31 Whittier Carnival Spirit Cruise Reviews

The embarkation process was quick and painless. The transfer staff was courteous and efficient. The Spirit is a beautiful ship, and is very easy to navigate. Since I love Egyptian art, I really enjoyed the decor in the Pharoah's ... Read More
The embarkation process was quick and painless. The transfer staff was courteous and efficient. The Spirit is a beautiful ship, and is very easy to navigate. Since I love Egyptian art, I really enjoyed the decor in the Pharoah's Lounge. The ship is very well maintained and very clean. My cabin had a picture sized window. It was spacious with plenty of storage space. The bathroom was well thought out with nice amenities. The shower pressure was great. The service was outstanding. The crew was pleasant, helpful, and efficient. Lots of food choices, and the food was fresh and delicious. The Supper Club was outstanding. It is a great value and the service is perfect. Over the years, I have definitely noticed a big improvement in Carnival's food and service. It's really first rate. The Elegant Tea is a nice touch and has been done by many other cruise lines for years. Congrats to Carnival for getting onboard with this. Tour excursion suggestions. In Ketchikan, take the Bering Sea Crab Boat Tour (especially if you are a fan of the television show, Deadliest Catch). The tour is splendid, and they actually take you out in the channel for a mile or two and the crew launches crab pots and share their experiences on the Bering Sea with the visitors. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences in my life, and well worth the price. In Juneau, I was there three years ago and did the helicopter tour, which was fabulous. This time, I did a whale watch with Orca Enterprises. I booked this tour independently as it was less expensive to do it this way. It was a spectacular whale watch in Auke Bay and the Stevens Channel. We saw lots of humpback whales, eagles, sealions, otters, etc. Again, well worth the money. In Skagway, I did the train ride on the White Pass which goes up into the Yukon. Again, this tour was well worth the money. The view was breathtaking and we were 3,000 feet up in the mountains and actually were passing into the clouds. I was amazed to see the number of flat lakes (gorgeous color of blue) at such a high altitude. In Sitka, I walked around. It's a charming little fishing village. Negatives: Carnival no longer prints matchbooks with it's logo. The onboard shops did not have a good variety of sizes regarding clothing. The prices onboard were not really bargains. A string quartet would have added a nice touch during dinner. There was only one orchestra on board, and the musicians were split up to perform jazz and other venues. Unfortunately, they would not take song requests even when performing in smaller venues. Carnival no longer has the grand buffet at midnight. Maybe they feel it wastes too much food? Alaska and Carnival did not disappoint me. Alaska is a must see and Carnival is now a 1st rate cruise line, and they certainly have my respect. Happy Sailing. Lisa Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
We booked the cruise in February 2009 directly through the Carnival website at the Past Guest rate. A couple of days before the Early Saver 5-month deadline, we converted our booking to the ES rate. That resulted in a $60 credit on our ... Read More
We booked the cruise in February 2009 directly through the Carnival website at the Past Guest rate. A couple of days before the Early Saver 5-month deadline, we converted our booking to the ES rate. That resulted in a $60 credit on our final payment. After final payment date the prices only increased so we did not receive any OBC nor were we ever offered an upgrade or upsell. Still we were very happy with what the cruise cost - about half of what it was when we first started looking a couple of years ago and less than our Caribbean cruise on the Elation from Galveston 5 years ago. After a 4-day rail & bus trip to Denali NP, we embarked on the Carnival Spirit at Whittier for the 7-day Southbound cruise ending in Vancouver, BC. Ports of call included Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan. I will try to limit this review to the Spirit and the onshore activities related to Carnival. We've only been on 1 previous cruise - Elation to the Western Caribbean from Galveston in Oct 2004 - so we do not have a lot of experience to compare. As our cruise was "port-intensive," we tended to relate to the Spirit as more of a floating hotel as opposed to a cruise ship, so we did not participate in a lot of onboard activities. We also had weather! Very rough seas Thursday afternoon and night and rain, fog, & mist in Sitka, Juneau, and Skagway. Ketchikan though was beautiful - lots of sunshine, 60deg - and a magnificient sunset! Regardless, our Alaska experience was unforgettable! Embarkation: Upon arrival in Whittier, we took a glacier cruise, arriving back at the dock about 5:45pm. Embarkation was quick and easy - onboard in 15 minutes. We went to the Lido for dinner. Our luggage was delivered in good order about 7pm. Accommodations: We were in 4D #6161 on Verandah Deck. We didn't spend a lot of time in our cabin, but that was the main idea. Our cabin steward, Pepito , was very attentive while being non-intrusive. Our cabin was immaculately clean the entire 7 days. It was adequate in size and amenities. One negative - the bed was uncomfortably firm - or should we say just plain hard. A more comfortable bed would definitely have added to our cruise experience! We chose an inside cabin for several reasons - #1 being price - a minimum of $800 difference from a guarantee balcony. We also knew that with 4 port days and the extended port times of the southbound cruise, we wanted to spend as much time as we could onshore. Last but not least, being inside made us get up, get dressed, get some coffee, and get topside for the scenery while underway. We did fine with the inside cabin and would probably do it again. Dining: First let me qualify my comments about the dining. We are not "fine diners." We are on the road a lot and eat where and when we can. We actually sit down at a "restaurant" about once a week. We ate in the Empire Dining room only twice. We chose "Our Time" dining option, primarily because of the varied port times. The first night the seas were very rough and the wait staff really had a difficult time. We could hear stuff crashing about and a lot of folks could not finish their meals. We actually enjoyed our dinner, but it took forever to get served. We ate again in the MDR on Saturday evening. Food was good, but again, service was very slow. It appears that the waitstaff for "anytime" is seriously undermanned and overworked. No entertaining or conversation, just take your order and bring your food. Probably will not do it again... The remaining meals, except one evening in the Supper Club, we ate at the Lido buffet. The buffet was, well... a buffet. Sort of a floating Golden Corral. Nothing to rave about but no ranting either. The omelets were good in the morning and lunch seemed to be better than dinner. Best thing was stuff that was good, you could get more of it... We also spent a very pleasant Monday evening at the Nouveau Supper Club after our day in Ketchikan. The food and service were good, but not what we expected. Again, probably will not do this again... Overall, for what we paid for the cruise and considering what dining onshore in Alaska costs, we can't complain too much. The comments others have made about bland food is probably correct, but these folks prepare about 10,000 meals a day. Try that at home... Onboard Activities: Attended one show "Hot Jazz" - not Vegas, but not bad either. For the remainder of the cruise it was early to bed, early to rise.... eating, sleeping and sight-seeing was about it for onboard activities. Ports of Call: Harvard Glacier - Although not actually a port of call, it bears mentioning as it was another one of the highlights of the cruise. The Captain did an excellent job of navigating the waters of College Fjord and brought us within a ¼ mile of the glacier face, rotating the ship so everyone got a good view. Close enough to not only see but hear the glacier calving and feel the wave. Great experience! Sitka - Although we were a couple of hours late getting into Sitka because of the rough weather during the night, the harbor was calm enough for a comfortable tender ride to shore. We were absolutely worn-out from the rough weather during the night, so we went ashore, did a little sightseeing and shopping in town and rode around a bit on the Community Ride bus. The tendering process went rather well. We were in no hurry to get off the ship so we waited and went ashore in tender #17. Returning was quick. We just walked up, boarded the waiting tender and returned to the ship. Juneau - Rain! Lots of rain... But it slacked up enough for us to still enjoy our Mendenhall Glacier and Glacier Rainforest Gardens tour, booked through the ship. At Mendenhall, the black bears were having their fill of salmon as we watched from the protected deck area. The glacier was magnificent. The Rainforest excursion was a bit hurried but we enjoyed the overall experience. Our guide, Lawrence, made the tour very enjoyable. Skagway - Again, we chose an independent excursion - the Yukon Rail & Bus Tour hosted by Chilkoot Charters. This was another high point of our cruise & tour, second only to our tour through Denali Natl Park. Ketchikan - An absolutely beautiful day! Sunshine all day long and a magnificent sunset! For our last Alaska port of call, we chose to go with a Carnival hosted tour "Best of Ketchikan by Land & Sea" then spend the remainder of the day wandering about Ketchikan on our own. Ketchikan is the one port to expect rain, but not the day we were there. The boat ride to the Libby Cannery was another great experience as was the tour through the old cannery. Debarkation: Debarkation was at Vancouver's Canada Place. The process was very well organized and orderly. We waited on the Lido deck for our section to be called and exited the ship without delay. We quickly snagged a luggage cart and claimed our luggage which was waiting for us in a neat little group. Canadian Customs was no problem - very pleasant and professional. Within 15-20 minutes of exiting the ship we were at the Quick Coach waiting area for our transfer to SEA-TAC airport. Overall Impressions: Considering our experiences on the Elation 5 years ago, our Alaska cruise on the Spirit was like a being on a different planet. Embarkation and debarkation, along with the tendering process was very well organized. The ship was clean and orderly, the crew efficient and professional. The accommodations were excellent and the food was OK. The excursions we booked through Carnival were interesting and worked out quite well. We had a great time and everything, including the weather came together to make our cruise an unforgettable experience. Our "trip of a lifetime" was just that! Our thanks to Carnival and the Crew of the Spirit. One last note: I've tried to keep this review relevant to Carnival and the Spirit. You can find more detailed reviews, photos, links, etc. in our day-by-day travelogue at Len & Judy's Alaska Travelogue - 2009 . Len & Judy Turner Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
7 Day South Bound Alaskan Cruise on Carnival Spirit July 2009   My wife and I took the 7-day Alaska cruise on Carnival Spirit, departing from Whittier, Alaska on July 1, 2009.  We had good weather (mostly sunny with highs in the 60s ... Read More
7 Day South Bound Alaskan Cruise on Carnival Spirit July 2009   My wife and I took the 7-day Alaska cruise on Carnival Spirit, departing from Whittier, Alaska on July 1, 2009.  We had good weather (mostly sunny with highs in the 60s and 70s) for the first 6 days of the cruise.  The week before the weather was overcast and wet with highs in the high 50's. The following is my review of our cruise.   Pre Cruise Trip   We rented an Avis Car in Anchorage and kept it for 5 days, total cost  Including a $200 drop charge was $720!  A car gives you the freedom to  come and go as you wish and to stop and take pictures when we wanted. We spent a night in Anchorage and 3 nights in Seward.   In Anchorage we did a little shopping at the outdoor shopping event on 4th Street that is held every Sat and Sun, lots of good bargains there.  We also watched the movie at the Performing Arts Center on the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, a very good show.  We had dinner at the Marriot (where we stayed) and the food was wonderful.  We had wild fresh Halibut - heaven!   In Seward, there is plenty to do.  The scenery is great. We did the Major Marine Kenai National Park boat tour, 7 hours, we saw Orcas, Puffins, Sea Lions, glaciers - great trip. Going out of Seward, into the wind, was very cold sitting outside, inside was fine, food and bar service were good, fresh wild salmon and prime rib lunch was served on the Major Marine trip for $20 per person. Book the trip on line and save 15% or more up to 24 hours before the trip.  Ray's Seafood on the Harbor in Seward is a great restaurant, very busy, smart to make reservations; you'll jump the queue.  We ate there twice, the food was so good and the view of the harbor was good.    The drive from Anchorage to Seward is stunning.  The first segment from Anchorage to Portage Glacier (and the tunnel to Whittier) along the Turnagain Arm (fiord) is spectacular, with many turnouts for photos, it can be windy. Portage Glacier is spectacular, plan on spending time there.    The drive from Portage to Seward was less spectacular, but still nice,  expect some construction delays, we even had a Moose cross the road in  front of us.  It was our only Moose sighting.  Total drive time is less than 3 hours from Anchorage to Seward, but plan on more time for stops along the way.   Seward to Whittier (90 minute drive) - You need to take the one-way tunnel to get to Whittier from Seward or Anchorage to catch the Spirit. The tunnel is open in the southbound direction every hour (on the half hour) and lasts for only 15 minutes. The Spirit doesn't start boarding until 12:00; so don't get there too early.  You will check your bags in a small covered shed in the parking lot of the  Terminal building. Just bring your carry-ones into the terminal  Building, have your paper work ready. Check in goes quickly, then you  Go through security and then onto the ship. The state rooms are available  At 1:30.  The only things to do are to have lunch on deck 9, and  Explore the ship; the shops and casino are closed while in port, so  there isn't a lot to do.  The ship leaves at 9:00 pm, so no need to get to the ship too soon.  I'd spend more time at the Portage Glacier rather than boarding too soon.    We took another boat trip with Major Marine from Whittier, we saw Whales, Sea   Otters, glaciers and again had wild salmon for lunch. This trip leaves from a  Dock next to the Spirit. We got back to Spirit at 6:30 and the bags were in our suite.   Returning Your Avis Rental Car - There is only one gas station in Whittier; it will be on your left just past the creek, just past the Cruise terminal building.  You have to walk down a near by ramp to the boat fueling station to pay for your gas.  The Avis building is in the small boat harbor to the south of the creek, an easy 5-minute walk south of the Cruise terminal building.    The Spirit   The Suite - very nice room, with a wonderful king bed and plenty of  closets and drawers. The room had a nice desk and sofa and coffee  table and there was a dressing table outside of the bathroom.  The room is equipped with 220 and 110 power, although the power point next to the desk was a 220 outlet, not handy for using your laptop, bring a converter and 2 prong adapter if you want to watch DVDs on your computer from the sofa or bed. The TV is useful for seeing the ship's position and for listening to ship programs and announcements.  