4 Seward Expedition Cruise Reviews

We have just returned from a 11 night Celebrity Cruisetour to Alaska. The four nights before the cruise included Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali, and Alyeska. All the hotels were good with Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge being even nicer than Hotel ... Read More
We have just returned from a 11 night Celebrity Cruisetour to Alaska. The four nights before the cruise included Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali, and Alyeska. All the hotels were good with Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge being even nicer than Hotel Alyeska. It had bigger rooms, more restaurants, better food, coin laundy and friendly, helpful staff. Celebrity Millennium has an excellent captain who leads the staff to provide great service, good food, and outstanding entertainment. We had a very comfortable cabin with an attentive steward, excellent waiters in the main dining room, good food in the all restaurants including the Olympia where the dinner was outstanding. The captain arrived early in each port allowing us to dock in good locations and enabling passengers to be on time for tours. Our tours included: Taku Glacier Lodge Flight & Feast in Juneau, White Pass Railway & Historic City Highlights in Skagway, Ice Straits Point, Hoonah Sightseeing & Tribal Dance, and Ketchikan Explorer by Land & Sea. Each trip was outstanding. The guides were knowledgeable, friendly, helpful, and the scenery was great and each trip was worth the price paid. Even though we had rain on a number of days, each tour was able to continue. We still enjoyed ourselves and layers of clothing with rain gear made each trip possible. The entire crew worked very hard to maintain cleanliness and always provided hand sanitizer to keep everyone healthy. They did a great job and we had a illness free cruise. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas Alaska Cruise Tour Package No.11 August 1, 2010 Pre Trip July 31, 2010 Flew from Wilmington, NC to Seattle, WA arriving at SeaTac airport on US Air. Upon arrival at the airport we ... Read More
Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas Alaska Cruise Tour Package No.11 August 1, 2010 Pre Trip July 31, 2010 Flew from Wilmington, NC to Seattle, WA arriving at SeaTac airport on US Air. Upon arrival at the airport we proceeded to the baggage claim area. Sky caps were nowhere to be found. Grab a luggage cart. Packing for a two week trip we had 4 large bags and a couple of carry ons. Distance from baggage claim to the hotel shuttle pick up is considerable. Take an elevator up to the first level, cross over a skyway and take an elevator down to service island number 1. Called the Hampton Inn to arrange for transport to the hotel. Service island number 1 is about 100 yards long. Stand at the front end of the service island and hail the shuttle van. Standing at the back end of the island can result in the van filling up with passengers prior to getting to your position. This happened to a woman and her family who had been waiting for the shuttle and were told they would have to wait until the shuttle to return. Our stay at the Hampton was good. Hotel was very clean. Three hour time differential and seven hours of travel made it a long day. Day 1 Fairbanks, AK Flew from Seattle, WA to Fairbanks, AK on Air Alaska. We had first class tickets and found Air Alaska to be one of the best airlines I have ever flown with. Prior to our flight we were given access to their Board Room. Very comfortable seating areas, excellent service and decent light fare. During our flight the crew was very accommodating, the meal excellent, wine glasses were real glass. No comparison between USAir and Air Alaska experience. Air Alaska 10 ..... USAir 4. Upon arrival at Fairbanks airport we were immediately greeted by a RCC representative near baggage claim and were directed to another representative located in a kiosk. He checked our name off a list and directed us to a group of luggage attendants who grabbed our luggage. Very organized and painless arrival to Fairbanks .... props to RCC. We met our tour guide, boarded a motor coach and were transported to the Wedgewood resort. Upon arrival at the resort, we were given keys to rooms and luggage was delivered. The Wedgewood resort is a complex of different buildings. Apartment style suites, hotel style accommodations, restaurant and lounge. The accommodations that RCC have contracted at the resort are the older apartment style suites. Although the entire resort is reported to be smoke free, our suite in the "Laurel" building had been smoked in. The apartments are carpeted and the flooring appears to be original. We informed our tour guide that the room was unacceptable. We were shown another room in another building and it also smelled like an ashtray. After discussions between RCC's tour guide and a resort representative we were given