if you want to know what it's like. We rode the sled around a mile and a half loop, stopping several times to switch drivers and take pictures. Wow! Surely Alaska can't get any better than this. It absolutely was worth the $400 per person charge. Back in Skagway we ate lunch on the ship then sent our daughter packing, rather climbing, on the ship's rock climbing excursion. Let me point out that the ship documents specify that minors cannot go on excursions without an adult. Prior to our trip, our travel agent verified with RCI that she would be able to do the trip without us. I also had been in contact with the climbing company via e-mail and phone. Ever the one to be a worrier, I also had Maritza, the concierge, follow up the day before. No problems. Since it was OK with Alaskan Mountain Guides, it was OK with RCI so off she went. She really enjoyed it. She did five climbs (ranging from 5-4 to 5-13) plus rappelling. The instructors did tell her that she could climb better than they could which is what I expected with them all being summer help and all, but she said they were very nice and fun. While she was on her excursion, we explore Skagway. We did the free walking tour with ranger Virgil and shopped some of the cheesy shops. Although it wasn't our intention, our daughter beat us back to the ship by about 5 minutes. Not to fear, she had already left us a note to tell us she was at Fuel; however we met her in the hallway before she escaped entirely. Juneau: This was our shortest port, and we had a full day planned. We started the morning with a Captain Larry whale watch. CL though quiet, was very friendly and did a great job of getting us to where the whales were. There was a young girl who did all the talking and was quite informative. She explained everything very well. There were a lot of people on the boat. I did think to myself that it would have been nicer to have had a smaller group. My personal take is that all of the whale watchers go to the same places and there really wouldn't be an advantage of one over the other. If there is a smaller boat out there, it might be worth looking into. We saw numerous whales blowing and tail diving. We saw one whale breach. Very exciting. Then when it was almost time to go, CL turned the boat around and said he was taking us somewhere else. This new location tip yielded a pod of five whales who were bubble net feeding which was fascinating. Overall we got a good look at about a dozen whales. The best part was that we actually got some pretty good pictures. Darn if those critters aren't hard to photograph! After whale watching, Orca enterprises dropped us off at Mendenhall glacier. Did I mention that it was another beautiful sunshiney day? Well it still was, so we were treated to the spectacle of lots of locals frolicking in the glacier waters. Our goal here though was to get to the waterfall. Previously here on CC people had explained that you just walk to the water and follow and unmarked trail around the edge of the lake to the waterfall. What was not mentioned previously is that this hike requires a great deal of climbing and swinging around branches. It is not a hike for the inexperienced. Partly because I didn't have on my hiking shoes and largely because I'm out of shape, this hike was difficult for me, especially the part at the end where you have to climb over large boulders for about 30 yards. After it was over my husband said, "Did you see all the blood splattered over the rocks about every four feet?" Thankfully none of it was mine, and I'm glad I missed that detail. For those of you who are adventurous and in good shape, bring along your boots and take this hike. The views are great, especially of the huge iceberg floating in front of the glacier. There's no other way to see it except to get down there by the waterfall. Another great day in Alaska! Ketchikan: Woke up today to mostly cloudy skies, though not cold, and still some sun. We were a little late getting to the Southeast Aviation booth at the information station but not so late that we missed our biggest adventure of all&.the Anan Creek Bear Watch! Jim, the owner/organizer of this operation, put the fear of God into us and properly scared us to death so that we wouldn't be careless on our trek through bear country. On the float plane out we were joined by a couple from Seattle, and boy was I glad that our group was a little bigger. Southeast Aviation runs a nice operation, but unlike Island Wings they will not walk the 30 minute hike to the viewing platform with you. Southeast Aviation was the only company who could get us four permits, so unescorted and off we went. We booked this along with all of our excursions about six months out. If bears are your desire, book this as soon as you know you are going. The float plane trip was pretty exciting itself with gorgeous scenery and a pilot that talked a lot with