It carries CNN and FOX news, but no sports channels.  The naturalist will make announcement about wildlife sightings and glaciers on channel 15.  There is a free safe is in the room.  We brought a power strip so we could plug in all of our chargers (cameras, laptops and cell phones)   The balcony has 4 chairs and a small table. You'll need to wear a  jacket while the ship is moving. We had a left or port cabin thinking  we would see more stuff on this side than the other side, I don't think we did and the sun rose into our windows each morning before 5:00 am, so maybe a  starboard cabin would have been better. The only time your see  glaciers up close from the Spirit is the first morning south bound (6am)   and both sides get their views as the ship spends extra time near the glaciers.  Bring your binoculars.    Laundry - there are Laundry Rooms on each deck that has cabins. The washers and dryers are coin operated, 8 quarters each, no change machines.  You can buy a roll of quarters at Guest Services on deck 2 in the main lobby area. There are 2 irons and boards in the Laundry Rooms, there are none is the guest  rooms for fire safety reasons.   Workout Room - deck 9 all the way forward - plenty of nice cardio  equipment. The resistance machines were the old Keiser air pressure  machines, which don't work very well. There is a complete set of  Barbells, but someone is usually using the weights that you need.   The Spa - typical for cruise ships- facials, massages, this ship even  had an Acupuncturist ($150/hr). The Spa pushes an expensive Algae  based detox programs pretty hard.   Entertainment - Typical for cruise ships which was good for the most part. Plenty of opportunities to rock out after 10:00pm. Several lounge singers throughout the afternoon and evening. It's really amazing how many activities are going on   Spirit.  The Spirit singers and dancers are first rate and their  production shows are excellent, a good way to spend an hour after  dinner.   Casino  -  The Casino was a busy place.  The table games were fun and the minimum bets were only $5.  They take cash or you can charge chips to your shipboard account for a $3 service charge.  The Casino is only open when the ship is sailing.   Cell Phone Service  The cell service in the Alaskan ports was good, so we could check our emails on AT&T and Sprint systems.  Once you get into Canada, the cell service will cost you a premium.   Food 1.         Main dining room - 2nd deck aft - food good usually - don't be afraid  to order something else if you don't like something that you ordered,  wine is reasonably priced - service was very good.  The food is all loaded on the ship in Vancouver for two one-week cruises, so don't expect fresh, wild salmon.  We asked the Maitre De for some fresh, wild salmon one night and we saw it being delivered to the ship in Ketchikan and everyone at our table had it that night, it was so much better than the "Atlantic Salmon" (farm raised) that the ship carries.   If you can, take the late seating (early seating is 6:00 pm, late seating is 8:15) -, many shore excursions return to the ship after 6:00 pm and you'll want time to get cleaned up for dinner.  If you miss your appointed time for dinner, you can always queue up for "anytime" seating in the main dining room or eat dinner at the buffets on deck 9.   2.         La Playa Grill - 9th deck mid ship - food is usually good, there are about 8 stations with different kinds of food.  It looks crowded at breakfast and lunch but the short lines you'll wait thru are way faster than eating in the main Dining room.  The made to order oblates were great, much better than in the main dining room.  Many choices of food, the pizza is good, the salad bar will produce a far better salad than you can order off the menu. The Asian counter is good. The hamburger and hotdog counters were busy, so the food must have been good. They had a featured country food that changed each day. Italian was the best. You can take your food to the outside deck right outside the restaurant and get a great view and fresh air with less noise.  3.         We never tried the Nuveau Supper Club ($15 per person extra), their menu looked considerably upgraded from the main dining room.     Ports:  Nearby shopping is available in all ports as are lively bars  and good restaurants in case you want some fresh wild salmon or halibut.  You can find tours on the dock in some ports at slightly lower prices than the ship offers, particularly Ketchikan. The ship offers a better variety of tours than you can find on the dock, plus the ship will wait if one of their own tours is late, they won't wait if you are on your own, you'll have to catch a plane to the next port, the ship will not wait for you.  Many people pre-booked tours with private tour companies, which we did twice and it worked out very well, they know when you need to be back to the ship.  On the two occasions when we booked excursions on the ship, I did it on the morning of the excursion, no problem.  Several people recommended shoretrips.com for independent tours.   Sitka - great place for a boat ride, the ship sells many boat tours  which are a good value. We saw 6 Humpback Whales bubble-net feeding,  a highlight of the trip. Sea Otters are out there as are Bald Eagles,  Puffins and Sea Lions.  You have to take tenders into Sitka as there is no dock.  The folks with Carnival excursions got priority for leaving the ship, we were on our own trip so we left the ship after lunch. The boat tour we took was with Esther G's Taxi Service; there were only 4 passengers on this trip, which was wonderful.  Didn't see many people at the tender dock selling tours, so buy them from Carnival.   Juneau - so many choices - We took a 10 hour boat ride south of the  Juneau to Tracy Arm, a beautiful fiord full of icebergs and wildlife, an independent tour on Adventure Bound Tours, which left at  8:00am  - we got off the Spirit at 7:40, so it was a close call  -  there were about 25 people on this tour, about half from the Spirit   We saw humpbacks breaching on the way out. The glacier at the  halfway point was huge and calving a lot, a sight and sound you must  see  There were many Harbor Seals resting on the icebergs.  We saw hundreds of waterfalls.  Tracy Arm is truly a beautiful fiord with dramatic scenery.  Take some reading material, as the 2 hours out and back to and from Tracy Arm  can get routine.  Everyone on the ship had good things to say about their Carnival arranged tours.    Skagway -  No boat rides were offered here so we wound up taking the White  Pass Yukon Route historic Railroad trip, a 3-hour roundtrip, which was quite  interesting.  We saw our only bear of the trip from the train.   Ketchikan -  This is a good port for Float Plane trips.  We wound up taking the 90  minute Duck City and Harbor tour, which was fun.  There is good shopping in Ketchikan.   Days at Sea (2):  Thursday is a day at sea.  At 6am you get glacier views in the College Fiords, very impressive.  The rest of the day is in the Gulf of Alaska and you really can't see anything.  The naturalist keeps an eye out for wildlife and makes an announcement when something is spotted.  Tuesday is also a day at sea, through the inside passage.  The land is close and you see water falls and islands and everyone is on the lookout for wildlife.  I found both of these days were good casino and shopping and workout days.  The ship had a covered pool and Jacuzzi, so bring your swimsuit.   Clothes:  Jeans and tennis shoes and various layers of casual tops were fine for daytime activities.  I wore a sport coat with a shirt and tie on the two formal nights (Thursday and Monday) which was quite appropriate.  I wore the sport coat and an open colored shirt and dress pants on the other nights.  There were a few tuxes in evidence.  If you have room, bring a really warm jacket so you can sit outside on the deck of a boat moving at 20 knots.  A knit hat was necessary also, baseball hats tended to fly off and give you nothing for your ears.  I used a scarf and knit gloves several times as well.  The scenery is so spectacular that its worth absorbing some cold weather.    Disembarkation in Vancouver: The ship gives you plenty of options for handling your luggage when you leave the ship.  We selected the "Self Assist" program.  At 7:45 am on the final day, we were able to take our own luggage to the ship's exit ramp and leave the ship.  We walked directly to Canadian Immigration, which was quick and easy.  We then caught a cab and went straight to the airport ($35 with tip), we were at the airport by 8:30, it took another hour at the airport with all the check in, customs and security stops, so we made our 11:00 am flight easily.    Conclusion:  We have been on many cruises and this one had the best scenery and wildlife, far better than the South American Cape Horn (2 week) trip.  We lucked out with good weather.  One week earlier and the weather wasn't so good.  Everyone talks about dressing in layers, which is so true, wear jeans and sweatshirts and jackets and walking shoes.  Don't forget a hat and gloves, if you plan on going out on boat rides.  Be prepared for rain with raincoat and rain pants.  When it rains, it often rains sideways with high winds, so umbrellas are often useless.    The ship was well organized and well run and the crew was great.  The cruise director Chris was funny and he even sings in the disco sometimes.  The food was good and there was plenty to do on the ship.  We'll definitely cruise on Carnival again.  Questions? Email:  kentennis@cox.net Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We are from Montreal, Quebec so we know what winter, snow and cold weather mean. So when I told my husband that I wanted to go to Alaska for the summer he was a little bit hard to convince. But we did no regret the trip at all. there were ... Read More
We are from Montreal, Quebec so we know what winter, snow and cold weather mean. So when I told my husband that I wanted to go to Alaska for the summer he was a little bit hard to convince. But we did no regret the trip at all. there were six of us: my husband and I, our daughter, my niece, my mom and my aunt who flew all the way from France. We flew the day before from Montreal to Vancouver and stayed at the Sandman Signature Suites near the airport. The hotel offers a shuttle that take us from the airport to hotel and back. That was very convenient. The hotel is nice but ask for a room that does not face the highway if you go. It gets noisy early in the morning due to the traffic. The next day, the shuttle takes us to the airport with plenty of time to spare and we flew to Anchorage Int'l Airport. We booked transfer with an independent company named Aurora Limousines in Alaska. They sent a bus and a trailer to pick us up at the airport. They are on time and quite efficient. The only thing is, they required a deposit and full payment even before you get there. Everything is OK but when I got back home and check my credit card statement, I realized that they charged us twice. I have been trying to call them but it is very hard to get to talk to someone and when finally I got hold of the owner, Howard, he was in a rush. He said he will get back to me in a few days but I hoped that things will be straighten out soon. I'll have to get back to you guys on that...This is our 7th cruise (3rd with Carnival)so we are familiar with the embarkation stuffs. We boarded in Whittier. It rained and foggy so we were wet and cold and miserable. The Spirit is nice and clean with plenty of public room. It never seems to be crowded. Maybe it is because it is an Alaskan cruise not a caribbean cruise so people tends to do more things that just lying around the pool. Also , the age average of this cruise is older. You see kids but not tons of them. There are also no young adults trying to get drunk to impress the girls. The people on this boat are here for the scenery and the beauty of Alaska and not for the partying and the booze... The food is good but after a few cruise with carnival, you have the same menu coming back like clockwork. One thing that got us disappointed is there is no seafood that comes from Alaska.Even the salmon came from I don't know where but it is not the fresh wild salmon that is the trademark of Alaska. The balcony cabin that we booked was nice (we booked a balcony once on Disney cruise and since then can never go back to an inside cabin). It is convenient to have your coffee and breakfast and look at the scenery that passes by without having to go to deck 9 or 10. I don't want to get in more details about the boat since all the carnival ships are more or less the same. I want to tell you more about the ports of call. We always booked our excursions with independent tours operators since that the only way that the money spent will go back to the community. In Sitka, we booked with Sitka Sound Tours (Jim Seeland). Since there were six of us, we were able to have the whole boat to ourselves. Jim took us to see whales, otters and puffins for less than what the Carnival tours charge. We saw tons of whales. They were so close that we thought they will hit the boat. I highly recommend this tours. Jim is very knowledgeable and reliable. He was right there at the time and place he said he will be. In Juneau, we booked the helicopter ride to the Hebert glacier and the sled dog ride. We booked through Dolly Varden tours in January to make sure that we got the time that we wanted. I highly recommended this tour. It is amazing to see the glacier from high up and then land in the dog camp. My daughter and niece loved the whole thing and will not hesitate to do it again (even a the high cost of $450 US+tx per person). In Skagway, we did the Liarville Gold rush and salmon bake. It was nice but a little pricey for what they offer (a lunch with salmon...) but we did not wanted to sit 3 hours in a train with kid ans teenager. We shop a little bit but did not find anything that we can not find in the other ports. In ketchikan, we did not booked any tours and just walked around town. My husband bought some Vodka at the Alaska Duty Free shop for $5/bottle of 1 liter. He said that In Montreal, he would have pay around $30 for them. Debarkation in Vancouver was a breeze. They are so organized. You can buy tickets for the shuttle from the pier to the airport for $13/person: once you got your luggage, just walk out and you will see the ticket counter on the left side. You can also take a taxi for around $30/trip Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Since in the weeks and months leading up to our July 1, 2009 cruise on the Carnival Spirit I was constantly searching for new reviews, I was determined to post mine in a timely fashion.  Overall, our vacation was fabulous - and this was ... Read More