a hotel style room in the "Bear Lodge" building. The room was excellent. The Bear Lodge building also houses the restaurant and lounge ..... great place to stay. It appears that several other tour groups have their customers booked in the Bear Lodge. RCC would do well to offer these accommodations as standard for their customers. If you've never visited Fairbanks, several wild fires were burning on the outskirt of town and large volumes of smoke can negatively impact air quality. I was told that this is a common occurrence during the summer months. We were fortunate that the wind direction kept most of the smoke away from the Wedgewood resort. The second day we were at the resort we could smell smoke. Day 2 Fairbanks, AK Two land tours were scheduled for the day. The morning tour was a paddle wheel boat trip up the Chena river. This trip was excellent. The paddle wheel boat, it's mooring and choreographed cruise were developed by a local family over several generations. After a lunch stop in downtown Fairbanks we motor coached to the Discovery Gold mine located just outside of town. This trip was interactive and informative. After viewing a sluicing operation each person is given a sack of dirt and pans for gold. Most folks discovered small quantities of gold flakes and were given small black plastic canisters to put the flakes into. We then were directed into the obligatory gift shop where people were encouraged to have their gold weighed and purchase a small locket to put the flakes into. The entire trip was a little hokey but worth the time. Day 3 Denali Park, AK At 9:00am we boarded a RCC railcar in Fairbanks and took a 4 ½ hour train ride to Denali National Park ..... very comfortable ride. Large leather seats are located on the top level of the car and a dining room is located below. The cruise lines and tour companies supply their own rail cars that are connected to a train operated by Alaska Railroad. A note about dining. There are 80 seats located in the passenger section of the railcar. The dining section can accommodate 38 people at a time. You do the math. We ended up doing 2 ½ seatings for breakfast. By the time the last few folks got to eat "brunch", the kitchen had run out of some food items ...... eggs, pancakes and potatoes. Be advised that the normal seating for meals is from the back of the railcar to the front. Avoid sitting in the first few rows of a railcar if you want to eat a meal at a normal time. Scenery during the trip to Denali was good. Our weather was clear and warm. We saw Mt. McKinley very clearly in the distance. We arrived at Denali and were scheduled to travel on the Wilderness Tour into the National Park. The Wilderness tour is an 8 to 9 hour bus ride into the park ...... 120 miles round trip. We saw all kinds of wildlife during our trip ...... caribou, Dahl sheep, grizzly bears, moose and a wolf. We also had a great view of Mt. McKinley up close. To be honest, after a 4 ½ hour train ride and a 9 hour ride on a school bus, it made for a long day. At 9:30pm we checked into the Grand Denali Lodge. The dining room was still serving .... the food was OK. Day 4 Talkeetna, AK At 10:30am we boarded a RCC railcar in Denali and took a 4 hour train ride to Talkeetna. Scenery during the trip to Talkeetna was very good. Our travel weather was partly cloudy and cooler. Our group was seated at the back of the train and we were seated first for lunch. Food and service in the dining car was excellent. We arrived in Talkeetna and were met by our motor coach. We checked into the Talkeetna Lodge. The main lodge had a restaurant and bar. The lobby area was very beautiful with a large fireplace, comfortable leather chairs and weather permitting a great view of the mountains. As with the Wedgewood Resort, our RCC tour accommodations were not located in the main lodge. We received rooms in satellite buildings. The rooms were small and very clean. I checked on retail rates the at the main lodge and was told that there are three room categories in descending order, main lodge with mountain views, main lodge no views and satellite buildings. Day 5 Anchorage, AK At 9:30am we boarded the motor coach and took a 3 hour ride to Anchorage. We stopped at the Native American Heritage Center and spent a couple hours touring the facility. There were several lecture and dance presentations as well as a walking tour of Indian homes, ect. Lunch was served outdoors with several folks manning gas grills. Food included grilled chicken sandwiches, hamburgers and the soon to be famous reindeer hot dogs. After the tour we boarded our motor coach and headed to down town Anchorage where we checked into the Marriott hotel. Excellent accommodations ...... 