9 Vancouver Spa Cruise Reviews

Pacific Princess Alaska Review – 13-20 May 2014 We booked the Pacific Princess about 6 months in advance, to celebrate of my wife’s birthday. We were intrigued by the concept of a small ship since our days at the rock-climbing walls ... Read More
Pacific Princess Alaska Review – 13-20 May 2014 We booked the Pacific Princess about 6 months in advance, to celebrate of my wife’s birthday. We were intrigued by the concept of a small ship since our days at the rock-climbing walls and zip-lining are sadly behind us and we don’t really desire a huge activity schedule. Reading out on the balcony is more our speed. We have taken 20 + cruises on several different lines, including one other cruise on Princess. We are both customer service providers and are interested in how well cruise staff is trained to respond to travelers. We booked a full suite, which was excellent. The ship just came out of drydock and we were a bit concerned that the smell of paint, carpet glue, etc., might bother us. We found none of this. Previous reviews indicated that the ship badly needed freshening. The only thing I noted was that the pillows on the lobby sofas looked like they were smashed down and lost some stuffing. There were no faded or torn upholstery, peeled wallpaper or other marks visible. We arrived around 11 AM and there were only three porters available at Canada Place. One was tied up with a large group, so it took about 10 minutes to take our baggage. Check in was very efficient and took less than five minutes. We were told that boarding would start around noon and by 12:10 we were on the ship. We heard about the Sanctuary in reviews of other Princess ships and went to the spa to see what it entailed. On this ship there were around 20 chaise lounges surrounding a thalassotherapy pool. The pool had no water, but we were told that it would be filled by the next morning. They charged $99 for the week. Later we found that they charged $99 for the previous 12 day cruise, so we felt a little cheated. As suite guests, they waived the cover charge for the Steakhouse on the first night. The steaks were good, but the vegetables (mushrooms, creamed spinach, asparagus) were excellent. I like to go to a coffee shop (both on and off ships) and have a mint mocha cappuccino. It always amazed me that no ship carried mint syrup but, to our surprise, the Pacific Princess had the alcoholic version. Since I brought my own flask of the non-alcoholic syrup, I was pretty set anyway. They also carried Vitality brand lemonade, our favorite. Then we went to Sabatini’s for breakfast and had a great breakfast. I have always enjoyed a couple of canned figs, when available, for breakfast while on the cruise. Can't get them at home. I asked our waiter, Sandro if he could get them. He said that they didn’t have it but would try to search them out. By the time my wife’s juice arrived, he had the figs in front of me. Nice customer service, Sandro! The food in the main dining room was slightly above average and fairly good (but not spectacular). The TV had the usual channels but the quality of reception, although not HD, was exceptionally good. Never saw a better picture on the ship. Only on one night (the second inside passage day) did the satellite drop out for a few hours. The first day at sea (Inside Passage) was foggy and there was nothing to see. Kind of put a crimp in our plans to sit out in the Sanctuary or our balcony and read. Instead we hung out in the beautiful library, the lobby and the room to read. The sun peeked through about 2 PM but there was still a chill in the air. The next few days (Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, and Ketchikan) – sunny with temps in the high 60’s and low-mid 70’s on our thermometer. Rather unusual for the first cruise in May. On our last Alaska cruise, the temp never got above 55 degrees. The lowest it got was the low 60’s during inside passage cruising. We had no rain for the entire week. The first inside passage day had a light misty morning. We don’t do much in the way of excursions (already been there, done that in Alaska) so we usually take a long walk around town. We found nothing really special in Juneau and Skagway. Ketchikan had Creek Street, which has some lovely shops along with the usual trinkets. The small size of the ship lends you to see the same passengers over and over again. You can also find many quiet places to stay by yourself or with your significant other. The ride was a little bumpier than we saw on larger ships, but no one appeared seasick. Overall, the ship had a rather dowdy décor, with a crew that gave great customer service. It appeals to folks (like us) who just want to spend time on our own. It was perfect for us.   Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
Our first Celebrity cruise was absolutely incredible. We made lots of new friends on the cruise both guest and crew and had an incredible fourth trip to Alaska. We're also already booked on another cruise that we took care of onboard. ... Read More
Our first Celebrity cruise was absolutely incredible. We made lots of new friends on the cruise both guest and crew and had an incredible fourth trip to Alaska. We're also already booked on another cruise that we took care of onboard. Hawaii to Vancouver on Millennium 4/15/16 with our new friends Aaron and Edmond. Dining for us was primarily in blu although we did have a dinner in Tuscan and a lunch in Murano. Service was great and the food in nearly every instance was phenomenal. For drinks we tended to stay in the Martini and Molecular bars. Sergei and Adrian in the molecular bar became really good friends over the course of the cruise and they have our contact info to show them around Seattle at some point in the coming weeks. Also won a bit in the casino one night and got a new watch. The excursions we took were great. Weather in Skagway was incredible. Juneau and Ketchikan not so much. Icy Strait was alright but the carving house in Hoonah was definitely the highlight there. The room was great as was the housekeeping staff. Menino always took care of anything we needed without us even needing to ask. Guest Relations took care of a couple gift order questions quickly and efficiently. The spa staff was great as both I and Nick got manicures one night. Only saw a show one night. Solstice the show was fantastic. The broadway reviews etc didn't interest us but Solstice was great. Awesome Cirque Du Soleil feel to it. Bummer about Tracy Arm but that can happen this early in the season and Endicott Arm was a nice last second addition. Not sure what happened with the advertised inside passage cruising but usually going from Seattle we were more used to the open ocean through that stretch Anything I would gripe about? Service was a little slow a couple times in Blu. Nothing too bad but noticeable compared to some other nights that ran like clockwork. The buffet being nearly shut down entirely by 2pm seemed too early. 