Since in the weeks and months leading up to our July 1, 2009 cruise on the Carnival Spirit I was constantly searching for new reviews, I was determined to post mine in a timely fashion.  Overall, our vacation was fabulous - and this was our 10th cruise.  The most amazing thing was the weather!  In the 10 days we were in Alaska - we had rain on 2 days - the days we were "at sea" - so it really didn't matter.  The only down side of the beautiful weather was that we didn't see as much wildlife as we would have if it had been cold and rainy.    We opted for the "pre cruise tour", which is operated by Holland America - a sister company to Carnival.  The land tour was interesting and they did a great job of getting us to everything and delivering our luggage quickly.  We flew in to Fairbanks and spent the first night there - we were given the "Governor's Suite" at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel for some reason.  It was not as grand as it sounds, since the entire tour group was housed in the older section of the hotel, but still it was nice to have a suite rather than just a room.  We were impressed with how efficient things were.  We went to a Carnival Cruise line desk at the Fairbanks airport and were given an envelope that contained luggage tags to attach to all our bags, and our room keys.  Then we were transported by bus to the hotel, while our bags were trucked to the hotel and waiting at our door when we arrived.    For dinner that night (Sunday, June 28) we walked to a restaurant (Pasta Bella) recommended by a lady we talked to on the plane.  Food was good - but expensive as all food is in Alaska.  Fairbanks isn't much of a city, though it is the 4th biggest in Alaska.   Monday morning, we were to have our large bags ready to be picked up - they were transferred directly to the Hilton in Anchorage, where we found them right in our room when checking in there on Tuesday night - and everyone had only small bags for the trip to Denali.  We had the breakfast buffet at the hotel and then were given a brief tour of Fairbanks - again, not much to see - and then taken to the railroad station.  We had a 4 hour train trip to Denali National Park and we had a great "car manager".  He was a young guy who loved being in Alaska, camping and mountain climbing and gave us a running commentary on the history of the area and had personal pictures of scenery and wildlife that he shared.  There was also a bartender in each car and you could go downstairs if you wanted to have breakfast in the dining car.  Before arriving there we were given another envelope that contained our room keys and there was a bus that took us to our resort.  We had about an hour to visit our rooms and grab some lunch and then departed on a 5 hour bus tour of the park.  It was very interesting and such a beautiful and enormous place!  We saw a group of Caribou and spotted Dall Sheep as well.   As I mentioned, food was very pricey in Alaska and the lodge we stayed at (McKinley Chalets) had very expensive meals.  I had seen some negative comments about the hotel rooms, but though the rooms were sort of rustic, we found them kind of charming.  They had a small sitting room with sofa, desk and chair and coffee maker, and a separate bedroom with one double and one twin bed    We had gone to Subway - which was across the highway from the resort to get lunch before our tour of the park and the same foot long sandwiches we get in the rest of the US for $5 are $9 there.  We brought them back and were eating them in the lobby and we got to talking to a group of people who had been there a couple days and were getting ready to leave.  One couple told us about a place across the highway they had discovered called the Salmon Bake that had good food and wasn't too expensive.  So - we ended up eating both dinner Monday night and Breakfast Tuesday morning there.  It is a popular place, so at dinner time - be prepared to wait for a table - but good food and the prices were better than at the resort.   Tuesday we had free time in the morning and we went to the Visitor's Center in Denali Park, which is right next to the train station - there was a free shuttle from the resort.  They have a room where for $1 per hour, you can check your suitcase and not have to haul it around with you.  We visited the sled dog kennels and saw a demonstration.  Denali is the only National Park that has and uses sled dogs to patrol in the winter.  Our bus guide had told us they have volunteers come and walk the dogs in the summer, but they are real "working dogs" all winter and get plenty of exercise then.  All are lavished with love and attention and when the ranger that told us about the program got to the part where he was going to do a demo - all the dogs got excited, howling and jumping around and hoped to be the "chosen ones".  They only harnessed up six of them - boy they love to pull a sled!  The Visitor Center has a lot of interesting displays and you could spend considerable time there, if you had it.   Though the train cars are special ones, built by the cruise lines and have comfortable seats and large glass domes with tinted glass to keep it from being too sunny, and each car has a bartender and a guide doing running commentary about the sights and history - our second train ride was for 8 hours - a long time to be on a train!!  At least you could get up and they had dining facilities downstairs in each car and restrooms and you could walk from car to car and spend time on the platforms so that you could get some fresh air.  But, we were glad to finally get to Anchorage.    In Anchorage we stayed at the Hilton and it was really nice - nice for anywhere, not just nice for Alaska!  The next morning - Wednesday - we first went to breakfast at a restaurant we found around the block that advertised "2 eggs, 2 strips of bacon, 2 pancakes for $5.99".  Then we got on a bus and had a city tour of Anchorage and then went to the Native Heritage Center - which was really interesting - we saw a moose on our approach to the Welcome Center.  In talking to others that have been on this same land tour, it is fairly common to see moose around there.  We had a bit more than 2 hours there - but could have spent the whole day.  This is a wonderful place where the young people are encouraged to learn about and enjoy their own heritage.  They have a stage where they do native dances, there are many people doing native crafts and they welcome questions and comments and are delighted to talk with visitors.  They have many artifacts on display in the large modern building, and outside, built around a lake, they have traditional dwellings and ceremonial buildings done in the building style of the various kinds of natives that occupied Alaska.  Inside each building were people familiar with the history and customs of that particular group.  They had examples of the types of tools, furs, implements and eating utensils used and some gave presentations of what life was like and how it was lived.  A wealth of information and just an uplifting experience!   Following that, we drove to the ship - and that was an interesting ride - we drove along the water and past the snow covered mountains and glaciers - just gorgeous.  Then in order to get to Whittier - this is really weird - there is a long, one lane tunnel through the mountain that you drive through.  On the hour they let the south bound traffic go and on the half hour the north bound traffic - first the train and then the cars, trucks and busses, - which drive right on the train tracks.  In several locations in the tunnel they have dug out "safe houses" and each supposedly has cots, blankets and food for 60 people.   The town of Whittier was built and used as a top secret Naval base during World War II, when they were afraid of attacks and invasions by the Russians and it is a really weird place - and I guess that is what the "safe houses" in the tunnel were about - they planned to bring the top government officials there and protect them in the mountain!  There are people there that work on the docks and for the railroad - and probably some that take care of the tunnel and then there are some little stores and cafes - most in sort of crummy little buildings.  But - the whole town, everyone 270 people (maybe more in the summer) - all live in a building that is probably 12 stories.  Their school and town hall are also in the building.  There are a couple of other buildings that look like old barracks buildings, but they have asbestos and can't be occupied.  It is just the strangest place you can imagine but has a perfect harbor for a cruise ship!   Embarkation was the fastest and most efficient we have ever experienced.  We were on the ship by 2:00.  Our room was ready and we went and dropped some stuff off and went up to the Lido deck for lunch.  After roaming around the ship for a bit, we returned to our room and our bags were outside our door.  We could unpack and by 5:00 we were ready to cruise!   This was our 3rd Carnival cruise and so we were prepared for the gaudy dEcor and we really liked this ship!  Though I believe that the Freedom, which was home during our Mediterranean cruise in the summer of 2007, was bigger, the Spirit seemed to have more public areas, or maybe they just are better placed.  There are lots of places that people can sit and read a book or simply relax.  There are numerous bars and lounges, a library with computers, a chapel, the large show room (Pharaohs Palace), and a really nice showroom, the Versailles Lounge on deck 1 - right beneath Pharaohs Palace (one night we discovered a great group playing live music there and we were the whole audience).  The last night of our cruise we went back there and there were maybe 15-20 people dancing and enjoying the music.  Honestly, the public areas are so vast and varied that it is hard to believe that there were over 2,300 passengers on board, it never seemed crowded anywhere - except for the last morning, when everyone was trying to eat at the buffet at the same time!   Our Cruise Critic roll call group met in the Shanghai Lounge and they actually had various people there to meet us, including the Cruise Director, Hotel Manager, Drink Manager and a few others.  So - if anyone is planning a Cruise Critic "meet and greet", contact Carnival and you will probably get the same treatment.   We were in room 8191 - and the review on that is mixed.  The bad first:  There was a very strong urine smell in front of the vanity.  I wondered if maybe someone with little kids had been in there the cruise before us.  I asked one of the stewards and he said that the carpet had been shampooed before we got on and asked if we wanted it shampooed again.  I said that obviously shampooing had not done the trick and asked if they had something they could spray it with to make it less stinky.  Shortly after that, the other room steward (obviously the lead one as he was the person that introduced himself) came to see us.  He said that the people before were elderly and he had been aware of an odor, but didn't think it was urine.  Guess what - there is nothing else that smells that way!  In the comments I left I suggested that Carnival invest in large containers of enzyme cleaner and if they couldn't find it elsewhere they could go to any pet store and buy Nature's Miracle which would eliminate those kinds of smells.   The good things about the room were, though we rarely saw the room stewards, the room was always tidy, with fresh ice in the ice bucket and fresh towels in the bathroom.  It was the most conveniently located room we have ever had on a ship!  Very near both the mid ship elevators and the atrium elevators, and right near the mid ship staircase and just one floor below the Lido Deck and breakfast, pizza, ice cream, hot chocolate, cookies, etc!!! We loved the balcony and made very good use of that, as the weather was so nice and warm that several evenings we were able to sit out there in shorts and t-shirts, and I didn't wear either of the sweatshirts I brought.  We emptied all of the sodas, and beer from the mini fridge and put them along with the large bottle of water in the bottom of one of the closets, and kept the box of wine we brought along in the fridge.  Also, when we first got to Whittier, we went and found some Diet Coke and Diet Dr Pepper and put them in the fridge.  It was nice to have wine and soft drinks to take out on the balcony and to the nighttime shows!   One thing I'd like to mention is food.  I had read many remarks about the food on the trip, many people remarked that the food in the dining room was good and the food on the Lido deck was awful and tasteless.  Our reaction was that the food was pretty good on the Lido deck - understanding that it is a buffet and buffets have their limitations.  We ate breakfast there all but one morning when we had time for the dining room and were pleased.  I enjoyed the made to order omelets and fried eggs.  My only issue with breakfast on the Lido deck was that fresh cut up fruit was rare.  The lunches we ate on deck 9 were fine.  Once we had pizza and other times, just picked and choose what appealed and my husband always enjoyed the deli sandwiches.  Often on cruises, cookies are hard to come by but we almost always could find cookies after noon.  One of our favorite snacks on cruises is hot chocolate (available 24 hours) and cookies.   We had heard about "Any time Dining" on our Roll call board and because of the times the ship was in port, decided to go with it.  We have cruised on Norwegian and enjoyed their system that works like that.  I must say that for the most part we have always enjoyed having an assigned table and usually have been matched with suitable table mates, and visiting with them every night was part of the fun of cruising.  But, we then had a bad experience with assigned dining and another experience that was "luke warm", so we were looking forward to the idea of eating when we wanted and not being forced to report to the same table each night.  Just so you know, if you choose this option - you need to go to the upper (deck 3) dining room and stand on the left side going in (I think that maybe our room stewards "goofed" as we received a flyer explaining where to go for anytime dining the last day of our cruise - we probably were supposed to have that in our room when we first arrived).  The hostesses always asked "would you be willing to share with others?" and we were happy to do that, I think that only once we were there when they had lots of tables for 2 and so we ate alone that night.  We ate there every night and as long as we were willing to share, never had to wait to be seated.  We enjoyed visiting with other couples and thought the food was pretty good, although the quality was somewhat off the mark as compared to even other Carnival cruises, but that could be the economy, or the setting.  One of the head waiters that we had the first couple nights was not great - he forgot to bring courses, silverware, beverages, etc.  On maybe the third night we were seated at one of Zoltan's tables and he is great - personable and the epitome of what a great waiter should be - after that we asked to be seated at one of his tables and enjoyed every dining experience!  The chocolate melting cake (Zolten referred to it as the 5 lb cake) is still fantastic and available every night!  We even spotted it up on the Lido deck.      The only days it rained were the two while we were on the boat sailing and not in port, so they didn't bother us at all.  On our first day at sea - of course everyone is up early because this is when you are sailing past all the glaciers, we ate on the Lido deck and then went and explored the parts of the ship we hadn't checked out the night before.  We just sort of stumbled on a trivia game and we won!  We were awarded a "ship on a stick" the first of four trivia game wins!  Now my husband enjoys trivia, but I never dreamed that between the two of us we knew so much about various assorted meaningless things!  We had entered the "trivia challenge", which is a four day series of trivia contest with a different topic each day.  We were in 2nd place coming into the final day - the day we were in Ketchikan, but returned from our kayak trip too late to participate.  Actually we had no chance at winning anyway.  There was a couple that were both teachers, she a history teacher and he a geometry teacher and they way outscored us on the first two days.  We beat them modestly on the third day, but they had an unbeatable lead.  We ended up giving our "ships" to little kids on the ship and a couple that had little boys at home who would find them a great souvenir!   As far as entertainment went, we did go to a couple of the shows and they were good, although I wasn't as impressed on this cruise with the entertainment as I have been on others.  