80 Seward Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas Cruise Reviews

R/C cruise tour was a dream come true. My wife and I have talked about going to Alaska since we were dating 29 years ago. R/C did not disappoint from picking us at the airport to debarkation. We did the land tour first and would highly ... Read More
R/C cruise tour was a dream come true. My wife and I have talked about going to Alaska since we were dating 29 years ago. R/C did not disappoint from picking us at the airport to debarkation. We did the land tour first and would highly recommend it be done first,it is a lot of traveling getting up early to see all of the sites, then you have 7 days to rest on the ship. The Hotels/Lodges they stay at are mostly 1st class the only complaint was the McKinley Village Lodge. The lodge wasn't ready for the amount of people R/C was bringing to their lodge, they wasn't any wait staff in the restaurant when we arrived The water in our building had to be shut off so maintenance could fix a leaking shower. R/C could do nothing about this they can't control the mismanagement of the lodge. The other places we stayed were excellent, the Talkeetna Lodge and the Alyeska Resort were first class without any complaints. The land tours were well done and we got to see a grizzly in Denali, Mt. McKinley also was viewable they say only 30% of the people get to see it, saw Moose at many sites and a black bear and cub were seen at Alyeska Resort. To me these were bonus that R/C can't control we were just lucky. The ship is eleven years old to those who say they see wear, look at a eleven year old car, you may take great care of it but you might have door dings,spots on the seat and carpet and this is your car that you take care of not a rental this is how some people would treat the ship.The staff does an excellent job maintaining the ship they are cleaning all the time. The staff from the Captain to cabin steward is above expectations, we had no complaints. The food at Cascades is good to very good depending on what you like. Windjammer is the very good buffet with many choices but it is buffet food. In my opinion not as good as Cascades but very good for buffet food. The shows are very good the singer/dancers are as good as any Broadway show that comes to my home town. The lounge acts were entertaining and a pleasant addition to the lounges. Paul the cruise director does an outstanding job keeping the entertainment going almost nonstop. The shore excursions we took were well done without any problems. We went to Mendenhall glacier and glacier gardens the gardens are beautiful, then we took a whale-n-mammal tour that guarantees that you will see whales or give you $100 back, and lastly the lumberjack show with a historic trolley tour. The Radiance is a beautiful ship with public areas with wood and wooden furniture that is a pleasure to look at. I love wood working and was impressed with the types of wood and wood furniture on the ship. We loved the cruise, we have cruised before but liked this cruise line so much we joined their membership club and applied for their credit card. R/C does everything at an excellent level without being overpriced. Our balcony cabin was very big compared to other cruise lines no complaints. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
We really enjoyed our total experience on Radiance. The ship was spectacular, and service superb. We enjoyed our meals in Cascades with anytime dining, only waited once, maybe 5 minutes. Our balcony room was forward, with outstanding ... Read More
We really enjoyed our total experience on Radiance. The ship was spectacular, and service superb. We enjoyed our meals in Cascades with anytime dining, only waited once, maybe 5 minutes. Our balcony room was forward, with outstanding views. Paul the cruise director was fun and funny. The shows were up and down, but I did not cruise Alaska for the shows, but the nature shows. Again the food was RCCL fare. Loved the cold fruit soups everyday at dinner, desserts and entrees were always satisfying. Enjoyed that there were so many cozy places to just curl up and read as the spectacular Alaskan scenery went by. Embarking and debarking were easy, no problem. I guess my only criticism was that the last night they had an adult comedy show. All these people brought kids as young as 7, I counted many children. To me adults only means adults only. Also they did not enforce the family time in the indoor pool, there were kids running around, in and out of the hot tubs, at times that were intended for adults. I'm not anti kids, just like the supervised, well behaved variety. Beds, very comfortable. Arranged all our own excursions. Wonderful time in Alaska. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
I must say that our cruise on Radiance of the seas was the best cruise I have ever taken. Nothing compares to the splendor of Alaska! Pre-trip- I booked the cruise directly with RCCL and my ttravel planner was beyond wonderful to work ... Read More
I must say that our cruise on Radiance of the seas was the best cruise I have ever taken. Nothing compares to the splendor of Alaska! Pre-trip- I booked the cruise directly with RCCL and my ttravel planner was beyond wonderful to work with. Originally we booked for 7 people but as time got closer several medical conditions dropped that number down to two, just my 62 year old mom and myself, 32. I cannot begin to praise RCCL enough for their customer service and help in rebooking the cruise for other family members. Packing- I way overpacked! I found most days I wore a long sleeve t-shirt with a fleece jacket and windbreaker. I topped off the outfit with a fleece hat. I really didn't think it would get that cold, but the first three days were frigid. As we moved south, I slowly lost a layer at a time until I was in shorts and a polo in Vancouver. Ship- Radiance is a beautiful ship with lots of nooks for quietness. My balcony room was perfect for this cruise and I found having the balcony very useful. The casino and spa were both great places to visit and I enjoyed both. The only negative complaints I have are the captain and the cruise director. They both love to hear themselves talk and sometimes it felt they would never quit speaking during their ship wide announcements. Also the cruise director was one of those people who laughed at himself but tended to annoy everyone else on board. Dining and Entertainment- we ate every night in Cascades dining room and really enjoyed all of the meals. All the chilled soups were wonderful as was the quality of their steaks. The Windjammer was a good place for breakfast or lunch but the food was the same every day. I found there was no need to eat at the a la carte places as the dining room was great. I did hear a few people complain about their food and being hungry and all I could do was roll my eyes. There is food available 24 hours a day and I think these people are just people who are never happy and have to complain about something. The shows onboard were probably the weakest part of the cruise. I did not find them very entertaining but I am used to Broadway caliber performances. Excursions - in Juneau we went whale watching and visited the Mendenhall Glacier. Whale watching was fun, we saw several humpback whales, bald eagles, and orcas. It did seem to drag a little towards the end and I was ready for the tour to be over. The glacier was amazing. Make sure to take the time to walk the path across the parking lot from the glacier as it was beautiful. We even saw a porcupine in the trees. In Skaway we did the Skagway Exteavaganza tour and I found is to be a great combination of everything. The train allowed breathtaking scenery and the lunch and show in Liarsville was very good. ( a little adult oriented show) My favorite excursion though was in Icy Strait Pointe where we went bear watching. We saw several bears and really enjoyed watching them play. In Katchikan we just walked the streets and shopped. A beautiful town with very nice people all out celebrating the Fourth of July. I am already planning on doing this cruise again next summer and escaping the heat again. Hope to see you onboard. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
We just returned form a 7-day cruise from Seward to Vancouver. We started a week before and stayed a in Anchorage visiting family. Anchorage was a nice city but this almost 24 hr day light is for the birds. I can only imagine darkness in ... Read More
We just returned form a 7-day cruise from Seward to Vancouver. We started a week before and stayed a in Anchorage visiting family. Anchorage was a nice city but this almost 24 hr day light is for the birds. I can only imagine darkness in the winter. But over all saw everything Anchorage had to offer. We drove down to Seward the day of the cruise it's a 3-hour drive from Anchorage plus the scenery was awesome. We arrived in Seward around noon and had lunch at a local restaurant that served good fish and chips, the food was ok but the service was horrible the waitresses where fighting where to put customers because they all wanted tips. I solved they problem and let a very little tip I hate doing this but I had to go get my own refill of diet coke. Embarkation was so easy you go to a building away from the ship and give your luggage to a local porter, she was so sweet and very efficient. She represented RCCL well. Then we where dropped off at the cruise terminal, again easy process and within 10 minutes we had cruise cards in hands and headed to our rooms. We had a beautiful Superior balcony deck 9 front of ship right by the elevator cabin 9534. It met all our needs, our cabin Stewart was A++. The other person we traveled with had a outside cabin deck 4 mid-ship she was a single traveler. The cabin was great and met all her needs. We had been on radiance in 2004 and with the 20 million improvements it was even better. The ship had flat screens TVs (the TV entertainment was terrible but people say you don't cruise to watch TV) But I traveled with a person that had mobility issues so it meant something to us) The ship also offered stem to stern wifi, the Internet packages where pricey but as Diamond members we got 30 minutes free and 20% off any package. The food I am sorry to say was not the best breakfast was the best, lunch the usual buffet selections. Dinner was not the best in the dining room, on lobster night they even gave our table away to another couple. They stayed and we got a terrible table as you enter the Savoy dining room. They should have told the other couple to leave but did not. We ate in the dining room 1 other time the rest was in the buffet. It was just OK good choc chip cookies. We never ate at any of the pay restaurants, we did have lunch at park central in the solarium (indoor pool) it was delicious. The hot dog house was nothing special. Andrew in the Diamond club lounge was A+++++++. The ship was very clean and fun to be on. The ports of call where good this was our 4th Alaska cruise so going to Icy Straight Point I thought would be fun it was honestly a waste of a port. Plus you have to tender. There are about 8 store in one big barn and a few places to eat. The only good thing for me was a great place to take pictures of the ship. The other ports where very nice. In Ketchikan it was the 4th of July so there was a local parade so much pride going on, plus RCCL had a float in the parade. The Entertainment was the typical RCCL stuff but the cruise director was horrible I guess they had a problem with the Cruise Director the week before and had to leave they replace him with a no talent CD. He was no place to be found. The gift shops where good and the casino was very slow the whole cruise. Over all it was a great cruise 4-1/2 stars out of 5. The new and improved Radiance was beautiful from the new movie screen by the pool, to the new pay eating places to the new flat screen TVs in the rooms. Well worth the flight to Anchorage. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
August 11, 2011 (Day 0) -- Toronto to Anchorage(Air) Our flight from Toronto delayed for over an hour and it was a tight connection from Vancouver to Anchorage, transit time was only 2 hours. I really didn't know what to do if we ... Read More
August 11, 2011 (Day 0) -- Toronto to Anchorage(Air) Our flight from Toronto delayed for over an hour and it was a tight connection from Vancouver to Anchorage, transit time was only 2 hours. I really didn't know what to do if we missed the direct flight from Vancouver as my daughter's family were on Cruisetour #11, waiting for us at Marriott Anchorage. Luckily, we just made it on the plane with the help of our wheelchair assistants. Missing the flight connection is a senior's nightmare when my wife and I were just travelling on our own. We arrived at the Marriott shortly after 2 p.m. and rested for a bit before my daughter's arrival at 4:45 p.m.. My daughter made dinner reservation for the 6 of us at Simon and Seafort's on L Street at 5 p.m. It took us just 10 minutes to walk there from the hotel. The panoramic views of Mt. Susitna and the Alaska range was beautiful and the Alaska weather was warm and sunny...I was told it was unusual in August. The best part was that they had a $25 three-course meal if ordered between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. daily, though the food was not very good, below average I would say. August 12, 2011 (Day 1) -- Day of Embarkation, Anchorage to Seward (Train) We're boarding the Radiance today. We put all our luggage outside our room the night before and only carried with us our carry-on. At 8 a.m. we went to the 2nd floor of Marriott where RCI had a big conference room set up for check-in. We got our train tickets and bus # with departure time from hotel to the train station. The bus that we would go on was the 11:50 one. At around 12:30 p.m. we were on board the train. The scenery of this train ride from Anchorage to Seward was stunning. The beauty of the glaciers and canyons was unbelievable. After a 4 hours' journey (1:00 -- 5:00 p.m.), we arrived at Seward's cruise terminal. As Diamond members we did not have to wait in line and were instructed to proceed to a check-in counter right away using the Priority Check-in line for elite members. We boarded the Radiance at around 5:30 p.m., went straight to our spacious and comfy Family Oceanview stateroom (FO 8002), then made our way to Cascades Dining Room on Deck 4 to enjoy our 1st dinner on board, right at 6 p.m. (main seating). Our 390 sq-ft stateroom had a sitting area with a double sofabed, a bedroom area that had 2 twin beds (convert to a Queen), and a tiny separate bedroom for a twin bed and a pull-down bunk bed. The whole room can accommodate 6 people and you normally need to have at least 5 pp to book that type of room. However, just 1 month before our sail date, that room became available as an ordinary oceanview room that allowed double occupancy. As seniors we happily gave away our E2 mid-ship balcony room (on the Starboard side which should have been great while watching Hubbard Glacier) for a more spacious room. We LOVED our huge room and really enjoyed the separate sleeping areas. My daughter's family had 2 Aft rooms with huge balconies so we could still enjoy the Alaskan views in our own private world. Follow my daughter's thread to view the pictures of the suite: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1467693 August 13, 2011 (Day 2) -- Hubbard Glacier Day 2 of the cruise was one of the highlights as we saw Hubbard Glacier. IT'S VERY IMPORTANT TO BOOK A BALCONY ROOM ON THE STARBOARD (RIGHT) SIDE OF THE SHIP. Unfortunately I gave up our Starboard balcony room for the FO, so I had to go to my daughter's D2 Aft balcony room to watch the glacier. We were really lucky that lots of calvings happened when the glacier was facing us while the ship made its 360 degrees turn. The sound and the sight were both incredible! August 14, 2011 (Day 3) -- Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska We rented a minivan from Alamo to tour around Juneau by ourselves. Alamo gave us a map of Juneau and recommended some points of interest for us to go and visit. There's only one main road along the coast of Juneau so it's hard to get lost! We had a great time at Mendenhall Glacier (#1 must-see in Juneau)and Macaulay Salmon Hatchery. We had lunch back on the ship and went off the ship to walk around but it started to rain very hard so we had to go back. This marked the beginning of the next few rainy days. August 15, 2011 (Day 4) -- White Pass Summit and Yukon Rail, Skagway We woke up to a dull and gloomy day. The excursion lasted for over 8 hours. We took the coach on Klondike Highway to White Pass Summit, had lunch at Caribou Crossing Trading Post, then took the train from Fraser, B.C., Canada, back to Skagway. The Klondike Highway was very scenic, though we could only see everything in basically 3 colours: gray, brown and white! August 16, 2011 (Day 5) -- Whale watching, Icy Strait Point We booked the 11 a.m. whale watching tour through RCI as all other private vendors were sold out! It turned out to be wonderful as there were just over 50 passengers on the boat. Binoculars were placed on the seats and the marine guide provided us with lots of info regarding marine life. We were very lucky as we saw whale breaching many times. Their tails were beautiful too! It was unfortunate that we could only take pictures from inside the boat as it was raining very hard...non-stop rain for the whole day! Since it was still raining hard when we got back to Icy Strait Point, we went back to the ship without walking around. We had Samba Grill that night. Food was delicious there but the location of Samba was not desirable...a cold and windy walk with no interior corridors from the main part of the ship. There is NO WASHROOM inside the restaurant so I had to walk back to the main ship & back to the restaurant...journeys not quite pleasant!! August 17, 2011 (Day 6) -- Misty Fjords Flightseeing Floatplane Tour, Ketchikan We got beautiful weather again! After an early lunch, we got off the boat and waited for our private floatplane tour with Seawind Aviation. As there were 6 of us on the 6-seater floatplane, we got $10 family discount per person, over $100 cheaper than booking through RCI. The view was beautiful and we even landed on water!! August 19, 2011 (Day 8) - Debarkation Vancouver is a lovely port! We left the ship at 9 a.m. and got to the airport before 10 a.m. Getting a taxi minivan at the Vancouver cruise port was really easy. Although the van could only seat 4 people the most, it could accommodate 6 people's luggage. The taxi cost less than $25 but we gave the driver a big tip as we had so much luggage. It was definitely a trip of a lifetime! Thanks to RCI and the trains, the glaciers, the whales and the floatplanes! Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
First of all, I'd like to thank Cindy (Crown and Anchor Loyal Ambassador on board the Oasis of the Seas in August 2010) who recommended the following to us: 1) Alaska one-way cruise (reason: round-trip cruises do not go to Hubbard ... Read More
First of all, I'd like to thank Cindy (Crown and Anchor Loyal Ambassador on board the Oasis of the Seas in August 2010) who recommended the following to us: 1) Alaska one-way cruise (reason: round-trip cruises do not go to Hubbard Glacier which sgould be the highlight (most spectacular) of an Alaskan cruise); 2) South bound (reason: to avoid docking at the ports with more than 2 other ships); 3) Cruisetour #11 that has the BEST itinerary; & 4) balcony cabin on Starboard (right) side (cruising Southbound) to have the best view of Hubbard Glacier. Let's start with an Alaskan Cruise A-Z to express my feelings towards this amazing, brilliant, cool, divine, enjoyable, fabulous, gorgeous, hilarious, incredible, joyful, knowledgeable, luxurious, magnificent, notable, outstanding, phenomenal, quaint, remarkable, superb, terrific, unique, venturous, wonderful, x-traordinary, yummy and zealous cruise. This was truly a trip of a lifetime! The following is just a very concise summary of the cruise. I tried to include as much as I could of the cruisetour part in this review. To read my complete trip review with 200 pictures and lots more details, please read individual port reviews and follow my Cruise Critic thread: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1467693 July 29 -- Aug 6, 2011-- Toronto to Vancouver (Pre-cruisetour part 1) We rented a car and spent 8 days in Vancouver. Since we have been to Vancouver many times, we skipped all the must-do's and went on many day trips in nearby towns like Squamish, White Rock and Whistler, before flying to Alaska. All were very enjoyable with beautiful weather. August 6, 2011 -- Vancouver, B.C. to Anchorage, Alaska (Pre-cruisetour part 2) We got a Club Room at the Sheraton Anchorage using SPG points. Although there was free WIFI in the lobby and parking was only $10, Hilton would be a much better choice with many more shops and restaurants around. We visited Portage Glacier and it's about an hour's drive (55 miles) from the hotel. We were just in time for the last 1-hour cruise to Portage Glacier at 4:30 p.m. The glacier was beautiful but it was raining, so there were only about 20 passengers on board the MV Ptarmigan. This place was so well worth the visit that I suggested to RCI that they should include it as part of the cruisetour. August 7, 2011 -- Anchorage to Fairbanks (Pre-cruisetour part 3) My family boarded the Alaskan Airline flight at 9:45 a.m., and it arrived at Fairbanks in an hour. Alaskan Airline said they would give us a $20 refund if our luggage did not come out in 20 minutes after the arrival time. We wondered how they did it, but then, no refund for us, as our bags came out in just 10 minutes after our arrival. Amazing service! The arrival/baggage claim area was quite compact. Baggage claim was in the centre of the hall, there were a line of car rental counters against the back wall, and a line of cruiseline welcome stands in front of the window between the exits. When we arrived at Fairbanks, there was no RCI rep there but the Princess & Holland American reps were already working. We picked up our standard SUV (Ford Explorer) from Alamo this time (Yup! It's our 3rd car in 10 days...still 2 more to pick up, one in Juneau and one in Vancouver after the cruise. It's also like a test drive trip!) The car pick-up location was directly in the arrival hall next to the baggage claim area so it's very convenient. The first SUV that we got had a windshield with a big crack of at least 3 feet long. We didn't feel safe driving that so we went back to the arrival hall to switch to another one. Luckily there were a lot of Ford Explorers to choose from. We saw lots of beautiful and colourful flowers just next to the rental car parking lot. I guessed it's because Fairbanks had over 20 hours of daylight in the summer so plants could grow luxuriantly. After we picked up our 3rd rental car of the trip we went to Gold Dredge No.8 on the Old Steese Highway near Fox (about 20 minutes drive from Fairbanks). A guided tour and lunch were included in the $14.95 admission fee. After the Gold Dredge, my daughters wanted to go to North Pole to visit Santa Claus, but we unintentionally drove past the Alyeska pipeline. Having a husband who is a civil and structural engineer, and a daughter who is inquisitive about everything, we had to stop there and investigate. After half an hour on the Old Steese Highway & the Richardson Highway, we reached North Pole, Alaska. Despite the name, the city is about 1,700 miles south of the Earth's geographic North Pole (yes, we were still VERY far from the real North Pole!!). Nonetheless, we got very excited to see a big gift shop called Santa Claus House, and the world's largest fibreglass statue of Santa Claus outside it. Then it's time to go back to the airport to meet the RCI rep who took us to our Cruisetour meeting place, the Bear Lodge. August 8, 2011 -- Riverboat Discovery Cruise, Fairbanks, Alaska (Excursion 1) I hereby announced the official start of our 12-night Alaska Cruisetour #11 starting from Fairbanks. We had a short drive to board Riverboat Discovery for a 3-hour cruise on the paddlewheeler that took us into the heart of Alaska. You had to sit on the left side of the boat to see a floatplane taking off and landing on water. My eldest daughter said it was her favourite one of all the Alaskan excursion 'cause she learned so much about Alaska here. August 8, 2011 -- El Dorado Gold Mine, Fairbanks, Alaska (Excursion 2) This was the second excursion that was included in the cruisetour. We were very happy to be on this 2-hour tour and ride the Tanana Valley Railroad for an adventure into the gold fields through the permafrost tunnel. We also had a short course in underground gold mining, and were given a bag of "dirt" out of a sluice box to try panning for gold ourselves. It was guaranteed that we would find gold in each of our bags. There were many helpful guides walking around to help guests "uncover" their gold. After the Gold Mine tour, we were transported back to Bear Lodge. Then we took the 6 pm shuttle to visit the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska to watch a movie about Northern Lights...too bad we could not see Northern Lights in the summer! We did not spend a lot of time there as we had to wait for the free shuttle at 7:10 pm to take us to the Pioneer Park for a delicious Salmon Bake. After we had a yummy and filling buffet with all-you-can-eat salad, grilled salmon and prime ribs with unlimited drinks, we skipped dessert and boarded the free shuttle at 8:40 pm to go back to Bear Lodge. August 8, 2011 -- Auto Museum, Bear Lodge, Fairbanks, Alaska We were back at the Bear Lodge at 9 pm. Since it was still bright and beautiful outside, my elder daughter and my husband went to the Auto Museum on site and they said it's amazing to see so many antique cars that were still functioning. Too bad he couldn't test drive them all! Usually the admission fee was $4 but we got free passes in our check-in package. They went on the Taiga Trail and took beautiful sunset pictures at Wander Lake. Bear Lodge was surely an awesome place to stay. I was glad we stayed there for 2 nights. While DH & DD were enjoying the beauty of nature...and wrestling with over-friendly mosquitoes, my younger daughter and myself were making full use of the complimentary internet service. For those who want to know about free WI-FI during the cruisetour, here you are: Bear Lodge at Fairbanks -- yes; Grande Denali Lodge -- yes, only at the lobby, but it was not working when we were there!! :( use the computers in the lobby instead!); Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge -- yes; Marriott Anchorage -- No, $9.99 for 12 hours, $12.99 for 24 hours. August 9, 2011 -- Fairbanks to Denali on board the Wilderness Express (train) The train rides had been a major component that made us choose this cruisetour. We were so excited to board the luxury glass-domed railcar of the Wilderness Express to travel from Fairbanks to Denali. We had to meet at 7:30 am to catch the 8:30 train. Since my family was the "youngest" on the tour (average age for the 4 of us being only 35, 30+ years younger than the rest of the tour group!!!), we always boarded the coach, train and bus last, so all the elders could take the front seats. It proved to be a great advantage as workers on the trains would call people for meals from the back of the railcar. I actually knew about this by reading others' reviews...a bit of cheating here! Though being the first group called, it was close to 9 am (half an hour after departure) by the time we could sit down in the dining car downstairs. After the first 20 passengers were called down, others would have to wait till we finished before they were escorted down to eat their breakfast...or should I say brunch! The breakfast (not complimentary) was at a very reasonable price and they were delicious. Specialty coffee was only around $4 each, tasted great! Which side should you sit on the train? Sit on the left if you want the beautiful canyon views, the view of the whole train, the view of Goldstream Creek, the coal seams, the view of the Nenana River near Denali with people doing white-water rafting (couldn't wait to go rafting the next day!!)