his hands! As soon as the float plane landed we were met by a ranger who gave us the run down again of what to do if we were to meet a bear on the trail. She also warned us about a grizzly mom with cubs that is known to get hostile. Off in the distance we hear bears growling and fighting. She radioed the other end of the trail to see where the ruckus was coming from. Nope, no one had spotted the grizzly family so far today. I felt like I was jumping off a cliff. The scenery was beautiful, all misty and rainforesty-like, but just knowing what lurked around the hidden bend was enough to get your heart racing. The path is mostly a wooden boardwalk and is (surprise!) covered with bear poop. So you are constantly making a decision: do I look around or look down? We did a little of both with camera at the ready. The path is very narrow so you have to walk single file. At the onset, my husband was the leader, followed by my daughter and me, then the others. Advice to scaredy-cats: don't go first and don't go last! About 10 minutes into the hike we rounded a corner and my husband fearfully yelled, "BEAR!" as he backed up and we formed the big bunch as we were instructed. We nervously continued to talk as we stared face to face with a big black bear who crossed the path about 20 feet in front of us. There for a moment though, he stopped and we stopped, and for a spilt second I don't think either party knew what to expect. Then came the decision of when it was safe to proceed. After deciding that the bear was well on his way, we slowly ventured onward. By the halfway point we were feeling a little more confident. Afterall, we had just come face to face with a bear and survived, so we cheerfully marched on, even daring to stop for a few pictures of the beauty of the forest. Almost to our destination about ¾ of the hike in, we rounded another corner to see&guess what? The mother grizzly and her two cubs were standing about 8 feet off the path! I nearly contributed to the excrement on the path. We truly didn't know what to do. Fortunately for us, the grizzly bear made the decision for us as she turned and walked off toward the creek in the other direction. We practically ran the rest of the way because we didn't want to see her again. Finally we were safe at the viewing platform along with another ranger who was armed. Surrounded by eagles, we viewed black and brown bears from the platform for the next hour and a half. Overall we saw 18 different bears, including a black bear and her three cubs, plus another visit from the brown/grizzly and her two cubs. We saw numerous bears fishing salmon out of the creek. I got one catch completely on video along with tons of excellent pictures. We were shooting with a Canon S2 IS, and trust me, that Image Stabilizer came in handy standing 20 feet from a wild bear. 1:30 and it was time to return to the plane. We safely made it back to tell the story. Exhilarating! Another big ticket excursion well worth the money. The Concierge Lounge, Alcohol and Other ship notes: By far the best part of the ship was the concierge lounge. Maritza is fantastic even if she couldn't get me the ingredients for a cosmo. We utilized the lounge every morning and every afternoon. Husband and SIL are big coffee drinkers and they immensely enjoyed the cappuccino machine. Husband and myself are big adult beverage drinkers and we immensely enjoyed happy hour from 5:00-8:00 every day. Our daughter really liked the hot wings and appetizers that were available. Up front Maritza made it clear that our daughter was welcome to come into the lounge to get food and drinks but she couldn't stay since it was adults only. Maritza kindly gave her a key which made her feel like a special guest. We especially liked the views from the lounge since our room was on the starboard side and the lounge was on the port side. We felt like this gave us the best of both worlds. The lounge was never crowded. I think this was partly due to the fact that there was a large insurance group on board and they had their own areas to hang out in. There was the big storm on the night before our last sea day. As previously mentioned by other posters, the waves were over five meters high! Maritza gave us all pills and none of us got sick. However I didn't sleep much that night because I kept imagining the ship splitting in two. Rest of family slept like babies being rocked to sleep. We never went to the casino and we only saw one show, the comedian, other than the audience participation games. We saw but did not participate in the Quest, and we enjoyed the Love and Marriage game. We watched the Captain's question and answer session on TV. (We wanted to find out how high the waves were during the storm.) We played pool on the amazing self-leveling pool tables, played ping pong and putt-putt. We played Bingo twice and won once. We also bought a Moose (that's