I think that part of the problem with that was that the cruise director, who does the Blues Brothers show himself, was not that in to making announcements so that unless you either memorized your Capers for the day, or carried it with you, you had no idea what was happening where.  After cruising with John Heald on the Freedom, where you always know exactly what is happening and where, I'd have to say that more announcements should be made.  I had read in other reviews that the people aboard this ship just don't seem to be in to night life.  I'd have to say - they probably weren't aware of exactly where to find it.  Carnival could do a lot better in this area.   Now for the ports - and I must say we had beautiful weather in all four ports!  We made all of our reservations for excursions on line through Shoretrips.com.  We have used them before and they do a good job and you can be assured of quality vendors when going to areas you don't know.  But, with this trip, we were so pleased with all the vendors we dealt with that I'm going to give the names of the companies and contact numbers.  You can save money by booking directly.  Though you can probably book all these excursions through Carnival as well - that not only costs more, but I personally don't like the mob scene where everyone has to meet at a certain place on the ship at a certain time and then you sit around there for 30 minutes and then go somewhere else in a group to wait.   We first visited Sitka - where we walked around on our own - found the Raptor Center, we had read about from Cruise Critic members and had to agree that it was really interesting.  They have a beautiful location and are very friendly and know their raptors!  They have assorted eagles, hawks, owls, etc.  They attempt to rehab the birds and return them to nature and those that cannot safely be released have a home for life and you can visit with them and learn about them and others of their species.  They also have a walking path that takes you through the woods; where there are signs warning that it is excellent habitat for bears.  The employees are delighted to share what they know and the entry fee is well worth it.  We gave an additional donation as I'm sure most people do.  We didn't see any bears there but, as we walked through the park on the way to the center, we were crossing over a walking bridge when we saw a number of people taking pictures from the bridge.  When we checked it out, we found three bald eagles, a baby and two mature birds, bathing in the river - cool!   As we were walking back to the ship, we met some other Carnival passengers going the other way.  They asked about directions to the Raptor Center and we told them about it.  They told us about the aquarium across the street and encouraged us to go to it.  It was housed in a fairly old, non descript building but the aquarium that contained unusual things like red and purple starfish, multi colored anemones and huge sea cucumbers, which are actually critters that look like overgrown cucumbers with spiky protrusions, and other starfish that have like, 15 arms and suction cups.  All these are things that occupy the ocean around there.  They were in shallow glass tanks on table tops and if you wanted, you could pick them up - I was happy to just look at them!  This place was free and really interesting!  Out in the back of the building, by the water, they had big tanks with all the different kinds of salmon - tiny, but thousands in every tank.  It was really a beautiful day, warm and sunny.  We stopped and bought some fudge on the way back to the ship - YUM!   Our second port was Juneau on the 4th of July.  The ship was there from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. and I think under other circumstances, people could do various things all day and evening.  As it turned out - there was a big parade with Sarah Palin on the main street - but we had reservations to go zip lining.  The young guy that picked us up - there were 10 of us in all, said we were lucky to be going when we were as with Sarah there, security would be tight and they would be closing down the road.  The zip lining was great and by the time we were going back to the ship the traffic had cleared.  It turned out that two of the other couples on the tour were folks from the Cruise Critic Roll Call board that we had been communicating with before getting on the ship.  If you have any desire to go zip lining, you can book directly with Alaska Zipline Adventure, either do it online or their phone number is 907-321-0947.  They are tuned in to safety and make sure everyone is comfortable and having fun.  If you have tried other zip lines, you have probably experienced being concerned about either braking too soon and getting stuck in the middle of the cable, or waiting too long and smacking into the trees.  These folks have designed their own braking system and the guide that "catches" you, also does the braking - you just zip and have fun!  They even brought hot tea and metal cups in a back pack and served us tea on one of the last platforms!  We didn't bring a camera that day, but some of our Cruise Critic pals have sent us pictures of the day.   It was our plan to have lunch and then get back off the ship and take the bus over to Mendenhall Glacier and spend the afternoon there as so many others advised doing.  Turned out though, that because of it being the 4th, they stopped that service at 1:00 and so - we just shopped and found stuff to do on the ship.    Next day we were in Skagway and we went on a jeep stampede.  We had our own jeep and there were maybe 5 other jeeps and the leader, so we were in a caravan.  We drove about 100 miles round trip into the Yukon and back.  The scenery was fantastic and it was a really nice day!  The town of Skagway - is not much so you might as well get out into the Yukon!  This was really the best way to see the gorgeous terrain around there.  Our guide was Dave and he was very helpful and laid back.  He had cold water and sodas, and various snacks for us.  We all stopped any time there was anything of interest and he was willing to cater to individual requests.  We had a family group that had three jeeps and some of them wanted to "play in the snow" and so, Dave found them a place to play in the snow.  If you want to book the green jeep tour you can find them on line - google Yukon Jeep Stampede and their phone number is 888-321-3624.   Next day we were in Ketchikan.  That was an interesting town - supposedly it gets more rain fall than any other city in the US and there is a rain gauge on the dock, showing how much rain they got the year before.  We were told that it usually rains some every day, but for us it was sunny and nice.  We went sea kayaking and I must say that was interesting!  There is a whole series of islands there and Ketchikan itself is on an island.  Because there are no bridges - the way people get around is by boat and float plane - the islands are not big enough for regular airports.  So - it was an adventure paddling across this large bay.  First we had to wait for a Princess cruise ship to leave port, and then we had to dodge planes taking off and landing and boats zooming around.  It was fun - but very different!  They are very professional and the equipment is first rate.  The vendor was Southeast Sea Kayaks and their website is kayakketchikan.com and the phone number is (800) 287-1607.    The only other thing I need to tell you about will only matter if you are taking the cruise from Whittier to Vancouver and plan to fly out of Seattle this year.  It seems that beginning in 2010 Carnival will be selling transfers from the docks in Vancouver directly to SeaTac International airport.  Our problem was that they sold us that transfer and it didn't exist.  We found this out the hard way!  Though that is what we booked, and a couple of weeks before we left a woman from Carnival called and confirmed the airport, airline, flight number and time, when I printed out our documents the day before we were leaving - on a Saturday I saw that we were booked to Vancouver Airport!  My husband tried calling our Carnival vacation planner, who was off for the weekend, and ended up telling the problem to a gentleman named Roger, who checked their list of shuttles and said that the trip we needed was on the list - but in bold print it stated that it wasn't available until 2010!   My husband sent our Carnival person an e-mail and left a voice mail message about this, and actually he did call us on Saturday and apologized for the problem.  He said he would be in the office on Monday and would "get everything taken care of".  He agreed to let us know how he had "taken care of it" either while we were on the "pre trip" that he had reserved for us, or on the ship.  Well, that made me a little nervous and so I checked on line and found a shuttle service that picked up at the docks, then went to the Vancouver Airport, made several other stops, but eventually ended up at SeaTac.  I was all for just reserving that but my husband convinced me that since transportation existed that went from the dock to the Seattle airport, that must be how everything was going to be taken care of.  Well, when we still hadn't heard anything after a couple days on the ship, we took the issue to Guest Services.  They seemed interested and competent and asked for copies of our documents that showed that Carnival knew the airport from which we were departing and they said they would take care of it.  Later in the day we received a phone call from Guest Services stating that "everything has been taken care of and you will get the details the day before you leave".   WELL - NOTHING WAS TAKEN CARE OF AND OUR TRANSFER WAS TO THE VANCOUVER AIRPORT!!  My husband, who is very kind, trusting and patient, was certain that they would have something set up where we would at least be directed to the place where we could catch another bus to Seattle.  They didn't have a clue that anyone was on that transfer except people flying out of Seattle.  When I informed a Carnival person at the Vancouver airport that we were flying out of Seattle, he seemed confused about why we would not have taken the transportation from the port directly to SeaTac -that made 3 of us!!  He found a woman to escort us to get our luggage and figure out what to do.  She was a bit confused too, and then realized that though Holland America passengers can take the shuttle directly from the pier, Carnival does not have that set up yet.  So - she took us to a counter where we could buy tickets to SeaTac.  We paid the same amount for them that we would have paid to travel all the way from the cruise ship terminal, on top of what we had paid Carnival to get to the wrong airport.  Later we found, had we booked on line we would actually have gotten direct transportation from the pier to SeaTac and received a 5% discount as well!  We were actually lucky though we had just missed a shuttle and had to wait for nearly 2 hours - we got the last two seats on a little, cramped 17 person van that met up with a nice coach right before the US border.  The coach was half filled with - you guessed it - Holland American cruise passengers that had boarded at the pier!  So - if you are flying out of Seattle, which is much cheaper for most US destinations, make your own arrangements to get there.  The web site is Quickcoach.com and their phone number is 800-665-2122.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We just came back from 7 days Alaska cruise from Whittier to Vancouver on Carnival Spirit. Alaska is unbelievable beautiful, I am sure we will go back again. Carnival or even cruising, we are not so sure. Food: Very very bad. We ... Read More
We just came back from 7 days Alaska cruise from Whittier to Vancouver on Carnival Spirit. Alaska is unbelievable beautiful, I am sure we will go back again. Carnival or even cruising, we are not so sure. Food: Very very bad. We have read from several books that Carnival has one of the best cuisines among mainstream cruise lines. All I can say is I can't imagine how the food can be worse. I actually lost a pound after 7 days of cruising. Main Dining room: Starters are generally good, though some are on the salty side. Steak, Rib, Free-range chicken are very good. Veal meat is too rough, like leather. Pork Loin is terrible. And if you are a seafood lover, you are out of luck. Lobster is way toooo salty, crab leg, fish and shrimp all have no taste at all. The only good seafood is cured salmon, a starter. Spa menu should be low-fat, low sodium, not low taste. Buffet: Ehhh. How can soup be saltier than ocean water? How can hamburger meat taste like candle? How hard you have to try to make eggroll taste bland? The only things eatable are sandwich and pizza, though they are far from good. Cabin: Very nice. Small, but comfortable. Nice bed, pillow and comforter. The only complain is the constant foul smell in the bathroom, even with the fan on 24 hours a day. Entertainment: N/A We only went to one show, not our cup of tea. Besides who has time for indoor entertainment when it's so beautiful outside. One fellow passenger who has cruised Carnival 7 times commented that this is the worst entertainment she has ever saw. I will take her word for it. Family & Children: Bad The whole reason our travel agent recommended Carnival is because of their Camp Carnival program, what a letdown. The problem with Camp Carnival is that they organize their program strictly based on age 2 - 5, 6 - 8, 9 - 11, 12 - 14. As any parents would know, a great activity for 6-year-old might be cruelly boring for a 8-year-old, while a great activity for 8-year-old could make 6-year-old very confused. I wish Carnival would loosen up the age limitation so a 8 or 11 year old kids can choose with age group they want to join. Service: Uneven The room service was great. The steward seems working ALL THE TIME. Our room would be clean and tidy every time we went back. She is also very friendly whenever we met her at the hallway. Dining room, well, the fixed time dining is OK. Not good, not bad either. However, the any-time dining was a nightmare, I wish Carnival would just get rid of it. The first time our drink arrived when we are finishing dessert. The next time, our waitress toke our order and disappeared for 45 minutes leaving us sitting there, wondering what's going on. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Background: We have cruised several times before, most recently on the Miracle in 2007.  My wife is 39 and I'm 38.  We left the kids at home for this trip.  We booked the cruise about 3 months out and used CC to plan all the ... Read More