3pm seems a better time to allow more people a chance. The only big thing I have though was on Juneau afternoon we were in the hot tub and the one we were in was warm but didn't have working jets. We stayed in there around 20 minutes until another had everyone leave and we moved to it for 20-30 minutes. Kinda cool whole being rained on. As no food or other issues lining up had mutual issues for anyone else and it was gone as fast as it started I can only assume what happened within an hour of getting back to the room was a result of over chlorination - Likely due to the fact it was not bubbling and steaming out of the first one due to the broken jets. Everyone else was fine but I got very sick and rather projectile for about 20 minutes back in the room. No other symptoms. Totally done after that. Felt fine again. Everyone else unaffected and anything I ate at least one other person had. I know what to do if it were noro and it most certainly was not. I have shown signs of reactions to strong levels of bleach once before and think this was along the same lines. Next time maybe they ought to just shut off and empty the broken one. I don't blame Celebrity for this as I should have been a little more "in the moment" about it myself as well. Other than that though I would have to say this was a near perfect cruise and Nick (DH) and I can't wait to get onboard another Celebrity ship. We are now HOOKED with the experience they provide! Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
This review favours the ship more than the destination. My TA offered me a cruise for 869. pp incl taxes for 2 wks in Alaska August 28 - Sept. 11, 2013. My daughter and I cruised strictly for r & r. As "destination cruisers" ... Read More
This review favours the ship more than the destination. My TA offered me a cruise for 869. pp incl taxes for 2 wks in Alaska August 28 - Sept. 11, 2013. My daughter and I cruised strictly for r & r. As "destination cruisers" we sailed w/ apprehension as "journey cruisers". First we'd been to Alaska before and as natives of British Columbia we were not impressed . northern B.C boasts more dramatic and stunning landscapes unless.the traveller is seriously into ice burgs, but Vancouver is our home port. we took public transport and walked straight onto the ship about 2 pm. we cruised w/ carnival (1st and last time) elation and Norwegian star (tolerable w/ a balcony cabin) in feb. (see my reviews) and i was hassled over wearing my glasses for pics, so princess' laid back, but efficient boarding was a treat. our cabin was ready and lucky us we'd been upgraded from an inside to a window cabin. as always we headed straight to the spa and purchased access to the thermal suite (99 per wk) -the special area (10 for a morn or aft) is just plain silly in alaska and was deserted - whose going to pay to sit outside in a cabana in freezing weather? who would sit there for free? the thermal suite offers heated bed similar to HAL, but less elegant and 3 wet spas - eucalyptus, tropical and plain steam. open 9 - 10 my daughter and i went up every night at 9 and relaxed. we had set early dinner, but princess offer "freestyle" if desired. warning - long lines for couples who don't share and large groups. if that's you i'd opt for a set time. dining rm opens at 5:15, but couples got in at 5 somehow and glommed on to a window seat. there was a mix up in our reservation and we were led to a table for 6 --mario, the mgr quickly found us a table for 2 and that worked well for the rest of the voyage. Food - less than HAL, better than NCL or Carnival. i'm diabetic so i eat 5-6 small meals a day so i usually opted for 2 appetizers and 1 desert. sugarless desserts were scrumptious especially the mango mouse cake and taramisu. salads few and mostly inedible w/ bitter greens which drove me to discover .the buffet on the Lido deck had a sumptuous salad bar - we also took to going up there for dessert because of the variety and they were identical in qaullity to dining rm fare. formal night - always the second night at sea uually has surf and turf, but on our cruise it was available first night -- odd. i don't eat red meat, so i was offered 2 servings of prawns (no lobster on the pacific coast). lunch was in the buffet. indian food w/ a different curry every day, great salads, lots of cheese, cold cuts and sandwich fixins', fresh roast of lamb or pork or beef sliced to order, chicken entrees, and fruit and veggies galore. also a burger bar available and an ice cream station. breakfast in the dining rm - pastries, juices, waffles, pancakes,oatmeal, lox and bagels, eggs bennie, and any other way you might order your eggs, ham bacon sausages, hash browns wtx. the buffet also available. In Ketchican (the salmon were running) we had a fresh salmon bar b q. room service - free - pizza $5. rm service offers little variety and the food is ho hum. mostly sandwiches, the ceasar salad was inedible. we discovered we could order the fruit plate and cheese plate from the dining room (marius strikes again) and they would deliver it to our cabin. cabins big and comfortable w/ 2 lg beds side by side and a small table. usual amt of closet spc. safe. shower in bathroom. cabin smaller than HAL; bigger than NCL. robes available on request. our room server was always available and honoured our request to skip the nightly cheap chocolate and towel animals. he knew we ate on schedule and serviced our room when we were at breakfast or dinner. service was fine, but i expect that on a cruise. no complaints; no kudos. room clean (my daughter is fussy). vacuumed weekly. Ports - Ketchican - rains a lot - opposite Prince Rupert, BC (90 min drive) - small and accessible by walking off ship. shopping and small art galleries on Creek st. tours for whale lovers and animal lovers. architecture ho hum. you can walk in the woods - no tour, but be careful not to get lost.not great for shopping wait for Juneau (next port) Juneau. - capital of alaska. pop. 32K. only accessible by ship or plane. first stop on the turn of the century gold rush trail shoppers paradise w/ great sales in sep. - every week in sept. the prices drop except inketchican.. walking distance from ship (10 min to town). Red Dog saloon complete w/ sawdust on the floor -- worth a drink to soak up the ambiance. adequate band w/ a sense of humour.. we were there on a sunday and tried to go to church, but the priest was stuck in a nearby town and his lane was delayed by fog. that info was almost as good as mass. Skagway - it was cold and rainy. took shuttle from ship to town. ($2). museum of gold rush has film and a few artifacts of the bygone era (free). first stop on the gold rush trail and my personal favorite town in alaska.did you know wyatt earp dealt farrow on a ship off the coast for 28 years? train trip booked on ship (1 1/2 hr) gives you a great tour of the surrounding landscape and fun to spot animals. the six block old town in the centre of town is preserved exactly the way it was at the turn of the century w/ wooden sidewalks and freshly painted, but authentic buildings (if you like architecture bring