17th floor corner room overlooking the harbor and city. We had made reservations at Simon and Seafort which was within walking distance from the hotel. Had an excellent seafood meal at a window table overlooking the harbor. Let me make a comment about the way RCC handled our rooms and luggage during the land portion of our tour. We never once had to handle our luggage .... it was always delivered to our rooms before we arrived. Room keys were always handed to us upon arrival at each resort or hotel by our tour director and we never had to check out. Excellent, hassle free way to travel. Day 6 Seward, AK We were given an option to take our motor coach or a train car operated by the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Seward. The train trip took a couple hours longer then the coach. We opted to take the train. We were shuttled from the hotel to the train station located at Anchorage's airport. It was a beautiful trip. The Alaska Railroad cars were not as comfortable as RCC's but the train does drop you off right on the dock were your ship is waiting. We arrived at 4:30pm proceeded through check in where we received our Sail Passes and boarded the Radiance of the Seas. Our stateroom was number 1604 located on deck 10. The room is one of six located at the aft section of the ship. It had a balcony and turned out to be a great room for the cruise portion of our trip. We set sail at 9:00pm .... still very light outside to enjoy the spectacular scenery. Our dining time was 8:30pm. We had a window table on the starboard side of the ship and were able to enjoy our trip out of Seward while we were dining. Day 7 Cruising at Sea Our first day aboard ship was spent cruising to Hubbard Glacier. Being at sea gave us a lot of time to explore the ship. We got in a work out at the ship's fitness center, dined at Portofino's Grill and saw a show headlined by the original Drifters. The ship's fitness center along with its spa facility was awesome ...... very clean and accommodating. Portofino's restaurant is one of two specialty restaurants located on the Radiance. The atmosphere was great and the food was OK. We took in the first of two show times located in the ship's Aurora theater. Show time was 9:00pm. We arrived at the theater at 8:30 and the place was packed. There were no seats available. We found a standing spot located near the bar and saw the show. The Drifters put on a good show albeit a couple of the original guys had been doing this a long ... long time. Day 8 Hubbard Glacier Highlight of the cruise portion of our trip. Hubbard Glacier is the largest tidal glacier in Alaska. This thing is huge. After a slow cruise into Yakutat Bay accompanied by Celine Dion's theme song to the Titanic movie playing over the ship's intercom system, we spent several hours at the front of the glacier. The sounds of "white thunder" and the sight of large chunks of ice falling into the ocean were awesome. The ship turned a 360 in front of the glacier before departing ....... unbelievable. Day 9 Juneau, AK We awoke in the morning already docked in Juneau. We had pre booked a shore excursion and departed the ship at 9:00am. Our excursion was called the "Bike and Brew Tour". We were driven by van to the University of Alaska Juneau campus where we were given a hybrid bike and departed to the Menenhall Glacier. There were 23 hardy souls and three guides that made the trip in the rain. The total bike trip was 9.3 miles in length with a stop at a half way point along the lake below the glacier. Once at the glacier we were given 30 minutes to walk to the visitor's center and a salmon/bear observation deck. There were salmon in the stream and a mother bear and her cub having lunch ...... not something you see every day. We were transported by van back to Juneau to a unique bar near the ship where we sampled 5 or 6 beers that were brewed in Alaska. Most of the beer was brewed in Juneau by the Alaska Brewing Company. They're Amber Ale is an exceptional beer. You will find it served during your whole Alaska adventure. Too bad we can't get on the east coast. We highly recommend this excursion. The bike ride was easy to moderate, making for a great way to get off the ship and get some exercise. It did help to burn off the 1,000 calories we drank after the bike ride. Day 10 Skagway, AK We awoke in the morning docked in Skagway. We chose to not book any shore excursions and just relaxed for the day. Breakfast was delivered to our stateroom and we ate on our balcony. Room service was always prompt and consistent. The sun was shining .... it was a beautiful morning and a great way to start the day. During breakfast we noticed a sea lion swimming right off the back of the ship. He was munching on a 10-15 pound salmon! Now that's something you don't see every day in North Carolina. (I found myself saying that a lot during our trip) Skagway was one of our favorite ports. The city has focused on maintaining the historic flavor of their downtown buildings. We did a little shopping and had lunch at a local watering hole. Day 11 Icy Point Straight (Hoonah), AK We awoke in the morning already on anchor. I stepped out on our balcony