Background: We have cruised several times before, most recently on the Miracle in 2007.  My wife is 39 and I'm 38.  We left the kids at home for this trip.  We booked the cruise about 3 months out and used CC to plan all the excursions.  Since we were cruising without kids this time, we didn't feel the need to use Carnival excursions and we also used credit card points to pay for most of the cruise, so we splurged a little on the excursions.  Inbound: We flew nonstop from Atlanta (7.5 hours) to Anchorage on Delta in coach using FF miles on Tuesday 6/16.  On the whole, it was not a bad flight considering the distance.  We did get a free hot meal (shocker!) and free movies on the seat-back on-demand screen.  We watched Benjamin Button (overrated) and Gran Torino (quite good).  Unfortunately, it was cloudy as we flew in, so we couldn't get a great view of the scenery on approach to Anchorage.  Anchorage: On arrival, we waited for our luggage, and waited, and waited.  The conveyor stuck so we had to wait about ½ hour, but we finally grabbed a cab and headed for the Marriott downtown (also using points).  On the way, we made a quick pit stop at a liquor/convenience store to grab some soda and a bottle of rum for the cruise.  The cab was around $25 with tip.  After checking in, we headed out to explore Anchorage.  We had a bite and a beer at Humpy's.  I highly recommend the salmon pizza and halibut tacos.  We finally got to bed around 11PM AK time (3AM at home).  Anchorage was OK with some nice galleries and stores, but a little seedy after 9PM.       The next morning we had breakfast at the concierge lounge (an unexpected bonus that our key worked in the door) and took a cab to the train station ($5).  Train to Whittier: After checking in our suitcases, we waited a while to board.  You could probably arrive at 9:45 for the 10:00 train and not have any problems.  The train was comfortable and they had plenty of snacks and drinks for sale - including some good coffee!  I spent much of the ride between the cars taking pictures.  We went through the tunnel and emerged in Whittier, in the pouring rain.  Pre-Cruise PWS Tour: We walked over to the 26 Glacier Tour boat and boarded fairly soon after we arrived.  We had to switch from the PWS tour at the last minute because our original tour was cancelled.  In the end, we were glad we took the faster boat.  We were seated at a table for 6 with only 2 other people, both independent travelers, not cruisers, so there was plenty of room.  I'd say the boat was about 2/3 full.  We quickly made it about ½ the way up College Fjord and saw a huge raft of otters.  We then were served a decent fried cod lunch while we went to the next set of glaciers (Surprise & Marjorie, I think).  We got extremely close and I got a great calving picture.  Because of the speed of the boat, it seemed like we spent a long time at the glaciers.  We went to another set of glaciers and stopped at the bird colony across from Whittier on the way back.  All in all, it was a fantastic way to get close to the glaciers.  As soon as we got a few miles away from Whittier, the rain stopped.  Of course, when we returned to Whittier, it was still pouring there. Cruise: I will break the review down into daily highlights, then specific reviews of food, service, activities, etc. Embarkation Night:  We were able to board immediately after we left the smaller boat and our luggage was waiting for us (direct from the train station in Anchorage).  We unpacked and met our steward, Gusti from Indonesia, who was very nice.  I removed all the minibar stuff to make room for our sodas.  We had a midship 7A cabin with an obstructed balcony, but the lifeboat was below the balcony rail and we had a clear view to the ocean from part of the balcony because we were between two lifeboats.  We had this same category on the Miracle so we knew what to expect.  We went to dinner around 8PM and we were using anytime dining.  This was only the second week on this ship for anytime, so I expected a few problems.  We had no problems at all, and only waited 5 minutes twice, otherwise we were seated immediately.  Anytime is set up on the left side of the Deck 3 dining room.  I'll discuss the food and service in more detail below.  We sailed late because (as I found out later), some flights were late causing buses to miss the tunnel opening.  I think we sailed around 10PM, but as we already knew, College Fjord is only a few miles from Whittier, so we basically spent all night going in circles between Whittier and College Fjord anyway. College Fjord/Sea Day:  We set up room service breakfast for 5:45AM so we wouldn't miss the glaciers.  As it turned out, we woke up at 5:30 anyway because we were still mentally on Eastern Time.   We sat out on our balcony eating bagels and cereal while watching the glaciers go by.  We reached Harvard glacier around 6:15AM and we went up to Deck 9 and 10 to get a better look and take pictures.  We stayed in front of Harvard glacier for about an hour.  Michele, the ship naturalist, came over the PA with her sleepy NPR voice and gave some good info about the glaciers and the early explorations of the area.  We were out of College Fjord by around 9AM, but still saw plenty of beautiful scenery throughout the day until we moved into the Gulf of Alaska in the late afternoon.  That night was the first "cruise elegant" night, so no jeans or shorts in the dining room, although it didn't seem like too many people got super dressy, mostly business casual with a few suits and tuxes.  The ship started rolling a little when we got into the Gulf, so you may want to be aware of that if you are prone to seasickness.  We had no problems, but a few people were taking Dramamine and wearing patches, etc. Sitka: As we were pulling into Sitka, I stepped out on the balcony and a seal surfaced right next to the ship parallel to our balcony.  We arrived in Sitka around 8AM and after we anchored, the ship's tenders began to be lowered.  As usual, we were up earlier than expected.  I went to the specified lounge at 8:15 to get tender stickers and arrived just as the staff member came in with the stickers.  We got tender #2, with the first one reserved for early Carnival tours.  Our tender was called about 8:45, and it took about ½ hour to reach the dock. We tendered into the dock near the bridge, which is a couple of blocks from downtown.  Our tour with Captain Davey wasn't until 1:30PM, so we decided to explore the town and make our way to the Raptor Center.  We hiked through town and arrived at the Raptor Center around 10AM.  We were just in time for a presentation by one of the staff holding a huge eagle that had been kept by the center because it could not be released back into the wild for some reason (I forget why). Then, we explored the exhibits at the center and received a private (because we were the only ones there at the time) tour of the flight rehab facility where they allow wounded birds to learn how to fly again on their own without human interaction.  This allows the birds to be released back into the wild again once they have recovered.  The Raptor Center is very interesting and well worth the entrance fee. After leaving the center, we walked through the national park and saw some of the totems before heading back into town for lunch.  We ate at Two Chicks and a Kebab Stick, a little trailer next to Ludwigs.  The menu is basically great fresh fish on a stick or a sandwich, and it was delicious.  Ludwigs was also selling chowder at a stand in the same area, so you could choose either one and still sit together. We met Captain Davey at 1:30 at the main small boat harbor near downtown.  There were three couples on the excursion; all of us were from the Spirit.  The boat was small, but comfy.  Make sure you don't have to use the bathroom on the boat, because it is a camping toilet that sits on the open back deck.  We started off going toward the northern end of Sitka Sound and saw gray and humpback whales.  We then crossed over to another island and saw otters.  We made our way over to St. Lazaria Island, or "the center of the universe" as Davey calls it.  There were at least 10 different bird species visible in various nesting areas, including eagles, hawks, and many types of seabirds.  On the way back toward Sitka, we saw an otter sleeping in the water lying on his back.  We got within about 10 feet of it, before he woke up, saw us, and dived under.  We also saw seals and eagles on some rocks in the harbor.  Finally, Davey took us to a quiet cove near the town, where we could hear just how peaceful it is in Sitka.  We couldn't believe it was already 5:30, but since we were all returning to the ship, Davey brought us back to the fuel dock, which was closer to our tender dock than downtown.  We were able to get right on a tender and were back on board around 6:15PM. Juneau:  This was by far our most action-packed day.  We had a heli/dog-sled tour booked with Coastal for 11:15AM, but as usual, we were up early and off the ship by 7:30.  We walked around downtown and bought some good coffee at Heritage.  Some of the stores were open early, so we browsed a little before the crowds got there.  At 9AM, we went up the tram on one of the first trips of the day.  We had a wonderful hike at the top, although just a ½ mile because we didn't want to be late for our tour.  We took lots of pictures and although the distant views were a little misty, we could see a lot from up there.  We took the tram back down and thought we would have time later to come back up, although it wasn't to be. Coastal picked us up on time from the dock at 11:15AM.  We had a short ride over to the airport, where we found out that we were the only two scheduled for a dog sled ride at that time.  After putting on our snow boots and waterproof pants and jacket, we boarded a 5 passenger heli with just us, the pilot and a dog musher returning to camp.  The views of Mendenhall and then Herbert Glacier, where we landed, were unbelievable.  Just as it seemed there was nothing left to see, the dog camp appeared in the snow ahead of us.  We were taken on a 30-40 minute ride around the glacier with a team of 11 dogs.  All the dogs were friendly, although one was a little shy.  We were able to pose for pictures with the dogs and spend some time walking around the camp before we had to leave.  The mushers spend the summer living 5 days at a time on the glacier with 2 days off in Juneau and cannot leave anything up there at the end of the summer, so all dog mess, human mess and dog hair has to be picked up and heli'd out.  What an amazing tour.  Despite the price ($450/person), we both thought it was well worth it. We had lunch at a little seafood shack near the base of the tramway.  After lunch, I decided to go ziplining, but my wife had had enough and went back to the ship for a nap.  I had called both companies earlier and Alaska Ziplining had room on their 4PM tour.  They picked me up on time.  I was with a father and daughter traveling independently and eight dog-mushers from Mendenhall glacier, who were on their day off and had worked out a reciprocal arrangement with the ziplining company.  The bus took us over to Douglas Island and up to the ski area.  We had 5 zips and a canopy bridge.  The distances were huge - one zip was over 700 feet long.  The course was built about 100-200 feet above the ground in giant spruce trees.  The tour leaders were very safe and entertaining as we made our way around the course.  I was a little apprehensive on the first zip, but by the last one, I jumped off backwards.  I even got a free beer at the end of the tour because all of the dog-mushers got one as part of the deal between the tour companies.  The van dropped me off near the tram and I met my wife again.  We decided to eat dinner on the ship rather than in town, even though we were in port until 11:00PM.  It had been a long day in Juneau. Skagway: We had a car rented with Avis, so we got off the ship and walked over to the Avis office around 8:15AM.  They had promised to be open early on that Sunday when I called, and they did not disappoint.  I had booked a car using the special code seen on CC, but the rate I was shown was the standard rate.  I didn't complain, because after all, I'm not a travel agent.  It was $106 for the day + tax, still cheaper than a train trip for two.  We had a Corolla (which shouldn't really be a midsize), and left town on the Klondike highway.  We were careful to keep our speed below the limit, especially in Skagway.  Murrays Guide was very helpful, although I had read it prior to leaving, so I didn't use it as much on the road itself.  We stopped at the Yukon Suspension Bridge (which is actually in BC) and I got a private tour of the facility from a "ranger" (actually a retired Canadian veteran).  We were the first ones there after it opened at 9:30AM.  It's a little expensive (C$19) but very informative with some great views of the raging river. After the obligatory stop at the "Welcome to Yukon" sign, we made it to Carcross.  We had some great ice cream at Matthew Watson's and wandered around the town.  Not far past Carcross is Caribou Crossing, where we toured the museum and played with the husky puppies.  We passed Spirit Lake and stopped to take pictures of Emerald Lake. At that point, we turned around and stopped at Cinnamon Cache, where we ran into our tourmates from Captain Davey!  We split a great cinnamon bun and chatted with the owner for a while.  Apparently, she is selling the place and moving to Whitehorse.  Her husband died two years ago and it's just too lonely out there for her. We got back to Skagway around 2PM and returned the car after filling up at the one pump in town.  We walked around Skagway, but I was glad we didn't have too long there. It was very touristy on the main street and very quiet everywhere else.  We were back on board well before the 4:00PM deadline. Ketchikan: We waited until after lunch to go ashore, because we expected a long line at the gangplank for our 11:00AM arrival.  Our tour was not until 3:45PM, so we had time to explore.  We walked to Creek Street and then up to Totem Heritage Center.  We decided not to pay to enter the park and just walked around nearby instead.  We did some shopping using the free and reduced price coupons from the books we picked up in Whittier and then went to lunch at Burger Queen on the other side of the tunnel.  We had great halibut burgers and a shake.  We went back on board to drop off our purchases and then met our van at 3:45 at the rain gauge.  We bboked a floatplane tour with Island Wings.  We were driven to the floatplane dock (near Burger Queen!) and then Michelle and the plane arrived right at 4PM.  Of course, who gets off the plane - our tourmates from Captain Davey again.  I guess they read CC too. We had a group of three joining us, so Michelle invited her boyfriend and her dog to hop on for our tour as well.  We flew over the channel and out to the fjords.  The views were spectacular, and I got to sit in the co-pilot seat.  Michelle gave us the choice of landing on a fjord where bears had just been spotted or landing and going ashore on a lake. We voted for the bears, but unfortunately, they must have left by the time we got there.  It was still very peaceful standing out on the pontoon in the fjord.  She started to fly us back, but saw a possible bear on another shore, so we landed again, and this time saw a bear.  We couldn't get too close because of the tide, but we all saw it through binocs and zoom lenses.  She then flew us back (while eating her snack - so casual up there) and we were driven back to the ship around 6:30PM.  We did a little more browsing in the shops and then headed back onboard. Inside Passage: It was a cloudy and rainy for the first time since Whittier on the last day, so we didn't get too much great scenery.  We just relaxed on this day - went to the gym, read books on the balcony (when it was warm enough), won bingo ($140), ate, and ate some more at the chocolate buffet. Debarkation/Vancouver: We got room service breakfast so we didn't have to fight the early crowd in the dining room or buffet.  I had tried to use the direct luggage transfer process for $20 per person, but Delta did not participate.  We were in group 3 and called to disembark at 8:15AM.  We paid for the Carnival transfer since we had an early (11:50AM) flight.  We had a great bus driver, who gave us a narrated overview of Vancouver on the way to the airport.  We got to the airport around 9:15AM; our luggage was delivered to the airport around 9:30AM; we checked in and went through US customs by 10:00AM; and we were through security and at the gate by 10:15AM in plenty of time for the flight.  Our flight home was uneventful.  No free meal this time, although I did get to watch ESPN as the US beat Spain 2-0 (for all you soccer fans out there). Food: The food in the main dining room was OK, not as good as we remembered on the Miracle, even though the menu is essentially the same.  I still love the vegetarian Indian entrEe on the first night.  Maybe it's just good because the chefs are mostly Indian.  