your camera). be sure to see the former mayor's office made out of drift wood.great little restaurants and snack shacks w/lg portions of plain , but hearty fare. shoppers paradise, but diamonds international here is like Juneau. if you get tired of souveneer shops-- try the russian store and for you ladies "temptations" is a fine boutique w/ enchanting styles. i can't resist a visit and always buy something -- remember sept. sales. Red Onion saloon and brothel (offers tours of the brothel along or town and brothel museum at ridiculous prices. still, ladies in authentic dress serve lunch and drinks. Wittier - stay on ship. pop. 225 fork and 90 per cent live in one bldg. from ship you can see the bldg surrounded by train freight depot. really ugly site. Ship - lots to do - we went for a lecture on how to take better pictures, a craft class (on the way up we mad birthday cards and on the way back, boxes), the spa had a health seminar - beware spas are pushing a seaweed cure that my doctor says is bogus. all seminars, even the footprint analysis, end up in selling the algae cure. the spa offers a stretch class 7-7:30 am followed by abs crunch .lots of state of the art fitness equipment. we got hooked on trivia offered 2 times a day, great fun. scrabble and card games offered. i met a woman who entered the elevator chuffed at getting a word for an enormous amt of points. the casino offers bingo as well as the usual slots, cards etc. i was pleased to see the casino was tucked aft and could be avoided if you so choose. taking and perusing and hopefully, on the part of the photographers, buying pics seemed to be a major pastime. Entertainment:the usual hoaky musicals provided w/ the exception of the New Orleans musical that played great music related to new orleans that was so entertaining we watched it on the way up to seward and back. a vegas type music man was pretty good if you like soul. the motown musical was ok as was the world offering. there only the celtic music fit the dancing.-- how could you get jive wrong? the illusionist was disappointing -- he pulled his wife out of ten different boxes - yawn! skipped the comedian. princes offers movies unders the stars, but in alaska its music under the ice, on our trip to the spa at night we saw a few hardy souls who were covered in blankets and cloths that coverdevery part of their bodies excet the eyes. who cares if they offer free pop corn. noone ate it because they would have to remove their mittens. i am happy to report a couple of the movies were shown inside, for example the latest star trek rip off -- it was sad - a rehash of "the wrath of kahn" w/ action and a muddied storyline. a tom cruise sci fi was also shown -- so forgetable i forgot the title. at least i as warm. drinks available during evening performances. The highlight of the trip was dr. ryan, a naturalist. who lectured on the history of the gold rush, whales/otters and took you on deck to see them, and ice burgs. a movie on the people who live in alaska (available on your cabin tv) was enlightening. real survivalists. also park rangers came on board for 6 hrs and taught about the ice burgs and wildlife. while i appreciated that others were thrilled w/ alaska i like the philosophy of a man on deck who said to me, "what is the socially acceptable length of time to stare at an ice burg?" my sentiments exactly. tourists who come to alaska are a hearty breed. on the whole i enjoyed my trip. there was plenty to do on the ship. sometimes i felt like i was running from activity to activity and i skipped a lot. there was time to read and relax. there was also dancing in the bars. and late night activities i skip. i came for r & r and i came home rested and happy. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
This little Celebrity ship(91K tons) tried and tried but just could not make it to Seward. She pulled a hammy on her way out of Ketchikan and had to limp back to port. She is now on the the 28 day DL awaiting reconstructive surgery in he ... Read More
This little Celebrity ship(91K tons) tried and tried but just could not make it to Seward. She pulled a hammy on her way out of Ketchikan and had to limp back to port. She is now on the the 28 day DL awaiting reconstructive surgery in he Bahamas. It was a great disappointment to not be able to finish our cruise. The repeating of the same "We are evaluation the root cause" announcement to the constantly changing information regarding charter flights out of Ketchikan for 2000 passengers only added to everyone's frustration. The compensation is fair but could have been better for valid airfare considerations were lacking. The worst has to be the constant changing of charter info from choices of Anchorage, Vancouver or Seattle to just Seattle and Vancouver caused quite an uproar. The notification of which charter group you were in was horrible. They just put a letter and luggage tags on your door. If you were already asleep and had group 1 or 2, you missed the flight. I had group 6 and did not find the info until 9AM Wed. morning. It told us to have our luggage out by 10AM. Oh the fun of it all. It took 6 hours to get the first 3 of ~20 groups off the ship. Otherwise, I found the food in the main dining room and fancy restaurant excellent. They dining staff did an excellent job of accomodating my DW's special requests each night. Our Butler, Ramir, took very good care of us and even assisted when I had a room key issue. Our breakfast each morning in suite was superb. The buffet, as always, is the weak spot in the dining group. The limited selection and constantly closed stations always kept my expectations low. I usually only had salads and pasta. Even they were below par in service, quality and taste. The on board guitar player, Justin Wade, and guest performer Christina Bianco were excellent and I looked forward to their next performances. Passengers for the most part kept a positive attitude until the breakdown in Charter flights. Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
After about three dozen cruises over the past 40 years we took our first cruise on Oceania's Regatta. The service was excellent. We have never had such attention from staff on any of our previous cruises. My wife who has a brand-new ... Read More
After about three dozen cruises over the past 40 years we took our first cruise on Oceania's Regatta. The service was excellent. We have never had such attention from staff on any of our previous cruises. My wife who has a brand-new hip was experiencing some difficulty walking and the solicitousness and care and concern of the staff just blew us away. Food was also excellent and we certainly appreciated the ability to dine at will and decide whether we would share or eat privately. We did both and managed to thoroughly enjoy every meal onboard. The one shocking disappointment was when we walked into the cabin on embarkation day. We had seen the size of the cabin in the advertising brochure, but did not realize that the figures published also included the balcony. So when we walked into the cabin we thought we were in the wrong place. We could live with the smaller cabins as long as we know that that's what we will be getting. Overall however the experience was so positive, then we have now booked a spring trip on the Riviera. Here at least, the rooms are larger and we will be prepared for subtracting balcony size. Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