to check the weather and to my surprise there were two humpback whales feeding right off the back of the ship. The sound and sight of them blowing air and water at the surface was quite an experience. We had pre booked a shore excursion and were tendered off the ship at 9:00am. The landing area at Icy Point Straight is a refurbished salmon cannery. Some of the canning machinery has been preserved making for an interesting short tour. We also had time to walk along an improved path that rounds a point close to the landing area. Our excursion was a whale watching trip on a tour boat. We headed toward Glacier Bay and saw many Humpback whales that appeared to be feeding on large schools of herring. The total trip lasted 3 hours. Before returning to the ship we chose to eat lunch on the dock at The Crab Shack. You can't beat Dungeness crab pulled from the water, cleaned and steamed. It doesn't get any fresher than that. It was very expensive ... but worth the money. Day 12 Ketchikan, AK Awoke docked in Ketchikan. We chose not to book any shore excursions and see the town for ourselves. We disembarked the ship started out on foot to Creek Street ..... Ketchikan's historic red light district. Area was crowded with tourist and shops were very typical. The big attraction during our visit to Ketchikan Creek were thousands of salmon stacked up in the creek trying to make their way upstream to spawn. We made our way down to the harbor area where the creek empties into the salt water. Thousands of salmon where in the harbor. It was a spectacular sight. We decided to follow the creek upstream to the Native American salmon hatchery. The walk was an uphill moderate hike along streets that followed the creek. All along way were thousands of salmon swimming upstream. Total distance to the hatchery was perhaps 1.5 to 2 miles ..... uphill. We toured the hatchery. At the hatchery salmon arrive up a series of ladders from the creek where they are collected, eggs extracted, and small fry are raised to be released back into the creek. A salmon fact ... once the salmon spawn they die. We were told that after two to three years at sea, a salmon will return to within 50 feet of where it was born, spawn and die. Its body then feeds mammals and birds. Nutrients from its decomposing body feed baby salmon born from the spawn. A remarkable circle of life. Day 13 Cruising at Sea Day 13 was spent making our way through the inland passage south to Vancouver, Canada. Spectacular scenery with some narrow passages. The Captain pointed out interesting sights and history along the trip ..... even stopping to do a 360 degree turn allowing everyone on board ship to share an equal view. We got in another workout at the fitness center. I can't say enough good things about the fitness center and spa. During the evening we dined at Chop House restaurant. This was our best meal aboard ship. We were given instructions to set our luggage outside our cabin door prior to 10:00 pm our last evening of the cruise. The luggage was to be transferred to an area just outside of customs at the Canada Place Pier during the morning of our disembarkation. Day 14 Arrival at Vancouver Depending on where you were going upon disembarking the ship we were assigned a group and time to muster at the Schooner Bar. The whole disembarking thing appeared somewhat disorganized. Our time to leave the ship came and went while we sat and watched streams of people leaving the ship. Finally a RCC representative shouted out our group number and we were led off the ship. We followed a line of passengers into a large open area at the dock where our luggage was sitting ...... along with the luggage of 2,100 other passengers. This is where I think RCC dropped the ball. After being right on with regard to the logistics of moving people and their luggage on and off motor coaches, hotel rooms and aboard ship, now we appeared to be in free for all to find our luggage, find a luggage cart and figure out how to get through customs. We had pre booked motor coach transportation with Quick Coach Lines from the dock in Vancouver to Seattle's SeaTac airport. This turned out to be a great decision. We planned to overnight at the SeaTac Hampton Inn and catch our flight back to the east coast the next day. Several groups had booked 2:00 pm flights out of Seattle and spent 4-5 hours on the motor coach stressed out whether they would make their flight. The Quick Coach driver was excellent getting us through US customs at the border and dropping passengers off in Seattle at the airport and various hotels. He dropped us off right in front of the Hampton Inn and unloaded our luggage. I don't know if this is a standard practice but he earned a nice tip from us. Final Thoughts This Alaskan trip was the trip of a life time ...... if it's not on your bucket list please put it there. Speaking with other folks who have done different itineraries to the State, I believe starting in Fairbanks, working your way south by train and coach and boarding a ship for a seven day south bound inland passage cruise was a great way to see the sights. Alaska is a huge State. Royal Caribbean did a terrific job with both the land tour and ocean cruise. Hopefully this blog will lend some insight to first time cruisers and stir memories of those who have made the trip. This was our first cruise ....... we didn't think we were "cruise" people. Will we do another cruise with Royal Caribbean? Maybe we'll see you on the October 3rd 2011 Mediterranean / Egyptian trip out of Civitavecchia, Italy. Ciao. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