The melting chocolate cake is still as good as ever. We ate breakfast at the buffet (except the first and last day when we had room service).  The omelettes were very good and the chicken sausages were delicious.  We just wished Carnival would get some decent coffee on board. Lunch was also buffet (unless we were ashore). We did eat one day in the main DR, and it was quite good.  We enjoyed the daily Asian buffet and the Indian taste of the nation day, but the pizza was not great on this cruise.  That had been one of our favorite things we remembered from the Miracle. We ate at the Supper Club one night and it was as good as we remembered.  It was also the night we were leaving Sitka and we saw several whales from our bird's eye view at the top of the ship.  Definitely try to eat there one night if you can. Service: Our cabin steward was very friendly and accommodating.  We didn't have the same waiter any of the nights in the dining room because of Anytime Dining.  I actually didn't mind that as a I got to see some different service styles based on country of origin.  All of the waiters and assistants were good and some were excellent. Entertainment:  The cruise director and assistant cruise director were really funny.  They have a morning show on TV where they go through the daily caper and make jokes etc.  Definitely try to watch it when you are getting ready in the morning.  We tried our hand at karaoke on this cruise and had a blast.  In fact, it even lead to a spot for each of us in the Legends show (see below).  I went to one late night comedy show and it was funny.  We didn't attend any of the shows except the welcome aboard show and the hypnotist.  I did hear that The Big Easy is very good and worth attending. We went to the captain's cocktail party and the past guest party, mostly for the free drinks.  They put on an extra ½ hour show for us at the past guest party, with one of the comedian/magicians.  I thought that was a nice touch. Legends Show:  OK, for your patience in reading through this review, you get an inside peak at the Legends experience.  If you don't know, the Legends Show is the passenger talent show on the last night of the cruise.  After getting to know the karaoke host and some of the regulars, we were asked to try out for the Legends show.  Keep in mind that neither of us can sing in tune.  I think the karaoke host just needed some people who were entertaining and had a personality to balance out the good singers.  Since no one else tried out for our spots, we made it by default.  They gave us a package containing the lyrics and an MP3 player with our song pre-loaded. The dress rehearsal was on the last sea day at noon.  We reported to the Pharaoh's Palace and were introduced to the dancers who would be working with us.  We then went backstage and walked through the introductions in order.  I was playing Elton John and my wife was Madonna.  They made us sing through our songs once (I forgot half the words of course).  We were taken back to the dressing room and fitted for our costumes and then we were free until 9:15PM that night. We met at the karaoke lounge and were taken backstage.  I made sure to have a couple of drinks first, so I wouldn't care if I forgot the words again.  We got into our costumes and waited for the show to start.  There was an opening number and an intro by Chris, the cruise director.  I was third in the lineup, and wouldn't you guess, I forgot the second verse again, but it didn't matter, everyone laughed along with me (or at me maybe).  My wife was fifth and then we all went on stage again at the end to take our bows.  It was interesting to get a peek backstage at the cramped area where the dancers and singers have to get ready and make quick changes.  We were also given a DVD of the show and picture of the group as a gift for participating. Overall: What a fantastic, relaxing trip.  We saw so much in such a short time.  I will definitely return to Alaska someday and see some more of this beautiful state. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
 My wife is 63 and I'm 66.  We have cruised several times before - the last time on the Glory in 2008.  We've cruised the Inside Passage twice (NCL Spirit and NCL Star) and enjoyed both of these.  We booked several months in ... Read More
 My wife is 63 and I'm 66.  We have cruised several times before - the last time on the Glory in 2008.  We've cruised the Inside Passage twice (NCL Spirit and NCL Star) and enjoyed both of these.  We booked several months in advance with Ashley at MOAA, and booked our excursions with CCL after comparing prices and finding very little significant difference. We flew Delta from Atlanta to Salt Lake City to Anchorage on Monday  the 15th.  We used FF miles and booked Business Class the whole way.  A good breakfast on one flight and a decent lunch on the other.  We arrived in Anchorage at about 2:15 pm, and the view from the plane was gorgeous as we approached.  The sky was nearly clear of clouds, and my wife got beautiful phone pictures of the glaciers. We got a cab and proceeded to the Westmark downtown (it's where the Delta flight crews stay).  The cost of the taxi with 20% tip was $23.00.  We have a friend who lives in Anchorage, so we took her to dinner, and she drove us to several of the sites around the city.  On the drive we saw 4 doll sheep (two within 30 feet) and a cow moose less than 100 feet away in a bog area.  We finally got to sleep about  4:00 am Atlanta time (midnight). On Tuesday, we rented a car from Avis - pickup point was 4 blocks from the hotel.  The Camry was comfortable and roomy for our planned trip to Seward.  The drive was beautiful along the Turnagain Arm and through the mountains.  We stopped at Portage Glacier and Exit Glacier before arriving in Seward.  We had lunch in town - we had never had rockfish before and it was great.  At 3:30 pm we boarded a boat with Renown Tours for a 3-hr nature watching tour.  We got beautiful pictures of the Bear Glacier (mammoth), whales, puffins, sea otters, sea lions.  We've never seen so many birds in one place.  The captain was very informative and funny on the trip.  We picked up some wine at the Safeway there for onboard, and then drove back to Anchorage and crashed for the night. Wednesday morning, we had breakfast in the hotel and walked around downtown Anchorage, hitting all the souvenir shops.  Alaska Cruise Transfers and Tours picked us up at 12:30 pm for the drive to Whittier - the cost was $45/person and had a wonderful narrative along the way.  We had a 30 minute wait at the tunnel, and arrived at the pier at 3:15 pm.  It took us about 20 minutes to get onboard, and our luggage arrived at the door 15 minutes after we did.  We had a balcony cabin midship on the port side Upper Deck.  We went to dinner at about 7:00 pm and were seated immediately (anytime dining).  They asked if we would mind sharing a table, so we sat at a table for six - no one sat with us and I had definitely showered that day.  The meal was good, and the service was excellent (each meal in the dining room we asked to share a table - it was a wonderful way to meet new people each time we dined).  We went back to the room and sat on the balcony relaxing.  The tunnel was closed for 1.5 hours due to a motorcycle wreck and there were delayed arrivals, so the ship didn't sail until about 10:15 pm. Thursday was College Fjord and a sea day.  Beautiful scenery.  Dinner that night was cruise elegant, so I wore a coat and tie and my wife dressed fittingly and beautifully.  We noted  that many men wore just dress shirt and tie - some wore jeans.  Also, cowboy hats in the dining room really turn me off. Friday we arrived in Sitka.  We had not been there before.  The tenders seemed to take forever to get from ship to dock.  It was an interesting town.  We walked the town and saw the major attractions in town, and then decided to walk to the Raptor Center.  On the way, we went in a beautiful little church (St Peter's by the Sea),  had beautiful views of the Spirit through the harbor, stopped at the fish hatchery, viewed the totem poles, walked through the National Forest, and arrived at the Raptor Center.  Worth the price of admission.  What these people do for injured raptors is truly amazing with the ultimate goal of releasing them back to the wild.  Up close with eagles (bald and golden), hawks, peregrine falcon, owls, etc is a rewarding experience.   We walked back to town, and had a late lunch (halibut) at the Westmark hotel restaurant.  No excursion there - just a nice walkable town. Juneau was on Saturday.  We walked around town seeing all the jewelers and had a mandatory drink in the famous Saloon.  We walked back to the dock and boarded a bus to take us to our 1:00 pm whale watching excursion and salmon feast we had booked through CCL.  The boat was a two-level craft with lots of open space.  Within 40 minutes, we saw a mother humpback and her calf cavorting in the waters.  They were surface feeding and breaching for the full 30 minutes we were allowed to stay with them.  Interestingly, Capt Larry was there at the same time.  I believe the considerably higher boat we were on allowed a better angle for much better viewing and photography with no noticeable crowding at the rails.  We photographed two other humpbacks, sea lions, eagles, and awesome views of Herbert and Mendenhall glaciers.  We went back to Juneau for the salmon eat and were not disappointed.  Salmon and chicken grilled perfectly with all the side dishes you could want.  The area was picturesque with a beautiful waterfall - reminded us of Liarsville in Skagway. Sunday morning we arrived in Skagway.   On our previous trips we had ridden the White Pass Railway up the mountains to Fisher in British Columbia (a must if you've never done it), so this time we rented a Camry from Avis and drove to the Yukon.  The drive is beyond awesome - nothing compares to the scenery you view.  We stopped in Carcross for ice cream at Matthew Watson's - an interesting store and good ice cream.   It was Aboriginal Day in Carcross,, so we were fortunate to see many people in Native attire and the Mounties were in full dress.  We drove on to Emerald Lake with a stop at the sand desert area along the way.  The drive back to Skagway was similarly stunning scenery.  If you do this drive, watch the speed limit.  We saw 4 Skagway police radar units on the descent from British Columbia to Skagway.  We got back to Skagway around 2:30 pm, walked the town, and easily got back on the ship with plenty of time to spare.  It was extremely windy on the walk back.  When we departed, the Captain said that the wind was 30 knots and we were travelling 20 knots directly into the wind, so the actual wind on the balcony was in the neighborhood of 50 knots.  Once again, great scenery and the naturalist Michelle had interesting tidbits of info along the way to Ketchikan. We arrived in Ketchikan at 11:00 am on Monday.  We really like Ketchikan in spite of all the souvenir and jewelry stores.  It's quaint.  We visited the downtown stores and picked up all the freebies from the merchants.  We walked back to the pier at 1:00 pm and boarded the bus to the George Inlet Lodge and Crab Feast excursion.  When we got to the Lodge, we donned wet weather gear and went on a boat to pull up some crab pots.  The first pot was filled with huge Dungeness crabs and a couple of starfish which we all handled before releasing them back in the water.  Our guide, Paul, was very interesting and knowledgeable.  When we returned to the lodge, they served all-you-can-eat crab.  Our table overflowed the shell waste container, and the crab just kept on coming.  On the return bus ride, we saw more bald eagles and huge salmon forcing their way up one of the creeks.   We walked to Creek Street, the old brothel street, and watched a young man catching crab off the bridge - he caught three keepers while we were there.  We then walked back to the ship, sort of dreading the fact that we would only have one more day aboard. The Inside Passage was on Tuesday.  Once again, the scenery was beautiful.  We passed quaint lumbering towns, lots of fishing and sail boats, and some gorgeous oceanview homes.  I did see two humpback whales from the balcony that were close enough to photograph. Vancouver, Wednesday, debarkation.  We had breakfast in the buffet, and departed our cabin reluctantly at 8:15 am.  The cabin stewardess had told us we could stay til 8:30 without causing her any delay.  Since we were staying in the city one night, we didn't need an early debarkation number.  Ours was 28, and we were off the ship and on our way to the Park Inn at 9:45.  We checked in and then walked to Granville Island in the light rain.  This was the first day that was rainy.  Granville Island is an interesting collection of fish and produce markets.  We had our last halibut fish and chips for lunch on Granville Island and a great Indian dinner near the hotel. Home on Thursday.  We took a cab to the airport for our return Delta flights to Atlanta.  It's nice to clear US Customs in the Vancouver airport.  We had a short flight to Salt Lake City and then, with a 40 minute turnaround, on to Atlanta, with a very good dinner and wine in Business Class. Service on the Spirit was very good.  The dining room wait staff was exceptional - seemed to have time to talk and give advice.  Our cabin stewardess was nearly invisible, but efficient; and, the towel animals were appreciated as always. Food on board was also very good.  We had breakfast in the room, at the buffet, and in the dining room - all very nice.  Surprisingly, we never saw a crowded buffet area and never waited for a table in the dining room using anytime dining.  Dinners at both the buffet and dining room were also good.  The prime rib in both was very good, cooked medium rare the way it's supposed to be done.  My wife thought the crème brulee was good, and she's a connoisseur when it comes to that dish. The Entertainment started off poorly but got better as the week progressed.  The first show routine was very poor - no energy, poor choreography.  Then we went to the Blues Brothers show.  Chris (the cruise director) and Mark (assistant) gave the best performance of the week - it was outstanding.  Then, the final dance show was much more memorable.  The comedians and so forth were average.  And, the Legends Show was a great topping on the cruise. Looking back, it was a great cruise - relaxing, fun, entertaining, and certainly memorable.  The weather was unbelievably beautiful.  We love Alaska, and the Carnival Spirit was a great way to visit. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
Pre-cruise: rented a car and went to Denali NP for two days. Back to Anchorage the night before embarkation. Stayed at the Motel 6 in midtown Anchorage - very nice hotel (only $98). Day 0 - from Anchorage to Whittier Dropped ... Read More