...actually most of the Nenana River was on the right but it's not visible from the train. At 12:40 pm, we arrived at Denali National Park, and our 8-hour Tundra Wilderness Tour on board a park vehicle (which looked like a school bus with coach seats) was scheduled to depart at 1:35 pm. August 9, 2011 (Day 12) -- Tundra Wildness Tour, Denali National Park -- 1:35 -- 9:40 pm (Excursion 3) Yeah! We hit a grand slam for the day, seeing all "BIG 5" of Denali National Park: 1 caribou, 2 moose, 3 wolves (5 times), 3 bears & 12+ dall sheep, plus other little ones that were not part of the "BIG 5" group. Even the bus driver was very excited as he said he didn't hit the Grand Slam for quite a while. Seeing all the above wildlife make this LOOOOOOOOOONG tour very memorable, unforgettable, and totally worthwhile. We were SOOOOOOOO lucky! Some cruise tours were only there for 4 ½ hours, and they said their tours were boring and unrewarding, just riding on the bumpy dirt roads for the entire time! We were given a lunch box with a sub, an orange and a bag of chips on the bus. Since we had a big hot lunch at the National Park, we decided to skip dinner for the night and just finished off the lunch box instead. Rooms at the Grande Denali Lodge were not as good as the ones at Bear Lodge, but they were like 3-star motel rooms with all basic amenities. We were very frustrated as we spent lots of time trying to use the WIFI at the lobby...without any success with connection. Front desk staff could not help so we ended up using the hotel computers at the lobby instead of our own laptops. August 10, 2011 (Day 13) -- White-water rafting in Denali (Excursion 4), train from Denali to Talkeetna This was our first optional excursion in Alaska booked through RCI. After some wonderful experience on white-water rafting near Golden, BC, this rafting trip on the Nenana River in Denali had been one of the highlights of our tours. Again, we had to wake up before 7 am to get ready for the rafting trip (you should see how grumpy my younger daughter was...she's a #1 night owl!!). The trip was about 3 hours long and we had to get back to the coach by 11:30 a.m. to take the Wilderness Express to Talkeetna. The rafting company sent us a green bus to take all customers (not just RCI's) from various hotels to their office in the downtown area. There were about 20 people on the bus. After a brief visit to the Porta toilets (how I hated those!!), each of us was given a whole set of waterproof gear to put on. If someone had told me about this earlier, I would have left our aqua shoes at home (3 lbs. of our luggage weight!!). In my backpack I also packed all scarves, hats, mitts, extra sweaters, etc., and I found myself totally ignorant for doing so. We had to leave everything in the lobby (without lockers), as we could only carry all valuables on ourselves. Luckily our jackets had big pockets (yes, we could wear our jackets underneath the dry suit) so it was not a problem for us. It's important that you do not wear turtle-necks or have bulky clothing round your neck area, as the dry suit had an expandable rubber-tube-like neck covering which was very air-tight and it stayed close to your skin. We were only allowed to bring disposable water cameras, but the company took a great picture for us for $20. It was very fun as we did not need to paddle ourselves, basically the guide did it all. My daughters were not happy about it but I was more than OK with it. Nevertheless, our guide let my daughters paddle for a little bit on the calm waters and they did struggle for quite a bit -- lack of coordination! We went through many Class II and a few Class III rapids, it was a lot of fun, though a bit rainy at times. Amazingly, we were all wet on the outside but it was all dry on the inside...great dry suits! It was cold but we were not even shivering. By noon we were on the Wilderness Express again. The elders didn't learn from their last train experience and continued to get on board first. As a result, we, being the last ones on board, were the first table to be seated in the dining car for lunch. Boy, we were really hungry and luckily my younger daughter got a free dessert (2 scoops of ice cream with yummy brownie) as the guide was introducing the lunch menu. How spoiled she was! Dessert before entree! This time we were sitting on the right side of the train as my DH wanted to capture the breathtaking views of Mt. McKinley. We were really lucky to be one of the 30% who were able to see the peak of N. America's highest mountain. You think we were psychic to know which side to sit? Not really! I read past cruisers' reviews and we bought Alaska Railroad's Ride Guide for $5 to confirm. The Ride Guide was on sale on the train from Fairbanks to Denali and it was a great book with clear maps and points of interest. We could use the train guide for all our journeys from Fairbanks to Seward. After several rainy and dull days, we could finally enjoy Talkeetna with bright and beautiful sunshine! August 10, 2011 (Day 13) -- Flightseeing with Glacial Landing (Excursion 5), Talkeetna This happened to be the BEST day of our entire 12-night cruise tour. After whitewater rafting in Denali, we said Good Bye to the wet and dull Alaskan summer days and stepped into the Sunshine World. This optional flying tour was AWESOME, STUNNING and SPECTACULAR. If I knew K2Aviation was the contractor of this excursion, I would have booked the tour online by myself, as K2 offered very good summer specials that could save us $50 per person. Besides, K2 was very flexible with timing, they would just put you on a plane when you're there, regardless of what the actual booking time was. Since they were so "flexible", it would not be a good idea to do this excursion in the morning of the day that the coach departed for Anchorage as you might not be back on time. Due to the very tight schedule of our cruise tour, I highly recommend booking all excursions through RCI (to avoid being left behind!!!), except for the evening in Talkeetna that we were so free and relaxed that we could totally do our own planning & booking. To make our trip even more memorable, we were told that only 10% of all visitors to Alaska could see the whole Alaska Mountain Range (Mt. McKinley, Mt. Foraker & Mt. Hunter), and we were one of those! Besides, we got to fly on top of the Alaska Range and enjoyed the breath-taking views of the highest peaks of North America. It couldn't have been a more perfect day to enjoy the wonders of the Alaskan Wilderness high up in the sky. We LOVED the glacial landing...totally worth the extra bucks! We had no problems walking on the glacier as K2Aviation provided overshoes for us. We thoroughly enjoyed this amazing tour! It was 9 p.m. by the time we got back to the Talkeetna Lodge and had dinner there, overlooking the terrace with an incredible view of Mt. McKinley at sunset. August 11, 2011 (Day 14) -- Wildlife Jetboat Tour (Excursion 6), Talkeetna This was another optional tour that we picked. At the first part of the tour I found it quite boring...anti-climax to Denali NP, whitewater rafting & flightseeing! However, the beautiful sunny weather with the sight of the whole Alaska Mountain Range, plus the spotting of different wildlife made the tour more interesting. The view of the Alaska Range, this time on water, was gorgeous and different! On the way back, we stopped and got off the boat for a bit of very easy hiking on a trail. We saw different types of animal pelts, a cache, antlers, etc....very similar to the Indian village we saw on our Riverboat Discovery cruise. Being a teacher, I liked this exploration (educational side-tour), and our guide was very good. When we got back to the town of Talkeetna, we went to Roadhouse to grab a breakfast take-out. That place was packed with people and it took us 30 minutes from ordering to actually getting the food. The food was very oily and salty, very typical for a lot of Alaskan dishes, and that was our brunch to eat on the coach from Talkeetna to Anchorage. One more excursion at the Alaska Native Heritage Centre in Anchorage, then we'd be done our wonderful 5-night cruisetour. I couldn't wait to go on the Radiance! August 11, 2011 (Day 14) -- Alaska Native Heritage Centre (Excursion 7), Anchorage This excursion happened to be the one that I liked the least, probably because we had visited many of the similar villages, and we had learned a lot from our professional guides. This one we had to do a self-guided tour. Our tour guides for the previous days were definitely very knowledgeable. At 4 p.m., we were driven to Marriott Downtown, had a good rest and all ready for the long-anticipated Alaskan South-bound cruise. August 12, 2011 (Day 15) -- Day of Embarkation, Anchorage to Seward (Train) Hooray! Finally this day had arrived! We're boarding the Radiance today! We put all our luggage outside our room at the Marriott and only carried with us our camera bags, a backpack containing a bag of food for lunch, our toiletries bags, our pyjamas and our cruise documents to board the train. It had never been so easy before! Kudos to RCI for providing such smooth seamless luggage arrangements! I'll really consider joining pre-cruise cruisetours just for the sake of the easy handling of luggage, especially in Europe and Asia! THE PART BELOW WAS ONE THAT MANY CRUISERS WERE MOST CONCERNED ABOUT REGARDING CHECK-IN (I'll try to be as detailed and specific as possible): At 8 a.m. we went to the 2nd floor of Marriott where RCI had a big conference room set up for check-in. The main purpose was to give everyone their train tickets and assign them a bus # with departure time from hotel to the train station, or transfer vouchers for those that use the bus instead of the train. Since there were 6 of us, we had priority and special service. At the reception desk outside the conference room, we were given a number and each of us was given a health form to fill out. We then went inside the conference room, sat at a table and DID NOT NEED TO STAND IN LINE where other passengers were lining up. AN RCI rep came to our table, sat with us and checked everyone's passport and health form, then took our train vouchers that our cruise director gave us the previous day, and gave us coloured train vouchers with train car # and seat #. The bus that we would go on was the 11:50 one. After check-in, we still had 3 hours to spend before boarding the bus to the train station. My daughters went back to their room to sleep and I had breakfast with my parents & DH at the Marriott Restaurant. We had to wait for a table for 20 minutes (not that they did not have empty tables but there was no one available to clean them up), then 15 minutes for a menu, then another 15 minutes for a pot of coffee, before we could actually place the order. Since the service was so slow, we decided to have buffet breakfast instead. When we finished, it was almost 10:30 a.m...a 2-hour buffet breakfast, my goodness!! At the train station which was adjacent to the airport, we waited in a spacious lounge where lots of tables and chairs were set up. At around 12:30 p.m. they called us by car # and we were on board of the train. If your seats were C & D you would be facing the front, A & B sat directly opposite to C & D, and ABCD shared one pretty big table. My family sat together and my parents sat next to us with another couple. RCI had all our seats pre-arranged so we could be together and got the tickets with printed seats while we did the check-in at 8 a.m. at the Marriott. I couldn't be more thankful to our tour director as she did communicate with RCI continuously to arrange for such perfect arrangements so we could travel with my parents who were not on a cruisetour. Lots of passengers who had booked the bus from Anchorage to Seward were asking for upgrades at the Marriott but were not successful in securing any train seats due to limited availability. They should have asked their travel agents to book their pre-cruise stay and specify "Hotel with Train" instead of "hotel with bus". Calling the regular RCI booking line would not be helpful when it's about Alaska sailings, you should always ask for "Alaska Cruisetour Help Desk". The scenery of this train ride from Anchorage to Seward, IMO, was the best out of all the train rides we were on. The beauty of the glaciers and canyons was unbelievable. After a 4 hours' journey (1:00 -- 5:00 p.m.), we finally arrived at Seward's cruise terminal. Having the train stopped right outside the cruise terminal building, we were able to step on the Radiance at around 5:30 p.m., went straight to our staterooms to find our luggage safely delivered and made our way to Cascades Dining Room on Deck 4 to enjoy our 1st dinner on board, right at 6 p.m. (main seating). August 12, 2011 (Day 15) -- on board the Radiance (Day 1 of the cruise portion) Are you sick and tired of my lengthy posts? What I wrote were answers to a lot of questions that I had before the cruise tours and the cruise. I was trying to help as much as I could. You're most welcome to skip the written parts and just look at the photos of this trip at my other cruise critic thread: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1467693 How about some fun now to look at 2 types of staterooms that are quite hard to book for during most sailings? Either you don't have at least 5 people to stay in one room, i.e., the Family Oceanview; or someone grabbed the Aft D2 Oceanview stateroom with a huge balcony (3 times the size of a regular one) faster than you. First, let's look at the Family Oceanview #8002 (390 sq.ft) with a sitting area (double sofabed), a bedroom area that had 2 twin beds (can convert to a Queen), and a tiny separate bedroom for a twin bed and a pull-down bunk bed. (Follow my thread to view the photos of the suite.) The whole room can accommodate 6 people and you usually need to have at least 5 pp to book that type of room. Next there were my room and my daughters' D2 Oceanview rooms with balconies that were side by side (with no connecting doors), Rooms #1104 & #1604. Those rooms were just regular D2 rooms of around 200 sq. ft. However, each balcony measured to over 100 sq.ft. (almost 3 times of a regular one). It was wonderful for watching Hubbard Glacier with our camera on tripod all set up. These balcony rooms were located at the aft of the ship...a long walk but they were very quiet as no one walked past them. We had very good sleeps as no one talked outside our room while walking by, excellent for light sleepers! After dining, there was a Muster Drill at 8:15 p.m. My parents' Muster station was inside the Aurora Theatre and my family was on Deck 5 Aft. Then we used some of our 20% discount coupons to book our spa services, and attended the Welcome Aboard Show which was late at 10:45 p.m. for all guests, with some pretty entertaining juggling tricks. Looking forward to Hubbard Glacier on Day 2! August 13, 2011 (Day 16) -- Hubbard Glacier (Day 2 of the cruise portion) Day 2 of the cruise was one of the highlights as we saw Hubbard Glacier. IT'S VERY IMPORTANT TO BOOK A BALCONY ROOM ON THE STARBOARD (RIGHT) SIDE OF THE SHIP as you could have fantastic views when the ship was approaching the glacier. Unfortunately we gave up our 3 Starboard side balcony rooms for bigger room size and bigger balconies. We were really lucky that lots of calvings happened when the glacier was facing us while the ship made its 360 degrees turn. The sound and the sight were both incredible! I was doing my nails at the spa while the ship was passing by the glacier and back to my room when it made the turn so I was able to enjoy the great views at different locations. I was so excited about Hubbard Glacier that I totally didn't mention about the wonderful "Meet & Mingle" experience held at StarQuest Lounge on Deck 13, next to the Diamond Lounge. We had most of our breakfast at the Diamond Lounge and it was quite empty during our visits. Sign up for M&M as you may be lucky like me! I won one of the 5 prizes, 1 RCI visor and 1 RCI pouch, which were perfect for excursions. Too bad we didn't win the champagne this time, but we did win it when we were on Splendour of the Seas during a Brazilian cruise last March. There were 30+ guests there on this sailing and we had a great time indentifying ourselves, chatting, eating...yes! RCI provided free fruit punch, soda, fruit and snacks. After the 1st formal dinner, we went back to our balcony to enjoy the beautiful sunset, not guaranteed for all sailings due to the highly unpredictable Alaskan weather. We loved the Radiance as it's really pretty, especially after its dry dock when many public places were renovated. We rented a minivan to tour around Juneau by ourselves tomorrow, hope it's not going to rain (60% chance)! August 14, 2011 (Day 17) -- Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska (Day 3 of the cruise) We had a great time at Mendenhall Glacier (#1 must-see in Juneau), Macaulay Salmon Hatchery and the Alaskan Brewery which was very close to the Salmon Hatchery and easily accessible by car. If you don't have a car, the company had a free shuttle that picked up customers from some downtown locations. In the brewery, you're allowed to sample 6 different types of beer. The sampling glass was very small and cute! There was no tour allowed inside the actual work areas. However, guests could see the machines from a viewing area. After we returned the car, we used Alamo's Shuttle service (cost $5 per vehicle) to return to the Radiance. We were going to have a walk around and probably bought some Alaskan souvenirs but it started to rain very hard so we had to take shelter under the RCI tent. This marked the beginning of the next few rainy days. August 15, 2011 (Day 18) -- White Pass Summit and Yukon Rail, Skagway (Excursion 8 -- Day 4 of the cruise) We woke up to a dull and gloomy day. The excursion lasted for over 8 hours. We were to take the coach on Klondike Highway to White Pass Summit, had lunch at Caribou Crossing Trading Post, then took the train from Fraser, B.C., Canada, back to Skagway. The train went all the way to the dock to pick up passengers who went on a return trip, and our coach was also waiting there to pick us up. What a scene with cruiseships, train and coaches together! The Klondike Highway was very scenic, though we could only see everything in basically 3 colours: gray, brown and white! More details are posted in the port review. On that day we stopped at the big Yukon sign at the USA/Canadian border and had lunch at Caribou Crossing. It started to rain when we were boarding the White Pass Train at Fraser, B.C. Canada and most of our pictures were blurry and dull. So we bought a DVD and a White Pass & Yukon Route Guide Book for $20 and got a White Pass and Yukon Route cap as a free gift. Whale watching at Icy Strait Point was on the following day...accompanied by more and more rain!! August 16, 2011 (Day 19) -- Whale watching, Icy Strait Point (Excursion 9 -- Day 5 of the cruise) We originally booked the 7 a.m. but switched to the 11 a.m. whale watching tour through RCI. All other private vendors were fully booked! It turned out to be wonderful as we had a 150+ passenger boat for just over 50 passengers. Binoculars were placed on the seats and the marine guide provided us with lots of info regarding marine life. Thanks to the Diamond Concierge, Chris, for switching us to the 11 a.m. tour! Many passengers came back from the 7 a.m. tour and said they didn't see much but we were sooooooo lucky as we saw whale breaching not just once or twice, but many times!! Their tails were beautiful too! Even the marine guide on board said that was one of his most rewarding trips in 3 months! It was unfortunate that we could only take pictures from inside the boat as it was raining very hard...non-stop rain for the whole day! Sorry for the black & white pictures on my other trip review! Since it was still raining hard when we got back to Icy Strait Point, we just walked around the Cannery but did not go to the town of Hoonah. It was the 2nd formal night so I went for some more spa services (still had to use the rest of my discount coupons as I had 6 from my family members). We had Samba Grill that night, as the head waiter told us they would have lobster tails the following night so we chose to miss the MDR on formal night. While having dinner, the sun shyly came out for a little bit, accompanied by a half rainbow! Finally, no more rain...just realized we had only one more port left, Ketchikan, before Vancouver! Time flies! August 17, 2011 (Day 20) -- Misty Fjords Flightseeing Floatplane Tour, Ketchikan (Excursion 10 -- Day 6 of the cruise) We got beautiful weather again! After an early lunch on our balcony, we got off the boat and waited for our private floatplane tour with Seawind Aviation. As there were 6 of us on the 6-seater floatplane, we got $10 family discount per person, over $100 cheaper than booking through RCI. The Kamm family (owner of Seawind Aviation) was very friendly. Steve was a great pilot with the smoothest landing on water. Lesley picked us up from the Visitor Centre right beside the ship and recommended many great places of interest for our walk-around after the flightseeing in the town, including the famous Creek Street, where lots of brothels were situated during the Gold Rush. Steve said the clouds were so low and the wind was so strong on the previous day that they had to cancel all flying trips...lucky us! August 18, 2011 (Day 21) -- Inside Passage (Day 7 of the cruise) Last day at sea! Last day to enjoy this beautiful newly renovated ship! Last day to awe at the spectacular scenery of the Inside Passage! We had lunch at Giovanni's Table but we didn't find it as good as the one on the Oasis of the Seas. August 19, 2011 (Day 22) - Debarkation (Day 8 of the cruise) We woke up to find ourselves in Vancouver again. What a lovely port! After we had breakfastat the main dining room, we lined up to leave the ship at 9 a.m., and we got to the airport before 10 a.m. Getting a minivan taxi at the Vancouver cruise port was really easy. Although the van could only seat 4 people the most, it could accommodate 6 people's luggage. Our daughters took the Skytrain to Richmond, DH and I took my parents to the airport on the taxi. The taxi cost less than $25 but we gave the driver a big tip as we had so much luggage. At the airport there were 2 counters especially for cruise passengers between the Domestic and USA check-in areas. We had to wait for about 30 minutes in line before saying goodbye to my parents. It's good that they went in just before 11 a.m., so there was still 1 ½ hour before their 12:30 flight. We went to Enterprise to pick up our last rental car (it's the 5th one) of the trip as we were going to spend 3 more days in Vancouver. Silly me again! I didn't know that Enterprise's rental office was actually off the airport. We had to go past the airport parking lot where ALL other car rental companies were and called for the Enterprise shuttle. No wonder Enterprise's rate was so much cheaper than the other car rental companies ($13.50 per day for a standard car). Make sure you allow extra time for pick-up and return if you rent from Enterprise. The office was about 10 minutes from the airport, close to the casino and Costco. August 21, 2011 (Day 24) -- Vancouver to Toronto While flying back home, we were welcomed by the stunning aerial view of Toronto at sunset ... never knew Toronto is so beautiful! Now we could finally sing, "Home, Sweet Home!" after our 24-day incredibly amazing trip of a lifetime in Alaska. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We arrived at Anchorage at about 6pm (from N. Carolina) so it was a long travel day. The Royal Caribbean Cruise Tour folks were there at the baggage claim and all we did was point to our bags and they took it from there. Being exhausted, ... Read More
We arrived at Anchorage at about 6pm (from N. Carolina) so it was a long travel day. The Royal Caribbean Cruise Tour folks were there at the baggage claim and all we did was point to our bags and they took it from there. Being exhausted, that service was more than welcomed. :o) (Throughout the cruise tour, we did not have to drag our luggage around at any time. RCI picked them up at the room and they were delivered to the rooms at the next stop-over.) Denali - We arrived at about 2:30 pm and explored the town before attending Cabin Nite Dinner Theater. The show was great but the food was mediocre at best. It was cloudy so we couldn't see the summit of Mount McKinley. We missed the Natural History Tour the next day because DW was feeling queasy (suspect something she ate at Cabin Nite Theater because she was fine by noon.) The lodging at the McKinley Village Lodge was pretty rustic. Don't expect a fine hotel here. Talkeetna - We arrived at about 4:30pm and our Tour Director (Andy) told us that the town shuts down at around 7pm. We asked him if we could just take the next available shuttle to town and check-in at the hotel later (we had the Flyer Tour booked for 6pm). He said no problem ... he would get our room keys to us later. Andy was such a fabulous Tour Director. He handled everything and accommodated everyone all the time. The town was small and quaint but very beautiful. We did a quick walk around and walked over to the K2 airline to take an airplane ride around the McKinley summit. (Good thing we did this because it was another cloudy day.) This excursion was awesome. I never realized that McKinley is surrounded by glaciers. (Photos at the link below). When we returned to the hotel, we were pleasantly surprised at the high quality of the accommodations. The Talkeetna Alaska Lodge is outstanding! We left Talkeetna early the next morning for Anchorage to do pre-cruise check-in. This pre-cruise check-in was a total waste of time in my opinion. We all assumed that this "check-in" would be the same as pier check-in and our Seapass Cards would be given to us then ... didn't happen. We still had to do everything at the pier in Seward. Andy told us we could upgrade our transfer from Anchorage to Seward by going on a train vice a bus for $25pp. We took the upgrade and we weren't disappointed. It was a beautiful trip. Seward (Embarkation) - It was raining steadily. Embarkation was a breeze! From the time we got off the train to the time we were aboard Radiance was about 15 minutes. (Despite the Anchorage check-in, we still had to show SetSail Pass, Passports, and Credit Card.) Radiance of the Seas - Simple beautiful! The dry dock enhancements were all up and running with no noticeable glitches. We had a center hump cabin (8594) and it was great! We had fabulous views for the entire trip! The Main Dining Room was great. Our waiters were among the best we've had and the food was nothing short of outstanding! We were assigned table # 437 (just forward and next to the Captains table). It was a table for 8 and our dinner mates were the best. It felt like we were saying goodbye to family at the end of the cruise. We also met other great folks during the cruise. Note: We did notice a very slight sewage smell in the starboard hallway forward of the centrum area. Out cabin attendant told us there were plumbing issues in a few of the cabins up there. I never noticed the dreaded fans or cabin doors open so it couldn't have been too bad. All of the public places onboard were immaculate and beautiful! Hubbard Glacier was awe inspiring! We got a good video of calving. (See link to pictures below) God's creation is wonderful! Juneau - We did the Dogsledding by Helicopter excursion and went to Mendenhall Glacier. I never dreamed we'd be playing in the snow in early July! The dogsledding was fantastic! Mendenhall was worth seeing but a guide told us that it is receding at a rate of 200 feet per year. Skagway - We got here on the 4th of July and they had a very nice parade. We did the White Pass Railroad excursion to the White Pass Junction and back. It was well worth every penny! Icy Strait Point - This is a very small port made up of lots of shops. We did our Whale Watching here and the Hump Backs were out in force. They took us to Adolphus Point. (Good pictures and videos in the link below) Ketchikan - This is a very beautiful town with lots of old historic buildings. We went to the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. This is something not to be missed. They put on a very good comedy routine in addition to the competition. Canadian Inside Passage - I was a bit concerned about our balcony being on the starboard side after reading some folks on CC say "port side is a must for southbound cruises". Those statements are rubbish. I went up on deck to see both sides and I say the port side is best. The port side saw some awesome Orca Whale displays too. (see pics). Debarkation - Started about 30 minutes late ... never found out why. But once it started, it was flawless. Overall this was a wonderful vacation. Royal Caribbean truly lives up to it's reputation! Thank you RCI Vids and pics ... http://s218.photobucket.com/albums/cc49/GaryMelillo/Cruise%202011%20-%20Alaska/?start=all Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
We began our journey with a long, but direct flight from DFW to Anchorage on Friday, June 24, 2011. To make matters worse, Linda is feeling really bad and we almost went to the hospital instead of the airport. She fought through the pain ... Read More
We began our journey with a long, but direct flight from DFW to Anchorage on Friday, June 24, 2011. To make matters worse, Linda is feeling really bad and we almost went to the hospital instead of the airport. She fought through the pain and we arrive in Anchorage and to the Marriot around 9 p.m. Alaska time (midnight at home). We have a great hotel room on the 14th floor that will be our home for the next three days. We are up early on Saturday as we have to get ready for a two hour train ride to Whittier. We're on the second story of the Alaska Railroad passenger car and the scenery is beautiful. In Whittier we are greeted with a steady, light rain. From here we board Major Marine's Prince William Sound Glacier boat tour. The tour takes us by ten glaciers of which a couple are actively calving. On the way out they serve an all-you-can eat salmon and prime rib buffet. The food was very good. Blackstone Glacier put on a show for us. First you heard the cracking thunder, then smaller pieces of ice would fall into the ocean, followed by gigantic slabs of the glacier tumbling down. The large calving made huge waves that rocked our boat. We are told the glacier advances about fourteen feet daily and calves around the same amount (so it ends up around the same spot). It was quite an experience. Our two hour train ride back to Anchorage made for a long, but exciting day. Sunday is reserved for a little relaxing and exploring downtown Anchorage. The flowers here are incredible. They receive twenty hours of daily sun and lots of rain. At 1 p.m. we start a Segway tour. Neither of us has ever ridden these interesting machines. It took only a few minutes of instructions to master the mechanics (lean forward to go forward, backward to stop or go backwards and turn the left knob to turn). The Segway's top out at 12 mph. They were a blast. Our tour guide showed us the sites and gave us the history of Alaska's most populated city (280,000). That evening we had dinner reservations at the Glacier Brewhouse. My halibut and Linda's salmon were some of the best we have eaten. Monday is the start of our Royal Caribbean land tour. We board their glass domed rail cars for a train ride to Talkeetna. Our accommodations for the night are at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. The lodge is beautiful and from our room we would be able to see Denali (Mt. McKinley) if it weren't covered by clouds at that time. Unfortunately, it stayed cloudy the whole time. We enjoyed lunch in town and a nice dinner at the lodge. Monday afternoon we are scheduled to do a McKinley flightseeing and glacier landing tour. With bad weather, most of the tours are being cancelled, but our small group manages to fly. Again, Denali was never visible and the glacier landing portion was cancelled. We did see some pretty amazing things, but overall it was somewhat disappointing. We're back on the domed cars on Tuesday for our ride to Denali. Our Hotel for the next two nights is the Grande Denali Lodge. It wasn't as nice as Talkeetna, but we were assigned our own little individual cabin. The views from our cabin were great. We just took a shuttle (only 2 miles) to town and had dinner at Prospector's Pizza. Great pizza with a cold Alaskan Amber beer. Wednesday morning we are scheduled to go on the Tundra Wilderness Tour, into Denali Park. The tour is done on a modified school bus and is about 8 hours long. Linda was still not feeling well and decided not to join me. The TWT goes 62 miles into Denali Park. The turn-around point is just over 30 miles from the base of Mt. McKinley. On the way, we see moose, caribou, dall sheep snowshoe hares and grizzlies. Most of the wildlife sightings were at a long distance, but with my high powered binoculars, I could see them easily. A red fox (not Fred Sanford) was our only close up visitor. He practically posed for pictures at one of our rest stops. The park is over 6 million acres. I enjoyed the tour. Linda found the Princess Hotel property in town and reserved a 1 hour massage. The massage was great and she felt better by the time we hooked up again. The next day, we travel by motorcoach to Fairbanks. Our first stop is downtown Fairbanks to explore and grab lunch. Although Fairbanks boasts Alaska's second largest population, only about 35,000 live here. After lunch we are transported to the Riverboat Discover's sternwheeler river cruise. It was fun, but kind of hokey. We got to see the late Susan Butcher's (4 time Iditarod winner) dog kennel/camp and a simulated Athabascan Indian reservation. We learned about how the first settlers lived off the harsh land. Then we were taken to the Sophie Station Hotel. This was a great place. Our room had a living room, full kitchen, bedroom and bath. We had a nice dinner at the hotel restaurant. Nearly everyone is our tour group of 48, trekked two blocks to Safeway to pick up a few items for breakfast the next day. We had to have our bags packed and outside our hotel room door by 5 a.m. the next morning. It's now July 1st and we start with a flight from Fairbanks to Anchorage. Once in Anchorage, we board a motorcoach to Seward...the starting point of our cruise. We decided to just get settled into our cabin and explore the ship for the rest of the day. Our sail away was at 9 p.m. We have a nice balcony cabin on the 10th floor of Radiance of the Seas. A young child screaming at the top of his lungs from the balcony next door prompts a response from Linda. It never happened again on the cruise! Saturday is a cruise to Hubbard Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier in the United States. We're told the glacier is 6 miles long and 300 feet tall. All the visible "blue" ice is at least 400 years old. Hubbard is one of the few glaciers that are still growing. Our ship captain had to slowly maneuver through the icy waters starting about ten miles from the glacier. It took a few hours, but we were finally less than a half mile from the face of Hubbard. This glacier wasn't quite as active as Blackstone, but one particular huge calving made the wait worthwhile. I spent several hours watching from the front of the ship on deck 12, then Linda and I watched from our cabin on the trip away from Hubbard. Hearing the calving is as exciting as watching the ice fall away. On Sunday, we are in Juneau for 12 hours. We're booked on Harv and Marv's whale watching tour. Brian is our captain on the small vessel (6 passengers) and informs us this tour guarantees we see whales. He takes us right out to an area that is the reason they can guarantee everyone sees a whale. There is a resident humpback (Sasha) and her calf that stay year round in the same vicinity. Sasha is the only year round whale...the others all leave for the winter. Her calf from a previous year was killed by Orca's and since then she has not left. Her current calf has already been attacked by Orca's (bite mark could be seen behind its' fin). We managed to find one more mother humpback and calf before the tour completed. It was nice to not be on a crowded tour boat, but I hoped to see more whales. On the drive back, we were taken to Mendenhall glacier for a quick stop. Upon recommendation, we stopped in the historic Red Dog Saloon in Juneau. The next day is July 4th and we are in Skagway. We rented a car from Avis and manage to get out of town before the crowds gather for their annual 4th of July parade. We are making our way north up the Klondike Highway into Canada. I had purchased "Murray's Guide" that had detailed information of the many scenic stop opportunities on the trek. It was one of the prettiest drives we have ever taken. Our turn-around point was Emerald Lake. We went through the Canadian checkpoint on the way there, and US checkpoint on the way back. We had a great time on this leisurely excursion. After returning to Skagway, we looked through the shops and visited the Red Onion Saloon (another historic bordello, turned saloon). Tuesday morning I wake up feeling like my head is about to explode. I know I have a sinus infection and was forced to call and cancel our Bear watching tour we had scheduled for Icy Straight Point (Hoonah). Instead, I had an excursion to the ships medical facility. The ship doctor confirmed my diagnosis and sent me away with 3 prescriptions. After lunch we decide to take the ship tender to the Hoonah pier. There was not much to see at this stop if you didn't have a tour scheduled. Of the few shops, one shop manager was nursing a 2 week old kitten that was the only survivor of an eagle/raven attack that took her mother and siblings. Linda fell in love, but the shop owner refused to part with the little furball. On the short tender back to the ship, we saw several whales from a distance. Our final port day is in Ketchikan. This town has a year-round population of 7000 and has a lot to see and do. We scheduled a Misty Fjords Float Plane Tour with Island Wings. I had read a lot of good comments about pilot Michelle Masden and her company. We were joined by 2 other couples as we boarded Michelle's restored and beautiful 1959 DeHavilland Beaver "bush" plane. Take off was smooth as silk. I get the co-pilots seat on the flight out. The weather was nearly perfect. We leave Ketchikan through the Revillagigedo Channel on our way through the Misty Fjords National Forest. We are soaring through the largest intact temperate rain forest in the world. The mountains, valleys, glaciers, lakes and waterfalls are breathtaking. Michelle engineers a perfect landing on Manzoni Lake, glacier fed and high in the mountains. You couldn't even feel the landing it was so smooth. After about 20 minutes of gazing and picture taking, we take back off for our scenic flight back. Linda and I agree, it was our favorite excursion of the 2 week vacation. Our final cruise day was sailing through the Inside Passage on the way to Vancouver. We enjoyed the ship, utilizing the gym, spa, many eating venues and our balcony cabin. We saw lots of porpoises from our room. It was also a day to re-pack our 7 suitcases to prepare for the trip home. We had a great relaxing day. Two weeks seemed to go by fast. We are in Vancouver bright and early. We scheduled to do a Vancouver city tour with an airport drop-off, but there was an apparent problem with the Canadian Port Authority and all passengers were delayed in getting off the ship. By the time we could debark, there wasn't time to do the city tour. Vancouver looked like an interesting place to see, but we'll have to try some other time. My sinus infection is subsiding, thanks to the medication, but Linda has now come down with the same thing. We flew directly back to DFW on a flight that took only 4 hours. Vacation is over, we're home again and Linda is sick (she went to the doctor on Saturday for a Z-pack). Overall, we had a great time. The natural beauty of Alaska is almost indescribable. We saw lots of wildlife...eagles, sea otters, seals, bears, caribou, moose, dall sheep, fox and more. Alaska likes to brag that they are more than twice the size of Texas. That makes the distances between different sights vast, meaning you spend a lot of time in transit to see different things. It's a little tiring, but well worth the effort. We were privileged to see part of nature just the unbelievably beautiful way God made it...much, still untouched by man. It brings tears to my eyes thinking about it. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Pre-cruise - Saturday, 6/11 Fairbanks Just for some background, this was my eighth cruise and my wife's sixth cruise. I have previously cruised on Carnival and Royal Caribbean and have found them to be comparable in ... Read More