We arrived two days early to visit Vancouver and stayed at a B & B, Bee & Thistle Guest House, Best in Vancouver. The owner Michael picked us up at the train station and dropped us off at the port on departure day, super ... Read More
We arrived two days early to visit Vancouver and stayed at a B & B, Bee & Thistle Guest House, Best in Vancouver. The owner Michael picked us up at the train station and dropped us off at the port on departure day, super accommodating, great breakfasts and comfy rooms; first class place (5 stars). We left May 21, 201 from Vancouver on the Rhapsody of the Seas first run of the season of the inner passage. Got to Canada Place early to avoid the confusion as three ships were in at one time. I understand all future departures for this season will be from Seattle, not Vancouver - check with your travel agent. We stayed in Grand Suite 8012 with is located on the bridge deck, close to the stairs and elevators. But one level down from the Windjammer and two decks down from the kids program on deck 10. Neither effected our level of enjoyment. Our room Suite Attendant was Inyoman (Newman) and out of 20 plus cruises, he made it happen; noteworthy service and made our holiday special. From the cleanness of the rooms to perfect attentiveness with privacy consideration. We loved sitting out on our balcony, Newman brought down lounge chairs for us as we sat in hopes of seeing a pod of whales. You have to bring out the blankets and make yourselves some hot chocolate. There is hot milk in the coffee machine for the hot chocolate, much better than hot water. With the grand suite you get the use on the Concierge Club, Crown Lounge deck and at your service is Concierge Amit Chattopadhyay - Amit makes it all come together and his right hand man, Sam, is fun and charming and makes a mean cocktail :). This ship has both a Diamond Lounge and a Concierge Club, both were equal in the level of service. The Captain had a party and even sang to us, good voice and paired perfectly for the Rhapsody. Our trip was timed perfectly with the tides and moon phase as the Captain Rick Sullivan was about to give the show of the season at Tracy's Arm - wow, Wow, WOW! My favorite part of they trip, make sure you get up early. The entertainment on board was lack luster and we never got to see the Encore Aerial Performance. We had an opportunity to dine at Chops Grille, the Chef's Table and Giovanni's. Evelyn served use at Chops and we had the filet mignon and I had the porterhouse - I should have also gotten the filet also. The Chef's Table was a lot of fun with great food with wine pairing - the Chef and Wine Concierge introduced each new dish and wine prior to presentation and at the end everyone left with a RCCL Cookbook and Chef's Table Apron. Giovanni's was our last and it was excellent also. We also enjoyed the spa which is one of the nicest spa and massages ever. My better half also had her nails done -- totally relaxing. wow, Wow, WOW -- a must do cruise... Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
This is our sixth cruise on Royal Caribbean. We are Diamond Members and really love the Royal Caribbean brand. However, this last cruise was a bit disappointing. Embarkation was smooth and easy. Vancouver is a beautiful city and we ... Read More
This is our sixth cruise on Royal Caribbean. We are Diamond Members and really love the Royal Caribbean brand. However, this last cruise was a bit disappointing. Embarkation was smooth and easy. Vancouver is a beautiful city and we enjoyed staying there very much. The port in Vancouver is very well organized and we had no problems checking in and getting on the ship in a timely fashion. We booked this cruise a year in advance along with my parents who were traveling with us. When we booked, we had requested a 4 top table, so that the four of us could dine together. When we went to check out our table, they had us at a table for 10. We immediately went to request that it be changed and were told that they would call us and let us know if they could honor the request. I was a bit annoyed considering we had asked for this a year ago when we booked, but there was nothing to be done except wait for the call, which did come the next day. They were able to get us a new table, but the first night, we had to dine in the Windjammer until the mix up could be sorted out. Not that big of a deal, just a little aggravating. The ship itself is old. That's all I can say. I was so disappointed in the ship because I had read how the Radiance had undergone a top to bottom renovation. I'm not sure what was renovated because the ship looked just like it always has. The only difference is that there are now 4 new restaurants (additional charges apply). Honestly, I'm not sure who's idea it was to put 2 more restaurants on board as I never saw anyone going there to eat. In fact, the 2 new restaurants take up space in the already crowded Windjammer which is chaotic during breakfast and lunch. Forget about finding a seat. I will say that our junior suite was nice and big. It seemed much roomier than other junior suites that we've stayed in. The room was a bit noisy, though, as we could hear carts being pushed across the deck at all hours of the day and night. I've never had this problem before, so I'm not sure why our cabin was so noisy. Our stateroom attendant was sweet as can be. I really liked him, but felt that he was being overworked. I think Royal Caribbean has cut back on staff, because this poor kid was literally running in order to finish cleaning the many rooms that he was in charge of. I think because he was having to rush, there were a few things that got overlooked. Not to gross anyone out, but the first night I went to the bathroom, I looked down and the entire front of the toilet was covered in urine. It was like the guests before may have missed their aim. Anyway, this was really disgusting. Also, the shower curtain in my shower was 3 feet too long vertically. Basically, when you went to take a shower, you were standing on the curtain! I did ask to have a different shower curtain, and one was provided, but seriously, is this something that I should have to request? I mean, isn't haven't a shower curtain that fits the shower sort of a basic amenity? All I can say is that this was really disappointing. The Diamond Lounge was nice, maybe a little cramped, but nice. We enjoyed having a cocktail before dinner and the chocolate covered strawberries were delightful. The food in the dining room was not that good. But the waitstaff was fantastic. We had Victor and Romeo and they were wonderful! They more than made up for the bad food with their excellent service. The Windjammer was the same as always. Buffet style food, nothing great, but nothing terrible. Average at best. Finally, when will Royal Caribbean ever get cardio machines with the tv built in? I mean, for goodness sakes, even 3 star hotels have treadmills and exercise bikes with tvs built in. All in all, here is my summation: The staff on board are top notch. They are professional, kind and hard working. They were all polite and fun, and I really enjoyed interacting with them. The ship is not that great. In my opinion, having a small ship of this size for an 11 night cruise is ridiculous. Lastly, I really felt that Royal Caribbean's standards on this sailing were not up to par. If you are thinking of a Hawaii Cruise, I would not recommend this ship or itinerary. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