Pre-cruise: rented a car and went to Denali NP for two days. Back to Anchorage the night before embarkation. Stayed at the Motel 6 in midtown Anchorage - very nice hotel (only $98). Day 0 - from Anchorage to Whittier Dropped rental car at the airport and waited for our ride. We decided on the Alaska Transportation Group for the transfer to Whittier. Their bus arrived at the airport ahead of schedule (12:30PM) - or so we thought. They'd had some debarkation delays earlier that morning, and they were still dropping people off. The bus went to several hotels in downtown Anchorage and then doubled back to the airport. It wasn't until after 2PM that we were underway. Once out of the city, we traveled down the highway as it started raining. (Anchorage had been sunny that morning.) We made it to the tunnel just before the 3:30PM opening, and drove to the ship. Embarkation was a breeze. We dropped our suitcases in a container and checked in, only 5 minutes waiting time. It was still pouring down rain, and we traversed the (partially) covered walkway from the terminal to the ship. Once inside, we could go directly to our cabin, where we dropped off our carry-ons and we met our (excellent!) cabin steward. Then we went to the Lido deck for an afternoon snack (soup & salad). My wife took a nap as I explored the ship. The Spirit was new to us, but familiar nonetheless because of the Carnival layout. We found it easier to navigate than the Valor-class ships because there's no galley/dining room in the middle of desks 3 and 4. Big plus: the ship never felt crowded (except at meal times, then everyone would stand in line to enter the dining room - why not wait 5 minutes?). Late dinner seating (as requested) took some getting used to. At home, we dine early and our system is quite used to this. However, the late seating gave us more time in the ports. And if we were hungry, there was always the option of a sushi appetizer. Dinner itself was below expectations, mainly because the service. This could and should have been better. Our head waiter was unfriendly, uninterested and grumpy. On several occasions the tableware (glasses) was not clean. The food was good enough, sometimes a bit too cold. Day 1 - College Fjord & a fun day at sea Arrived in College Fjord before dawn. I opened the curtains around 06:30 AM and saw small iceberg and glaciers - quite a sight! The rain didn't stop us from going outside and taking in the sights. The ship's naturalist Michele provided commentary over the PA system. We did a couple of 360' turns and travelled out of the fjord. We saw several sea otters on the way out. During the lifeboat drill (around 9:30 AM) we exited our cabin and noticed that our cabin had already been marked as "evacuated" (they put a marker in the door lock). No one had checked if there was someone still inside. On our past cruises, the cabin steward personally checked the cabins for occupancy. Since I know a thing or two about proper evac procedures, I mentioned this at the purser's desk and I also reported the incident to Carnival HQ. Day 2 - Sitka I fell ill during night: headache, nausea (not from seasickness, maybe noro?) I couldn't keep anything in, not even a Tylenol. Luckily, it subsided during the day. Tendering into Sitka was quick and painless. We were on the first 'regular' tender (actually, it was one of the lifeboats.) We were on the pier just after 9 AM. We had booked the most unusual shore excursion for Alaska: scuba diving! We were met by Brian from Island Fever Diving. They provide snorkeling, scuba and also cycling tours and are highly recommended; the Carnival excursion staff used this company a week earlier for their own scuba excursion. Many people think diving in Alaska involves ice, but this is not the case. In summer, water temperatures are around 55'F (12'C). The underwater life is simply astonishing! We found the waters teeming with all sorts of (colorful) fish, clams, starfish, jellyfish and anemones. We enjoyed the dives very much. The folks at Island Fever provided great service throughout the day, so many kudos to them. The weather was very nice all day, sun and some clouds. We asked to be dropped off in the center of town, where we walked through the main street and climbed the steps to Baranoff Castle Hill (nice views of the town and the bay). We took a tender back around 5:30PM and the Spirit sailed into Sitka Straits an hour later. Naturalist Michele came on the PA, spotting whales left and right as we were cruising along. We also passed beautiful scenery - an extinct volcano and a lovely sunset. (If we'd had early dinner seating, we'd have missed these sights!) Day 3 - Juneau From 5:00AM the ship's fog horn kept us awake. It turned out ran into some very dense fog, which was still there when we arrived in Juneau. We were off the ship around 8:30 for our whale watching excursion with Harv & Marv - the best in town for whales. We were on the excursion with 2 other couples, all Cruise Critic members. Our pickup was already waiting and drove us to Auke harbor, where we met Pete (Marv) and took off in his little (but well-equipped) boat. The fog and low cloud was still there, but it cleared the following hours and we were treated on sunshine later. Whale watching itself was very rewarding. It turned out to be one of the best days of the year. We spotted dozens of humpbacks, a pod of transient orcas, sea lions and a couple of bald eagles. This truly was a memorable experience, and the day wasn't even half over. Pete's father-in-law drove us back to the ship, with a 15-minute photo stop at Mendenhall Glacier. After a quick lunch on the Spirit, we went back out for our second excursion of the day: glacier walk with Coastal Helicopters. The weather in the afternoon was gorgeous! Almost no clouds and lots of sunshine. (We were lucky - the AM helicopter tours had all been cancelled because of the fog.) We were driven to the airport, where we put on special boots (that fit over your shoes) for ice walking. The helicopter ride started out with wonderful views that quickly became insanely spectacular as we approached Hebert Glacier. After a pass up and down the glacier, the pilot landed the helicopter and moments later we stood on top of several hundred feet of frozen water. Our pilot showed us several features such as little streams, mini-lakes and crevasses. It was such a nice day he regretted not bringing his own camera! All to soon, our time was up and we flew back to Juneau airport. We still had time to explore downtown Juneau and made it back to the ship around 7:30PM. Day 4 - Skagway This proved to be our only day with rain (apart from the embarkation day). Luckily, we had rented a car (Avis) and with Murray's Guide in hand, we drove the Klondike Highway into Canada. The White Pass was completely fogged in, so we hardly saw anything of the undoubtedly nice viewpoints along the way. Once in Yukon, the rain subsided and it was dry (albeit overcast) in Carcross and at Emerald Lake. The fall colors were nice and we had a good time on this self-guided road trip. Once back into town, we spent some time at the library to send e-mails to our family and friends back home. There's a $1,50 Van service from the docks to the town and back, but we walked. There also was a free shuttle from the beginning to the end the dock itself. On the way out of Skagway, the ship travels through Lynn Canal and passes scenic Eldred Rock Lighthouse - you'll miss these sights if you have early dinner seating. Day 5 - Ketchikan What's this? Real sunshine in the liquid sunshine town of Ketchikan! Yes, once again we were very lucky weather-wise. Debarkation today was very crowded, mostly because of the 11:00AM arrival. We were held up a little by the port authorities and off the ship at 11:20AM, walking to Creek Street and the town center. We had a 12:45PM meeting time for our Carlin Air floatplane excursion to Traitor's Cove/Margarite Creek (bear viewing). We already saw several floatplanes as we were sailing into Ketchikan that morning and we were excited to fly one of these magnificent aircraft. The plane took off right next to the cruise ships and flew 15 minutes to Traitor's Cove. Here, we were met by a nice young lady who drove us to the observation site. There were plenty of salmon at the creek, but sadly we didn't see any bears. However, we had an exciting flight back, mountain-goat spotting in the peaks to the north of Ketchikan. After a smooth landing in the harbor (passing the Spirit on final approach) we were driven back to the docks. We did some shopping before returning to the ship. Day 6 - Inside Passage & fun day at sea There are so many things to do on a day at sea! I went to the Pharaoh's Palace at 9:00AM for the Whales Alive talk by naturalist Michele. It was very informative - even though I already knew quite a bit about whales, I learned a couple of new things. Later that morning I took part at several trivia quizzes. Chocolate buffet for lunch! In the afternoon the sun was (once again) out in full and we played a game of minigolf (you have to search a bit for the putting clubs distribution point, it's two decks down), took the galley tour (not particularly interesting), went to tea time and got a couple of sundays. Tip for ice lovers: ask for the real ice-cream, they have it behind the counter. Late afternoon, Michele came on the PA saying she spotted orcas up ahead. We stood on the front observation deck for an hour and only saw a couple of porpoises. Turned out the orcas had been giving us a wide berth, diving deep and resurfacing after we passed them. Then it was time for the worst part of any cruise: packing our bags. I always feel as if I could stay for weeks on end, but it's only seven days... Final day - debarkation in Vancouver We didn't have to leave early, so we slept in a little and took a leisurely breakfast around 8:30AM. We spend time on the aft lido deck (again, in the sunshine) and our number was called around 9:15AM. I expected a very long wait at customs & immigration, but it only took 10 minutes or so. We had to search a little for our suitcases, they'd put them (and several other as well) at the wrong place. The worst part of debarkation was the horrendous taxi line at Canada Place! Having rented a car at Hertz, we needed a taxi to go downtown. It took over 45 minutes to get a cab. (Several other rent-a-car companies have on-site counters, so only choose Hertz if you really must). Vancouver itself is beautiful. Spending time there is really rewarding. There's a lot of construction going on (I guess in preparation of the 2010 winter Olympics). We spent the afternoon in Stanley Park, at the Aquarium and we went to Prospect Point to wave the Spirit goodbye as it sailed under the lions gate bridge - wishing we'd still be on it. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
Alaska Cruise September 3rd 2008 7 days southbound from Whittier to Vancouver BC on the Carnival Spirit.Ports included Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan.We flew from Atlanta, non-stop, to Anchorage the day prior to our cruise leaving. ... Read More
Alaska Cruise September 3rd 2008 7 days southbound from Whittier to Vancouver BC on the Carnival Spirit.Ports included Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan.We flew from Atlanta, non-stop, to Anchorage the day prior to our cruise leaving. We stayed at the Hampton Inn, which was a nice hotel with a good location. They have free wireless Internet, refrigerators, and nice size rooms. They also offer a free shuttle from the airport. There are several places to eat near the hotel that are in walking distance. We had booked the Magic Bus for our shuttle to Whittier the following day. The Hampton Inn also serves a free breakfast, which is typical of what you will find at these type hotels. The Magic Bus picked us up around 10am the next morning. We had a rainy drive to Whittier with two stops along the way to take some pictures. Our driver, Dot, gave a good narration throughout the trip. When we got to Whittier she drove us around the town and gave us a quick tour and info on the small local community. I highly recommend the Magic Bus, which is a good deal for around $50.Afterward we were dropped at the entrance to the Carnival terminal around 1pm. There was a long line when we entered the building due to the fact that their computers were down. However, the line moved very quickly and I would say that we had checked in within 15 minutes. We went through security and then entered the ship. We went to our stateroom 5128, port balcony, and dropped off our luggage. We then went to the Lido deck to have some lunch. I like the way the Spirit has different areas for different types of food. I had some of the Asian dishes, and also tried some chicken. It was pretty good. They had a nice variety of foods, including salads, fruit, deserts, and pizza. We went to our rooms after checking out the ship and found our luggage had been delivered. The balcony was awesome. You could really get great views just sitting there and watching the world go by. It was worth the extra money without a doubt. Our first day was at sea. They took us into College Fjord to experience the glaciers. When we got up around 6am, you could already seem them right off our balcony in the early morning light. We got dressed and went up on deck with most of the other passengers. It was a little cold and rainy, but we were able to get some great pictures. You could really see the blue in the glaciers due to the over cast weather. The Captain turned the boat several times so that we could get good views of everything. After about an hour we went into the Lido deck to eat breakfast while watching the beautiful scenery.Our first port was Sitka, which is the only tender port on the trip. It was cloudy in the morning, but the sun came out after lunch and it really warmed up. We had the Sea Otter Wildlife excursion, which picks you up right from the boat. We found this to be a wonderful trip, and I would highly recommend this if you want to see a variety of wildlife. We saw sea otters, sea lions, bald eagles, and hump back whales. In addition we had a naturalist on the boat that elaborated on a all the wildlife. After the excursion, the boat dropped us at the dock in Sitka. We were hungry and stopped at a local place close to the water to eat. Afterwards we shopped around town. Shopping seemed to go well in every port. We were told that due to being late in the season there were a lot of discounts. Most places in all ports were from 30%-50% of everything in their store. We bought some "real" Ulu knives in Sitka and shipped them home. There is a post office right on the main street. On the Ulu knives, we were told you could bring them on board because they were considered a kitchen utensil. We did buy some larger ones later in the week and had no problems bringing them back onto the ship. They did tell you that no knife with a 4-inch blade could be brought onboard. Our second port was Juneau. The weather was nice and sunny most of the day. I think there were a few scattered showers in the morning, but it cleared up and was very nice. We shopped a little in the morning, and then did a gold panning and salmon bake excursion around noon. This was really fun. Our guide, Jack, took us on a narrated guide through town, and then up into the hills. They take you to a stream and give you detailed instructions on how to pan for gold. Everyone found some gold on our trip. Afterwards they took us to the outdoor salmon bake. This was a really nice area with covered eating tables and buffet style food. The salmon was great, as were the beans and corn bread. Afterward there is a nature trail you can take down to a waterfall area. During the salmons season they said you can also see salmon in the streams. After lunch, they shuttled us back to the shopping district in Juneau. We picked up a few souvenirs and my wife found a very nice ring for her anniversary. I will get into some comments on the Carnival shopping later.Our third port was Skagway. My wife and I both liked this town the best. It was just a nice place. We had a dogsled mushing camp excursion that morning. It was overcast most of the morning, but did not rain until after lunch. We both really liked this excursion. You travel about 30 minutes from town until you get to the camp. You get into a six-person cart, which is very comfortable, and a team of dogs pulls you for about a mile. It was a fast fun ride. Afterward they take you down to the camp, and you get to talk to a musher who owns the dogs. Our guy spoke about his experience on the Iditarod. We got to pet the dogs and spend some time in the camp. We also got to hold and pet the six-week-old pups that were soooo cute. After our excursion, we were dropped off in Sitka. We had lunch at a restaurant called Northern Lights, which is right off 3rd street. The food very good. Afterward we went