My daughter and I travelled on the Clipper Odyssey in early August. We knew we were going on an Expedition Cruise and had packed all the gear they suggested we take, thermals, wellingtons, wet weather gear etc, and we needed it all!! ... Read More
My daughter and I travelled on the Clipper Odyssey in early August. We knew we were going on an Expedition Cruise and had packed all the gear they suggested we take, thermals, wellingtons, wet weather gear etc, and we needed it all!! We had been on the ship in 1995 and knew that it would be comfortable and fun. We were up early each morning to have breakfast and get kitted up in all our gear ready for boarding the Zodiac's around 8am. Everything was very well organised and it did not take long to get the 80 or so passengers off the ship. We were taken really close to the various glaciers and saw some amazing "calving" even went on a sunset glacier cruise and got back as it was getting dark. Always felt very safe and we were impressed with how expert and knowledgeable our Zodiac drivers were. Whenever we got back onboard we were greeted with hot flannels and a hot drink on the pool deck. Very welcome on wet days! Saw "bubble net" and "lunge" feeding hump back whales up close, truly amazing. We also had a day when we saw sealions very close and seals not so close as they are more nervous than the sealions. What about the bears!! One very close one day when we were on a land trip, three very close another day when we visited a salmon hatchery, and one out on a beach with our zodiacs a hundred yards off shore. So many Bald Eagles that we became very blase about them, and naturally lots of interesting birds, even some Storm Petrels that landed on the ship very wet. Peter our "bird man" kept them in a box overnight to dry out and they all survived and he released them the next day. The small ports we visited were tourist free, except for us, and we were introduced to the local people and their customs and their history. The cruise was excellent, the expedition staff were excellent, and the ship itself was excellent. I would recommend this cruise to anyone wanting fun and an experience like no other! Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
We just completed our second HAL cruise, the southbound glacier explorer seven night cruise on the Statedam in Alaska.  We booked our cruise online via SmartCruiser.com.  This is our third cruise that we have booked through them and we ... Read More
We just completed our second HAL cruise, the southbound glacier explorer seven night cruise on the Statedam in Alaska.  We booked our cruise online via SmartCruiser.com.  This is our third cruise that we have booked through them and we have found them to be the lowest price around.  Agents have been very helpful and there have never been any problems with the cruise.  I recommend them.  This was our seventh cruise overall and second HAL cruise, having done a 12 day Mediterranean cruise in 2008 on the Zuiderdam.  We did three days pre cruise on our own.  Here is my review of the each individual part of the cruise, along with a review of the ports. Pre Cruise land package:  We elected to book this on our own, even though it mirrored the HAL package.  I compared the two and HAL was about $1000 more.  About the only difference I saw was some of the luggage handling.  We flew direct into Anchorage and stayed at the Comfort Inn Ship Creek.  We called for the complimentary shuttle, and had to wait quite a while because they only have one and it kept getting filled up before they got to us.  This turned out to be the one and only problem we had the entire vacation.  We booked this hotel because it was next door to the train station, but it was also on the banks of Ship Creek, a local salmon fishing stream.  We walked the shore for a while and saw lots of fishermen fly-fishing.  The hotel is just below the main city area, and I grabbed the shuttle up the hill where he let me off at a nice microbrewery.  It was about 10 PM, but they were open and I got a great pizza and munched on it while walking back to the hotel.  It is clean, has a free breakfast, and competitively priced (expensive, like all hotels in Anchorage in the summer). The next morning we walked next door, with our luggage, to the train station.  