horseracing to you Caribbean folks!) In the moose race we creamed everyone on the first race but placed third in the Owner's Cup. Well worth the $50 we spent on the Moose even if we didn't win any money. All of the other moose sold for $75-125 so we had a real bargain. Since alcohol is hotly debated on these forums I would be amiss if I didn't relate our personal experience. Wrapped in bubble wrap in our checked luggage, we had 8 bottles of wine, 1 bottle of champagne, and 1.5 L of gin, along with lemonade packets and cranberry. We had an empty jug in which to mix our special gin concoction called the "Coulwood Cooler" which we drank on those warm afternoons on our balcony. The champagne was enjoyed at sail away, also on our balcony, and the wine consumed at dinner, one per night and two at Chops. To my surprise we were never charged a corkage fee so we took the $84 dollars saved ($12 x 7 nights) and split it as tips between our favorite employees, our waiter and Maritza. A little extra also went to our head waiter, Eric and our assistant waiter, Antonio. The Good and the Bad: We really liked the balcony of 1554, the concierge lounge, the teen club, and the thermal suite. We got excellent service from Maritza, the concierge and Dedhi, our waiter. We disliked the awful beds, the hawking of cheap jewelry and art, and the 2 climb limit when no one was waiting at the rock wall. The ship was beautiful although I was not impressed with the public art as much of it had a price tag on it. Compared to our one other cruise, the food was better on the Serenade but the Disney Magic was drop dead gorgeous. Disembarkation: At first disembarking went smoothly. We had requested and got a departure in the middle as we desired to be off the ship by 9:00. We got a Purple 1 which was scheduled to disembark between 8:15-8:30. By 8:20 we were searching for our luggage. When we came up one suitcase short we realized we weren't going to make our 9:00 departure. We had to wait for all 14 Purple groups to show up before making a claim. An hour and a half later, the suitcase appeared with the Pinks. We scurried out the door to the exit to be greeted by the Avis guy who had us on his list and had arranged transportation for us. He put us in a van with some folks from another ship and before long we were standing at the Avis counter being told that we were upgraded to a mini-van. What a relief since we had 10 pieces of luggage! We were supposed to have a full size car that would seat six. At home before we left I had practiced building a person out of suitcases, and the plan was to put our daughter in the front in the middle. Thankfully we didn't have to do that!! Post Cruise Ferndale again and Seattle some more: We spent the first day and night off the ship with our friend in Ferndale. Our friend, Ruth, had arranged for us to visit a friend's glass art studio since we collect glass art. It was fascinating to see a variety of projects at various stages. But alas since she has her works in real museums, we couldn't afford to purchase anything. We ate lunch at a cute little Mexican restaurant called Chihuahuas then toured the Ferndale Pioneer Village. The Pioneer Village was a real neat collection of historical buildings and artifacts from the late 1800s- early 1900s. Our friend, Ruth, is a volunteer there and gave us a personal tour. Unfortunately we were all getting quite tired, and I don't think that we appreciated it as much as we should. We went back to her house, took naps, then ate a wonderful halibut roast dinner which she prepared. After dinner we went to an interpretive fragrance garden to sample the olfactory delights and take in the sites. There we climbed a watch tower overlooking the marshes to watch the sun set. The next morning we headed back to Seattle. It was a little overcast but it never rained. We walked around Seattle Center, ate up the street at Kidd Valley, then rode one of the carnival rides at Seattle Center. We then went in the Music Experience Project which we enjoyed immensely. When the guide books say allow four hours, believe them! Tip: use your AAA card here to save some bucks, then spring for the audio commentary devices. For supper we drove down to Des Moines just below the airport and ate at Anthony's at the marina. Beautiful views and fine food. My husband's yellow fin tuna Ahi was probably the best seafood had on our trip. I had the fish tacos and the others had prawns which were all good. I personally think that Anthony's was a tad better than Ray's if you can have only one meal in Seattle. From Des Moines it was a 10 minute drive to the airport and the end of our journey. What a fabulous trip! Worth every penny of the $12,000 we spent; however I have no desire to ever do it again. Hopefully my family will be fortunate enough to explore yet another part of the world next time. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