About Us: Middle aged couple, well traveled. Second cruise together. First time to Alaska. The itinerary: Chose to go out of Vancouver to lessen the chances of seasickness, to which I am prone. Also liked the itinerary including long ... Read More
About Us: Middle aged couple, well traveled. Second cruise together. First time to Alaska. The itinerary: Chose to go out of Vancouver to lessen the chances of seasickness, to which I am prone. Also liked the itinerary including long port days that didn't start early in the morning. This was a vacation and we wanted to sleep in! Our ports were Skagway, Ketchikan and Juneau, along with sailing through Glacier Bay. We were supposed to sail Tracey Arm, but because of either tides or ice (not sure which) we were unable to do that. Vancouver: Loved Vancouver as much as I had the last time I visited 18 years ago. We added three nights at the beginning which I highly recommend. Got Hyatt Regency on a Priceline bid for $80 per night and couldn't have been happier with the hotel or the location. (There are websites that help with Priceline bidding strategy -- takes the fear and guesswork out of using Priceline.) We spent one day biking Stanley Park, walking the seawall and wandering the city and the other day at Granville Island Market where we managed to eat both breakfast and lunch. It helped that the weather was PERFECT. Denman Street in the West End (walking distance from anywhere downtown) is a great street for finding reasonably-priced ethnic restaurants for dinner. We loved the Legendary Noodle for Chinese food that is similar to Islamic Chinese food one would find in China. Why the Volendam: It offered the itinerary we wanted and the Wednesday departure worked well for us. It was the only ship departing on Wednesday making embarkation a breeze. Also, because of its odd departure day, we were the only ship in one port and only had one or two other ships in the other ports. This allowed us to be more spontaneous about what we could do in port. If we had wanted to book last-minute excursions they would have been available to us. The size ship was appealing -- large enough to have many offerings and dining alternatives, but not one of the mega-ships. Also, we had been told that it was a good ship for Alaska because of all the outside viewing areas. This was true. There were plenty of places to be and no place was ever crowded outside. The Crow's Nest -- an indoor place on the highest deck with floor to ceiling windows -- was the only place that was ever crowded. I would have said that this was not a great ship to bring children, but a recent review indicated that school age kids had a blast with Club HAL. There were very few children on our sailing. Most passengers were middle aged or senor couples, or women traveling together, with a few young couples and multi-generational families. About half were Americans with most others from Canada, Australia or the UK. This was not a party ship. We also wanted a balcony cabin and were booking only two weeks in advance and got a decent deal. And we wanted an itinerary that included Glacier Bay. Embarkation: 20 minutes from arrival at the terminal to walking on to the ship. Arrived around 12:30 with plenty of time to eat lunch and wander the ship. The Ship: Some reviews have said the Volendam is "worn" and "dated." I did not find this to be the case. I did not see any sign of wear or carpet stains or anything of that nature. On the contrary, there was constant cleaning and painting and an emphasis on sanitation. Hand sanitizers are everywhere. The ship dEcor is very nice and there are many different public areas. Going to Alaska having a deck with a retractable roof is a must and the Lido deck is very nice. We were so lucky with weather, but the deck remained comfortable when it was cold outside and the roof was closed, and was delightful when it was partially or fully opened on sunny, warm days. The Library is amazing -- one of the nicest areas on the ship. There is a HUGE selection of books, including recent best sellers, along with games and puzzles and just a lovely environment. We chose not to sign up for internet use. Accommodations: We were in Verandah balcony "suite" 7073 on the Navigation Deck. It wasn't really a suite, but slightly larger than a regular stateroom with a tub in the bathroom. It was very comfortable, well-designed, plenty of storage, extremely comfortable bed and linens and with a lovely glass enclosed balcony. The location of our stateroom (which we had taken on a guarantee basis, didn't select the actual stateroom) meant the balcony was covered. The big question: Should one have a balcony in Alaska? I would say "maybe" and my husband would say "yes." The larger stateroom, being able to open the door for fresh air and the floor to ceiling view may have been more important to me than using the actual balcony itself. My husband did sit out on it and read, but I tended to be on deck more. We were lucky with the weather and could do our scenery-viewing from any deck. If there had been rain it would have been nice to have the covered area. My summation: If you can afford it, or get a deal on a balcony room that isn't much more than another room, go for it. If you can't, you can live without it. Some of the time it's too cold and windy to be on the balcony anyway. We would have been happy with the location of any of the balcony staterooms. In fact, we probably would have been happy with any outside cabin except the ones on the lower promenade deck with obstructed views that overlook where people are walking the deck. I visited an outside cabin on the dolphin deck (lowest) and that stateroom was just fine with a lovely view out of large windows. Smoking: I was very concerned after reading negative reviews about smoking on the ship since I am extremely sensitive to cigarette smoke. I am glad to report that smokers were mostly relegated to the casino and one small area on one side of the deck outside the Lido buffet. When I made the mistake of going outside that direction it did bother me, and walking by the casino was pretty disgusting, but I did not smell the smoke anywhere else. Even though smoking is allowed in staterooms I