I had pre-purchased two tickets on the McKinley Explorer, the same train that HAL uses.  Everyone else on there had booked the land package through HAL, and all were on our cruise.  The car, one of two, was not even half full.  It was a wonderful ride up with a great tour guide who was a local high school teacher.  We saw bear and moose, got some great pictures, and had a nice lunch in the dinning car.  We arrived in Denali at the scheduled time. Everyone else on the train was staying in Glitter Gulch at the McKinley Chalet.  We did not want to stay near all of the hustle bustle, and elected to stay at the McKinley Village Lodge, the only property outside of Glitter Gulch.  It is 8 miles south at mile marker 231.  A completely new main building (front desk, restaurant, gift shop) just opened in May, and all of the guest rooms were remodeled and upgraded.  I had to book my own transportation from the train station in Denali to the hotel, and that cost me $18 per person.  But they met me at the train and we never saw our luggage.  They removed it from the train and it was in our room when we got to the hotel.  However, this is the 50th anniversary of Alaska statehood, and the rooms at Denali were on a special rate.  The second night only cost $50, a savings of over $200.  I don't think HAL passed this savings along at all.  So we only paid a net total of $160 per night, including tax.  This more than offset the cost of the transportation, and I did not have to handle my luggage at all.  Our room at the hotel was great; it was in the rear of the building next to the main lodge overlooking the Nanna River.  It was very scenic and we walked the river each night.  On the opposite shore a fellow guest saw a mother moose and her twin calves one evening.  The hotel offered free scheduled shuttle service to Glitter Gulch and we went back the first night and shopped some before returning around 6 PM.  We had the hotel shuttle take us two miles south to the 229 Restaurant, at mile marker 229.  I won't say much about it, except that it is run by one of the best know chefs in Alaska and is probably one of the best meals I have ever had.  Google it and read the reviews.  It is not to be missed and you will be amazed to find an upscale, absolutely wonderful restaurant of this caliber in this remote location. We booked the Tundra Wilderness Tour into the park and the next morning the bus picked us up at the hotel.  We made a second stop at the McKinley Chalet and more people boarded and then we went on the 8 hour tour into the park.  Great tour.   We saw caribou, moose, bear, golden eagle, Dall sheep and had a fantastic encounter with a wolf that walked next to the bus carrying his dinner in his mouth for about 15 minutes.  After taking us back to the hotel, we rested and checked our email on the free WiFi they have in the hotel lobby.  Then we caught another shuttle that took us to the Cabin Nite Dinner Theater.  At the conclusion we exited the theater and got right on our bus to return to the hotel.  How easy can that be? Our cruise was set to sail from Seward at 8 PM.  Because of timing you have to take the bus back.  The train does not leave Denali until mid day and you can not get to Seward in time to make embarkation the same day.  The bus is actually faster than the train and it stops twice, so the trip is broken up.  We booked seats on the Park Connection Bus, a large motorcoach with a bathroom, again just like HAL.  The bus picked us up at the hotel at 8 AM and we stopped a few hours later at the lovely Talkeetna Resort for about 30 minutes.  A few hours later we were in Anchorage where they deposited us at the Anchorage Muesum.  We had tickets for admission and a 90 minute layover, allowing us to walk around downtown and have lunch.  We decided to go back to the same microbrewery and have the same pizza again.  We spent about 45 minutes in the museum and then reboarded the bus for the trip to Seward.  We stopped once on the way at a rest stop/overlook and made one quick stop at a resort property in Seward before the bus stopped directly at the cruise terminal in front of the Statedam.  All of our fellow passengers already had tickets on their luggage, thanks to HAL.  We stayed on board and the bus took us about 30 yards to the luggage check in  where we got our bags and dropped them off to be tagged with our name and cabin number and then walked back over to passenger check in (a big tent really).  We breezed through check in and were on board about 20 minutes after leaving the bus.  It was about 6:00 PM. Before I begin my individual reviews of the ship and its services, I should note that when we boarded it was under code red.  This situation created the one instance that I was disappointed in HAL.  As we were headed to the spa to sign up for the thermal lounger package, we passed through the Lido and I saw plastic wrap around all of the serving areas.  