Pre-cruise - Saturday, 6/11 Fairbanks Just for some background, this was my eighth cruise and my wife's sixth cruise. I have previously cruised on Carnival and Royal Caribbean and have found them to be comparable in quality. I've also cruised twice on Norwegian Cruise Lines which I found to be slightly lower in quality than Carnival or Royal Caribbean but still enjoyable. We left on Saturday, June 11 for the journey north to Alaska on Frontier Airlines from DFW via Denver. The flight from DFW to Denver was fine but the one from Denver to Fairbanks was awful. We were in the last row of the aircraft (the flight attendant laughed at us when he asked our row number) which had no leg room and the seats did not recline. Also, there was no potable water on the flight which means one could not wash their hands after using the restroom - although there was hand sanitizer available, and the in flight movies did not work. Finally, the directv did not work once we entered Canada, which was about 2 hours into a 5 hour flight (and the flight attendants didn't bother to notify anyone about this in advance.). But we did make it to Fairbanks at 9:30 pm in one piece and Frontier didn't lose our luggage so it could always have been worse. I sent them feedback on our bad experience on their website when we got home, but they took over a week to respond and offered nothing in recompense. I won't use Frontier Airlines again. It was sunny and cool in Fairbanks and we quickly picked up our Dollar rental car and headed to Pike's Lodge for the next two nights lodging. Our cabin was ready upon arrival (I used an Alaska toursaver coupon to get a 2 for 1) and was down by the river. It was pretty hot in the room at first but once we turned on the a/c and ceiling fan, it cooled down quickly. The cabin was very nice and had a small patio with chairs and table out front overlooking the river. There was a bedroom, small living room, and a medium size bathroom. We enjoyed our stay at the hotel with the only minor glitch being that the cheaper dining room was closed one night for a private function (and for some reason they said it would take 2 hours to get it ready for normal dining once again). The room was clean (although not luxurious), the staff friendly, and the location excellent. We called it a night and our first day of our Alaska adventure was in the books. As a note, I woke up a few times during the night and it was always light outside Fortunately, the cabins had nice dark curtains over the windows. It's kind of neat seeing light outside at 3 am! Pre-cruise - Sunday, 6/12 Fairbanks We drove north out of Fairbanks this morning to head up to the El Dorado gold mine for a tour using a toursaver 2 for 1 coupon. Along the way, we stopped at the pipeline visitor center to take a few pictures of the famous Alaska pipeline. There really wasn't anything at the visitor center other than a few outdoor signs and displays to read, but it was worth a quick stop. We had a 9:45 am tour at El Dorado but we were early and they allowed us to jump onto the 9:15 tour instead which was nice. The gold mine tour was enjoyable. They have you board a train which makes a few stops for some historic narrative about how they mined the gold here. Then, everyone gets off at a gold panning area where they show you how to pan for gold, and they give everyone a bag of dirt to try panning for gold themselves. My wife and I enjoyed the gold panning and I found $3 worth of gold while she of course found $35 worth. She gave me a hard time about this for the rest of the trip. They also have a gift shop up by the gold panning area where one can get their gold made into jewelry if they want and there is also complimentary cookies, coffee and hot chocolate. I'd read a few reviews complaining that people felt trapped at the gift shop (one has to wait for a train to get taken back to the parking lot) but I didn't feel that way at all. We stopped at Fox on the way back for lunch at Silver Gulch. We had a nice brunch there but I was disappointed that they only serve their beer cheese soup at dinner time. I had seen a segment about this restaurant on diners, drive ins, and dives on the food network and the beer cheese soup looked awesome. After lunch, we drove down to North Pole to visit the Santa Claus house. Santa was out when we were there but we enjoyed seeing the reindeer and looking at Christmas items in the gift shop. It's also neat to send postcards with a North Pole postmark on it, as they have postcards and postcard stamps for sale. It's kind of a touristy place but we still had fun. From the North Pole, we headed back to Fairbanks for our 2 pm Riverboat Discovery tour also using a toursaver 2 for 1 coupon. The Riverboat Discovery heads down the Chena river and features a dog sledding demonstration (the boat stops and the demonstration takes place on shore), a float plane takeoff and landing, and a fish carving demonstration. There is a also an hour long stop at Chena Indian Village where Alaskan native guides lead a personalized tour of the village. They actually split the boat up into three tour groups and then narrate at three different stops to teach about Athabascan culture. It sprinkled a little while we were at the village but the weather was mostly nice today. On the way back from the Indian village, they gave out samples of smoked salmon which was yummy, so I bought a can to bring home. As we exited the boat, it started to pour down rain and the rain continued for about an hour. We had wanted to have dinner at the cheaper dining room at the hotel, but it was closed so we decided to head back to Silver Gulch to try the beer cheese soup which was indeed incredibly good. I also had fried halibut and chips for dinner which was delicious. After dinner I watched Sportscenter on ESPN for a few hours as the Dallas Mavericks had won the NBA championship and we are from the Dallas area! Pre-cruise - Monday, 6/13 Denali We checked out of Pike's Lodge this morning and had breakfast at Sam's Sourdough cafe. I had read a lot about sourdough pancakes and reindeer sausage so wanted to try some out. Sam's was basically a diner type place with a good solid breakfast. The pancakes were very good and the reindeer sausage hearty and delicious. From here we took the two hour drive down to Denali National Park. We hit some rain right outside of Fairbanks and I was a little concerned about what the weather would be like in Denali. t Fortunately, as we got closer to Denali, the skies cleared up and it turned out to be a gorgeous sunny day. I had reserved a room at McKinley Chalet but when I went to the front desk I knew something was up when they brought out a manager to talk to me. She was very nice and apologetic and told me that they were fully booked but they had moved me to McKinley Village resort about 8 miles down the road. She also said that I'd received free breakfast for two for our trouble so I was okay with it (both hotels are rated about the same and McKinley Village was actually less hectic than McKinley Chalet which was fine by me). We got back in the car and drove another 8 miles to McKinley Village and they were expecting me, so my room and keys were all ready to go. I'd also reserved a river rafting trip and Cabin Nite Dinner Theater and received the tickets for those as well. I used toursaver two for one coupons for the hotel, river rafting and Cabin Night Dinner show. McKinley Village was fairly rustic but clean and nice. There was no a/c but I knew that in advance. I was slightly hot in the room but it was tolerable with the window open. The room was fairly small but right on the river with a beautiful view. We relaxed for a bit and then went on a 1:30 pm wilderness river run. My wife and I were a bit apprehensive about putting on dry suits but they turned out not to be too uncomfortable. Dry suits are definitely necessary as the water temperature runs about 36 to 40 degrees. Finding the river tour was a bit disorganized but we finally managed to find where the tour launched (with the help of the front desk personnel at our hotel) which turned out to be right at our hotel. There were only seven of us total on the tour so we were all in one raft (there was another raft with just a guide out in front of us for safety purposes). The wilderness run is more of a relaxing run with only class 2 rapids and maybe one class 3 rapid. The canyon run is more popular and features mostly class 3 rapids. We went with the wilderness run as my wife had never rafted before and we wanted to start with a more conservative run, but by the end of our rafting she was ready to try it again someday with bigger rapids. The scenery was beautiful and although we saw no wildlife, we really enjoyed our time on the river. The sun was shining throughout and that enhanced our enjoyment! After rafting, we drove back up to glitter gulch and had dinner at the Salmon Bake restaurant. I had buffalo chili and elk sliders which were both very good. It was a good place to eat, although not great. Service was mediocre but the food was good. We then did some shopping and we bought a walrus tusk as a souvenir. Little did we know that the walrus tusk would cause issues further down the road as Canada doesn't allow such items to be brought in. I found some Huckleberry candies that were delicious and was excited when I saw them as it had been years since I'd had that kind of candy. I bought several Huckleberry items through the trip as once I realized they had them in Alaska, I looked for them in all the stores we went to. I also didn't realize that Alaska had an abundance of wild blueberries. Pre-cruise - Tuesday, 6/14 Denali Today was our shuttle bus into Denali National Park. We ate our free breakfast at McKinley Chalet which was mediocre (but free at least) and picked up box lunches at the hotel. We drove to the Wilderness Access Center and watched a short film and then waited to board our shuttle bus. The bus pulled up and is like a school bus although with decent leg room. The driver narrated our trip into Denali and told us to yell "stop" whenever we saw wildlife. People on our bus were pretty good about spotting wildlife although one woman yelled "stop" at least once for a rock sighting (she thought it was a bear). Restroom stops were made every 90 minutes or so. It was a long time (8 hours) to spend on a bus but we found it to be well worth it as we saw three bears, lots of dall sheep dots (we called them dots because they were so far away), two wolf dots, lots of caribou, golden eagles and one moose. Unfortunately, Mount McKinley was socked in so we didn't see it although we did see plenty of other beautiful mountains. After the shuttle tour, we rested up and then drove up to McKinley Chalet for our Cabin Nite Dinner show. As we were driving we saw two vehicles pulled over across the street so we stopped too. Right on the side of the road was a female moose and two baby moose not more than five feet from our car. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me and I kicked myself the rest of the trip for not getting pictures of these moose. My wife decided that moose were her favorite animals so she was very pleased at this wildlife sighting. We enjoyed the Cabin Nite Dinner. I had read some bad reviews about it but I enjoyed it and found the food to be good (I really enjoyed the biscuits and salmon). They served delicious biscuits, salad, salmon, ribs, potatoes, corn, beans and a cobbler for dessert. The show was hokey but some of the singers were pretty talented. I don't know if I would have wanted to pay full price for it, but it was definitely worth it to us as a two for one toursaver coupon. Pre-cruise - Wednesday, 6/15 Anchorage We woke up this morning to a steady rainfall. This turned out to be the only day of the trip where it rained steadily for most of the day. Every other day was either sunny or party cloudy with no rain, so I think we got really fortunate. I had looked at the forecast before we left for the trip and it showed rain showers for virtually every day of the trip so I was definitely relieved to have such great weather. That said, today was a day for rain coats. I brought a rain coat and a sweatshirt on the trip as I heard to dress in layers and I did use both on various days, but on many days just wore jeans and a t-shirt. As mentioned many other places, you never know what to expect with Alaska weather, so prepare for all possible scenarios. We checked out of McKinley Village and drove back to McKinley Chalet where we would be picked up for the Husky Homestead tour. The bus showed up on time at 8:20 am and we drove about 10 minutes to Jeff King's homestead. It was raining still but fortunately they had covered areas to stand in and stay dry. We were handed a really cute seven day old puppy as we got off the bus. His little eyes weren't even opened yet and I wanted to take him home! The first half of the tour took place outside as they demonstrated a sled run (using an ATV instead of a sled) and how they exercise the dogs. One of the dogs ran on a giant hamster wheel type device which was interesting. We hadn't seen Jeff King yet who is a two time Iditarod champion but I figured he would surely show up sometime during the tour. The second half of the tour took place indoors and was led by Jeff King's wife who told stories of the Iditarod and her family. Then the tour ended with still no appearance by Jeff King. Someone asked where Jeff was and his wife said in a cavalier manner "oh he's out getting stuff done". Thus there would be no Jeff King. Although I still enjoyed the tour, I would not have booked it had I known that Jeff King wouldn't be there. The Husky Homestead website suggests that he leads the tour (and a video on their website strongly alludes to the fact that he would lead the tour). I felt this was misleading and they should have made a disclaimer that "Jeff may or may not lead the tour" when I booked it. I wanted to see an Iditarod champion, not the wife of an Iditarod champion and thus I would not recommend this tour. After the tour, we drove back to Fairbanks and the rain finally stopped as got close to Fairbanks. We turned in the rental car and took an ERA flight (propeller plane) to Anchorage. I had originally wanted to drive from Fairbanks to Alaska but the drop off fee was several hundred dollars so it was cheaper to fly. The flight was scenic and a bit bumpy but otherwise uneventful. We arrived in Anchorage and called the free shuttle from the Dimond Center hotel, which arrived about 10 minutes after we called it. The Dimond Center hotel sits in a parking lot behind the Dimond Center Mall but has very nice rooms with large tubs and large flat screen TVs, as well as complimentary breakfast. I used another toursaver 2 for 1 coupon to stay here. The front desk employees were not the friendliest (one was downright rude and quite unprofessional) but overall the stay here was good. We were pretty tired so got some fast food at the mall and then used the hotel's self service laundry to wash a couple of loads of dirty clothes. Pre-cruise - Thursday, 6/16 Anchorage We woke up today to bright sunshine! We took a 10 minute taxi ride to the Captain Cook hotel, where we would be picked up for our Phillips 26 Glacier cruise out of Whittier into Prince William Sound. Phillips uses the Magic Bus for their transportation and the bus was waiting for us when we got to the Captain Cook. It was about an hour and a half scenic drive down to Whittier and the bus stopped a couple of times for picture taking. The driver also gave us narration so it was like a mini tour. We also got to go through a 2 ½ mile long tunnel to get to Whittier. It is a one way tunnel so they open it to one side of traffic at a time for 15 minutes. We arrived in Whittier and got a short tour of the town before boarding the Klondike Express for our 26 glacier cruise. The weather was still sunny and clear and it was a spectacular day for such a cruise. The Klondike Express is a high speed catamaran which has three decks and holds up to 300 passengers, although it wasn't completely full today. We had reserved seats which turned out to be a booth for two facing the water which was nice. They served lunch first which consisted of either fish or chicken deep fried with cole slaw and fries. The food was good for what it was (food served on a smaller boat to 300 people). There was also a US Forest Service Ranger on board to provide narration. The ship would go pretty fast between destinations and they would close the outdoor section in the front of the main deck while sailing. They did make plenty of stops though for the scenery, during which they allowed passengers outside in the front. The outdoor areas on the upper two decks were always open though. During the cruise we saw humpback whales, dall porpoises, sea otters, and sea lions as well as 26 glaciers (some a lot closer than others). We sailed through the Esther Passage which is spectacular as well as College Fjord and Harriman Fjord. We got really close to Surprise glacier and saw some calving which was amazing, and also got close to Barry and Cascade glaciers. The catamaran is really smooth on the water so sea sickness is not an issue. We really enjoyed this cruise and felt it well worth the money and it turned out to be a highlight of our trip. I highly recommend it. I had debated between this cruise and one in Kenai Fjords but I was worried about sea sickness in Kenai (it can supposedly get pretty rough there) so opted for the safer option and am glad we did! We caught our bus for the trip back to Anchorage and had dinner at the Glacier Brewhouse which was only a block from the Captain Cook Hotel (which was where the bus dropped us off). The food here was very tasty and I had a fresh trio of salmon, halibut and cod which were all very good. We tried a beer sampler and we liked most of them except for the darker one but I don't like dark ales in general. Definitely get a reservation if you come here as it gets really crowded. We caught a taxi back to the hotel and went to bed early as we had to get up at 4:30 am the next morning to catch the train down to Seward! Day 1 - Friday, 6/17 Seward and Embarkation It seemed like we had just gone to bed when the 4:30 am alarm went off. Our train to Seward was at 6:45 am but they require a one hour early check in, so we had to be to the train station by 5:45 am. We checked out of the hotel and used their free shuttle bus to take us to the train station. The shuttle was handy and saved us several taxis during our stay in Anchorage. As a note, the weather was clear and sunny with nary a cloud in the sky. I saw the summit of Mt. McKinley finally from Anchorage of all places. That's how clear the weather was this morning. We arrived at the train station at 5:30 am. I had read conflicting reports on what to do with our luggage. Some said that Royal Caribbean would be at the train station to collect luggage and others said that was no longer the case. I can report that Royal Caribbean was indeed there and we checked our luggage in all the way through to the ship. This was very convenient and made things much easier when arriving in Seward. The train station is a bit disorganized but we managed to get checked in okay and boarding started at 6:20 am. We had goldstar tickets which is like first class and includes seats in a domed car, free non-alcoholic drinks, priority check in and boarding (we did not receive this though), an outdoor viewing deck, and a separate dining car from the rest of the train. Our seats were in the very first row of the first car so we had great views in all directions. I bought a train guide that they came around and sold, which is a mile by mile guide to the route down to Seward. Having the guide enhanced my enjoyment of the trip. Before the train even had left the station, we were asked if we wanted breakfast so we headed down to the dining car. I had the sunrise skillet with reindeer sausage which was pretty good, but overpriced. My wife had a breakfast burrito which she said was average. The train embarked as we ate and we made our way back to our seats after breakfast. The route down to Seward is pretty spectacular and we saw rivers, waterfalls, glaciers, dall sheep and a black bear (that had been walking on the train tracks and scurried away when the train arrived). The four hours flew by and before we knew it, we had arrived in Seward, where it was sunny and clear! I had arranged for Renee from PJ's taxi to pick us up at the train station, but when we arrived a different person from PJ's was waiting for us. I was slightly disappointed by this, but the man who took her place turned out to be quite knowledgeable and nice, so it was fine. For $60, we were given a tour of Seward and then taken to the ship. We drove through and around the town and then were taken up to Exit Glacier where we were dropped off for two hours. We decided to hike up to the edge of the glacier which was about a two mile hike and huffed and puffed our way up there. The glacier has been receding for years now, so each year the walk from the visitor center will get longer and longer. After we were picked up from the glacier we were taken to a fish ladder where salmon were literally waiting in line to jump. I could have easily reached into the stream and caught salmon with my bare hands! We were getting tired so decided to get dropped off at the port as it was now 2:30 pm. We arrived at the port, went inside, breezed through check in and security and we walked aboard within 10 minutes of arriving. This was the quickest and easiest embarkation we've had for all of our cruises (even slightly quicker than we had last year in Hawaii on NCL). Also, our room was ready and the luggage was already waiting outside the door. Everything had gone perfect, and I feel that Royal Caribbean did a great job with embarkation. Of course, this may be due to the fact that we boarded at an offbeat time but still, we were very pleased with the process. Radiance of the Seas is a beautiful ship with lots of glass everywhere and some outside glass elevators. It also has an indoor pool and both the indoor and outdoor pool are heated. It is thus ideally suited for Alaska. She had just undergone a major dry-dock with millions of dollars of renovations (new restaurants, interactive TV's, a new outdoor movie screen by the outdoor pool, etc), and we were on the second cruise since the changes. I was hoping that there weren't any major issues resulting from so many upgrades, but never noticed any problems during the week other than slight glitches with the TV. We also never smelled any sewage and had no plumbing problems either in our cabin or in the public restrooms. We had an inside state room (#9571) for the first time ever and it turned out to be quite adequate for our needs. My wife was a bit apprehensive about having no windows but she thought the room was fine, and actually was bigger than she was expecting. The room consisted of a bed against the far wall (opposite the door) and a sitting area with a small couch and table. There was also a flat screen interactive TV. The bathroom was probably the smallest I've ever had but it was manageable. The shower was tiny and a real challenge to use when the ship was moving. There was ample storage for us to fully unpack. The cabin was extremely quiet, and I never heard any noise from adjoining cabins, or from above or below us all week. The only noise I heard was around 9 am each morning when the room stewards were getting supplies from a room next door to us, but it didn't last long. We checked out the television and noticed the channels were pretty limited (Fox news, CNN, TNT, ESPN and a few others as well as a bunch of ships channels and two channels that showed current movies). Pay per movies were available and there were interactive features to check on your ship account, view menus, book shore excursions, etc. I enjoyed watching the ships navigation channel which showed the ships location, as well the time and weather. This channel (and a few others) stopped working during the week though which was disappointing. I think they still have a few kinks to work out from the major upgrade. We were pretty hungry so headed upstairs to the Windjammer Cafe (the ship's buffet) for lunch. The buffet area itself was very nice but the variety of food wasn't that great. The few times we went here, I had a hard time finding a whole lot that looked good to me. They had burgers but they weren't freshly cooked. The pizza wasn't nearly as good as on Carnival and there was no fresh grill for sandwiches like on Carnival. The food was generally pretty tasty but there didn't seem to be much variance during the week either. I still think that Carnival does the best job with their buffets. We never officially met our room steward but he did a great job with our room all week and kept our ice full and our rooms clean so we were happy! We also had towel animals every night but the first night. At 8:15 pm, we had the obligatory life boat drill which I always dread, but this one didn't seem too bad and only lasted 10 minutes or so (and we didn't have to bring our life vests). We had traditional dining late seating and dinner was slightly late tonight (9 pm instead of the usual 8:30 pm) due to the lifeboat drill and we were starved. We found our table and met our tablemates who were all nice. Our waiters for the week were Ronnie and Lennie and they were both great. I found the dining room food to be good, but not great. The quality of food in general was very good, but the choices weren't always that great. On at least two of the nights, none of the entrees really appealed to us, but they always had steak, chicken and pasta available. Nothing stands out to me as extraordinary though. There was a filet mignon available for a $15 charge, but we never ordered that. Drink service was excellent and after the first night, my diet coke was always shortly delivered to me. On one night I asked about an Alaska beer and the drink waiter went to another bar on the ship to get one for me. After dinner we went to the Welcome Aboard show which was entertaining and featured comedian Steve Carte as well as the Radiance orchestra and singers and dancers, but I was tired and started nodding off. We were pretty exhausted after the show so we went to bed and day one of the cruise was over. Day 2 - Saturday, 6/18 Hubbard Glacier Today was a day mostly at sea with a visit in the afternoon to Hubbard Glacier. We slept in as we were still recovering from our early and busy day the previous day. I got up before my wife and explored the ship a bit and spotted some dall porpoises jumping in the distance out at sea which was neat. We skipped breakfast and decided to try Giovanni's Table (a new venue added to the ship during the upgrade for lunch). First though, we played some bingo. We hadn't enjoyed bingo at all on NCL as they use bingo machines instead of cards which to me ruins the fun. RCCL fortunately still does their bingo old school so we enjoyed it. I also won a bingo game with a jackpot of $248.50 so that always adds to the fun! Lunch was delicious. Giovanni's table is a family style restaurant where they bring out plates for the table. We ordered Italian flat potato and herb bread, parppardelle pasta, lasagna and veal meat balls. They also brought out an antipasti plate and a dessert tray to round out the meal. Everything was delicious and the lasagna was out of this world, truly outstanding. This was one of our favorite meals of the cruise. My wife wasn't feeling well (she was slightly sea sick) but I got her some ginger ale and gave her a Dramamine and she started feeling better. The seas get a bit rough the first day out of Seward but were calm as glass the rest of the cruise. We were now approaching Hubbard Glacier so I found a spot outside on deck and took numerous photos. It was another nice day although overcast and it got colder and windier the closer we got to the glacier. There was a lot of ice in the bay, but Captain Claus was bound and determined to get us as close as possible. There wasn't much wildlife to be seen but I did spot one sea lion. Apparently the bay had been full of sea lions the previous week. Ultimately, he got us within shouting distance of the glacier (maybe 75 to 100 yards away, but it's hard to tell distance with the massive size of the glacier). The glacier is six miles wide and the ice in the front of the glacier is 400 years old. We got to see some calving but I always seemed to be looking the wrong way and just saw the splash and heard the thunderous roar. The captain stayed at the