We began our cruise vacation by flying to Seattle, spending two nights there, and then taking AMTRAK's Cascades train to Vancouver on the day of our sailing. We loved the trip on Cascades -- beautiful scenery, very comfortable seating ... Read More
We began our cruise vacation by flying to Seattle, spending two nights there, and then taking AMTRAK's Cascades train to Vancouver on the day of our sailing. We loved the trip on Cascades -- beautiful scenery, very comfortable seating in business class, and with business class you receive priority seating for breakfast and departure from the train in Vancouver. You pass through Canadian customs at the Vancouver train station after leaving the train. The process was easy and fast. We then embarked on a 7 day Alaska cruise from Vancouver on July 30, 2006. The embarkation process went smoothly and was very easy. If you have done all your paperwork in advance on RCCL's website ( completed the Set Sail form ), the process is greatly facilitated. We arrived at the pier about 1:30pm and the total time from our cab arriving at Ballantyne Pier to arriving at our stateroom was no more than 20 minutes. THE SHIP: Serenade of the Seas is a beautiful ship in outstanding shape. The centrum lobby - 12 stories high - is very appealing and beautifully conceived. Our favorite public spaces were the Safari Club and Schooner Bar. This was our 6th cruise, all on different ships, and these were the two most attractive venues were have encountered. There's lots of room in both lounges. The main dining area is attractive and tables are well spaced. We saw lots of tables of various sizes, both large and small, so there are lots of seating options. The exercise facilities are very ample and modern, but like most gyms, are crowded at peak hours. They offer several different exercise sessions, such as Yoga, for $10 per session. The Windjammer Cafe on Deck 11 serves as the dining buffet area for the ship. There are several food stations from which to choose, but at peak times this area is extremely crowded and tables are very hard to find. We found the main dining room uncrowded for both breakfast and lunch, and we appreciated the relief from the mob scene at the Windjammer. The slots in the casino were never crowded but the blackjack tables were. The stores onboard are very poorly designed for traffic flow and are stocked with the usual ship apparel and souvenirs. The quality of the merchandise appeared to be mostly low end. There is a nice cinema onboard but we did not attend any of the movies. Most movies are offered 3 to 4 times per day and are films that were released about 6 - 9 months before. Not much to say about the pool areas on this Alaska cruise -- some people in the hot tubs and a few children in the pools, but very few folks seated in the pool area. The Solarium pool area was well used, but what's with all the plastic flowers in this space -- live plants would have greatly have improved the Solarium experience. Overall the ship is very well designed, with the exception of the shops, to accommodate the traffic flow of 2400 passengers. THE FOOD: For our taste, very disappointing. The food in the Windjammer was similar to any cafeteria in the country -- and was that orange juice or orange water for breakfast? The food in the main dining room reminded us of food at a average chain steakhouse. Think of your house salad as shredded iceberg lettuce with a couple of cherry tomatoes on top and you get the picture. The food in both locations was generally bland, uninspired, and dead average -- never bad, just little that surpassed "OK". We did, however, enjoy a delightful night at Chops, the specialty steakhouse. The food there is excellent, the service is very attentive and professional, and the whole experience is a substantial upgrade over that offered in the other dining areas. We found it well worth the $20pp charge. THE ENTERTAINMENT: The theatre is attractive and the singers and dancers work hard to put on an entertaining show. The magical act, LaRaf, was very good as were all other singers and comedians. The shows are well coordinated with the dining times. THE STAFF: Nothing but good things to say about the staff on Serenade. They are friendly, hard working and go out of their way to make your cruise special. Without doubt, Captain George, is the most delightful and helpful captain we have experienced. He is extremely "customer oriented" and goes out of his way to get you near the sites -- 1/2 mile from Hubbard Glacier, stopping to watch passing whales while underway, a great meet and greet session in the Safari Lounge -- he is a great professional and a real credit to RCCL. STATEROOMS: Ours with a veranda, on deck 9, was attractive and well laid out. Lots of storage and closet space and our bed was very comfortable. The bathroom is very "cozy", but is ample. Our steward did an excellent job of keeping our room clean and she responded to any request quickly. It's hard to beat a veranda room on an Alaskan cruise. If your budget allows, go for it, you'll use it often and will love the freedom and privacy it provides. It was terrific on Hubbard Glacier Day. DEBARKATION: Very well coordinated and smooth. You are allowed to wait in any public area you desire which was a very nice touch after sometimes being herded into the theatre or one big lounge. OVERALL: A delightful cruise on a beautiful ship with an excellent crew. If only RCCL could/would do something about the food. This gorgeous ship and attentive crew deserve food quality equal to their efforts and to the ship's appearance. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
Just a quick rundown after our first cruise. Since I cannot compare it to any other cruise line or ship, I offer my personal opinion based on our experience. Embarkation/debarkation Process - Boarding was extremely unorganized, all ... Read More
Just a quick rundown after our first cruise. Since I cannot compare it to any other cruise line or ship, I offer my personal opinion based on our experience. Embarkation/debarkation Process - Boarding was extremely unorganized, all passengers were trapped in a small room for at least two hours before we could board. At the end, the ship departed an hour+ later than scheduled time which was extremely unusual. By the time you were able to board, you would be all stressed out. Fortunately, debarkation was much smoother. Downside was that we ended up going at open sea northbound to catch up with the loss of time, the ship was rocking quite a bit. The ship is absolutely beautiful with lots of windows. You can see the ocean everywhere. There was an art auction going on at the centrium at the time when the ship was at sea (total 3 days), it drove me crazy with all the noise going from 4th floor through the roof. I'd rather be listening to music or just "nothing" than 4-5 hours of "going once, going twice and final... congratulation to xxx of winning this fine piece of art". My goodness! Adventure Ocean was a bit smaller than expected, but served the purpose and my kid liked it. Staff was friendly and programs were setup to entertain the kids. Stateroom - reasonable size with ample of closet/cabinet spaces. We had a balcony and was just great for Alaska. Our stateroom attendant was great, attended to every detail and even went all way to pick up my son's "blanket" when it was dropped two floors below us. He did make our trip much more pleasurable. Food - we didn't care for food at Windjammer, just standard buffet food and we felt like we always had to fight for table. There were a few choices at Windjammer, but after a couple meals, it got dried by seeing the same ones! I prefer quality to quantity. We did room service for breakfast most of the day and they were delivered at the specified time except the first morning. Room service would give us a call prior to the food was delivered, I thought this was great. We did have breakfast at the main dining room on the day of departure, quality and service were good. We had dinner at Portifino one night, food was great! But they still expected 15-20% tips on top of the $20 per head. With a bottle of $50 wine, we ended up spending $140 there. Will I do it again, maybe but not 100%. We are not meat eater, so passed on Chops. We had main seating (6PM) and we had great experience at the main dinning room. Our waiter and assistant waiter were great. Food had better presentation and quality seemed to better than Windjammer there. You can arrive as late as 6:30PM for your meal and you still wouldn't feel being rushed out. Overall, we always preferred the main dinning than other food outlets in the ship. Entertainment - fair to good. Port of Call - 13 hours at Skagway, just a bit too much. 8 hours at Junean, not enough as the ship arrived at 8AM and we needed to be back to the ship by 3:30PM for 4PM sailing 7 hours at Kechitken, we joined a land/sea tour, felt fine with time. Not sure what others think. Mistry Floyd - absolutely breathe taking! Hubbard Glacier - spectacular. Tipping - $3.50/day/pxn for waiter and stateroom attendance, $2/day/pxn for assistant waiter, and $0.75/day/pxn for headwaiter were suggested. We ended up paying more than the "MSRP" as these people really worked hard to please everybody. Shore Excursions - we ended up doing all the excursions (which was not intended at all) as RCL offered some excursions which we couldn't find at pier (so there was last minute booking as well). Our Junean excursion didn't live up to expectation and I provided feedback, ended up getting a 25% refund for each one of us. Overall - an enjoyable vacation and certainly will do a cruise again and probably will be to Alaska as well. Read Less
Sail Date May 2004
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