could not smell any from my room or balcony. However, twice when walking the lower promenade circuit (3.5 laps to a mile) there was a man outside smoking a cigar. Yuck. I don't know if that was permitted or not, but other than the momentary stench as I passed it didn't bother me further. Room Steward: Ours was quiet, unobtrusive and just fine. We received the little card to indicate what kind of fruit basket we wanted and when we wanted more fruit we filled out another card. We didn't have too many requests. The room was always cleaned very nicely. No complaints. Cell phones and Blackberry: I did not have international service, so I only used my cell phone and Blackberry when we were in US ports. My AT&T service worked just fine. It was a pleasure to have these devices off while in Canada and at sea. My husband has Verizon service and did get international service so he could use phone and Blackberry in Canada as well. Food/Dining: The food was better than I expected, considering they were serving 2000 passengers and staff for each meal. We had Anytime dining which worked great for us. Since there are so many questions about this I will go into detail. We reserved the Pinnacle Grill in advance for the last night -- the night of the Master Chefs Dinner -- because I had read on Cruise Critic about how bad this dinner is. We reserved through the HAL 800 number in advance, but could have done it on board. The food in Pinnacle Grill was slightly better than the dining room and the service was very attentive. For us, it was nice to "mix it up" for dinners and we enjoyed eating there one night and didn't mind the $20 pp surcharge. We really enjoyed the cook-out on deck the first night, enhanced because we had ideal weather. We checked the dining room menu each day to help decide what to do that evening. Three nights we ate in the dining room (including one formal night) and the food was for the most part quite good. We either called before 4 p.m. and made a reservation or showed up and were told to return in 15 to 30 minutes for a table. This was because we only wanted tables for 2. If we had been willing to share, I think we would have been accommodated at any time. The portions are not large so we tended to order several courses. The chilled soups were particularly good. On one formal night we didn't want to dress up, so we ordered from the dining room menu for room service and that worked out fine. One night we ate dinner in Canaletto, which is the Italian restaurant that is part of the Lido buffet area, but requires reservation and has waiter service and tablecloths. They were having a "soft opening" on this ship, expecting to go into full service over the next few months. It was a very nice meal with good service at no extra charge. For Anytime dining the waiter service was nothing special. I'm sure those who have the same waiter each night get better service, but it was fine. The Lido Buffet at night has some of the selections from the dining room menu. A few nights I picked up a snack at the Lido to carry me over until eating in the dining room about 8 p.m. The Lido buffet dinners looked fine, but dinner there was not so appetizing to us, given all the other choices. We had lunch in the Lido or outside at the Terrace Grill every day. I had fresh-baked cookies and/or (usually and) ice cream every afternoon. Ice cream is set up from about 11 to 5 every day with cones, cups and toppings. Yum. They also have out a selection of cobbler or bread pudding all of which were really good -- especially the various types of bread pudding. The lunches were satisfactory -- nothing special, other than these great desserts. The day they had a salmon bake on deck was exceptional. I can only guess they had picked up salmon in Alaska as it was some of the best salmon I had ever tasted. We never ate at the late-night buffet. I did go to the Indonesian high tea and it was very nice. If we were up early enough (only happened twice) we ate breakfast in the dining room, which was excellent. The other mornings we ate from the buffet at Lido that was open until 10:30. The omelet station was the only place I ever had to wait. Really good omelets. The pancakes were really good, but better in the dining room where they were fresher. The daily special pancake, e.g., mango or banana, was particularly good each day. Lox readily available at the buffet or dining room. Alaska is not the place for tropical fruits. By the end of the cruise they had resorted to serving frozen blueberries. Apples, pears and bananas were readily available. Wine: I don't drink, but my husband did bring two bottles on board that we purchased in Vancouver. He had a sweet wine for late evening in our room and one bottle of white wine to have with an appetizer picked up from the Lido buffet before dinner. One night he did bring wine in a glass from the cabin to the dining room and no one cared. The house wines were not as expensive as we had expected (about $5 per glass) and wine is quite expensive in Vancouver (taxes, I think) so bringing some of our own wine did not save that much money anyway. Water: the ship's drinking water was just fine and iced tea, hot tea and coffee are also free. However, I purchased a 12-pack of bottled water at the 7-11 in Vancouver for $4.99 and liked having it on the ship for my personal use since I'm not a soda or wine drinker and prefer bottled water. I also brought the bottles to port visits. The 12-pack was just right for us for 7 days. Glacier Bay: The scenery throughout the Inside Passage was lovely. Glacier Bay was the only really cold and overcast day, so the glaciers didn't shine the way they would have on a sunny day. However, we bundled up and really enjoyed seeing them in their splendor. It was a really fun day sailing through Glacier Bay. They served hot pea soup on deck mid-morning that was a nice touch. We watched from a combination of places including our balcony, the bow of the ship, the crow's nest, aft deck and all over. The captain spun the ship around at each glacier so you could see them from anywhere. Shore Excursions and Alaska Toursaver Coupon book: We didn't want to be tied down, so we didn't book anything with HAL. Many of the excursions that sounded great would have been ruined if the weather had been bad. Also, we knew there were few ships in ports we were visiting on those days so we could make last minute choices if we wanted. I did some research and called around and took contact information with me in case we wanted to do any adventure trips. I did want to book the helicopter to the Mendenhall Glacier, but didn't want to spend $279 each. From my research I knew Temsco was in the coupon book, but there are only so many seats at that price. In retrospect I should have realized that since they don't do HAL's flights and no other ships were docked in the late afternoon that it would be relatively easy to reserve. But I didn't want to order the book, wait for it to arrive, get the code and then make my reservation -- and maybe the toursaver seats were no longer