glacier for an hour or so and then we sadly had to leave. Tonight was the first of two formal nights and we chose to go more semi-formal as I wore business casual type clothes. I had meant to wear a tie but forgot to pack one and I didn't have room to pack a suit with everything else I need to bring. Quite a few were dressed like I was so I didn't feel out of place. There weren't any wearing shorts and a baseball cap like you see in the Caribbean on formal nights. The show tonight featured Bowzer from Sha Na Na and was fun but again I was tired and we left before the show ended. Alaska is a great place to visit but it can be a bit on the tiring side as it's more of a 'go, go, go' type of vacation. Or maybe I'm just getting old! Day 3 - Sunday, 6/19 Juneau We arrived in Juneau at 9 am this morning and had breakfast in the buffet, which was average. We had a whale watching tour booked with Alaska Galore scheduled for 11:30 am. The tour had originally been scheduled for 2:30 pm but Alaska Galore had sent me an email the previous week asking if I could switch to 11:30 am and I agreed. We got off the ship at 11 am and did some quick shopping and then started looking for Alaska Galore but couldn't find them. My wife called their office and was told that our tour had been switched again to 4 pm but it might be cancelled altogether as they were having problems with their boats. She was told they would call her back in a few minutes to let us know. In the meantime we found their representative who told us that the tour was cancelled as all of their boats were inoperable. I was not happy at all about this as whale watching was a priority for us on the trip and I'd booked this tour back in December. I called their office several times in the next few minutes to complain and express my unhappiness but no one answered the phone. They were obviously screening my call and didn't want to speak to an unhappy customer. The only reason I had booked with them was because I wanted to use a two for one toursaver coupon. Alaska Galore turned out to be a disreputable, poorly organized outfit that I would never recommend. Fortunately, Orca Enterprises saved the day. They had a booth set up (amongst others) on the dock in front of the ship so we inquired about tour availability. As luck would have it, they had an opening at 12:30 and when we told them our story about Alaska Galore, they gave us a $20 per person discount which I thought was really nice of them. While Alaska Galore has poor communication, runs shoddy broken down boats, and is disorganized, we found Orca Enterprises to be a top notch operation. They shuttled us in a bus out to the dock and to their boat and we discovered that there was only four of us on the tour (us and another couple from Mexico). We headed out in a smaller boat of theirs. There was no jostling for position for taking pictures which was great. They also provided binoculars for our use. After about a 30 minute ride out of the dock, we encountered four humpback whales (three adults and a baby) and got some great views and pictures. Also, a sea lion popped his head up directly behind our boat as he was curious about us. After an hour or so viewing the whales we started back and saw seven bald eagles sitting on a nearby rock. Two of the eagles were young and didn't have the white coloring around their heads yet. We also stopped at a buoy where four or five sea lions were relaxing. All in all, it was a great trip. On the way back, the other couple was dropped off at Mendenhall Glacier so we got a quick view and picture of it. We chose to be dropped off back in town for some shopping. The driver dropped us off at Tracy's Crab Shack and I got myself some king crab legs, crab cakes, and crab bisque, all of which were delicious. We did some shopping and then got back on the ship. We skipped the show tonight and called it an early night. Day 4 - Monday, 6/20 Skagway I had read great things about Chilkoot Tours in Skagway and we had a Yukon Rail and Bus Excursion booked with them at 8:30 am. We hoped that today would go much more smoothly than the disorganized mess with Alaska Galore the previous day. We got off the ship and immediately spotted Matt, the Chilkoot tour guide so we were already off to a much better start. We had opted to take the bus up to the Yukon and then take the White Pass Railway back down to Skagway. I only opted to take the bus first because the tour left one hour later than if we took the railroad first. We were on a mini bus that was less than half full so there was plenty of room to spread out and relax. We toured through Skagway and then headed up towards the Yukon with many stops along the way for pictures, great scenery and wonderful narration by the tour guide. We stopped at the classic "welcome to Alaska" sign and the tour guide was happy to take pictures for anyone who wanted them. We stopped at the train station and picked up a family who had taken the train first and then headed across the border into Canada. On the next segment, things got spectacular. We saw six black bears (in different groups of one and two at a time) all walking along the road or near the side of the road. Matt pulled over each time we spotted some bears and I got some amazing pictures and video. I was so excited as seeing bears was a top priority for me on this trip! After our bear viewing, we pulled into Carcross and stopped there for some quick shopping, and then proceeded to Caribou Crossing for lunch. Caribou Crossing features a wildlife museum, gold panning, dog sled rides, dog sled puppies, a bakery, and a photo studio (for old fashioned photos). We had a pretty good lunch here of barbeque chicken, rolls, corn, potatoes, and all you can eat donuts. We had signed up for a dog cart ride, so after lunch we headed to the dog sled area. Since there is no snow in the summer, the dogs pull a cart (which can hold up to 8 and the driver) driven by a guide. We really enjoyed this and the dogs went crazy as they were being hooked up as they love to run. Halfway through the run, we stopped briefly at a spot where they had some kiddy pools full of water for the dogs to cool off. After the dog cart ride, we had about 15 minutes left before the tour left so we quickly checked out the wildlife museum and I bought some cookies for the trip back to Skagway. The tour resumed and we made a stop at Emerald Lake which is a beautiful emerald green color. We also stopped at the "welcome to the Yukon sign) for pictures and then made our way back to the train station. Along the way, we encountered another bear (our 7th of the day) walking down the middle of the road. We pulled over and there was another bus pulled over in front of us. The bear walked up to the bus in front of ours, got up on his hind legs, and put his paws on one of the windows. He then walked right by our bus and was no more than a foot away from us. Really amazing! Our Yukon tour had turned into a bear viewing tour and I could be happier! We also saw a porcupine along the way. We reached the train station and it was time to bid our tour guide adieu as we'd take the train back to Skagway. We found seats on the right side of the train for better scenery on the way down. The White Pass Railway is more rustic than the Alaska Railway that we had been on. It takes the historic route that gold miners took years ago during the Klondike gold rush and was built in 1898. We had a nice relaxing ride with more spectacular scenery and saw yet another bear (number 8) on the side of the tracks. We did some shopping when we arrived back in Skagway and then walked back to the ship for some relaxation. We again skipped the show but instead checked out some photos and did some shopping on the ship. We also got a snack at the Park Cafe and had a roast beef sandwich that was delicious! Day 5 - Tuesday, 6/21 Icy Strait Point We had an early day today so ordered room service for breakfast which arrived on time and was okay (the breakfast menu is really limited). After seeing eight bears yesterday, we of course had a bear viewing tour scheduled today in Icy Strait Point. Icy Strait Point is really a cruise created port near the town of Hoonah, AK. We thought about cancelling the bear watching tour (as we didn't have to pay for it in advance) but decided to go through with it (as it wouldn't be nice to cancel last minute and the bears here are brown bears as opposed to all the black bears that we saw yesterday). We caught the first tender off the ship at 7 am and quickly found Phil from Brown Bear Lodge. There were no problems tendering and no tender tickets were necessary. It was also the smoothest tender I've ever ridden on as the water is amazingly smooth here, and was a short 5 minute ride to shore. Phil was an amazing guide and we were so glad that we didn't cancel. We were the only ones on the tour so we had his minivan to ourselves. Phil told us many stories of Alaska and had a great enthusiasm for the area which we really enjoyed. We drove way off the beaten path in search of the elusive brown bear. It was early in the season to see bears as the salmon hadn't started to run in the local streams yet (which attracts bears) but we were still hopeful. We drove for two hours or so, making stops along the way and finally we rounded a corner and there was a young male brown bear. He was sitting on a rock feeding on some grass. We got out of the van (Phil had a rifle for protection) and got pretty close for some great pictures. Bears have a perimeter and they will let one know if one gets too close by grunting and growling. I never felt in any danger though and it was a great experience seeing a bear that close out in the wild. We only saw one other bear later in the day, which was a very large male bear that was running across the road. I didn't get any pictures of this bear though as he was skittish. Apparently the larger the bear, the more skittish they are. We also saw three deer and a stray cat way out in the middle of nowhere. How that cat got out there, I don't know, but Phil said it wouldn't last very long with all the bears and eagles around. I felt bad for it. Phil took us to a beautiful bay and a stream near the bay. He told us that in July that stream would be filled with salmon and he could guarantee we'd catch twenty salmon each if we came back and went fishing with him. I definitely want to do that someday! We told Phil we were hungry so he took us to a little place in Hoonah where he knew the chef called Chipper Fish. It was basically a food stand with some outdoor tables but the food was outstanding. They had freshly caught white king salmon for the special and it was out of this world. My wife hates seafood and even she thought it was delicious. It was one of the best pieces of fish I've ever had. Finally it was time to say goodbye and Phil apologized for not seeing more bears. We told him that we'd had a great day and were extremely pleased with the day. He beamed at this and told us to come back anytime and he'd guide us around. I highly recommend Brown Bear Lodge as it was a highlight type day for us! It was the second formal night on the ship tonight and we had reservations at the Samba Grill (another new venue) which is a Brazilian steakhouse. We enjoy Brazilian steakhouses so were really looking forward to it. Samba Grill is in an awkward location to reach as it's on deck 12. You have to take an elevator and walk outside past the children's pool and waterslide area to reach it. Once reached though, it is in a beautiful setting high up on the ship with great views of the ocean. The food here was excellent although it's much slower paced than a traditional Brazilian steakhouse. The odd thing was that there was only one gaucho assigned to a table and that gaucho brought around different cuts of meat in a preset sequence. At a normal Brazilian steakhouse, the gauchos bring meat to the entire restaurant at a much faster pace. The meal started with a buffet type salad bar, and then about eight different cuts of meat. Everything was delicious and we discovered a new drink that was made with Brazilian rum called a Caipirinha Day 6 - Wednesday, 6/22 Ketchikan We arrived in Ketchikan at 9 am today. I was expecting rain as I've heard that it almost always rains in Ketchikan. Imagine my surprise when we looked outside and the sun was shining with just a few clouds in the sky. As I've mentioned, we really were fortunate with the weather on this trip! We had the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman's tour at 9:30 am and my wife had spotted the Aleutian Ballad as we pulled into port. The Aleutian Ballad is a crab fishing boat that's been in a few episodes of Deadliest Catch (I'm a big fan of the show) and I'd really been looking forward to this tour. I was hoping that Derrick Ray would be on board for our tour (he's one of the captains featured this season on Deadliest Catch) and I saw Derrick shortly after we got on board. The boat has been retrofitted so that there are seats on both decks and heaters to keep everyone warm so it was a comfortable setup. They would also turn off individual heaters if things got too hot. There was a small gift shop on board too. During the tour, Derrick, Brian, and Terry told stories from their crab fishing days, and demonstrated how they catch crab. We stopped several times for them to pull up various crab pots with King crab, Opilio crab, Rock crab, and Dungeness crab. They also pulled up an octopus. They let us hold the Opilio and Rock crab and take pictures of the other types (King and Dungeness crab are more dangerous). It was an enjoyable tour and the crew was friendly to everyone as they posed for pictures and answered as many questions as one wanted to ask. I got a picture with Derrick which made me happy. I had heard that they used to feed some eagles during the tour, but this has temporarily been discontinued. We did see three bald eagles though. All in all, it was a good solid tour. After we got back to Ketchikan, we ate lunch at a fish and chips shack on the dock and the fish and chips were delicious. We then found a post office to mail home a walrus tusk that we'd purchased in Denali. Just a note that Canada doesn't allow anyone to bring in anything made from walrus, whale, seal, and several other animals. We didn't know that when we bought the walrus tusk so ended up having to mail it home. We did some shopping on Creek Street (sort of like a boardwalk above a creek where salmon run later in the summer) and then got back on the ship. We were pretty worn out from four straight days of touring so decided to have the buffet for dinner. Once again, I found the variety to be lacking but it was okay. We attended the Piano Man show tonight, which featured the music of Elton John, Billy Joel, and Barry Manilow and it was enjoyable. Day 7 - Thursday, 6/23 At Sea Today was a day at sea cruising the inside passage. We ate lunch in the main dining room which was pretty good. I had an express salad (they have a salad setup in the middle of the room with a wide variety of salad choices to make up a fresh salad on the spot) and a burger and it was very tasty. We then went to the Captain's Corner where Captain Claus gave a presentation about his history and a behind the scenes slide show of the ship. He then answered some questions. We then went to the "win a free cruise" bingo but we didn't win a free cruise. We attended a pre dinner goodbye show featuring comedian Stephen Thomas, who was very funny. The last night dinner is always a bit melancholy to me as we said goodbye to our waiter, assistant waiter and tablemates. After dinner was another of my dreaded activities on a cruise; packing to go home. We managed to get our suitcases out in the hall by 11:15 pm (midnight is the deadline) and went to bed. Sadly, the cruise was about over. Day 8 - Friday 6/24 Disembarkation Vancouver to Seattle and Home We had a flight home today from Seattle and had arranged a Quick Coach Shuttle bus to take us from Vancouver to Seattle Tacoma airport. The bus was scheduled to leave Canada Place Pier at 9 am this morning. We met in the show room at 7:45 am as our group was scheduled to get off the Radiance at 7:50 am. They didn't call any groups for awhile so my wife asked a crew member what the holdup was. She was told that they didn't know but it should be soon. They started to call other groups that were scheduled after ours and I started getting a bit nervous as I didn't want to miss our bus. When it got to be 8:20 am my wife asked again about the delay and she was told that the quick coach shuttle would wait for us if we were late. Well finally, at almost 8:30 am our group was called. Fortunately there was no line getting through customs and we found our luggage right away in the luggage retrieval area. We made it to the Quick Coach Shuttle at 8:55 am and were told that they only would have waited until 9:15 am for us, so I wasn't happy that Royal Caribbean misinformed us. We never did find out why our group was delayed for so long, but it all worked out fortunately. It may have been something beyond their control, but I still think NCL does a much better job with disembarking. The bus ride down to Seattle wasn't too bad as the bus was fairly roomy and had free wifi. We had to get off the bus at the border and go through customs, but we didn't have to take our luggage off the bus and the whole process took maybe 15 minutes. We made it to Seatac airport by 1:15 pm which wasn't bad at all. We couldn't check in our luggage yet as it was more than 4 hours before our 6 pm flight. Thus we waited, then checked in our luggage and then waited some more. The airport is modern and nice in Seattle, so at least we had some decent dining options. That said, we settled for Wendy's as we hadn't had much fast food in two weeks. Finally we boarded our Alaska Airlines flight home, which was far superior to our Frontier Airlines flight to Alaska. We had plenty of leg room and the flight attendants were much friendlier. I'd definitely use Alaska Airlines again. We arrived at DFW at midnight, found our luggage with no problems, and drove home, thus ending our trip very tired but happy. It was definitely one of my favorite trips and I was already thinking about when we'd return to see more of Alaska! Read Less
Sail Date June 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
This was our dream cruise. My parents were celebrating their 60th anniversary and we were celebrating our 38th. We are from Ontario, Canada and are all seniors. We went on Radiance of the Seas and were thrilled with the ship. THe service ... Read More
This was our dream cruise. My parents were celebrating their 60th anniversary and we were celebrating our 38th. We are from Ontario, Canada and are all seniors. We went on Radiance of the Seas and were thrilled with the ship. THe service was excellent and there was always something to do. Loved the room service as well. Many ships only have continental room service in the morning but this ship had full breakfast. They gave you a form the night before that you could fill out to get exactly what you wanted. We were amazed when we saw our stateroom! THe balcony was huge as well as the room. We has a full couch and the balcony had 2 lounge chairs and well as 2 regular chair with a small table. We actually had our breakfast out on the balcony a couple of times. I would definitely get an aft room again! My parents were in the middle of the ship by the hub. It was great for them as it was closer to the elevators.(THey also had a balcony)(E2) I cannot describe how GOOD the food was. Every meal was delicious, and you could have as much as you wanted! THe service for the meal and the presentation was like fine dining! I looked forward to every meal. THe entertainment was the best! Every night, something different! It was great! Getting off and on the ship was a breeze. Everything was so organized. THe tours we planned were beyond expectation. LOve the whale watching in Juneau,(also the Tram), Skagway-, we went on a tour of the town, along with seeing all the lookout spots, simply beautiful; Icy Straits-went to see the Tinglit Dancers and danced with them(beautful port, not commercialized), Ketchican, did the Misty Fjords plane -- was breathtaking!Cannot say enough about the ship and would definitely go again. Purchase some pictures and video of the cruise which will add to our many memories. Its a trip we will never forget and the blessing we had of going with our parents who are 80 years old! Thanks to Radiance of the Seas! Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
We started in Fairbanks and were awed by the 22 hours of sunlight. The weather was incredible and our tour director Cory was great. He was a lot of fun, informative and very helpful. The Sophie Station Inn was very comfortable, flowers ... Read More
We started in Fairbanks and were awed by the 22 hours of sunlight. The weather was incredible and our tour director Cory was great. He was a lot of fun, informative and very helpful. The Sophie Station Inn was very comfortable, flowers beautiful. We very much enjoyed the tours in Fairbanks, Riverboat Discovery Cruise was informative and offered an interesting look into the Native Alaskans past. Fairbanks has a beautiful park in the downtown area overlooking the river, again lots of gorgeous flowers. Would recommend the Salmon Bake and Golden Heart Revue at Pioneer Park. The next morning we boarded the glass domed train for Denali. We had breakfast on the train which was fantastic and settled in for a beautiful, scenic ride. Again the weather in Denali was wonderful, and views spectacular especially from our hotel, The Grand Denali Lodge. Food was also great in the Lodge and the views were panoramic. There was a multitude of great excursions, we chose river rafting to Cabin Nite. A scenic ride down the river and a fun evening of food and entertainment with some audience participation including my husbands portrayal of a moose with a dramatic death scene! We had booked our excursions pre-cruise, but if you hadn't, Cory was very helpful in suggesting some of his favorite excursions to help you make your decision. The next day it was on to Anchorage. This was a long drive, but Cory did a great job of keeping us entertained and informed of what we were seeing. For lunch in Anchorage again Cory told us of several restaurants to choose from. We had a short time to walk around and see downtown Anchorage and then on to Seward to board the ship. Again beautiful scenery, flowers and we did see some wildlife from the motor coach, moose, eagles, Dall sheep. The motor coach driver Bob was also excellent. We always felt safe and he pointed out points of interest and the wildlife from Anchorage to Seward. Embarkation was very smooth and efficient which was much appreciated after a long day on the motor coach. Lifeboat drill was also efficient and then on to dinner. We had 2nd seating which wasn't our desire, but because of the sunlight late into the evening it didn't seem to matter that much. Our waiters, Roderick and Conrick, were very good; helpful, friendly, provided great service. By mid week our head waiter, Vicram told us we could move to 1st seating, but we didn't want to leave Roderick and Conrick. They had a table open up 1st seating so we were able to move to that seating and still have the same waiters. A win win for all! Vicram was also the most helpful and attentive head waiter we have ever had. First day at sea was Hubbard Glacier. Amazing! The ship was very close, we stayed for some time and we saw lots of calving. Awesome beauty of nature! Dress warmly and have your camcorder ready. We watched from deck for a while, but then went up to deck 13, the Starquest Disco for a great view and warmer temperatures. Next stop Juneau, we toured Mendenhall Gardens and Glacier. Both we highly recommend. Absolutely stunning flowers, including upside down trees, you have to see to believe and also a tram ride to 600 feet above sea level with beautiful views of area. The guides there were also very informative. The Glacier was again beautiful and a great visitor center with information on glaciers that was helpful. Next stop Skagway. The White Pass & Yukon Railway was spectacular! Well worth the trip, unbelievable views and imagining those that traveled this path on foot in the snow. Skagway itself is also very interesting and clean. Again beautiful weather! Third stop, Icy Strait Point. We went on a Whale and Marine Mammal Cruise. We did see several humpback whales, sea lions and eagles! Dress warmly, it was a beautiful day, but the wind on the boat makes it cold. Last port was Ketchikan. We took a Duck Tour, which gave us an overview of the town and harbor. Lots of eagles everywhere! We then walked around town including Creek Street, lots of shops, again beautiful. This is the only time we had a little rain, but it was very little. The last day was through the inside passage, a very beautiful and serene water way. We enjoyed the ship's entertainment and activities. This was our 4th cruise and we always wish we had more time to do things on the ship, but we also want to see all the ports of call. Especially enjoyed the Schooner Bar area and Colony Club. We played miniature golf, that was fun. One of our party climbed the rock wall and made it to the top. The four of us took a Tango lesson from one of the performers, Juan and Eileen. Lots of fun!!! Enjoyed comedian Tom Briscoe. Part of his routine was about having trouble at airport security checkpoints, guess who we were behind at the airport?! No problem though, just funny. All the entertainment was good, very enjoyable. The Radiance is smaller that the last ship we were on in the Caribbean (Navigator), but the service was still excellent from the Captain on down. The Captain was more involved with and available to the passengers than any other Captain we have seen. He was also very personable when he spoke at different events or on the intercom on the ship daily. This is the first cruise we have had a stateroom with a window. It was great and worth the extra especially in Alaska because there is always something to see just outside your window. Our room steward, Charlie was also very good. He kept everything clean and tidy for us without any fuss. Disembarkation was as efficient as the embarkation. Very timely since we had a fairly early flight. We just really enjoyed ourselves and would recommend Alaska and Radiance of the Seas...thank you Royal Caribbean for a great vacation. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Your Camera Isn't Good Enough First, an introduction, this was my wife, Joni and my sixth cruise and our fifth with Royal Caribbean. Our very first cruise was on the Radiance, so we were looking forward to returning to her, as we ... Read More
Your Camera Isn't Good Enough First, an introduction, this was my wife, Joni and my sixth cruise and our fifth with Royal Caribbean. Our very first cruise was on the Radiance, so we were looking forward to returning to her, as we have been on her sister ships, The Serenade and The Jewel. We are in our 50's and reasonably active. I am all about fishing and food; I have wanted to go to Alaska salmon fishing for much longer than I have been cruising and have done much research on such a trip over the years. Fortunately, my lovely bride of 15 years shared my interest. We met our friends, Allie and Kim on a Hawaiian cruise a couple of years ago, and told them that were thinking about an Alaskan trip, and they told us about how much they loved the cruise-tour they had done previously with Royal Caribbean, and that they would love to go back. The seed was planted. After much continued planning and re-planning, our group grew to 14, including our neighbors, Jim and Shelly, and numerous friends of Allie and Kim. We booked the first day the cruise was available to book. In all my previous research on fishing, I decided that Silver Salmon was the species that I wanted to target, and they were best in August. I also had decided that I wanted to spend time in Alaska before the cruise then do the southbound cruise, which all that led us to the August 21 sailing date. Booking the first day allowed us to get 4 cabins across the center aft of deck 9 and 3 more cabins were booked later on the hump. I warn you now, as you can tell by the length of my introduction, this will be a very long review. I will divide it into the week before the cruise and the cruise itself. Pre-cruise in Alaska: We are lucky living in the Dallas area to have a direct flight from DFW to Anchorage, while it is direct; it is a long one at 7 hours. Joni and I did try to use mileage to upgrade to first class, the flight was sold out, almost (this is important). We did however; try to beat the system, by booking the window seat for me and the aisle seat for Joni, hoping the middle seat would remain empty. Much to my dismay, when I printed out the boarding passes the morning of our trip of a lifetime, they had bumped me to the middle seat. Fortunately, my lovely bride, seeing my distress, told me she would switch and sit in the middle. Well it wasn't the window, but ok. So we get on the plane, and the horrid perpetrator who had so blatantly stolen my precious window seat was unwilling to switch to the aisle, being the magnanimous and benevolent person I am, I shrugged it off and took my aisle seat. OH NO! Things just got real ugly! My seat cushion, and I use the term very loosely, had long previously given up its life and any remnants of padding to some mammoth of a person who had sat there sometime in the past. I felt as if I was sitting on two steel bars in the most uncomfortable of places. I knew my back and other assets would be in agony after a 7 hour flight of this torture device. Once again, my lovely bride came to my rescue and talked to my new best friend the flight attendant shortly after take off. There was 1 empty seat on the plane a couple of rows back, and the saintly flight attendant switched my assault weapon of a seat "cushion" for the real cushion, all was right with the world and we were going to Alaska. Two movies later, time had passed and we landed without further incident in Anchorage. I could not resist paying Allie and Kim back for similar infractions that they had done to me, by pulling out my cell phone and calling them back in Chicago and simply saying, "I'm in Alaska, and you're not", feeling contented as they still had a few days of real world drudgery ahead before joining us. We booked our hotel that night and the following Wednesday night (when we returned from fishing) at the Captain Cook Hotel in downtown Anchorage. The hotel was very nice and comfortable. We had our first Alaskan fare at dinner in one of the hotel's restaurants, I had halibut and Joni had salmon, both good, and then went to bed to start getting use to the 3 hour time change. The next morning we saw it was still overcast as we looked out our window overlooking Cook Inlet. We had breakfast in the concierge lounge and went out to explore as our shuttle to the fishing lodge wasn't picking us up until 2:30. Downtown Anchorage is a very pedestrian friendly and attractive city. We went to an open air market that the bell captain recommended, many shops, the visitor's information center and finally Phyllis's Cafe for lunch. We both had the halibut fish and chips and the seafood chowder. I couldn't help eyeballing the bucket of huge king crab legs at the table next to us, knowing that was in my future...mmmmmmmm. We then headed back to our hotel to await our shuttle to the fishing lodge. In all the fishing research I had done, I narrowed it down to 4 possibilities, and then time and money help me to finally pick what I did. We were heading to the Kenai River Sportsfishing Lodge which was headquarters and one of four lodges owned by Alaska Wildland Adventures. We would be enjoying 3 nights there with 2 full days of fishing. Our shuttle arrives, which turns out to be a small, very new and comfortable bus, reminiscent of the nicer ones at ski resorts. We hop on and settle back for the 2 hour ride to Cooper Landing. The ride is very scenic, and the driver, who is very fun, pointed out the sights and, bless her, made a courtesy stop for beer, wine and a restroom break where we spotted our first bald eagle. A little later while later, the drive ventured further into the forest, someone behind me yelled "moose!" I turned quickly only to see a blur of brown not to be distinguished. We arrived at the lodge and were met by some of the staff. As our luggage was being delivered to our cabin, we were given a tour around the property. The property was beautiful and consisted of the main