I looked at my wife and said, "we are under code red."  I noticed a HAL employee and as we passed by I asked her if the ship was under code red.  She looked at me in shock and acted speechless.  She quickened her pace and tried to get away but did mumble "yes".  I then asked her how long they had been under code red and she glanced over her shoulder as she literally ran away and said she did not have any details.  I thought this was odd.  We went on to the spa and of course the thermal loungers were closed.  We asked the spa manager the same question and he volunteered that the ship had gone code red the first day at sea the previous sailing.  Later on, to our amazement, we discovered that the first HAL employee we encountered was the Cruise Director.  Obviously, she was just as informed as the spa manager and merely wanted to avoid talking to me about it.  The only other negative comment I will make is that this was without a doubt the worst Cruise Director we have ever encountered.  Her favorite word was "woo hoo" and she used it as often as possible.  She would have been right at home on a Carnival ship at Spring Break.  HAL can do better then this buffoon.  The code red did not cause us any problems and it was lifted after three days. Dining:  No complaints.  Food was consistently well prepared and tasty.  We had two dinners (on formal nights) in the Pinnacle Grill.  We had all of our other dinners in the dining room.  We had lunch on shore or in the Lido and split breakfast between room service and the Lido.  Not having trays in the Lido, a big topic on the message boards, proved to be pretty much a non issue.  We had open seating and always had a table for two.  We never had reservations, and dined around 7 PM each night and never waited for a table but one time, which took about 10 minutes to get seated.  Service in the dining room was prompt and speedy, and we got our glasses refilled regularly. I will note that last year in the Pinnacle Grill my wife asked for and received a lobster tail with her surf and turf.  This trip they had lobster on the menu but the surf and turf was a prawns and steak combo.  She asked for the lobster instead and they told us it would cost $10 extra (they considered it ordering a second entrEe).  A little chintzy if you ask me. So I ordered a filet and she got the lobster and I just cut my steak in half and gave it to her. Public Rooms:  Ship is in good shape.  Some wear and tear and it is due for a dry dock next Spring, but no real issues.  Some areas looked great, like the Exploration Lounge.  Other more worn.  I noticed some large stains on the carpets in some places for instance.  But nothing that would take away from the enjoyment of the cruise. Cabins:  Typical HAL.  I think the room was even larger than the Verandah that we had on the Zuiderdam, a Vista class ship.  The two chairs on the balcony were miss matched and on one the webbing on the seat was split from the frame and falling apart.  By the third day I was starting to fall through.  I asked my cabin steward to replace it and a few hours later he brought me one of the deck chairs as a replacement.  We brought Lysol and sprayed down the room surfaces as a precaution, given the code red status.  Entertainment:  OK.  I am not a big fan of the onboard singers and dancers.  After one show I think I have seen about all they have to offer.  The other three shows included a comedian/violinist, a comedian/juggler and a ventriloquist.  All were pretty entertaining. Spa and Fitness:  Standard HAL.  We did sign up for one lecture and the times published in the daily program were different than the sign up sheet.  We went to the desk at the spa and asked about it and were told that we should follow the sign up sheet.  Of course, when we got there that afternoon, we discovered they had flipped the two lectures to reflect what was in the daily program so the one we signed up for was actually given that morning.  What irritated me was that the sign up sheet had only ten people (including my wife and myself) and included cabin numbers, so they could have easily called and left us a message to clarify the time.  But they didn't want to go to the trouble I guess. Enrichment:  My wife did a few programs and found them dumbed down to the lowest level, which made them boring for her.  I think she stayed through the entire program anyway (one cooking and one on designing cards) Service:  No complaints.  Everyone was friendly and polite, especially the dining room staff. Value for the money:  OK.  I booked outside cabin, then upgraded to lowest verandah, and got upgraded three levels to a BA. Ports of call: College Fjord:  Nice three hour sailing in the fjord.  It was sunny and the glaciers were pretty, but not the towering walls of ice my wife expected.  That came the next day. Glacier National Park:  About seven hours of sailing around and looking at a half dozen glaciers.  Very cool.  