available. So, I followed advice I had read on the internet and googled Alaska Toursaver and Craigslist and found three postings. I wrote to each and heard back from two. I bought through PayPal from someone who appeared reputable from our correspondence and was willing to give me the code as soon as I paid. I paid him $55 plus shipping, which was significantly less than the $99 plus shipping I would have paid to buy it new -- but the best part was that I got the code right away and was able to reserve the helicopter trip! The downside was that the flight plane to Misty Fjord, the other coupon we would have considered using, had been used -- but we knew that when we purchased it. Bottom Line: If you are really going to do one or more of the trips featured in the coupon book it is worth it -- IF you know you can get reservations. If it's early enough in the season you are probably safe. We booked our trip only two weeks before sailing, so it took a bit more research. And if you are going mid to late season with a bit of work you can probably find them for sale on the secondary market like I did. Juneau: We were in Juneau from 2:30 to 10:30 p.m. which was ideal since we didn't have to get up early and could enjoy time on the ship that day. This was the day we couldn't sail Tracey Arm. The ship offers an excursion where 150 passengers can board a catamaran at about 9:30 a.m. for 5 hours through Tracey Arm. We talked to people who did it and raved about it -- they got really close to glaciers, heard calving, etc. It's $199 which was more than we wanted to spend and I didn't want to be cooped up on a catamaran for 5 hours. But it does sound like it's worthwhile to consider. Juneau was our splurge. We decided to do the TEMSCO helicopter to land on a glacier. We booked in advance using Alaska Toursaver coupon, so it was $279 for two of us. This is the cheapest of the glacier/helicopter flights -- no trek, just a walkabout. It was fantastic. Can't say enough about TEMSCO. They were wonderful. We were the last flight of the day and HAL doesn't use them and no other ships were in port at that time of day, so there wasn't a crowd. The van driver had plenty of time so took us the long way around so we could see the glacier from the car at the visitor center. My only criticism is that our flight was 5 p.m., but we were signed up for 3:45 p.m. pick up next to the cruise ship. That's a lot of extra time that wasn't needed when they aren't crowded. The pilot was wonderful and this was a really special adventure -- highly recommended. People we spoke to who did whale watching in Juneau also really enjoyed it. Again, the fact that we had blue skies in the 70's really made it a great day. But it was colder than we expected on the glacier. They had said to expect 15 degrees colder than in Juneau, so we didn't wear as many layers as we should. It felt colder than that and it was quite windy. Hint: Bring extra layers, hat and gloves if you do this, regardless of the weather in Juneau. Skagway: We had really thought about doing the train, but I had heard that if the weather's lousy you can't see much, so didn't want to book in advance. Again, with some research determined that we were the only ship in port and it would be no problem to buy last-minute tickets on the 1245 train. We reserved a car thru Avis in advance just in case (also didn't need to because only ship in port; with many ships they could run out of cars) and had downloaded Murray's guide as recommended on Cruise Critic. The day was very foggy so we went with the car ($90) instead of the train ($120 each). We made the right decision because we had fog the entire way that the highway parallels the train. It wasn't until we got over the pass, which is further than the 3.5 hour train ride goes, that we had beautiful clear weather. It was fun driving thru the Yukon and we stopped a few places mentioned in Murray's guide. We had taken rolls, cheese and fruit from breakfast (always bring zip lock bags!) and picnicked at Carcross overlooking the beach. We drove as far as Emerald Lake and then came back via the Skagway cemetery. I do recommend a stop at the cemetery, including the short walk to the waterfalls. The whole drive took just over 5 hours, we filled with gas for about $20 and returned the car and went back to the ship. A lovely day. If we had more energy we would have done horseback riding or a hike at Yukon Horses near Emerald Lake. You can google it and book on your own. Others have recommended it highly. BTW, had to pay $2 to use the rest room at one of the restaurants along the drive since I wasn't a customer. Worth every penny. Ketchikan: Beautiful day, really lovely town. Would have been a great day for kayaking, but we just felt like wandering the town. Went to Creek Street and then back to ship area and turned left and walked to the residential area and up and down some of the steep steps. Really nice views and very interesting to see how people live. I would have liked to walk in the rainforest, but from the map it appeared you have to walk all the way around to get to it. If there's a next time, I'll ask at the visitor center just how far to get to the rainforest walk. Shopping: Bought nothing in ports or on ship. Clothing: Since so many people ask about it, I'll give my two cents. I followed advice and brought many layers which worked out perfectly. Did wear my LL Bean rain jacket/windbreaker even though we had beautiful weather. I wore a sleeveless fleece a lot, over a long sleeved shirt, then a zip up fleece over it. Liked having the hood on my zip up fleece. I did wear my long johns and wool socks on the Glacier Bay sea day since we were outside a lot and it was quite cold and windy. Added layers. Also wore gloves that day. On the warm sea days (did I mention we were REALLY lucky with weather?) wore shorts/capris and t-shirt. Even laid by the pool in a bathing suit! Used shorts and t-shirts for fitness center. For formal night(s) I brought one black skirt (that doesn't wrinkle) with a black nylon top and a lightweight shawl/sweaters to dress it up. Worked just fine for the one formal night we ate in the dining room. Dressed casually the rest of the time. Seasickness: I am extremely prone, so I took ½ Meclezine (Bonine) 3 times a day whether I needed it or not, staring the day before sailing and even on port days. I also wore acupressure bands on my wrists and took ginger pills several times a day. We only had one evening of rocking when I felt a bit nauseated and I ate lots of dried ginger during that time. The rest of the time I hardly felt the ship move. If there had been severe movement I would have been sick even with those precautions -- that's the risk of a cruise, even to the relatively calm Inside Passage. Thermal Suite: I had read about the thermal suite in the fitness center and was intrigued enough to go to the open house on embarkation day. It is a separate, controlled area off the fitness center with a whirpool, two steam rooms and heated ceramic lounges. I am always cold, so this was