lodge building and several cabins right on the upper Kenai. We were given all the usual information, you know, like what to do if you go out on your porch and there is a bear there, do not try to pet the moose, the usual stuff. Afterwards Joni and I go to our cabin, open a bottle of wine and enjoy the sun that had just come out on our porch. Our cabin was a small, very attractive, log cabin with a queen and a single bed, a nice bathroom and our porch overlooked a small foot bridge to the nature trail. Oh, we were told to sing or make noise on the nature trail to let the bear and moose know you are coming. After our happy hour, we wandered over to the main lodge for dinner. At this point we began meeting some of the other guests, some who had rode in on the bus with us and others who had been there a while and were more than willing to share their adventures. Dinner was served family style at large tables, very conducive to chatting with new friends. The food? Oh my gosh, was it good, we had a crab appetizer and a duck entrEe that night, as well as wonderful sides and dessert. They had breakfast at 3 seating times and dinner at 2 seating times depending on your activity. We were booked for drift fishing for Rainbow Trout and Dolly Varden on the Upper Kenai the next morning. The staff found us and informed us that our guide would be Brian and we could sleep in as we were at the second seating of breakfast...at 5:30am, don't be late. The next morning, we got up bright eyed and bushy tailed and walked over to the lodge (keeping an eye out for bear) for breakfast. We met Brian, who was great, very knowledgeable, patient and generally an interesting person, and prepared for our first day of fishing on the Upper Kenai. It was a beautiful wilderness experience in a drift boat. It felt like we had the river to ourselves. We saw 2 bears on the shore in the first 10 minutes. We got to experience some moderate white water. We were fly-fishing which I had never done. I caught a nice rainbow trout within the first 5 minutes of fishing. I have no idea how many Rainbow Trout and Dolly Varden we caught but we rarely went more than a few minutes before catching the next, most were over 20 inches. Towards the end of the river portion Joni hooked a HUGE Rainbow that took out all her fly-line well into her backing and as I was trying to bring my line in I got a huge Dolly Varden, also taking the line into the backing and running all around the boat. Joni got hers pretty close to the boat and it jumped a couple of times completely out of the water, so we got a good look at it, the guide thought it was pushing 28-30 inches, but then it got off, I did get the Dolly in, it was in the 23-24 inch range. Shortly after that, Joni hooked another one that after a long fight, she landed a beautiful 24 inch Rainbow. It was starting to slow down a little for me and Joni was on a roll and we were just about to the lake. Then I hook a monster, the last fish of the day. After a long fight, I land a 26 1/2 inch 10 pound Rainbow as the sun comes out. After pictures we let it go and Brian the guide puts the little outboard down and we do about an hour long trip across a beautiful mountain lake in the sunshine to take the boat out. This trip turns out to be one of the top three highlights of the vacation. We headed back to the lodge for happy hour on the deck overlooking the Kenai, followed by some ping-pong on the same deck. At our beef tenderloin dinner, we were told that our guide the next day would be George for our Resurrection Bay Silver Salmon trip, and breakfast would be first seating at 4:30am...don't be late. We finished off the evening in the lodge's riverside wood burning sauna before heading to bed. The next morning was a little drearier and we were decked out in full cold weather rain gear. We met George and Howard, who would be joining us for the days fishing. After a quick breakfast, we hopped in the truck for the hour long drive to Seward and the weather was not promising. We got to Seward and made use of the facilities as George launched the boat. The boat was a 22 foot open boat with no cabin, cover or head. The weather was drizzly and Joni was concerned. George did say there was one beach we could get to and go into the woods if need be. It was needed later on. The rain stopped for some time, fortunately, and on the ride out to the first fishing spot, we saw sea lions and eagles. Fishing was slow, we moved to another spot where we saw mountain goats on the cliffs above us, fishing was slow. We moved to another spot, the one with the beach, which Joni and I made use of, I think to George's chagrin. Feeling relieved we began fishing again, and what's this, a bite, yes, I had a fish! It was a small rock fish, but a fish, things were looking up...but fishing was slow. So we returned to our first stop, and so did the rain. At this point, it would be a good time to sing the praises of the L.L. Bean 3 in 1 Weather Channel coat, Joni and I stay dry and reasonably warm. But fish start biting, I get another rock fish, and another, and then Joni gets a real bite! After dancing around the boat, and lets just say, not the best communication between Joni and George creating some "unique" angling skills, Joni lands a beautiful 11 pound Silver Salmon. Not too much later, I too hook one, not to be outdone, and using more "traditional" angling skills, I land an equally beautiful 12 pound Silver. Whew, we now will have some fillets to send home. Alas those were the last fish of the day and we make the cold wet ride back to the harbor in Seward. Although we did have one last highlight of the trip as we encountered one of the resident sea otters just outside the harbor, lounging on his back as otters do. Back at the lodge, it is pouring rain; George hangs our fish for a couple of photos, which we scramble in the rain to take, before George artfully fillets them for a tasty treat after we get home. We hurry back to our cabin to change, and by the time we have done so, the rain has quit and there are signs of sunshine. We walk the nature trail for the second time; I stay quiet in hopes of seeing a bear or a moose this time, but no luck. We did see an eagle, but that was getting fairly common by now. Then we headed to the lodge for happy hour and chatting with folks we met before and some of the newcomers of the day. Dinner that night was potato crusted halibut; did I mention how good the food was? The next morning breakfast wasn't till 8:30...oh the luxury! We walked around the property some more taking pictures and glad we still had lots of vacation to go, or it would be hard to leave this place. The next morning, it was a nice sunny day, one of a few to come, and after a leisurely breakfast, we were picked up by our van to take us back to Anchorage. Since Joni and I were the only ones going back that day, we were able to have a nice conversation with the driver on the very scenic drive. Anchorage, part II: We arrived back, at about noon, at the Captain Cook Hotel and dropped off our luggage. At this point, all 14 of our party were somewhere in Alaska, all merging on Anchorage for dinner that night. We caught up with Allie and Kim, along with a couple of their friends at the Ulu Knife factory. After doing a little shopping, we wandered down to Ship Creek to watch the salmon run and folks fishing, it is amazing how many fish there were in the creek. The group hops on a trolley and we make it back to Phyllis's Cafe for lunch. We had the king crab legs like the ones I saw on our previous visit and they lived up to the expectation. After lunch, we go back to the hotel and get our room, finding our luggage already there. Then we get out for a little more walking around town, a beer at Humpy's, finally to meet up with almost all of the rest of the gang at the Crow's Nest on top of Captain Cook's for a pre-dinner drink. For dinner, the whole gang of 14 plus a couple of Jim and Shelly's friends that live in Anchorage all converge on the Glacier Brewhouse for dinner. Fortunately, I had reserved the conference room and we were all able to squeeze in. I finally had some salmon that was very good. As we had to get up early to catch the train the next morning, we called it a night and headed back to the hotel. On to Seward: We had booked Goldstar Service on the Alaskan Railroad from Anchorage to Seward. The train departed at 6:45am, requiring us to be there at 5:45. After checking in and arranging for our luggage to go to the Holiday Inn Express in Seward, we waited in the station to board the train. While waiting, we were found (thanks to my most colorful hat) by some of our fellow Cruise Critic passengers. After a short wait, we boarded the double-decker Goldstar dome car. All I can say, if you can spare the extra price of the ticket, do so, it is beautiful. We had a fun server in our car that brought us coffee and drinks. As we were going to be doing the Kenai Fiords tour as soon as we got off the train, I passed on the Bloody Mary. For some reason, something I had been really looking forward to on this trip was having breakfast in the dining car. The experience was all that I hoped for. The eggs and reindeer sausage were very good and the scenery was fabulous! In fact, the scenery for the entire trip was spectacular and we did see 3 moose running in a field next to the train. Also what was great, in the back of the car on the top deck was a covered out side platform that was great for taking pictures. All in all, the train ride was a great experience. We arrived in Seward at about 11:00am, just in time to jump on the shuttle to Renown Kenai Fiords National Park Tour. We quickly check in at the office get our tickets, hop on the large catamaran and we are off. They serve a snack of smoked salmon, cheese, a bagel, a cookie and an apple on our way out Resurrection Bay. While making our way to the glacier, we had a Park Ranger narrate, pointing out the wildlife. We had the good luck of seeing seal, sea lions, porpoise, eagles, puffins and then we stopped when we came upon a humpback whale. We didn't get real close, but close enough for some good tail shots. But then he surprised us and came up on the other side and breached twice! It was a beautiful sunny day and it kept getting better. After riding a little while longer we got up close and personal with a glacier, probably as close as a hundred yards. While we weren't lucky enough to see any real big pieces falling off, the small bits of calving that we did see were impressive by the sound they made. They sounded like gunshots. It was getting pretty chilly by the glacier and we had a long ride back, so we headed inside the comfortable cabins and started back to Seward. Everyone was relaxing, some were napping and we had made the turn back into Resurrection Bay when the Ranger came on the speaker saying it was our lucky day as a pod of Orcas had been spotted just up ahead. They stopped the boat as the pod approached us and we were able to see 3 to 5 of them slowly swimming right by us, incredible. It was a great way to end the tour. Upon returning to the docks in Seward, it was a very short walk from the docks to the Holiday Inn Express that overlooked the Harbor, only a couple of buildings in between. One of those buildings turned out to be JDock Fishing Charters, where one of the boats had just unloaded their catch of numerous Silver Salmon and Halibut. I had to walk over and look, saying out loud, "I wouldn't mind going fishing again". One of Allie's friends heard me and said she was interested. I decided to see if it was even a possibility after we got checked into the hotel. We checked into the Holiday Inn Express, which was nice. Our room had a nice view of the harbor; we got settled, shed a couple of layers of clothes and still had a little time before dinner. So we wandered back to the office at JDock and inquired about the charter, and sure enough they had a half day available in the morning that 4 of our group decided to do. We were informed that there would be another couple with us on the charter making it 6. The day was supposed to be sunny, the boat was about a 38 footer with a heated cabin and head (bathroom) things were looking good. We had reservations for 10 of us at Ray's Waterfront, which was a couple of doors down. At Ray's, we did have to wait for a little but we ended up with a table right by the window overlooking the harbor. The food was very good; I had the platter with halibut, shrimp and scallops...mmmmmmmm Cruise Day 1, Seward: Our original plans was to get up when we woke up, have breakfast, and drop off our luggage at the ship then go to the Sea Life Center. That plan was thrown out the window when we booked the half day fishing trip the previous night. So, again we were waking to an alarm and rushing to get checked out and our luggage into storage, gulp down some breakfast and go fishing. We did take time to look out our window to see the Radiance was there looking fantastic. On our first trip down the elevator, we met a couple who I noticed the Goldstar Train luggage tags on their luggage and asked how they enjoyed the train. They said they loved it and today they were going fishing, I said so are we, and maybe we are going together. The door opened and we went our separate ways. Shortly after, our group went next door to the docks, and sure enough, there was that couple and indeed they were the other couple fishing with us. As we headed out, we established that they also would be on the cruise with us, small world. So we are heading out on The Rogue with Captain Randy, who tells us that fishing in the bay hasn't been that good lately and he knew some good spots outside the bay; a point we had proven earlier in the week. On the way out we see lots of seals, and it is a great ride compared to our previous experience in the bay. So we get to the first spot and my line is barely down when I get a bite, it's a rock fish, but hey it's a fish. By the time I get mine up everyone has one on. Randy doesn't want to catch rock fish so he moves us a little. I drop my line and get a much bigger bite, again a rock fish, but a much larger one, one worth keeping. We move to a couple more spots, including one where we see a whole bunch of baby seals on the beach and finally get to a spot where we begin catching Silver. We got 5, including a 10.5 pounder caught by Joni, unfortunately, none for me. At the very end, I did get one on that took out quite a bit of line which we hadn't seen any of the previous ones do, but alas it got off and it was time to head back. Once we got in, they filleted Joni's fish and weighed the fillets to ship back home. The fillets weighed 8 pounds leaving room for a couple more pounds of goodies. Joni asked if we could add some king crab legs, and with a positive reply that is what we opted to do. We went next door to Chinooks for lunch, which also was very good (I think I did like Ray's better) picked up our luggage and a taxi at the Holiday Inn and headed for The Radiance. It was probably 3:00pm when we boarded and there was no line at all. We checked in and walked right on board. We went straight to our rooms and dropped off our carry-ons, shedding some layers of clothes and then went out on the balcony to enjoy the sunshine, the view of Resurrection Bay and Seward. We had a little time to show Jim and Shelly around the ship before meeting up with our new friends from Cruise Critic in the Schooner Bar. A fun time was had by all! At this point, I am going to change up the format a little so folks can find what they are interested in, and skip over my blabberings that they don't find entertaining and/or informative. Radiance of the Seas, Overview: As I said in the introduction, our first cruise was on the Radiance 6 years ago. My general observation is that she has improved with age. Everything looked great. We did know what to expect this time, but she looked just as grand as the first time we sailed. A question that I asked and now can answer, we did NOT have to wear or even bring life jackets to the Muster Drill. The drill lasted about 20 minutes at the most. Stateroom: We were in 9260, a D-1 category on the aft. The cabin had an oversized, very deep balcony that could easily accommodate 2 lounge chairs as well as the 2 regular balcony chairs and table. We had a sail away party from Icy Strait Point later in the week where we had 8 of the regular chairs out there and it wasn't crowded at all. We were able to have 18 of us at the party and the room was manageable. Marcia was our stateroom attendant, and she was great! She went above and beyond in helping us with the party. We also were able to visit one of the Grand Suites on deck 10 just in front of the hump, needless to say, it was wonderful. Service: All who we dealt with were wonderful. I have already mentioned Marcia, our stateroom attendant; I also would like to acknowledge Eduardo, our waiter who also was excellent, making sure I had escargot on nights it wasn't on the menu and that extra lobster tail, which we will get into later. Food: Food was perhaps our biggest surprise. We have all read in the boards about the decline in food quality in the dining room. Joni and I have experienced this decline on the Serenade and the Jewel. But I have to say the quality of the food was the best that we have had since our first cruise. Not only was the quality very good, but there was no problem ordering a soup and an appetizer, or on lobster night, having the prime rib and lobster. Then there was the Big Lobster Smack Down! Kim and I were talking about who could eat the most lobster, Eduardo also got into the spirit of it and made sure our plates did not go empty. I will not get into details, but I will say we had more than 2 each. Entertainment: Joni and I normally go to most of the shows, so many of the shows we have seen before. This cruise we only saw a couple, one was the production show, Piano Man, which we have seen before and the other was the Farewell Show, which they had a really funny comedian. I thought the talent level was better than what we had seen; Joni didn't think it was as strong. Dan the Party Man was filling in as Cruise Director for a few weeks due to an illness or injury of the regular cruise director. He did a good job, and I liked him more as the week progressed. I was lucky enough to rake in the loot as I won a RCCL memory stick at the Meet & Mingle, a RCCL hat and valued key chain at music trivia and our team won RCCL travel cups as we won out of 26 teams at Quest. The ship bands were good as was the pianist in the Schooner Bar. The Starquest Disco on deck 13 was pretty slow most nights with a couple of exceptions. Ports, Cruising and Weather: The weather was a major character in this extravaganza, often times seeing a wide variety in the same day. Many of our planned activities were very much threatened by the weather only to have it change at the last minute to be fine. Sailing overall was very smooth with one notable exception; our last sea day for the first half of the day, we had 15-20 foot "rollers" from a storm out at sea that definitely got the boat rocking. The ports were all wonderful, and now more details, yay: Hubbard Glacier: Our first full day on the ship, and it was a sea day! After all the early mornings, it was nice to be able to sleep in. I walked out on the balcony before breakfast to enjoy a beautiful day, smooth seas and the promise of a great week to come! I noticed that one of our new Cruise Critic friends, who had the balcony diagonally above me, was also out enjoying the view. He mentioned he had just seen quite a bit of activity of birds diving and salmon jumping. I started watching closely and before too long saw a fin. I looked through the binoculars and established that it was a shark. After seeing a video in Seward the day before on Salmon Sharks, I deducted that is what it must have been. I saw it a few more times before heading with my lovely wife to our first breakfast at the Windjammer. The Salmon Shark was an unexpected treat that was not on my "hope to see wildlife list". At noon was the Meet and Mingle in the Hollywood Odyssey. We had maybe 25 or so there with some nice canapEs to munch on. This also was our first opportunity to talk with Dan, the Cruise Director. After attending Meet & Mingles on four previous sailings and never winning anything, I was thrilled when my name was called, winning a RCI Memory Stick ...oooooooo. By the time the Meet and Mingle was over, the weather had turned cooler, it was overcast and there was a heavy fog bank off to the port side. We were picking up our pilot to aid in navigation through the bay to Hubbard Glacier; at this point we were ahead of schedule. As we entered the bay towards the glacier, we also entered the fog bank and our progress was slowed down to a crawl. Even though we had a nice balcony, I opted to stake out a place on the rail on the helipad for the ride in, this proved to be a chilly decision. So we were creeping along through the fog wondering if we would even be able to see the glacier. The Captain would give up progress reports between the deafening blasts of the foghorn. Then all of a sudden we were through the fog bank and there was Hubbard Glacier about a mile in front of us! We picked up a little speed, as now we could see, still not too fast so we could avoid the many icebergs. The increased speed did create enough of a breeze to send Joni back to our cabin to get our winter hats and gloves. The Captain slowly guided The Radiance closer and closer until we got within 200 yards of Hubbard Glacier! We sat there for quite some time seeing the occasional small bits of calving, then all of a sudden people started yelling and I turned just in time to see this huge ice pinnacle that stood probably 70 to 80 feet high fall over! I held up my camera blindly over my head to try to get a shot, but just got the ocean in front of it. After we watched the action a little while longer, the Captain rotated the ship 180 degrees for the other side to get their view. At this point we returned to our balcony in the aft which being out of the wind proved to be a warmer viewing platform. We were fortunate enough to see another large ice slide before finally departing. On the way out we spotted numerous seals on the even more numerous icebergs giving us a pleasant farewell. That night was our first formal night and the Captain's reception. When we met the Captain, I commented on how kind the weather had been to us. He replied that he could have done without the fog, and I said that it added to the experience, that it was like the grand curtain being raised to reveal the spectacle of the glacier. I was flattered that he used that analogy when he talked to the passengers at the reception. Juneau: The main thing I like about having a balcony cabin is, well, the balcony. I pretty much make it a point to go out on the balcony anytime I go to the cabin, it's the first thing I do when I get up in the morning and the last thing I do before going to bed at night. So after our wonderful day at Hubbard Glacier, our night of dressing up, chatting with the Captain and dancing with my lovely bride, I wander out to the balcony railing to stare out into the black abyss only to quickly discover its raining. The next morning we are scheduled for one of the two excursions that we booked through Royal Caribbean, kayaking within sight of the Mendenhall Glacier. Of all our planned excursions, I felt as if this was my boldest choice. Lets just say I don't bend the way I did when I was younger, I anticipated getting in the kayak would be challenging, and getting out even far more so. I also anticipated it being chilly even in good conditions so with the threat of rain, I was a little concerned. To add to my anxiety, since the cruise was the second week of our adventure, we had boarded with laundry in hand, and my winter underwear had not returned with the clean laundry. As it was about midnight, there was nothing to be done and the voice on the other end of the phone assured me that they would be able to find it first thing in the morning. I did go to sleep that night a little less easy with visions of my frozen assets the next day. The next morning I woke and, as always, went out on the balcony, it was cold, windy and rainy. Another phone call or two prompted a return call, "What does it look like?", "Well, it's long and its underwear", "We will call you back". Since our cold weather rain gear had served us well the previous week, I wasn't as worried and I figured out a "plan B" ensemble. Just as I got all the layers on, there was a knock on the door. Joni answered to find Allie from next door holding up several coat hangers of clothes, "This was in our closet, I think they delivered it to our room by mistake, is it yours?" A good laugh was had by all. I quickly shed my many layers replacing them with the "plan A" layers. We meet up with Jim and Shelly and head out to catch the bus. Our bus is an old style white school bus with one of the native locals as our driver. He was quite entertaining and set a tone that we later discovered to be a prerequisite of all tour guides in Alaska; you have to have a limitless arsenal of really, really bad jokes to bombard your captive audience. After about a 20 minute drive we arrive at the cove where we will be kayaking. We all huddle off the bus to discover it isn't raining here, and the wind isn't blowing and it seems at least 5 degrees warmer. Now don't get me wrong, it's still grey and overcast, and there is a fogbank out in the bay, but overall, much more pleasant than in Juneau. I begin to wonder if I may have too many layers. We are led to the back of a truck to get our briefing and equipment. The equipment consists of colorful rain suits, life jackets, paddles and skirts, yes, skirts. One of the guides looked over Joni's and my rain gear and decided that it was sufficient to deprive us of the extra layer of their lovely yellow rain suits. After adding the life jacket and the skirt to my layers and parading down the beach to the kayaks, I was confident I had too many layers. The kayaks were two person models with two small holes that theoretically Joni and I were both suppose to slip right inside; after all, the guide had just demonstrated how easy it was. Joni was in the front and without too much difficulty slides into her seat, securing her skirt. Now it was my turn, and somehow with some needed help from the guide, I manage to wiggle in and get my skirt secured. They adjust the foot pedals for the rudder and push us out into the wild waters of Alaska. Now the person in back was responsible for steering, the person in front was responsible for propulsion, at least which is what I attempted to convince Joni. Steering the craft was mentally challenging, to turn left, you matched your partner's paddling on the right while pushing the left peddle, the chewing gum and walking at the same time syndrome. Actually, Joni and I did pretty well, and our group of five kayaks and our guide were off, paddling towards a beach across the cove. What really struck me was how quiet it all was, with the exception of the occasional float plane passing overhead, you couldn't help but to get lost in the tranquility of nature. A short paddle later we were over at the beach and began to notice the eagles there. Since we were in kayaks, we could very close in just inches of water. Then one of the eagles took off and flew off just a few feet in front of us, providing a spectacular display. At that point we started paddling towards the fog bank out in the bay. We soon noticed the head of a harbor seal popping up out of the water silhouetted by the fog bank. We paddled a little closer and he disappeared only to appear again a little closer to one of the other kayaks. Our guide told us that they were curious and if you talked to them, they would sometimes stay up longer. Well this seal was wanting a long term friendship, as we sat in somewhat of a circle, he would take turns visiting with each kayak, coming as close as 10 - 15 feet. But then he saw Shelly in the next kayak over and fell in love, sticking his head and neck completely out of the water and coming within 2 to 3 feet of her. As my life jacket did not have a pocket for my camera, I was unable to get pictures; fortunately Jim was able to bring his camera and got some nice ones. We hung out with our new friend for maybe 45 minutes before heading back in, gliding over the glass like water. At first the seal started to come with us but then turned back. We didn't see Mendenhall Glacier due to the fog, but Mr. Seal more than made up for it. It was only on the paddle back that I realized how far we had come, that beach seemed a long way a ways. We did finally make it back, and with the help of a few hands and a lot of wiggling, I was able to extract myself from the snug fitting vessel. We enjoyed a snack of cheese, salmon pate, reindeer sausage and crackers before loading back onto the school bus where our driver had replenished his stockpile of bad jokes. When we returned to Juneau, the weather had not changed since our earlier departure; it was still cold, rainy and windy. We later discovered that the helicopter tours had been cancelled that day. I had two more things on my agenda for Juneau; eat lunch at Tracy's Crab Shack and ride the Mt. Roberts Tramway, the weather was not cooperating. We returned to the ship to shed a layer or two of clothing before striking out again. Both the tramway and Tracy's were in easy walking distance of the ship, as we walked I watched the tramway cars disappear into the low clouds. We got to Tracy's and the outside seating, while covered, didn't look like a sufficient escape from the weather. We noticed The Hanger Restaurant on the drive back, so we opted to walk down to it. I was glad that we did, we got a nice table right by the window overlooking the harbor and they had something on the menu that I had given up on finding in Alaska, razor clams. Being the appreciator of food (pig) that I am, I got the razor clam basket and Joni and I split a bucket of king crab legs. The basket had two fried razor clam "steaks", each were about the size of a small fried egg. Now I love my seafood, especially shellfish, so I was very excited to get to try the clams. I would say, unless you are a hard core shellfish lover like me, don't get the razor clams. The flavor is very strong, which I liked, and the clams were extremely tough and chewy, even by my standards. The king crab was wonderful. After lunch, we walked around town and shopped our way back to the ship. I kept a hopeful eye on the Roberts Tramway and the weather, and while the low clouds did break enough to see up to the top, the rain kept up, so we called it a day and went back to enjoy the ship. Tomorrow was hopefully a helicopter to dogsleds in Skagway. Skagway: We found out about the Juneau helicopter tours being cancelled after returning to the ship in Juneau. So we had a back up plan, that if the tour cancelled we would do spa treatments. Well, we pull into port and as our tour isn't till noon, we are slow to get out of bed. Then I hear the thump, thump, thump of helicopter blades. I go out on our balcony, and there is Temsco Helicopters right across a small parking lot from us with helicopters taking off and landing every few minutes. We do have patches of drizzle followed by breaking clouds. After a leisurely breakfast in the Windjammer where we continue to watch the helicopters come and go, we take the short walk across the parking lot to Temsco. The organization is amazing, they had 6 helicopters running to cover their various tours, they would land, unload their passengers, refuel, load their new passengers and take off all in less than 5 minutes. So we check in and are directed to a waiting area. When our group is all there, we watch a safety/information video on the helicopter and are fitted with inflatable life-vest and snow boots that go over our shoes. Then we are broken into 2 groups of 5 for the 2 helicopters that are flying to the dog-sled camp. We are given numbers for our loading order that determines where we sit. We then file out to the landing area and watch the copters fly in, almost in formation, towards us, up the fiord. We are instructed as to how to approach and get on when the signal us. I lead the line to the helicopter and with helping hands from both sides, the crew gets us loaded, buckled in, our headsets on and we take off. Neither Joni nor I have ever been in a helicopter before, and we were amazed at how smooth and comfortable the ride was. I was right behind the pilot and had a great view. The pilot gave narration through the headset