Spent about 90 minutes parked in front of the Marjorie Glacier waiting for the big one to drop, which it finally did.  About ten tons of ice, five stories high crashing into the fjord, 400 yards in front of our verandah.  What a sight. Haines:  I thought the city looked pretty boring.  I understand some of the wildlife excursions were nice.  We wanted to see Skagway and also take a helicopter to a glacier, so we book a ship's excursion.  We took a ferry to Skagway and did the helicopter ride with Temsco to the Meade glacier.  Spent about 45 minutes on the ice with a guide.  We elected to take the 4 PM ferry as opposed to the 2 PM ferry back to the ship and spent a few extra hours walking around Skagway.  Skagway was my wife's favorite port and shopping experience.  Everything was well handled and we enjoyed the day. Juneau:  Took the ship's excursion combo Mendenhall Glacier and whale watching with Allen Marine.  The whale watching was nice.  The boat is two levels, with a large outside viewing area.  It is a jet powered catamaran that allows it to be very maneuverable.  In spite of what you read, the large boats are really just as good as the small ones.  None of them can get within 100 yards of the whales anyway, by law.  The large ones are more stable and have nice restrooms, a galley, and lots of indoor seating with large windows which my wife appreciated.  I stayed on deck most of the time and it was never crowded.  I never had to jostle for a good view to take pictures.  They also provided free binoculars and a souvenir book.  We saw plenty of hump backs, a large gathering of sea lions and lots of bald eagles.  At one location we were treated to two lunge feedings right next to the boat by two large hump backs.  We then took the bus to the glacier, and spent about an hour and 20 minutes there, hiking and looking around the visitor center.  Back at the docks we reboarded the ship for a late lunch and then got off again and took the tram up to the top of Mount Roberts, where we hiked one of the shorter trails, finally getting to tramp through some snow in June! Ketchikan:  My favorite port.  It is more of a fishing village than anything else.  We booked a float plane to the Misty Fjord's National Monument on our own through Island Wings.  All I can tell you is, if you only go on one excursion this should be it.  I would gladly do this again, and almost did it a second time when I found out she had room in the place for the next outing following ours.  The scenery is breath taking and Michelle, the owner and pilot, is the only float plane that not only lands on the water but taxis over to shore and allows you to get off.  We spent about 45 minutes on land.  Michelle is very gracious and grabbed our cameras and started posing us for pictures (obviously she has done this a few times before).  Just do it, you will not regret it. Vancouver:  We did self disembarkation and carried our own bags off the ship about 7:30 and were through customs by 8:15.  I called High End Limos and they sent a Lincoln Navigator over in about 10 minutes.  We had the driver take us around the city and show us the sites for about 2 hours (Gastown, Stanley Park, Granville Island, Lions Gate Bridge).  We had him stop whenever we wanted to so we could get out and take pictures or investigate the area.  Of course stores were closed since it was Sunday morning.  Cost was $65 per hour, Canadian, plus taxes and tip.  I think I paid $165 Canadian, but we wanted to see the city.  We got to the airport around 10:30 for a 2 PM flight and needed every bit of the time.  It was packed, with several ships in port.  We had priority access on American, and it still took us about 2 ½ hours to get through airline check in, US Customs, and security.  We did have time to grab lunch and then had about a 30 minute wait to board. Final comments:  We have been cruising since the mid 1980's and over the years it has become more of a mass market activity.  I don't think the levels of customer service have eroded over the years.  Other than the super expensive cruise lines, most of the elegance is gone from cruising and frankly I miss it.  I think I only saw three other men in tuxedos on formal nights, and at least half of the men didn't even bother to wear a tie, let alone a jacket.  I don't particularly enjoy a formal dinner in the Pinnacle Grill sitting across from some guy on formal night with no jacket, no tie, and no socks.  There was one guy that enjoyed lounging by the pool and then wearing his HAL robe over his trunks into the Lido for lunch.  With crocs on his feet.  Lovely.  Overall our fellow passengers were more refined on the Med cruise last year.  But nothing to be done about it and I don't blame HAL.  This was still a very enjoyable cruise and one I would recommend to anyone that hasn't been to Alaska. 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Sail Date June 2009

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