a treat for me. It's $99 for one person or $150 for a couple. My husband wasn't interested, so I asked everyone at the open house if someone wanted to share the cost and someone did. So, I put it on my tab and she paid me $75 cash. It worked out great. I did use it every day and probably would have used it more if it had been really cold and I wanted to warm up. I was sometimes the only person there! The heated ceramic lounge was so relaxing. I would stretch or work out, then do steam and whirlpool, then read on the heated lounge almost every day before dinner. It is expensive, though -- even splitting the cost. Onboard activities: There were some quality activities, but we didn't do much. The Culinary Center is very nice and I attended one food demonstration with the Executive chef that was really worthwhile. There is a computer center with classes, but my husband said it was too elementary for him. Others seemed to really enjoy the computer classes. The Pilates class was good but $12 for 20-30 minute class was too expensive. I did do a free aerobics class one day. My husband went to one ranger talk and was disappointed, although the ranger commentary in Glacier Bay was good. I walked the promenade every day and read some books. On the last sea day there was a Susan G. Komen On Deck for the Cure 5k walk. This was great and attended by 90 walkers who paid $15 each as a donation to breast cancer research. They asked breast cancer survivors to "break the ribbon" to start the walk. I really enjoyed this and it included a free t-shirt. Walking 5k was a breeze and I wish I would have done that sooner! There was bingo and lots of talks about shopping in which we did not participate. And I really don't understand who buys the art at all the art auctions. Entertainment: Not a strong suit. Most of the lounge music was not very good, or at least not to our liking. Others seemed to enjoy the piano bar. The string quartet sounded like good amateurs. We didn't see any of the regular shows, but really enjoyed the juggler, Benjy Hill. He was fantastic. The magician, Joseph Tran, was worth watching. We ate at 8 p.m. so there wasn't a lot of time for evening entertainment anyway. We usually took a walk on deck at night. Leaving the ship: We didn't purchase transfers as it was more expensive than taking a cab. We also wanted to leave as late as possible since our flight was at 1:15 p.m. We signed up to disembark between 9-9:30 a.m., having left our luggage outside the night before. The train to the airport was so convenient and cheap that we walked 5 minutes from the terminal and were at the airport in 30 minutes. (Note: it's cheaper to take the train from downtown to the Airport; there is a surcharge from the airport.) Breakfast the final morning was the only unappetizing meal we had the whole week. Summary: I had no complaints. The ship was great, we saw beautiful scenery, ate good, plentiful and varied food and had an extremely relaxing vacation. I would not hesitate to recommend the ship or the itinerary. Keep in mind that different cruise lines have different strengths. Those looking for a party atmosphere, for example, would probably not have been happy. I'm very glad to have seen Alaska this way. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
This was the most wonderful relaxing vacation we have taken to date. This was the 1st ship out and we were the only ship at all the ports we went to until our last stop in Victoria. We flew into SEA and took Amtrak to Vancouver. It was a ... Read More
This was the most wonderful relaxing vacation we have taken to date. This was the 1st ship out and we were the only ship at all the ports we went to until our last stop in Victoria. We flew into SEA and took Amtrak to Vancouver. It was a long trip, and disembarking off the train took a long time as it was full and we had to wait for customs. But, I would do it again, it was nice. We stayed in the Ramada limited in Vancouver, just a few blocks from Canada Place. This was a small, nice hotel with very good service. We were on the street side, and it was loud all night from the people in the streets. I would ask for a different part of the hotel next time. We intended to do more in Vancouver. But, were content with just walking around our part of town and checking things out. We went to China town and had dim sum,then went to Canada Place and checked things out. The next morning...we walked around some more...then took a cab to the pier around 12. The porters took our luggage right off the cab and we were in line. It took about 30-45 min. to get through security, then customs, then check in. We did not get rained on at all...the weather was perfecto. We are two women in our forties, and our 3rd cruise to Alaska. We were on the Pearl her first year in 2007. We chose her again because we love the spa. We loved our balcony room, and would never want anything less on the Alaska cruise. There is always something to be looking at or for. We like to get the spa pass and relax in there everyday as we watch Alaska go by....ahhhhhhhh. I think the Pearl has one of the best spas on the water. We had the best cruise critic group, ever. We ended up having a very large gathering...probably 60 people. Then a cabin crawl and a poker run. It was great, as we had just about every category cabin to view. The one thing that we did that was truly amazing that was not a port was we cruised Tracys Arm. This was the best day of the whole cruise. I felt I was going to miss Glacier bay....but I was not disappointed....AWESOME We do not do much with the activities. Went to one comedy show...it was OK. I went to the Quest and had fun with some fellow cruisers. I did make it to the chocolate buffet for the 1st time and it was pretty tasty. Other then that....we pretty much cruise for the sights, spa and food. About the food.....we enjoyed the buffet, both the main dining rooms and Lotus Garden. We were not crazy about the food in Cagneys or Blue Lagoon. For the most part....the food was very salty in all the restaurants. But, we did find things we enjoyed. The service was awesome....everywhere. We did get a room that was smoked in previously. It was very bad...even in the bathroom and the closet. Our stewards and their boss handled this as well as expected. They removed everything from the room....curtains, couch covers...all the pillows, and cleaned the carpet. Unfortunately they could not move us to another room as the ship was full. It was so bad, I could not stay in the room the 1st night. I spent the night hanging out around the ship, and met some very interesting people. They brought in an ionizer for 4 days, as well. The smell was pretty well gone after a couple days. Disembarkation was a breeze. We were the 4th group to be called, and we walked right off. Our luggage was right there and we grabbed a cab. We went to the car rental place in Seattle and took off for Whistler for another week. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010

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