as he flew us up valleys, over waterfalls, by cliffs and glacier faces before arriving at the dog camp on a glacier maybe 30 minutes later. Unloading at the dog camp was as efficient as at the base, even though walking in the snow was a little more challenging. Our 5 passengers from our helicopter were then divided into Joni and I, and the mother and 2 children that rode with us. Joni and I were then introduced to our musher, Kim, who was very friendly and you could tell she loved the dogs. She talked to us about the dogs in general and the camp of 249 dogs and far less number of staff that lived up there for the 4 month season. Then she asked if we wanted to meet our team, which of course we did. We spent time petting each dog as she introduced us and told us about their history and personality. It was team of 8 dogs towing a sled which had a second matching sled towed maybe 10 feet behind the first. Kim, then showed us how to drive/ride on the sleds, both sleds could have 1 driver and one rider. We started out with Kim driving the first sled with Joni riding and me driving the second. The dogs were more than anxious to get going, you can tell how much they love running, and with a word from Kim we were off with quite a jerk onto what I would say was a 2 mile trail. We stopped a few times to take pictures and change positions. It was unbelievably gorgeous up there and really not that cold. When we got back to camp, Kim took us over to meet and play with some of the, not so little, puppies. Of course they were still cute and lovable. Then we heard the sound of the 2 choppers bringing the next group up the valley and it was time for our flight back. While the flight back was equally spectacular, it was a more direct route lasting maybe 20 minutes. I didn't think we would be able to top that. This excursion was the next to go in our top 3 of the vacation, but there would be one more to come later in the week to top even this one. Our second excursion that was booked through Royal Caribbean was the 4:15pm White Pass Railroad "Summit Club". Again we returned to the ship after trekking through the snow to shed a few layers and grab a late lunch at the Windjammer. Almost our entire group had booked this excursion, so it was bound to be a party. By the time we were to meet in the parking lot for the excursion, the rains had come yet again. This wasn't a problem as we would be inside the railroad cars and there would be champagne. Even though it was raining, the scenery was spectacular, and we had an onboard guide doing the narration with her mandatory supply of really, really bad jokes. What was particularly surprising was even in the smallest creek running next to the tracks just outside of town, you could see the multitudes of Pink Salmon (Humpys) making their migration upstream. I found that I spent a significant portion of the ride outside on the platform taking pictures. The views were breathtaking. When we reached the summit, we stopped next to a picturesque lake while the engines disconnected and moved to the back of the train making it the front. We did a nifty flipping of the seats then our car attendant popped the champagne and did a toast before heading back down to Skagway. She kept the champagne flowing almost the entire trip back, so a fun time was had by all. That night, we had reservations in Chops with Allie and Kim. Shortly after being seated, a table by the window opened up and the waiter moved us to that one. Breaking tradition of previous visits to Chops, I had the rack of lamb instead of the large fillet, Joni did have the fillet, and both were excellent. Again the wine flowed, the company was excellent and a fun time was had by all. Icy Strait Point: The very first excursion I booked for this trip, more than a year in advance, was whale watching with Captain Floyd of F.I.S.H.E.S. out of Icy Strait Point. This was also the earliest excursion we had during the course of the week, requiring us to catch the first available tender after the ship anchored at 7:00am. It was another grey day of overcast and drizzle. Our group of six met in the Centrum at 7:00 and surprisingly, there was no line for the tenders, so we climbed aboard the first one. We got to the meeting place on shore at 7:20; Captain Floyd was supposed to pick us up at 8:00. One of the other guides in the parking lot asked who we were looking for, and as we told her, she said, "Oh here he comes now". He was glad to be getting an early start and the next thing we knew we were on his nice clean boat heading out of the harbor and seeing a whale on our way out. We rode for close to an hour to get to Floyd's chosen location, stopping a couple of times to watch a couple of groups of sea lions. When we got to the destination, it didn't take long to spot some tell tale spouts in the distance. While the whales were all around us, they were shy about getting very close; occasionally giving us a tail shot a hundred yards away or so. All of a sudden one came up right next to us, and activity started to pick up. Before we were done, we saw a couple of different whales breaching, one of which breached 3 times fairly close to the boat, providing one of my best pictures of the trip. Then the two that had been breaching wave goodbye with their fins, indicating it was time to head back. The other priority in Icy Strait Point was to have some Dungeness crab at the legendary Office Bar in Hoonah. Captain Floyd was good enough to drop us off right on the dock behind the restaurant. We went in finding that we were the only customers. We sat at a table right next to the window, ordered our seafood chowder, crab and cold draught beer before realizing it was only 10:30am, mmmmmmmm breakfast of champions. Our crab came, and we all enjoyed wrestling with the shell to get to the tasty treat inside. The waitress offered to hose me down as I was finishing. By that time, the place was packed, good thing we got there early. After lunch we opted to walk back to the port along the scenic shoreline road. While watching one of the kayak tours, we were surprised to see a whale surfacing right out there by them. I am certain they were even more surprised and thrilled. By the time we got back to Icy Strait Point, it began raining fairly heavily. We spent a little time shopping in the large facility that was right there at the tender dock, and then jumped on a tender back to the ship. As we had a 4:00pm departure, and we would be cruising the inside passage, I had thought this would be a good day for a sail away party with our group. With the help of our steward, Marcia, and the folks in room service, as well as contributions by some of the others in our group, we had a huge spread of goodies and several bottles of champagne. Since we had four cabins in a row across the aft, Marcia pilfered all the balcony chairs giving us 8 chairs on our balcony that were still under the overhang and protected from the rain. As it turned out, I think we had a total of 18 in our cab and on the balcony, and it never felt excessively crowded. As the party progressed, the rain stopped, the sun came out producing a sensational rainbow off the port side. It was a great way to finish the day and get ready for the second formal night. Ketchikan: Many had told me, you just have to do the floatplane trip with Michelle at Island Wings, so we booked it probably a year in advanced. Again, the trip was not till 11:00, so we were being leisurely about getting up, until I heard a plane right outside the ship. I go out on our balcony to a beautiful sunny day and floatplanes taking off right next to the ship. The 6 of us from our group, taking this trip, met in the dining room for breakfast then headed out to explore a little before the trip. We met our van that took us to the office/dock of Island Wings. After settling up, we watched as Michelle brought her plane in with the previous tour. She then introduced herself, then asked who wanted the best seat for pictures, and we all agreed on Allie, who got the back seat. Then Michelle asked who wanted to be co-pilot and I was lucky enough to get that seat. Then the other 4 ladies could sit in the other 4 seats. While she ran in and did paperwork, Our shuttle driver poked his head in the plane and went over seatbelt, headsets, etc with us. Then, he and Michelle pushed the plane out and we were off. Michelle explained that right there in port was controlled airspace, and that she would turn our mics on after we cleared it. We were able to listen to all the communications for take off etc. as we taxied out into the harbor then took off. I have since been informed that I was the only one hearing the take-off instructions, probably because I was in the co-pilot's seat After we were in the air for a bit, Michelle put on some nice background music in the headsets and started chatting with us. She was very friendly and knowledgeable, even giving helpful info on camera settings and offering to do the setting if we didn't know how. She gave ongoing narration and encouraged questions and comments. The scenery on this clear sunny day was unbelievable, the cliffs, the glaciers, the waterfalls, the mountain goats, everything. Words can't do it justice. After maybe 45 minutes of this beauty, Michelle flew us into this canyon over a gorgeous lake, banked sharply at the end of the canyon then landed on the lake, taking us to a tiny island in the middle. We all got out and were just in awe, every direction you looked was a spectacular picture! We spent 20-30 minutes there stretching our legs and taking pictures. Joni described it as a religious experience. Then we were all back in the plane for the flight back which was equaling amazing. By that time we were all more comfortable with Michelle and the plane, so there was more conversation. I can't say enough about Michelle, we learned that she pretty much personalizes every tour so she doesn't get in a rut and she is the only one that lands during the tour as it cost a fee to land, and another fee for the passengers to get off the plane, but it more than worth it! We landed right by the ship, then we tried to convince the next group that the tour was really lousy, but so it wouldn't go to waste, we would "suffer" through it again. The helicopter and Island Wings were both spectacular, it would be hard to choose one over the other. If I absolutely had to, it would be Michelle and Island Wings. The fishing trip on the upper Kenai River was in a different class, but these three excursions were our top three of the vacation. Once we were back in town, we took the short walk to the recommended Annabelle's Restaurant for lunch. I thoroughly enjoyed the steamed clams and the beer battered Halibut fish and chips. We then walked around town doing some shopping and walking the boardwalk along Fish Creek. It was amazing to see all the Pink Salmon fresh from the ocean, many being acrobatic with all of their jumping. Ketchikan was probably our favorite town of the ports. After hitting a few more shops we boarded, sadly knowing it was our last stop in Alaska. Inside Passage Cruising: Due to the time change, we set our clocks forward an hour the previous night, losing an hour. I was awoken that morning at 6:30am (new time, 5:30am old time) by some serious rocking of the ship. I recalled the Captain saying something the night before about a storm out at sea that we would be feeling the effects. I get up and go out on the balcony and see while it isn't raining, it is overcast and there are some significant "rollers" moving from the starboard bow to the port stern. Needing to get some clarification on disembarkation, I head down to guest relations on deck 4. Looking out the large windows behind guest relations, I get a better perspective on the waves and estimate them to be in the 15-20 foot range. The Captain comes on and assures us that conditions and the weather would be improving shortly after noon. Joni and I take advantage of onboard activities with a leisurely breakfast in the Windjammer, some shopping followed by a couple of trivia games in the Schooner Bar. True to the Captain's word, the seas did calm down by 2:00 and the sun came out. After trivia, we headed back to the cabin for the dreaded packing routine, but this vacation held one last surprise for us. As is my habit, I go out on the balcony to enjoy the sunshine and the scenery on both sides of the ship when I spot a fin, then another and another. I yelled, "Joni, there are whales out here." I think all the balcony doors were opened as all the balconies around me were occupied in seconds of all our friends enjoying the large pod of Orcas that we had come across. We were able to watch them for 20 minutes or so before they faded into the distance. That and the beautiful sunset we had that night were a fine way to wrap up our fabulous vacation. Disembarkation: We had hoped that this cruise offered the luggage valet service which they handle your luggage being checked in at the airport, so once you leave it out the last night, the next time you see it is at your home destination. At $20 a person, we thought it was well worth it. It was indeed offered and we took advantage. The night before we received new luggage tags and our boarding passes for our flight. Since we had just turned Platinum on our last cruise, we were also able to take advantage of the priority disembarkation, which was on the second level of the Cascade Dinning Room. We arrived at the dinning room at 7:30am and were munching on some pastries when our color was called at about 7:40am. While there were lines forming to pick up luggage etc., we were able to bypass those. We quickly pass through customs, and proceeded directly to the taxi stand. We were able to share a taxi with another couple who did the same thing. We arrived at the airport by 8:30am for our 2:00pm flight, and the taxi ride cost each couple $20 after tip. The process at the airport went equally smoothly as did our flight home. Final Thoughts: I have been dreaming of Alaska for as long as I could remember, it indeed was a dream vacation. With that sort of anticipation, it would have been easy for the expectation to exceed the reality, it did not. Alaska's natural beauty and magnitude is overwhelming not paralleled in any of my experiences. In the 2 weeks that we were there, to say we just scratched the surface would be an overstatement. You probably could spend 2 weeks at the fishing lodge alone and do different activities every day. As far as the cruise portion of the vacation, you got even more of a sense that it was just a petite sampler of the unbelievable buffet of Alaskan wonder. The weather could have been kinder to us, but it certainly could have been much, much worse. You could say that it even enhanced the experience with its threats of forcing cancellations only to clear up as needed. When we stood on that tiny island in the middle of some obscure mountain lake in the middle of mountain wilderness and every possible direction you looked was the most scenic picture you could imagine, you realized your camera just isn't good enough. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
The first days (Aug. 3-7) are with the cruisetour. It is optional but I highly recommend it if time permits in your schedule and your budget allows. It was about as amazing as the cruise time itself. Our cruisetour guide, Matt was great. ... Read More
The first days (Aug. 3-7) are with the cruisetour. It is optional but I highly recommend it if time permits in your schedule and your budget allows. It was about as amazing as the cruise time itself. Our cruisetour guide, Matt was great. As was Bill, our bus driver. They both were very knowledgeable about Alaska. My husband and I are both in a wheelchair and were toting a service dog as well. All the employees in the cruisetour, our fellow passengers on the tour as well as the ship, and the ship employees were all very good at accommodating us as well as the service dog. I was a bit apprehensive about this portion of the trip since little information is provided to us by the cruiseline as to how it all works. But it went very smoothly. Once you get to the lodge where everyone meets, your cruisetour director will greet you and give you papers with an itinerary for each leg of the trip. He/She will answer questions and from that point on, we were a part of a group that will travel together for the next four days. Aug 3 Arrived in Fairbanks and our cruisetour bunch stayed at Sophie Station. Aug 4 Fairbanks City Tour, Cruise on the Riverboat Discovery and to El Dorado Gold mine. We missed the first half of day one due to airline issues causing us to miss our flights. But they were booked through the cruiseline, so the transfer still picked us up at the airport. Our motorcoach first made a stop to view a portion of the Alaska pipeline. We were able to get off, take pictures and back onto the road. The El Dorado gold mine was kind of interesting. They show you how to pan for gold and then everyone gets to pan for gold. They try to make it where everyone finds some gold. If not, they will give u another bag of dirt to pan through. We missed the first part of the morning due to airline issues caused us to miss our flights. The lodge is typical lodge type place. It was nice but meals were pricey. The bed was a major issue for me. It was a high pillow top mattress. Being in a wheelchair, I was unable to get in bed by myself. Aug 5 Traveled thru Denali on a glass domed train. HIGHLY recommend if possible. We stayed overnight at Denali Lodge. We saw a moose within just a few minutes of being on the road. We also saw a grizzly bear, tons of caribou, sheep, and Golden Eagles. This one trip made the whole cruisetour worthwhile. Kept having to remind myself we still had a whole week of the cruise to look forward to after this. The drivers are good about stopping when people spot wildlife. The train is very comfortable. The windows are awesome for seeing out. They started out the ride by everyone going into the dining area to eat breakfast. It was about $8-$12 from what I remember to eat there. Not much on the menu but the food was ok. There was a restroom on the train and it is wheelchair accessible. The crew was all very pleasant and helpful. Aug 6. The bus left for Talkeetna. We planned a flightseeing tour with Talkeetna Air Taxi, but had to cancel due to weather. They were very nice about giving us a refund and I would go with them again if I ever get the chance. I saw several signs talking about the "30% club" Only 30% of visitors ever get to see Mt. McKinley due to the weather. I guess we can count ourselves in the ""70% club" Talkeetna was a small town and unfortunately was pretty much shutting down for the evening by the time we got there. We ate at a little pizza place (Painted bright purple) recommended by our tour guide. It was ok, not great but the cheapest place we could find to eat there. The next morning we had cinnamon rolls from the bakery across the street from the pizza place. They were VERY good. Aug 7 Left early morning. We headed to Anchorage for a few hours to check out the town. Then it was on to Seward to get on the Radiance. Our motorcoach arrived at Seward mid afternoon and we all proceeded to check in. It all went fairly smooth. The Radiance is a beautiful ship, although it is showing its age to some degree. It does have tons of glass windows and hardly anywhere on the ship are you unable to see outside. The staff was very helpful and pleasant during our entire stay. Our cabin steward surprised us each evening with a different towel animal. He attended to everything we needed throughout the week. We ate at the Windjammer most of the week because my husband does not like to take the time to go change clothes to go into the dining room. I am not a big fan of the Windjammer but could always find something to eat. Loved the fries. The Seaside Grill had great Nathans Hot Dogs. We went to the dining room on the formal nights. The food was good as usual. The staff was all very accommodating. We even caught a glimpse of whales from the windows in sight from our table. The first full day was spent at Hubbard Glacier. Capt. Claus did an awesome job of getting us just a few hundred feet from the glacier. Everyone was congratulating him on such an awesome job. The glacier is absolutely amazing! Words cannot describe how beautiful it is. That was about the only day it was actually cold. We wore coats and gloves while milling about the outside at the ship that day. They do serve hot chocolate and specialty drinks out on the decks while at the glacier. The next day we arrived in Juneau early morning. We did the Whale Quest and Orca Point Lodge excursion. I expected to be bored. It was nothing of the like. We had tons of whales greeting us from the minute we got onto the the water. We were taken to Orca Lodge where a huge salmon feast was waiting for us. It was grilled salmon, cole slaw, corn on the cob. Very good. In fact, that is where I learned I did like salmon after all. They even offer to give you the marinade recipe. It has a small gift shop. During the whale watch time, we were in a very comfortable catamaran with huge windows. We were able to move about in our wheelchairs with ease. It also has an accessible bathroom. The next morning we arrived in Skagway. There we did the White Pass Scenic Railway tour. Another highlight and must do on this cruise. We boarded the train and were placed next to huge windows which are great for viewing. We did the roundtrip and at the turn around point, everyone switches seats to give everyone a fair chance for good viewing. Everyone is right when they tell you to sit on the left side of the train. The scenery is amazing. There is nothing you CAN'T take a picture of. I took probably a 100 pictures on this excursion alone. They take you up to the Canadian border and back. The next day was spent at Icy Strait Point. This is my one regret we had spent more time in this town. It was a tender port but there was a wheelchair lift on the tender boat. It took literally minutes to get on and get whisked across to the port. We did not get into the town but just toured the little museum there and watched whales from the area. I have heard it's a great place for whale watching as well as eagles. I will keep that in mind for next time. The next day we arrived in Ketchikan. We spent the morning fishing with Tony at Aurora Sportfishing. I would highly recommend him. We caught our limit of Salmon within a couple hours and after some cruising around, we were taken back to the port. We did see a beautiful bald eagle. It was the first I had seen on the cruise so I was happy about that. I got some great pictures of it. We spent the rest of the day milling about the town. It is a small town with lots of shops. Much the same shops are in each port. My favorite meal in the entire cruise probably was eaten here. It was called the "Crab Cracker Seafood Bar. I had a "Appetizer" of Crab Cocktail. It was a huge plate of 1 lb. crab meat. It was already prepared and ready to eat. No cracking or mess to eat. It was only $14.99. It was all I could do to finish the plate of meat. SOOO delicious. The next morning we arrived at Vancouver to conclude our cruise. The weather was typical to the area for the week we were there. One day at Talkeetna it was drizzly and yucky. For the most part, it was just foggy a portion of each of the remaining days. Weather does change quickly. The only time we were actually cold was at Hubbard Glacier. The rest of the time we just wore hoodies over our clothes. Much of the time we ended up taking the hoodies off and keeping them in our backpacks. We did not spend as much time doing activities on the ship as we normally do. We went to one show in the Aurora Theater. It was a comedian who was mediocre at best. Then we returned to the theater for the Farewell show. It was nice and as usual had a parade of all the crew ranging from Capt. Claus to the waitstaff to the room stewards. We went into the casino one night but did not stay long. We went into the Schooner bar once for one man's very cheesey tribute to Elton John and Billy Joel. Shopping in most all ports is about the same from what we experienced. Much of the same merchandise appears in every town. I was surprised to find scrapbooking sections in almost every store we went to. As a scrapbooker, I loved being able to purchase stuff specific to this trip and each town. Hoodies, fleece vests and gloves are everywhere and at very reasonable prices. I would recommend not packing one if you think you might buy one as a souvenir for yourself. Being first timers to Alaska, we definitely see things we would do next time we did not know to do this time. Such as spending more time in Icy Strait Point. Also, trying to do more activities in the towns. Being disabled, it is hard to figure out just what is accessible and working with the cruiseline can be frustrating. However, once we were there and could see just how it operated, I think we could have done more on our own picking out land excursions. My advice would be to: Talk to the locals about places to eat, things to do and see. Take lots of memory cards and batteries for your digital camera (or film). Don't miss the train ride through Denali if possible. Don't miss the White Pass Summit Excursion. Go Whale Watching even if it sounds boring, you won't regret it. Go fishing. Take a flightseeing tour around Mt. McKinley. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
We just returned from our Alaskan cruise-tour on the Radiance of the Seas, 7/7-7/17/09.  The "tour" portion was just OK, but the cruise was excellent.  I am 57 years old and my DH is 65 and we are Diamond members (just ... Read More
We just returned from our Alaskan cruise-tour on the Radiance of the Seas, 7/7-7/17/09.  The "tour" portion was just OK, but the cruise was excellent.  I am 57 years old and my DH is 65 and we are Diamond members (just barely).    Our cruise-tour started in Anchorage where we flew non-stop from DFW using airline miles.  We were met promptly at around 7 p.m. in baggage claim and taken to the Marriott Hotel in downtown Anchorage.  We were exhausted after the 7 hour flight and ordered room service and went to bed.   The next morning we were met about 10 a.m. by our tour director and her husband who was the bus driver.  There were about 20-25 people on the bus.  Our first stop was Wasilla where we visited a small museum and were left to explore on our own for about 1 ½ hours - trust me - there's nothing to see in Wasilla that will take that long.  It took less than 10 minutes to go through the museum and after that, we wandered over to a small crafts fair and looked around for about 5 minutes, then set out to find something to eat.  Our choices were a subway sandwich shop or the deli at the grocery store.  We spent time in the grocery store actually comparing the prices of the fruits & vegetables with those here in the Dallas area.  Finally it was time to leave and we headed to the Ididarod Museum, also in Wasilla.  After another 10 minute trip through the museum, we petted some cute Husky puppies and counted the minutes until it was time to leave - I think we were there about an hour, which was 30 minutes too long.   Finally, we headed to Talkeetna to catch the Wilderness Express.  Talkeetna is a small town where a lot of Mt. McKinley climbers stay and is also the town that was used as a model for Northern Exposure.  We had less than 45 minutes to explore before time to catch the train and I think some of the "Wasilla-time" could have been used there.  At any rate, after walking around for a little while, and having a drink at the "Historic Fairview Inn," we headed for the train station to catch the train back to Anchorage.  The train was great - very comfortable - not crowded - and it had a bartender who quickly started plying us with her wares!  And the food was delicious - I had baked halibut - not sure what my DH had.  We arrived back in Anchorage about 8:30 and again retired to our room for the evening.   The next morning we met downstairs with our luggage about 8:30 and headed for the Native Heritage Museum in Anchorage.  It was very interesting and we would have liked a little more time there.  But after about 1 ½ hours, it was time to go back downtown Anchorage for lunch.  We ate at the Glacier Brewhouse and since we weren't very hungry, we each got the ½ pizza and salad - mine was good (pepperoni) but my DH didn't like his (sausage & mushroom - possibly reindeer sausage ...).  After about 1 ½ hours downtown Anchorage (too much time), we got on our bus and headed to the Wildlife Conservatory - I'm not sure where that was - about halfway between Anchorage and Alyeska.  It's kind of like a zoo except what they do is rescue distressed animals and if possible, rehabilitate them so they can go back into the wild.  There were bears, moose, caribou, reindeer, and others that I can't think of.  It was interesting to see the animals but again, we were left there too long - 45 minutes would have been enough time to see everything.    Finally we headed for Girdwood and the Hotel Alyeska which we had been looking forward too.  Unfortunately, it was HOT - like 85-90 degrees - and the Hotel Alyeska had no air conditioning in the rooms.  They had fans, and the window opened, but there was no circulation.  I told my DH that it would cool down at sunset but unfortunately that never occurred mainly because the sun didn't go down until 1 a.m. and then came up again about 4:30 a.m.  So it was a hot night.  We did take the shuttle into Girdwood that night and ate at one of the little restaurants there but other than that, there wasn't much to do.  The next morning, we got up and used our tram ticket to go up to the top of the mountain and it was very scenic.  But that took about 30-45 minutes and after a walk around the property, we were ready to go - except our bus wasn't scheduled to pick us up until 1 p.m.  Plus we had to be out of our rooms by 9 a.m.  Another complaint I have with the "tour" part of the trip.   Our bus finally picked us up and we headed for the ship - always exciting to do that.  The trip from Alyeska to Seward was about 2 hours and our bus driver entertained us with stories and songs all the way there.  Also, I forgot to mention that we did see some wildlife on our trip - mainly moose and eagles.   We got to the ship about 3 o'clock and there was no line and we were through check-in and in our cabin in no time (9004 - balcony cabin).  We went to the Windjammer and grabbed a piece of pizza to tide us over until dinner - and FYI, the pepperoni pizza was consistently good at both the Windjammer and the Solarium all throughout the cruise.   So this doesn't get too long, let me summarize the food and entertainment quickly.  The food was good - in the dining room, in the Windjammer, and in both specialty restaurants.  I've seen a lot of criticism of the food on these boards, but for us, it was great.  Our table in the dining room (Main Seating) was right by the kitchen and I was kind of grumbling about that at first, but it ended up being great - our food always came out first and always came out hot!  And we had 2 great seating companions that we enjoyed visiting with every night.  As for the Windjammer, I know a lot of things they have in the buffet line seems like "swill," but IMHO, if you stick to the basics like pizza, or the made-to-order eggs in the morning, or the watermelon or French fries, then you can't go wrong.  Chops and Portofino were both worth the extra money.   The entertainment was also great.  The only show we missed was the "welcome aboard" show.  Piano Man was great, the Beatles band was great, the Mo-Town group was great, the comedian was funny - I must be leaving something out, but you get my drift!   We took 3 RCCL tours.  In Juneau, we did the Glacier Gardens and Mendenhall Glacier tour.  It was our favorite one - the gardens were beautiful and the glacier magnificent.  In Skagway, we did the streetcar tour - it was hot in Skagway and there was of course no air conditioning on the streetcar, so my DH was miserable.  This tour was just "OK" - not much to see in Skagway.  We stayed on the ship in Icy Straight Point and got the couples massage (over priced but very relaxing) and also watched whales from our balcony.  In Ketchikan, we went to the Lumberjack Show which was very entertaining.  We also walked all over the town and looked at the totem poles, had a drink at Fat Stan's, and generally had a great time.   Our last sea day was uneventful but relaxing.  Debarkation was very organized.  For planning purposes, it took 2 ½ hours from the time we disembarked to the time we got through security at the airport.  Our plane was at 12 noon and we had plenty of time, but I wouldn't want to try to fly out any earlier than that.   That's all I can think of right now.  If anyone has any questions, let me know! 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Sail Date July 2009
My wife and I and our friend Gail embarked from Pittsburgh on Sept. 1 headed to Fairbanks for RCI cruisetour #6. Our flights were arranged by RCI and all went well arriving into Fairbanks around 8:30 PM. We were met by our hostess, ... Read More
My wife and I and our friend Gail embarked from Pittsburgh on Sept. 1 headed to Fairbanks for RCI cruisetour #6. Our flights were arranged by RCI and all went well arriving into Fairbanks around 8:30 PM. We were met by our hostess, gathered our luggage and were bused to Sophie's Station in Fairbanks. This hotel was fine but the food costs at the hotel were pretty steep. The next day we did the Discovery sternwheeler, the El Dorado mine gold panning and a tour of Fairbanks. We had lunch at Gambardelli's(sp) and it was very good and reasonably priced. The next morning we headed for Denali onboard the Wilderness Express and the 3 1/2 trip was very enjoyable. We ate breakfast on the train and the food was great and once again very reasonably priced. Our bus driver Mike met us at the train station in Denali and took us for the short trip to the park entrance where we had a couple of hours to have lunch before boarding our bus for the 7 hour Tundra Wilderness tour in Denali National Park. What an experience as we saw an abundance of wildlife. We encountered moose, caribou, dall sheep, grizzly bears, wolves, fox, snowshoe hares, and some others. We spent the night at the Mckinley Village Lodge and our accommodations were fine. Once again the food prices at the hotel were extremely high since there was no place else to go. The next morning we went on the white water rafting excursion from the cruise line which was great and then boarded our bus for the 3 hour drive to Talkeetna and arrived at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. This was the best hotel of the trip. We were fortunate enough to be in the 30% of people who actually got to see Mt. McKinley. They say that 70% of the people never see the mountain because of clouds. Through the internet we had arranged for a flight seeing tour with Talkeetna Air Taxi around the mountain and a landing on the glacier in front of it. I recommend this excursion highly and our pilot Tom was outstanding. That evening we had dinner at the Wildflower Cafe in Talkeetna and the food was very good. This place is also highly recommended. The next morning we boarded our bus for the trip to Seward with a 3 hour stop in Anchorage for breakfast/lunch and some shopping. We had breakfast at the Downtown Deli and it is recommended. We then continued on to Seward where we boarded the Radiance with no problems at all. Just a note that our weather for our days on land was great. Temps in the low 60's/high 50's during the day and high 40's at night. The next day (Sept 6) was our first day at sea and was spent cruising Hubbard Glacier. This was just fantastic as our Captain got the ship within about 100 yards of the glacier. We observed about 10 to 15 instances of calving and it is something that has to be seen and heard to be truly appreciated. Our next day was in Juneau and we were confronted with light rain. Once again we booked an independent excursion for whale watching. We booked with Harv and Marv and it was a truly fantastic experience. These two guys have been friends for years and have operated their business for many years. The benefit of going with them is that they have two small boats, each of which only holds 6 passengers and can get from place to place very quickly. They are both very knowledgeable on whales and the area and we were not disappointed. We saw many bald eagles, Orca(killer whales), sea lions and humpback whales. I recommend them very highly. After our whale watching excursion, the van driver (they have their own van that picks you up at the pier and takes you to the whale watching boats) took us to Mendenhall Glacier, waited for us while we viewed the glacier and the falls next to it, and then dropped us off in the center of town as we requested of him. We shopped in downtown, had a drink at the Red Dog Saloon and then returned to the ship. Next day was in Skagway where we had independently booked the White Pass railway and Yukon tour with Chilkoot Charters. This was an 8 hour trip with a 2 hour ride on the railroad followed by a bus trip up into the Yukon Territory ending with lunch in Carcross. This trip is well worth the price. After returning to town our driver dropped us off in town as many people requested and then took the others back to the ship. Those of us who got off in town did some shopping and then had a beer at the famous Red Onion Saloon. A great day in Skagway. Then it was on to Icy Strait Point which for us was the most disappointing part of our journey. My understanding is that RCI has skipped Sitka on this itinerary and instead included this. My recommendation is to spend a relaxing day on the ship, but if you do go ashore DO NOT take the shuttle into the village of Hoonah as there is nothing there except a few buildings, a boatyard, and a fish processing plant. I think this may be a place that RCI is creating for their own benefit. They do have a zip line there if that interests you, but that is it. Our final port was Ketchikan where we booked the Saxman Village and Lumberjack show through the ship. It was an interesting tour as we had an Indian native show at the village, saw the carving of totem poles and then saw many finished totem poles in the area. The lumberjack show was as expected with the usual comedy mixed in with the skills competition between two teams of lumberjacks. We did walk through Creek Street and my wife and our friend Gail shopped the rest of the day away. Ketchikan was the rainiest port of call that we had but with the proper outerwear it is no problem. Our final day was spent cruising through the inside passage where the scenery was beautiful and we did see a few humpback whales accompanying us. We arrived into Vancouver the next morning. Although not mentioned directly, we(at least my wife and Gail) did do a lot of shopping in each place as there are many shops in each of the stops. Disembarking was very smooth and our flights home were quite pleasant. Our only issue here was that we had purchased a small Ulu knife for our son in Juneau and the cruise security people took it when we were getting back on the ship and said we could pick it up the last night of the cruise. Well when we were leaving the ship no one from RCI seemed to know anything about it. They gave us a form and said to call the number at the bottom of it when we got home. We called and they are looking into it. All in all, this was one fantastic adventure that we recommend highly to everyone considering it. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
Radiance of the Seas (Royal Caribbean) : Seward to Vancouver 8/8/08 About us: extended family of 10: me and my wife, our 3 kids (10, 7, 4), my parents, my sister (single), and my other sister's two boys (13 & 11). I am mostly ... Read More
Radiance of the Seas (Royal Caribbean) : Seward to Vancouver 8/8/08 About us: extended family of 10: me and my wife, our 3 kids (10, 7, 4), my parents, my sister (single), and my other sister's two boys (13 & 11). I am mostly comparing to my most recent experience : Freedom of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)in July 2007. Overall this was a great experience - mostly because the scenery was spectacular and the cruise had all the regular fun (great food, service, and relaxation) Flew into Anchorage the day before the cruise - long (6+ hours from chicago) but uneventful flight. Stayed at America's Best Value Suite hotel - we did not like this hotel at all. It wasn't too expensive and had free, but that's about it. "Free breakfast" was entirely unimpressive. Embarkation - Getting to Seward from Anchorage was a bit of an expense. ($750 for a private van) But the scenery was very nice and it was a relaxing drive. Hassle free check-in. The luggage handlers said we would get out bags within 1 - 1.5 hours; it took over 4 hours, but that was no big deal. Onboard: Rooms - we had 3 rooms in total: 1 balcony (Deck 7) and 3 outside staterooms. Balcony was definitely nice, but be warned: you get LESS floorspace that a regular window room (i think the balcony takes up some of your would-be floor space). Rooms were typical of other boats - I prefer the sliding rounded door in the shower (Freedom of the Seas) than the curtain that always seems to let water out of the shower. TVs were old-school and picture quality was poor, even for a cruiseship. Every one of our 4 rooms had the on/off button on the TV broken, so you had to find the remote (no small task when you have little ones). Public areas - fair at best. One big issue was that in order to go from the front of the ship to the back you had to go through the long hallway of staterooms or through the casino or the maze-like shopping/photo complex. Compared to Freedom, there was no sense of spaciousness. On the other hand, it rarely seemed to be crowded in public areas except before/after shows and dinner. Exercise room - treadmills were very old, and had no attached TV monitor. Activities/Entertainment: Kids activities - Fair: I saw them frequently watching Sponge-Bob; I think the fact that it was too cold for the poor and other outside activities, the program was somewhat limited. Adult activities - We only did Trivia and a few related activities; These are always fun for us, but nothing special; Entertainment - This was a weak part of the cruise. the production shows put me to sleep (so we didn't go to the second one). The comedians were just okay. The gymnast was just okay. Many of the jokes are recycled from other cruises. Ports and Scenery - The highlight of the cruise was the 1st day @ sea. Here, the ship goes up to the Hubbard Glacier and parks there for a good 20-30 minutes and turns right in front of the glacier. You are close enough to see and hear huge chunks of ice from the glacier break off and fall into the sea. This was perhaps the best single cruising experience that I can remember. Weather - While it was never really cold, it was wet for 3 of the 4 ports. It was almost always overcast. Juneau - rained and fog, so our experience was not great. We took a bus to the Mendenhall glacier - we didn't see much of anything through the fog. See the salmon in the creek next to the glacier was kind of cool. Some other people saw bears, but we didn't - we didn't wait around since we were getting soaked. Nice little town, but nothing exciting. Skagway - smaller than juneau, we took a train. Spectacular views, but the ride is a little long (3 hours round trip). Might have been better if they let you get out at a couple of points, but the were very clear about the rules: no getting off the train. We all fell asleep for a few minutes. (my 4 year old slept through the entire thing).It was $100+ per adult and $50+ per child - so that was an expensive nap. As a side note all the excursions seemed VERY expensive, especially ones that involved helicopters or seaplanes. Icy Straight Point - its almost like the little "private islands" in the caribbean that some of the cruise lines have. They basically bought a native american village (Hoonah) and commercialized it for tourism. It is very peaceful and picturesque. We had a great whale-watching experience from the island and we didn't pay for any excursion. Just saw the whales from the island's shore. Did zip-lining here - its really fun, but expensive and very short(despite a 30 min bus ride up the mountain). Ketchikan - small town, very rainy - we saw a couple of souvenir shops and checked out the small museum- okay for 5 bucks (kids are free) but nothing special. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
We were a family of 8...coming from Texas, Florida, Calif. South Carolina. Ages 14 to 65!!! We all met in Anchorage the day before, Stayed at the Marriott...it was comfortable and within easy walking to restaurants and shops in town. Had ... Read More
We were a family of 8...coming from Texas, Florida, Calif. South Carolina. Ages 14 to 65!!! We all met in Anchorage the day before, Stayed at the Marriott...it was comfortable and within easy walking to restaurants and shops in town. Had dinner at Orso`s!! Wonderful food...not to be missed.Friday morning a bus arrived to take us to our train and we were on our way to Seward. The train ride was great!! Very comfortable seats, with large vista windows. The scenery was breathtaking. It just kept getting better and better!!! We arrived at Seward and walked a short distance to the terminal...boarding was fast, efficient and easy. We were on in minutes! The Radiance is beautiful!! It is spotless and bright...nothing hurts your ears or your eyes!!! Every single worker on the ship was cheerful and polite.....they made us feel very welcome!! Our luggage arrived within a hour...we unpacked and got ready to explore our home for the next 7 days!!! The size of the Radiance is medium....just big enough to have lots to see and do...but not so big that it is overwhelming. The perfect size for us!! Our first dinner was a pleasant surprise! Our waiter Sergey was absolutely the BEST of any cruise I have ever been on. Service was outstanding and the food excellent. We never had any reason to go to the speciality restaurants. We ate at our table every night...with pleasure!!! The food was fresh, hot, pleasant to look at and well prepared. If you like Alaskan fish, this is the place to really enjoy it every night...and we did. The Windjammer was great for breakfast and lunch...plenty of choices.. lots of fresh fruits and salads and excellent desserts. We ate at the Seaview cafe once and it was very good as well, with a smaller more intimate atmosphere.Entertainment: To me the entertainment was lacking in talent. The singers and dancers didn`t seem to have there hearts in what they were doing. There was no WOW factor in the cruise director...he tried to be funny but...well....not really. There were numerous lounges at night that had good music....and some nice places for teenagers to "hang out". At every port there are so many interesting things to do. Juneau was cold and rainy...but the town is friendly. We went on a whale watching tour and it was amazing!!! We saw lots of whales, both Orcas and Humpbacks. It was a good trip and well worth it.Skagway is like stepping back in time...what a cute place and so much fun!!! Hoonah also was great...we went zip lining which was alot of fun, and bear hunting which was really crazy!!! We did see 2 bears on the van type tour...the guide chased them down these little narrow dirt roads....of course the bears ran away...but we got quite close to one and got some good pictures!!!What a riot!!! In Ketchikan we took a floatplane to the fiords. It was a first for all of us and an experience to be remembered forever. It was beautiful, everything was so BIG!! Landing on the water was so easy...it just sort of sat down!!! Our last night was sort of sad, packing and getting ready to get back to the real world!!! Disembarkation: was orderly and reasonable. We stayed an extra day in Vancouver, which is a lovely city and has lots to see and do. My husband and I have cruised over 20 times, with many lines. Cunard, Princess, Costa, Holland & Carnival. This is our 10th with Royal Caribbean. We have been on good,bad and mediocre cruises. This cruise ranks right at the very top for a wonderful time. It was sad to leave the Radiance and we will always remember her with fond memories.Its a perfect ship for families of all ages and Alaska is the most perfect place!! The Last Frontier!! For sure!!! Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
We booked our cruise directly through Royal Caribbean's website. We scheduled our arrival in Anchorage the day before sailing and had a great dinner at the Glacier Brewhouse. We stayed at the Sheraton Anchorage, which was a bit ... Read More
We booked our cruise directly through Royal Caribbean's website. We scheduled our arrival in Anchorage the day before sailing and had a great dinner at the Glacier Brewhouse. We stayed at the Sheraton Anchorage, which was a bit removed from the heart of downtown, but was still walkable. We had several choices to get to Seward to meet the ship and opted for a company called "Alaskan Leopard Comedy Tours." The minibus picked us up at our hotel and made three stops along the way including one at the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge just outside Girdwood. The refuge cares for animals that are injured. There we saw black and brown bears, moose, elk, and a bald eagle. The minibus was decorated inside to resemble a log cabin and a video that played throughout the trip was very informative although the comedy produced a lot of groans! Our driver was very courteous and friendly. Each of my kids received a small stuffed bald eagle as a little gift. The Radiance of the Seas was waiting for us at Seward. Although not scheduled to receive passengers until 1pm, they were ready for us at 12pm and we quickly boarded the ship without any inconvenience. Lunch was being served on board in the Windjammer Cafe. The pools were open and we lamented the fact that we hadn't brought our swimsuits in our carry-on's but by the time lunch was over and we went to check out our stateroom, our bags were already there. Regardless, we chose to go back into Seward to visit the Alaska Sealife Center, a lovely aquarium. Although it's quite a walk from the ship to the center, there is a free motorized trolly that circles Seward and picks up right at the dock. One of the town's pastors drove the trolley and provided commentary as we moved through town. The ship was incredibly clean for being seven years old. There always seemed to be some maintenance activity going - steam cleaning around the pool, sanding and staining teak, etc. Handwipes were available just about everywhere and banisters and railings were constantly being wiped down. The light-colored wood throughout the ship along with its chrome accents and fixtures were always kept clean and sparkling. The glass throughout the ship was perfect for a voyage to Alaska. Even while waiting for the glass elevators the doorways for those elevators were made of glass so one could look through the doorways on to the ocean. Our Family Suite on board was perfect for our family of four but could accommodate up to six. Our children, ages 7 & 9, had bunk beds in a separate area with lots of closet space, separated from the main cabin with a floor to ceiling curtain. My wife and I had a king bed (two twins) in another area separated from the main cabin, also by a floor to ceiling curtain. Our area had a vanity with mirror, small closet, and two night stands. All of the beds had separate reading lights. The main area of the cabinwas a wide open space with a desk, lots of storage space, two cushioned chairs, a loveseat with pullout sofa, a small coffee table, mini fridge, and a larger circular window off the starboard side. The bathroom was a standard size. There was one television on a small bookcase that helped to separate the main part of the cabin from the main bedroom. It was on a swivel base so you could watch it in the bedroom or the living area. On the Radiance class (and perhaps other Royal ships)there are two layouts for the family suite. Ours was on the starboard side on deck 8, just below the bridge with one window. The other family suite is located forward and has a wall with the 45-degree angle of the front of the ship with two windows facing forward. I don't know how the curtains worked with the windows being in the 45-degree side of the cabins, but as we were concerned with the amount of light that might filter through, we opted for the side family suite and were very happy. We'll plan on booking this same cabin in the future. On Board Activities were great. Since we were in Alaska, even though we didn't have any rain during our cruise, the days were never warm enough to put on a pair of shorts. There are three pools on board. The one in the Solarium is usually reserved for adults only but because we were in Alaska, it was open for children twice a day for two hours each time (late morning and late afternoon). The outside pool was heated throughout the cruise, along with the two jacuzzi-style tubs, and people were always in them regardless of the weather. The children's pool with the water slide was also heated but usually only open a short time each day. The spa was very nice and my wife enjoyed the fact that the treadmills in the fitness area were located forward and pointed out the windows so you could look out. Our kids loved the rock climbing wall and the miniature golf course. They also loved Adventure Ocean and the multi-cultural staff was outstanding. Every night our cabin steward left a schedule designed by age group on the kids' pillows so we could see what was coming up the next day. On most nights there was a theme including a pirate's night where all the children dressed up, learned a song, and marched throughout the ship up on to the stage of the main showroom where people who were waiting for the 9pm show were entertained by the children for a short while. Other entertainment was average for a cruise line. We managed three shore excursions including the Sled Dog Summer Camp in Juneau which was very well-done and informative and perfect for our two kids. We also did the White Pass Railroad in Skagway and, while a bit long, our kids enjoyed the spectacular scenery. Finally we did the lumberjack show in Ketchikan which was very entertaining. The stop in Icy Straight Point, where we didn't do any shore excursion, was our favorite port of call. The port only allows one ship per day and passengers have to be tendered in. The small village has a great museum, lovely shops and its claim to fame is the world's longest, continuous zipline. While we enjoyed watching people coming down the zipline, our children were very content to play on the beach and get their hands dirty. We were happy to watch. While we saw some wildlife from on board the ship (orcas, bald eagles, harbor seals, and bears) they were always a good distance from the ship so one may want to consider a shore excursion to see more wildlife upclose. Dining on board was excellent. I was particularly happy with the special kids menu that was available each night in the main dining room. There was always something to make the kids happy the the Seaview Cafe or the Windjammer Cafe. In the main dining room there was a very diverse selection of food offered each night. We did, however, venture into the two specialty restaurants - Portofino and Chops. Both were excellent although the edge goes to Chops. As the restaurants do not allow children under ten, we chose to visit these restaurants on nights that Adventure Ocean staff offer to take kids down to the Windjammer for dinner. That worked quite well. The staff on board was amazingly friendly and personable. We had the chance to meet the young captain (early 40's) twice while on board and found him very funny and quite charming. During the Captain's reception where he poses for photos with guests, he recalled seeing our family of four on the bow of the ship the night before from the bridge. I thought he would be an excellent entertainer for the ship. Our cabin attendant always referred to us by name and always gave my 7-year old son a high five whenever they met in the hallway - and even did so one day when we encountered him on shore during his off hours. This was an amazing trip. We are ready to book Royal Caribbean any time in the future that the opportunity presents itself. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
Cruise Date: May 30, 2008 Introduction I am 35-year-old male traveling for the first time in a cruise ship with my friend. A cruise-savvy neighbor with more than 30 sailing times suggested going with Princess Cruise. However, Radiance of ... Read More
Cruise Date: May 30, 2008 Introduction I am 35-year-old male traveling for the first time in a cruise ship with my friend. A cruise-savvy neighbor with more than 30 sailing times suggested going with Princess Cruise. However, Radiance of the Sea was featured at the travel channel and we decided to take it. The flight reservation and cruise first payment were reserved and paid since February 2008. Pre-Cruise We cashed our United frequent-flier points for round-trip flights to Vancouver, and Citibank Thank You points for one-way flight from Seattle to Anchorage. We spent three nights in Vancouver, two nights in Anchorage, and one night in Seward. Seward We arrived one day before our cruise departure in Seward and stayed at Hotel Edgewater. It was just renovated for summer 2008 holiday season so everything looked brand-new especially the LCD TV. Unfortunately the Exit Glacier was closed due to excess snow on the main road. We took the sled dog tour for $60 in the morning then went back to the hotel to request a free shuttle to the cruise terminal. The sled dog tour was half the price compared to the one in Juneau offered by RCI. Embarkation The online check-in was completed two weeks before the cruise date but on the embarkation day at 2:15 PM, we were so unfortunate to check-in with a trainee. Every minute or so, she asked other staff how to do this or that. As a result, total check-in time was 30 minutes. Our luggage arrived at the cabin around 9 PM. Food and Dining The Windjammer buffet restaurant was catered to various tastes, from health-conscious individuals to junk-food lovers. Some food was labeled "vitality" which RCI said "in keeping with today's increased nutritional awareness, our Vitality dishes reflect a lighter and healthier fare". Of course, the popular 800-calories hamburger with greasy French fries is still available. I was not surprised that the Indian food was authentic and not-americanized, because two of the restaurant management personnel were from India. We tried room service for breakfast and dinner several times and we were happy with the quick service. One night, I realized the corn-crusted tilapia served at Windjammer was exactly the same as the one presented at the Cascades restaurant. In my opinion, the Cascades restaurant provides good food, but do not expect gourmet. I prefer to call it fine dining in mass production. Some menu samples are Gobi Ki Sabzi "cauliflower curry with cumin seeds, ginger, peppers and tomatoes served with fragrant basmati rice, pappadams, and tangy raita" and Asparagus and Brie Tart "fresh asparagus and nutty Brie are baked in a buttery crust-topped with grilled plum tomatoes and arugala salad - red pepper essence and chive oil add a brighter touch". The food description sounded better than it actually was. Entertainment I do not want to offend anyone but I think the entertainment is targeted mainly to older folks. The singing, comedy, and live music are most of the time from oldies repertoire. On day 3, we watched City of Dreams, a small-production musical, at the Aurora Theater. I was more impressed with the physical building rather than the show. As a musician, I would say that the stage setting and costume design were very elaborate, the dancers were pretty good, but the music was poorly arranged and orchestrated. Juneau My main concern with reserving excursions ahead of time is the non-cancellable policy in case of bad weather. Before reaching the port of call, I sent a text message "Juneau weather" to Google (466453) to get the weather forecast. It turned out that the weather was clear and sunny. Within 5 minute walk from the ship is Juneau "downtown" where several tour agencies were located. One of them offered a 3.5 hour whale watching tour with money back guarantee if whale was not sighted, for $100, including narrated city tour and a 45-minute trip to Mendenhall Glacier. This package is significantly cheaper than the RCI price. We found the whale watching disappointing because the boat was so far away from the humpback whale that binoculars are required to see the whale. Even with 10x camcorder zoom lens, the whale still looked so tiny. The tour operator said that by law the boat was required to be at least 300-feet from the wild marine animals. Skagway This was our favorite port because of its historic significance regarding the gold rush to the Klondike. We found a tour company, Southeast Tours, which was off the beaten path that met our desired itinerary and price range. It turned out to be much better than the highly marked-up tours offered by RCI. Our tour guide, Brian, from Southeast Tours, was impressively knowledgeable and well-versed in the history Skagway played as a starting point and supply depot for the gold rush. He had an interesting way of telling the story, which made the tour extremely enjoyable. Icy Strait Point (ISP) This is obviously a cruise-company-made port of call. Considering ISP is a rainy little town, we were quite blessed to have cloudy and on-and-off drizzle. We took rather expensive zipline tour for $90. Don't get intimidated with this tour. It is not scary at all. At the landing area of zipline ride, we walked to the beach and encountered a humpback whale. This additional "whale-watching" was completely free. Ketchikan I couldn't say much about Ketchikan, but my first impression about it is a little shopping town of Alaska. Because it was the last port of call, we spent most time looking for stuff that we could take home. At the end, we shipped food items, several Silver Lining-brand smoked salmon and smoked halibut via USPS flat-rate priority mail. Disembarkation We had breakfast at the Cascade restaurant at 8 AM. The breakfast menu was so much simplified and "reduced". I guess it was because of the last day of the cruise. The disembarkation was so much better than embarkation. From the time our color tag was called and we passed through immigration and customs, until we boarded the shuttle, it took less than 60 minutes. RCI offers a shuttle service between Balantyne Pier, to either Vancouver airport (16 miles) or Seattle-Tacoma airport (162 miles). Both cost $25 per person. Using other private service (phone 604-841-2121), we paid $13 per person for shuttle service to Best Western Airport Hotel in Richmond, BC. Conclusions If you like shopping, there was a lot of variety at the ports of call. However, we felt there were an overwhelming number of jewelry stores. We were told this was because of the high rent for shops on the main streets. Overall, our cruise experience was very good because Radiance of the Seas was clean and well-maintained. Also, the itinerary provided a good sampling of Alaskan experiences such as pristine scenery, native wildlife and historic perspective. We would favorably recommend a Royal Caribbean cruise. Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
Ours was An Alaskan Cruise tour starting in Anchorage--All I can say is WOW!! Arriving 2 days early to acclimate ourselves we rented bikes and tried the Tony Knowles Costal trail and spotted a Mama Moose and her 2 calves within feet of ... Read More
Ours was An Alaskan Cruise tour starting in Anchorage--All I can say is WOW!! Arriving 2 days early to acclimate ourselves we rented bikes and tried the Tony Knowles Costal trail and spotted a Mama Moose and her 2 calves within feet of the path. Found a really great bar that had outstanding food--F Street Station (near F and 4th) As we were peeking in the door a patron said "i've been coming here for 30 years" -good enough endorsement for us-we ate there and stopped again when the tour went through at lunch time for another try. Really good sea food. The Tour featured a train trip as far as Talkeetna (another group boarded for the rest of the trip to Denali as we transferred to buses). The ride was nice but we did get the part of the trip that featured a view of trees. Tony the guide had a good sense of humor and breakfast in the dining car was a treat. Talkeetna was a "quirky" little town--we stopped both ways. The Lodge there has a fantastic view if Denali is out (which it was for us) but eating outside the lodge was just passable bar food. The Grand Denali Lodge was okay. Our half of the building had views of parking lot. The natural history tour with Brian (?) was much better than expected. The weather was good for us and we did spot all 5 of the major animals. Our driver was kinda a cowboy poet with a great voice and really enthusiastic about everything Denali. The Tour left Denali went back through Talkeetna and on to Alyeska. The lodge is something to see. Only complaint is the room booklet didn't tell about anything but the restaurants. We took the train up to & Glaciers where we had our first 5 star dinner. It was pricey, but worth it. We did hike around the grounds on some very well marked and maintained paths. transferred to the seward and the ship. The Radiance was like home to us, as we have sailed both Jewel and Brilliance. We really enjoyed a dinner at the captain's table-thanks to our CC friends Mike and Sue. The only complaint about the ship is the music after mid-night in the Star-quest lounge. It was packed on nights that featured classic rock--but was a ghost town when playing blazing current stuff. (On 50-60s night--we couldn't even find a seat). The ship and Staff were excellent. In Juneau we booked an outside excursion-whale watching with Harv and Marv. It is a real family business with long time Alaskans. Small groups of 6 on small boats so they really could personalize your tour. In Icy Straights we did the ZIPline. The wait was cold, long and scary- but once we were launched it was intense and we were ready to do it again. In Ketchikan we booked independently again through South East Sea Kayaks. This again was a small group in a highly personal tour. 4 of us in two canoes with a life-long Alaskan for a guide. They picked us up, outfitted us in rain gear, transported us to the "mother ship" where we were given a lesson and our Kayaks (also where they treated us to a smoked salmon snack and a hot drink afterwards). The views through out Alaska were what you normally only see on PBS or the Travel Channel. The people were very friendly and most helpful. If you are going inland especially in June you really do have sun at midnight and it really does rise again around 3:30 a.m. (Not so much in the pan handle) I would urge anyone going to venture a few streets beyond the portside streets to Alaskan owned stores (signs in the window) even then you need to check for "made in Alaska" on the bottom. Take extra film, extra layers of clothes, and binoculars. Many on our trip were on their 2nd or 3rd Alaskan trip and many more booked an additional one when they left. Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
First, we are a family of 3 (12 year old son). First real cruise and first time to Alaska. We booked through our travel agent who suggested RCI based on what we really wanted to do and see. All air reservations were done through RCI as ... Read More
First, we are a family of 3 (12 year old son). First real cruise and first time to Alaska. We booked through our travel agent who suggested RCI based on what we really wanted to do and see. All air reservations were done through RCI as well We did cruise tour 19 which starts in Anchorage. We arrived at 2 in the afternoon and were met by the RCI people who took us to the Marriott and we immediately started exploring the city. The Ulu factory and the coastal trail, etc. It is a fun town to walk around in and it helps that it doesn't get dark until midnight. We ate dinner at Orso which was pricey but the food was great. The next morning we drove on to Denali. . The scenery is spectacular but there were not enough stops to take pictures We spent the night in the Grande Denali Lodge The view was great but the lodge itself was not so great looking like it was slapped together in a hurry but it was adequate for our needs. Their buffet breakfast was incredibly expensive for what it was. In the morning we were off to the Natural History Tour which was just a little taste of what the park is. We saw caribou, Dall sheep, moose, hare, ptarmigan but no bears and of course again amazing scenery. Spring was just a little late so things were just starting. After that we were off to Talkeetna. This is a very unusual place. The Talkeetna Alaska Lodge was very nice with incredible views of the mountain which did finally put in appearance and we watched the sun set over it at 11:30 pm. We also booked a flightseeing tour with glacier landing independently with Talkeetna Air Taxi. I am not a good flyer but this was the most amazing thing we did. Words and pictures cannot describe it. The next morning we were off to board Radiance in Seward. Again driving down the Kenai Peninsula was spectacular scenery but no stops for pictures. There were lines for embarkation but they moved fairly quickly and we were on board by 4pm. Our luggage did not arrive until after 9pm. We were on deck 10 cabin 1088 port side aft with a balcony. It was a nice cabin and was adequate for out needs. We explored the ship and found some nice places to sit and do whatever. We were somewhat limited having a twelve year old with us and they have a midnight curfew and are not welcomed in bars after 10pm we didn't want to leave him in the cabin alone. He did participate in some of the teen events but they grouped 12-17 year olds together and he was somewhat intimidated by the older kids. We very much enjoyed Hubbard Glacier. We got close enough to see it fairly well. In Juneau we went up the Mt Roberts Tram. There was still a lot of snow on the ground so the trails were closed but the view was nice. We also took one of the buses out to Mendenhall Glacier where we took our time looking around. .We heard the glacier calve but did not see it. Next stop was Skagway where we rented a car from Avis and drove to the Yukon in Canada. It was foggy and light rain when we started out but once we crossed White Pass the weather and the drive was absolutely beautiful. We went as far as Emerald Lake taking our time and lots of pictures. It was on this drive we saw our only bear as well all the other major wildlife. The whole trip took us about 5 hours leaving us time to still explore Skagway. Next stop was Icy Strait Point. Here we did a whale watch tour booked through RCI. This was incredible. There were many humpbacks some with calves. There was one whale that breached not once but FOUR times right in front of us. We also saw sea lions and porpoises Next stop was Ketchikan where we went on the Bering Sea Crab fisherman's tour. They showed us how they fish for a variety of different things but the highlight was definitely the king crabs. They also showed us eagles like we had never dreamed possible. We also walked and shopped a little taking in Creek Street and looking at the totem poles. In all the ports you have to look to get away from the "same old things" when shopping. That got very old very fast. Our worst weather was coming down the inside passage of Canada. It rained the whole time spoiling the scenery. We only ate in the Windjammer since we were always busy doing something at our 6pm dinner seating time. The food was good but got somewhat repetitive. It was convenient as it was just one flight of stairs above us. We had room service one morning and it was very speedy. Our cabin attendant was good, seeing that we had everything we needed and of course we had the whole collection of towel animals which our son enjoyed. The entertainment was OK. Our son enjoyed the juggler/comedian. The singer we left 10 minutes into the performance. The shows seemed to draw the older crowd. We tried the pools one time. The outdoor pool was warmer than the indoor (which they limit kid time in) but the air temperature outside was too cold. For us this trip was about where we were going - ALASKA- and not necessarily the cruise. We feel like we got to see and do some amazing things and it would be nice to do it again and see and do some different amazing things Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
**WARNING*** This is going to be really long. I will try to put sub-headings so that you can skip to the parts you want to read :) My family of first-time cruisers (except for me, who had done 1 Caribbean cruise on Carnival) set out for ... Read More
**WARNING*** This is going to be really long. I will try to put sub-headings so that you can skip to the parts you want to read :) My family of first-time cruisers (except for me, who had done 1 Caribbean cruise on Carnival) set out for Alaska southbound on Radiance of the Seas. We were a group of 9 - my grandmother (80), my aunt (50), my mom and dad (50), me (29), my sister and her husband (26), their baby aka the cutest baby in all the land (6 months), and my brother (23). Although we booked through a travel agent, I did a lot of the research, mainly through the Cruise Critic boards - thanks, everyone! A quick note about travelling with an infant - be sure to take lots of people with you! Abby really did well most of the trip, but it was nice that there were so many of us eager to take charge of her. I spoke to another couple travelling with their infant, and they said it was tough with just the two of them. I am sure there were some people who thought we shouldn't be on the ship with the baby, but we never heard from them. I loved getting to spend the time with her! We were all booked on deck 10 - my aunt in balcony room 1088, my grandmother and myself in balcony room 1070, my sister's family and my parents in connecting junior suites 1080 & 1082, and my brother in inside room 1005. The balcony room was nice, and plenty big enough for my grandmother and me. However, having those connecting junior suites really made the trip for my family. They were plenty big enough for all of us to go and hang out in one of them, and served as great meeting spaces. The room and the balcony were significantly bigger than the regular balcony rooms. If you can swing the price - go for the junior suite! The balcony is one of my favorite parts of cruising, and I can't imagine cruising without one - especially in Alaska where there is constant scenery. However, my brother's inside cabin was definitely sufficient, and he was happy with it. The Ship I'm certainly no expert on cruise ships, but I loved the ROS. The staff was wonderful. Our stateroom attendant, Pankaj, was great. Everyone on board seemed to love the baby - we talked to several people who had babies back at home and they enjoyed playing with her because they were missing their own children. Capt. Rune Loekling (sp?) was a stitch and one of the highlights of the trip. He was always making long-winded announcements in which he would tell us things such as the comedian was so funny they were making him an honorary Norwegian, We went to his Q&A session, and enjoyed it, although we left after an hour. He looks really young! We only ate in the dining room one night (don't worry, we tipped the waiters anyway!) partly because of our schedule, partly because we didn't want to have to dress for dinner - although there were a lot of casual nights - and partly because a two-hour dinner was tough with the baby. Also, we weren't overly impressed with the food the one night we were there. It was good, but we are not really "fancy food" kind of people. We ate in the Windjammer almost every meal, and really enjoyed the staff there. In fact, we had a favorite table and by mid-week there was a high chair waiting there for us when we got there! The menu was basically the same every night, and once again it was a little "fancy" for my taste, but there was always something for me to eat. You could make a Mongolian barbeque and have them cook it for you, there was an Indian corner, there was a station with meat and vegetable dishes, including some kind of carved meat, there was a make-your-own-pizza station, there was a pasta station where you selected the ingredients and the chef cooked it, there was a salad bar, and that's all I can remember :) Lunch was pre-made pizza, burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, pasta, tacos, and meat and vegetable dishes. Breakfast had any breakfast food you can imagine! We were all a little disappointed in the desserts - there was serious lack of chocolate! But we did enjoy making our own sundaes. The Coke card was one of my best purchases of the trip - I could have a fountain Diet Coke any time I wanted it! We were so tired at night that we didn't take advantage of the shows - we mostly went back to the room after dinner, put the baby to bed, hung out in the room for a little while and went to sleep. I did go to the opening night show and it was fun, but I never made it to anything after that. I even missed Quest! I kept thinking that I would watch the shows on the TV, but there was never time. I don't feel like I missed too much, however - Alaska was the real show. We did play mini-golf, which was fun. The clubs and balls are a little hard to find - there are in the "Country Club" just below the course. I also played pool on the self-leveling tables one night. I am lousy at pool, but it was really cool. You can watch the table move back and forth, but the balls don't move at all! I suppose it was really the ship moving while the table stayed still, but it was amazing nonetheless. One cold night we decided to try out the outdoor hot tubs and were disappointed to find that they were only lukewarm. We ran into the solarium and didn't get into the hot tub because there were kids in it (it took the RCI employees asking their father TWICE to get them out...and then another kid got in!), but we swam in the pool. It was nice, and I wish I had taken advantage of it more, but again we were so busy... They did have "family time" where kids could swim in the solarium from 12-2 and 4-6 each day since it was too cold to swim outside. I thought this was a good idea, but wish that the families would have respected those times. I didn't try out the bars or get any pictures taken, and I was not especially impressed with the shops on board. My mom, however, did buy some things there that she had seen in a shop in Juneau and wished she had gotten. We never had any problems getting on or off the ship. All in all, the staff definitely made the ship a great place. Alaska Getting There We booked our flights and transfers with Royal Caribbean (well, our travel agent did), and they were ok although I would have preferred to do it myself. We flew into Anchorage Thur. night and stayed at the Hilton. We had to catch our own cab from the airport, but there was a RCI desk in the lobby where someone met us to explain the next day's arrangement and got us to our room. There were great bellhops who took care of our luggage - their tips were included in our price - and that was really nice. The Hilton was fine, but pricey since we just needed somewhere to sleep for a little while. The next morning we had to have our luggage ready to go inside our room by 8:00, and then meet at a different hotel, about 5 blocks away. We could walk there or catch a shuttle at 10:00, but we had to be there by 11:30, to catch one of the shuttles between 12:00 and 12:30, which gave us a color card by which we boarded the train nd the train left about 1:15. That seemed like a really long, complicated process to catch a train. We ended up walking to a little restaurant with a breakfast buffet, and then checking in at the next hotel. We checked in about 10:30, and were given shuttle tickets and told to be back by 12:00. I sat at the hotel and read, but my family explored Anchorage. They didn't find anything terribly exciting - some of them went to a Northern Lights show which they said was terrible. So we finally got on the shuttle and made our way back through the airport to the train station and waited for our color to be called. When we finally got on the train, we were in a dome car where we sat at booths facing tables. The ride was incredible. There was some narration, and great scenery. We really enjoyed it. I wished, however, that we had been able to get on the earlier train so that we could have had some time in Seward. One really nice thing about this way, however, was that at the hotel in Anchorage they checked us in. We picked up a RCI employee on the way to Seward and she gave us our SeaPass cards, so we didn't have to wait in the check-in line at the pier at all. The security line was long, but it went fast. I hadn't seen my luggage all day, but it was already in my room when I got on the ship! Hubbard Glacier I went out early to get a spot on the helipad and stood out there in the freezing cold for 2 hours - not necessary. The helipad was never overly full, and people were good about sharing spots at the railings. Also, my family got basically the same view from their balconies although they did come out to the helipad for a little while. They were selling hot drinks - alcoholic and not - out there, and my sister made the comment that people were paying for hot chocolate out there and she got it for free in the Seaview Cafe! Hubbard Glacier really was incredible - I thought we got pretty close, but I don't have anything to compare it to. We were sailing right through a sea covered with ice. I was disappointed that we didn't get to see any calving, but I guess that's the luck of the draw. We did have a nice sunny day. Juneau I did not get out and explore Juneau, although my family went shopping. I don't think they found anything particularly memorable. We all went whale watching with Orca Enterprises. We had a great time - we saw several whales and some sea lions. I was disappointed, however, as I've heard other people say that all you get to see are the backs and the tails. We never saw a whale breach, and we only saw humpbacks. You can't control nature, however, and it was exciting to see even that much. We did see a mother and calf together, although I didn't even know it until I looked closely at the pictures. I spent almost the whole time out on either the back deck or up top, so I missed the commentary and the snack so I can't report on them. Capt. Larry was on our boat, but I didn't really get to hear him. Orca had two purple boats out that day, and one of the whales came up right beside the other boat - I was so jealous!! We did see one of the boats that came from a cruise ship excursion and it was crammed with people - I was glad that we booked with Orca. Skagway I think that Skagway was my favorite town of all the excursions. We booked a tour through Chilkoot Charters, and rode the White Pass & Yukon railway up to Fraser, B.C., then took a bus tour up into the Yukon with several scenic stops. We stopped at Caribou Crossing in Carcross for a little over an hour. We had a delicious barbeque chicken lunch. Visiting with the sled dogs and the museum were included in our tour, but I purchased a ride with the sled dogs and gold panning. The sled dogs were fun - we went on a wheeled cart through the woods. Gold panning was fun, but I wouldn't go on a separate excursion just to do it. I got to keep my gold, though, and they said that in the gift shop they sold necklaces and earrings that they would put the gold you got in. I REALLY wanted to do it, but I was already late for the bus and didn't want to hold everyone up. Sean was our tour guide and he was really fantastic - he had a dry sense of humor and was really knowledgeable about the area. He was a laid back, go-with-the-flow kind of guy - he even stopped at his favorite ice cream store in town so we could get ice cream cones! When we got back to Skagway we wandered through the streets and shops for a while. I walked in to the Red Onion Saloon, decided it was just a bar, and left. :) I can say that I went, though! Our favorite part of the day was the discovery of a little stream where they were catching the salmon as they swum upstream. There was a sign explaining that it was part of a breeding program. We watched them for a while, and then followed the creek back to the harbor where we found a salmon ladder and lots of seals (or sea lions - I don't know!) waiting to catch them. We watched them for a long time, and it was one of the highlights of the trip for me. We even went back to the ship, got the rest of the family, and went back out to watch some more. The seals had figured out that they could catch the salmon by waiting at the bottom of the ladder, and it was fun to watch them catch them. There was also a humpback whale in the harbor that we watched in the morning and the evening from our balconies. What a fantastic day! Icy Strait Point (Hoonah) The people here are fantastic. Icy Strait Point is really the name of a company that has set up shop at the docks, and the locals are quick to point out that is not their town. While we were waiting for someone from Teckk Outfitters to pick us up for our fishing trip, we chatted with several other tour guides waiting for their groups. We learned from them that "There are no black bears here b/c the brown bears eat them", "Throwing cedar chips into the ceremonial fire is dumb - don't bother", and lots of other great tidbits. (They also all appeared to be carrying guns, so I think bears must be a real problem there!) Keith picked us up and, after a detour by his house to pick up something he forgot :), drove his white van right out onto the pier to meet Max, our fishing boat captain. There were five of us, and we went out halibut fishing for half a day. The first two places we tried we came up short, but at the third spot the halibut were biting. Catching halibut is hard!!!! They are all the way down at the bottom (about 150 ft. down) and they are heavy suckers. I only got one, but my sister and dad got 3, and my brother-in-law got 4. My dad accidentally hooked some really tiny fish, and my brother caught some sort of cod as well. Max was great, and we had an excellent time. He filleted, froze, and shipped our catch back home for us when we were done. Keith's wife picked us up to take us back to the ship, and she told us that her son works at the zip line and part of his job is to test it out every morning. She said she hasn't done it, but she hears that it's really fun. The rest of my family never got off the ship, choosing to stay onboard and baby-sit instead. We walked quickly through the gift shop at Icy Strait Point, but weren't impressed. I did see the theater for the Native dances, but I didn't see a show, so I can't report on that. We had to anchor off-shore and tender in here, but we didn't have any problems doing it. There was a humpback whale playing in the water all day by our ship here as well. Ketchikan We got up early and got off the ship to explore Ketchikan. We walked up Creek Street, but didn't go into any of the shops. It was cute, though. We watched the salmon gathering together for their run up the creek. Then we followed the boardwalk and on up Married Man's Trail to watch the salmon. The salmon were running while we were there, and there is a waterfall where Married Man's Trail meets the road (there's a bridge there as well) that's really a man-made salmon ladder. We stood for a while and watched the salmon jump up it - what an amazing sight!!! They are fast - I had a terrible time trying to get pictures of them :) But it was really fun to watch, and something that I had definitely wanted to see. We went back on the ship to eat lunch, then met the Island Wings van for our bear watching tour. We went to Traitor's Cove, and let me tell you - it is a trek to get there! We got picked up in a van, and driven to a dock. We met Michele, and she flew us about 20 minutes out to Traitor's Cove. There we met our guide (I can't remember his name, and I'm really sorry b/c he was fantastic) who drove us in a van a ways, and then we walked down a path to Margaret Creek. It was worth it, though. There was a viewing platform over a waterfall where the salmon were running. We saw 4-5 black bears come in the time we were there. We got to watch them catch and eat the salmon, and it was amazing. It was my favorite excursion of the trip. We learned a lot of interesting things, too - like that the bears only eat the female salmon b/c they like the eggs. We also saw some bald eagles and some very old, very giant cedar trees. Back in Ketchikan, we went to the lumberjack show which was cheesy but fun. My dad and brother went fishing for salmon here - I can't remember the name of the company they booked with, but it was someone I found from recommendations on the boards here - and caught a bunch of fish. They said it was a great trip. On our last day of cruising down to Vancouver, we saw several pods of Orcas from the ship. Although they were small and at a distance, it rounded out the wildlife that I had been looking forward to on our trip. I never saw any moose or caribou, but humpbacks, orcas, sea lions, salmon, bears, and bald eagles were enough for me! All in all, it was a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime trip. I apologize for this review being so long, but I could go on and on and on about the great time we had!!! Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
Great Cruise, my two sons, ages 12 and 13 and I did the cruise tour. I am a single father, and we live for cruises. Starting in Fairbanks, we took the Wilderness Express (glass dome train car) up to Denali. WOW ! Did the Denali tour and ... Read More
Great Cruise, my two sons, ages 12 and 13 and I did the cruise tour. I am a single father, and we live for cruises. Starting in Fairbanks, we took the Wilderness Express (glass dome train car) up to Denali. WOW ! Did the Denali tour and yes it does go 50 miles out into Denali. Saw lots of wildlife. Cruisetour was very good. Many nice stops along the way. In Talkeetna we visited a Idorod Kennel, (Sundance Kennels) and got to pet & play with the some eight week old puppies and then took the tow ride behind the dogs pulling a 4 wheeled cart through the forest. Lots of fun. We did some white water rafting. Fortunately you are fitted with dry suits, because the water is 32 degrees, that was a riot. Cruise started in Seward, first stop was the Hubbard Glacier. The captain said it was the closest that Radiance had ever been to the glacier at some 400 yards. I didn't know if he told every cruise audience that, but when many crew members were taking pictures, I tended to believe him. Saw lots of calving. I could have stood on the heli pad for a day watching and listening to the ice action. I won the slot tournament, $900, so that was a happy day obviously. Took no skill at all. I played that same slot machine every day and it was always good to me. One of the more humorous things that happened: my kids love zip lines. My youngest son only weighed 78 pounds. I bought 15 pounds of fishing sinkers to stuff in his jeans pockets from a local tackle shop, so when he weighed in he was 91 pounds. We were all able to ride the longest zip with no problem. So if you are ever in that situation, remember the sinkers work. We took the whale watching tour in Juneau, saw plenty of Humpbacks. We took the helicopter-glacier tour which was awesome in Icy Straight Point. We even carried a football up to the glacier to have glacier football tossing on video. I guess us Gator fans can never get enough football. Best excursion ever. Being a flat-lander from Florida, this was quite a sight. Cruising in Alaska is unlike any other vacation I've ever taken. Absolutely magnificent, and breathtaking, On RCCL, the food was awesome, so was the dining room service. Love the Windjammer Cafe. Cabin steward, casino staff, everything was great on this trip and cruise of a lifetime. The cruise ended in Vancouver, we stayed over in Vancouver for four nights to explore Vancouver. Fascinating city. We were there on July 1 which is Canada Day (which is Canada's equivalent to the 4th of July in the good ole USA). Needless to say plenty of fireworks in Vancouver. This was my seventh RCCL cruise, but first to Alaska. All of our other cruises have been to the Caribbean. We have been on two Carnival cruises, but my sons and I like RCCL the best. Three more cruises until Diamond status. I think I get a discount on a Tux rental and a few other perks. We are going on Freedom of the Seas in March 2008. Can't wait to try the Flow Rider. This looks like an incredible ship. My boys are getting spoiled, but you only live once. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Alaska June 2007 Thanks to everyone on the Cruise Critic boards for sharing which immensely helped us make our choices for our wonderful trip to Alaska. This has to be one of the biggest assets to traveling. We began out trip a week ... Read More
Alaska June 2007 Thanks to everyone on the Cruise Critic boards for sharing which immensely helped us make our choices for our wonderful trip to Alaska. This has to be one of the biggest assets to traveling. We began out trip a week early to enjoy an independent land tour of Alaska before our southbound cruise aboard the Radiance of the Seas. To other readers, our first flight to DFW was delayed before we had even left home-Little Rock, so be sure and not plan tight connections on such a trip and most of all, go ahead of deadlines. We did make our connection to Anchorage on the overbooked flight north, arriving as planned. Others sometimes fail to make their departure flying the day of embarkation and having to catch up on a cruise in progress. After enjoying Denali National Park, Talkeetna, Anchorage, Kenai Peninsula, and Seward, we welcomed the arrival of the Radiance. We had taken the train to Seward the day before boarding to visit the Sea Life Center, small boat harbor and Exit Glacier. Returning to the Hotel Edgewater to gather our luggage, the staff shuttled us to the port. Embarkation process was very organized and painless, since all forms had been completed online and the preferred boarding line of Crown & Anchor Diamond membership. Many passengers had previously boarded before our 2 pm arrival. The Radiance of the Seas is a great ship with lots of viewing places for those not having a balcony or ocean view cabin. We had booked a balcony cabin and really enjoyed it throughout the cruise. For eating; The Windjammer Buffet with lots of choices and tables everywhere, even outside for those so inclined. The Cascades Dining Room for a great experience in having 'service" nightly with a menu that everyone can find an entrEe to enjoy. The Sea View Cafe is tucked on the stern of deck 12 and not easily found, but its casual dining of Reubens, salads and the like is really fun and can be a challenge in the cold Alaskan night to navigate for a late night snack. Those booking suites can also enjoy the Concierge Club on RCCL ships so equipped; Willy was a great host to all there. The many lounges and public areas are always well kept and you'll find folks enjoying the continual scenery of an Alaskan voyage. We saw a school of young Orcas before dinner one night in the Champagne Bar; others remarking of seeing Humpback's earlier in the day while reading in the Solarium. Royal Caribbean did a good job of entertaining us with the Singers & Dancers: "Piano Man" is a great show and executed superb by this troupe. The magician, impressionist and female vocalist were all feasting off this group of passengers and the energy they brought with them to this cruise. The ports each offered a different perspective of the Alaskan experience - glaciers, bear & whale watching, hiking, railroads, fishing, flight seeing, helicopters and dog sledding all are available as well as tons of other things to see and do. I did leave out shopping and actually the same stores you see in the Caribbean have come "up north." Fur traders, salmon smokehouses and other northern entities have joined in as well. The Mix & Mingle Party hosted by RCCL was also a hit on the ship as well with the Cruise Director welcoming us all. This group had been the most verbal on the "roll call thread" of any cruise that I have taken as of yet and proved to be just as vocal in person. LOL. Nice to meet these other great souls who enjoy cruising and sharing the many pluses they have learned. This could be said of this review so I'll call if quits and publish an in-depth report on the boards for others to read. A final note on disembarking. RCCL was organized and running smooth but the cab lines in Vancouver Port Ballantyne are horrendous. Be sure and get off as early as possible if you are using a cab; the port has a queue line that you will not believe if you get off later. We headed to rental car and drove to the USA for more fun before heading home. Time to read the posts and decide where to book the next cruise. Get out there!!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
Radiance of the Seas Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.7
Public Rooms 4.0 4.3
Fitness Recreation 4.5 4.1
Family 4.0 4.1
Shore Excursion 3.5 3.8
Enrichment 2.0 3.5
Service 4.5 4.4
Value For Money 4.5 3.8
Rates N/A 4.3

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