shopping around town. They have a lot of locally owned shops with Alaskan goods. We didn't buy anything unless we knew it was make in Alaska. Again, lots of sales everywhere. It's a good little walk back to the ship from town. We opted to take the shuttle for $1.50. Our last port was Ketchikan. We had sunny skies for most of the day here with a few showers late in the afternoon. There seemed to be many more stores and more of a commercial feel than any of the other ports. We went on the Saxman Native Village and lumberjack show tour. The native village tour was interesting and the totems were impressive. You get background on the native people and also get to see how they make the totems, as well as the history on their meanings. Afterward they dropped us at the lumberjack show. They make this a really fun show and have all of the events just like you see on television. The seating area is covered and cushioned, and they have heaters blowing on the crowd as well. After the show we did some more shopping and then headed back to the boat. Our last day was at sea was cruising the inside passage. It was bright and sunny the entire day. The scenery was really nice. We did see some hump back whales and I believe there were porpoises. It was just a nice day to spend out on the deck looking at the scenery go by. We spent most of the day doing activities on the boat such as the galley tour, towel animal folding, and trivia contests. We were docked around 7am on the last day. We had booked transfers to Seattle airport through Carnival. I highly recommend this if you are flying out of Seattle and booking your own air, like we did. They preloaded all of our luggage onto the bus, so we didn't have to worry about that. They called our number to disembark, and we were on our bus within 15 minutes. The trip was 3-3.5 hours long including a 20-minute stop at the border crossing. When we arrived at SEATAC they unloaded our bags and we picked them up. We were actually flying out the following day so I called our hotel, Courtyard Marriot SeaTac, and they picked us up. This is a nice hotel, which offers free shuttles within 5 miles of the hotel. Now to some of the issues. We attended the shopping talk put on by the Carnival shopping specialist. This little dude just talked and talked about how jewelry was the best buy in Alaska. They made sure to give us plenty of maps and info on all their "recommended" jewelry stores. Now we were told they gave best prices to Carnival Spirit customers and gave us a discount card to take into the store. We went into Tanzanite International in Juneau right after we got off the boat. My wife found a nice ring and we told the sales lady that we were on the Carnival Spirit. She mentioned our sales specialist by name and said she would give us the best price. She offered us about 50% off retail from, $2,200 down to $1,100 for the ring. I told her thank you and this was our first store we had been in, so we would keep looking. She calls her manager over, who then offers me another price of $850. I again told him no, and proceeded to head out the door. He then came back with a lower price of $695 for the ring. Well this kind of got me upset. One thing I hate dealing with used car salesmen (no offense), and I felt like the whole processed was tainted. I mean if you are to give me this good price because of my Carnival sales specialist and go to a recommended store I expect to get a good price up front and not have to haggle with people like this. I did leave the store at that time without purchasing the ring. We looked at several other stores, as well as the Diamonds International store. It was actually worse than the first store. The guy tried to put a guilt trip on me for not buying my wife a ring at his store. Every time he quoted me a price on a piece of jewelry he would say, "but I can do better". Well dude then give me your better price to begin with. We did get her a ring for her anniversary, so all is well that ends well. I just wanted others to know that they need to be careful about these recommended stores and never ever take the first price offered as their "best price". It had been ten years since our last Carnival experience, so I would have to say that things have changed a little. The first night was open seating in the Empire dinning room. You just went in and sat wherever you wanted. We had early seating and found this to fit our schedule much better. I guess they did open seating the first night because the ship departs so late, around 10pm. The next night we went to our assigned seats and met a couple from North Carolina. They were really good tablemates and we had a good discussion every night about the days activities. Our waiter was nice, but not very personal. We saw the Matride one time the entire trip when he stopped by to say hello. The food was good, not great in the main dinning room. My wife ate steak most of the nights. I tried to adventure out with fish and some other dishes. One night I ordered pan fried red snapper and was served some type of broiled white fish in a lemon sauce. I asked the waiter what it was, because it was not what I had ordered. He just looked at me and said that's what I got and make no apologies. The warm chocolate melting cake was wonderful, and I found that I had to have it every night. We did eat in the Noveau Supper Club one night for our anniversary. I will have to say that it was an exceptional meal and service, and well worth the $30 cost. The service and attention to detail was outstanding.I think we went to every show and late night show. They were all very good. I liked the Spirit Dancers, and thought they did very well. The music was top notch with a nice live band. The comedians were pretty good also. There was a guy who did magic and comedy who I really liked. The cruise director, Chris, was energetic and really added to the experience on the ship. Kirk was the assistant director, and I thought did an outstanding job as well. You could really tell everyone got along well and things flowed nicely. There were always activities, trivia contests, ice carving, bingo, etc on the ship. We did go in the casinos a few times to play slots. I also highly recommend the coffee bar right outside of the Pharos on the 2nd floor. They have ice cream, shakes, sweets, coffee, etc., at a low price. If you like beer, the Alaskan Amber is served on the ship. It was very smooth with a nice taste. Here's a link to some of the pictures that we took. Once you enter the album if you click on the detail view it gives a description of each image. http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=0CZsmLhszZsXTw&emid=sharshar&linkid=link5darin2@windstream.net Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
This was my wife and my second cruise (we had previously taken a Princess Caribbean cruise in January 2008). We travel several times per year, but are relatively new to cruises. Our lodging and travel to our port of embarkation and ... Read More
This was my wife and my second cruise (we had previously taken a Princess Caribbean cruise in January 2008). We travel several times per year, but are relatively new to cruises. Our lodging and travel to our port of embarkation and from our port of debarkation was not arranged by the Carnival. Our entry onto the ship and the handling of bags were accomplished in a very efficient and trouble-free manner. We stayed in a category 11 stateroom. The room was very nice and spacious. The TV in the room was kind of small and had a lot of static. The bathroom was very nice with granite countertops. Although we had a very nice balcony, we often could not enjoy it due to smokers on the balconies on either side of ours. I called the information desk and was told that smoking is allowed on the balconies. The cost for this room for two people was approximately $3500. Dining was our biggest disappointment. We found the food to be poor in both quality and selection. I actually lost a little weight during the cruise. This is in contrast to a cruise we took on a different cruise line (as per above) where we were wowed by the food and found it difficult to not try everything. In addition to the disappointing food, there were long food lines and inadequate buffet seating. The restaurant food was only marginally better, however the atmosphere and service in the restaurant was good. The staff on the ship were mostly average. Many did not seem very motivated to help and provide service. There were some though that provided excellent service, but it was inconsistent. We enjoyed the spacious and well appointed gym, but only wish that the hours were longer to allow easier access. The gym closed at 8:00 pm making it difficult to use at times. The internet in the internet cafe was very slow. It literally cost me at times around $2 to open the home page of cnn.com. The entertainment was a mixed bag. Some of the shows were very mediocre with people leaving throughout the performance. There were a few shows towards the end of the cruise which we found enjoyable though. The shore excursions were standard for this type of cruise, stopping in Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, and Skagway, Alaska. We had no problems with any of the tours, etc that we signed up for. Disembarkation was done in a very efficient manner as was embarkation. In summary: The price for the cruise was very competitive with other cruise companies. What will prevent us from going on another Carnival cruise though is the poor dining we experienced. Also, I wish that people were not allowed to smoke on the balconies as this made it hard for us to enjoy this amenity. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
My husband has had an Alaskan Cruise on his "bucket list" since our honeymoon 27 years ago. Alaska didn't sound like my idea of a vacation all that nature stuff and no beach but after a Hawaiian Cruise 2 years ago I thought ... Read More
My husband has had an Alaskan Cruise on his "bucket list" since our honeymoon 27 years ago. Alaska didn't sound like my idea of a vacation all that nature stuff and no beach but after a Hawaiian Cruise 2 years ago I thought it was his turn. This was definitely a once in a lifetime experience for us and one that is very hard to describe. For me it was like being at the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls, you know you are there but it is just too beautiful to describe and the pictures definitely do not do it justice. We decided to take the southbound cruise from Whittier to Vancouver because our two sons live in Vancouver and this gave us an opportunity to build in a few extra days at the end of the cruise to visit with them. We flew from Toronto to Vancouver and Vancouver to Anchorage. Make sure your travel agent gives you enough time for the flight change if you have to go through customs in Vancouver like we did. We booked to bus transfer from Anchorage to the port in Whittier just because it seemed simpler. This trip is about 1 1/2 hour drive depending on when you arrive at the tunnel and how long you have to wait. (the tunnel only goes one way so times are alternated every 1/2 hour.) The first day on the open sea was very rough leaving some people confined to their rooms. This was our 6th cruise so we are either used to it or it just didn't bother us. Take this into consideration when packing your medication. We were told that the next morning we would arrive at College Fjord around 6:00 am. Due to the time of year, there is very little darkness so my husband who was like an excited child had me up and out of bed at 4:30am. I can tell you I did not regret this for the world. The cruise down the passage of the fjord was one of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen. Again, undescribable. The next day we were in Sitka, where we just walked around the town and took in the local sites. A lot of jewelry stores and touristy hype. I would imagine that without the cruise lines stopping there this little town would be nothing. Saturday was our big treat day as we had pre-booked the helicopter tour to the glazier with the 2 hour walk about. At first I thought what do you do on a glazier for 2 hours. It was amazing. Out tour guide, Amanda, was so interesting and was so knowledgeable about glaziers that it made the trip so interesting. And the helicopter trip was not as scary as I thought it would be. Sunday, Skagway. Another town similar to Sitka. We took the train ride up to the Yukon and back. Unfortunately the trip back is the same as the trip up so although the scenery was lovely, the trip back give me a chance for a little nap. Monday, Ketchikan. Again another very touristy town but larger and more shops. Did I mention my husband hates to shop. We hired a private little but company to drive us around the local sites. Probably not as professional as one of the tours from the boat but half the price. The ship itself is of course beautiful as all Carnival ships are. (a little on the tacky side but fun) Extremely clean and our balcony cabin (upgraded at the last minute because how often do you go to Alaska) was always immaculate and our purser, Constatin was always very friendly and accommodating. We had late seating for dinner which was about half full (I guess the older folks like to eat earlier) and although we asked for a large table so we could socialize, we were given a table for two. Meals were amazing although a little rushed. We decided to treat ourselves and spend the extra money on the Nouveau Supper Club the last night. It was $30.00 extra each and the meal was comparable to a meal I have spent over $200.00 for. The service fantastic and a lovely little couple performing all through dinner. We even had a chance for a romantic dance or two. Shows were fantastic. Late night X rated comedian was a scream. All the staff were fantastic. No bad experiences here. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
Our cruise was Alaska Southbound on the Carnival Spirit. We flew into Anchorage the night before and stayed at the nearby Marriott Courtyard. There is food for dinner within walking distance but cabs are available. We did take a cab the ... Read More
Our cruise was Alaska Southbound on the Carnival Spirit. We flew into Anchorage the night before and stayed at the nearby Marriott Courtyard. There is food for dinner within walking distance but cabs are available. We did take a cab the next morning to the Egan Center where we were met by very friendly Carnival employees who took our bags and directed us to coffee and a table to wait. We went early, around 9 am to catch the first shuttle to Whittier. We didn't wait very long and boarded a bus to Whittier. The driver was very entertaining, the scenery was amazing, and we even made a couple stops to take pictures. The tunnel to Whittier is one way so the timing has to be right or you sit for 30 minutes waiting for traffic to go your way. We arrived at the ship around noon, the first bus from Anchorage but not the first to arrive at the ship. Check in was speedy fast and we were having lunch within minutes of arriving. It seemed like we were in port forever but finally left on our way. We took second seating for dinner and even though we were at a table for 4, we ate alone every night. We had the option to join another table but declined. We had breakfast in the dining room instead of the buffet and they will seat you at a table with others if you eat for breakfast in the dining room. First stop was Prince William Sound. Amazing!! We are east coasters so waking up early Alaska time was the norm for us. When we awoke, it was to an amazing site of glaciers all around, floating ice, and beautiful snow-covered mountains. A couple things we learned: 1. It is not too light to sleep. Yes the sun is out for 18-19 hrs a day, but the curtains are very thick and block all light out. We had a balcony room. 2. Due to older crowd and Pacific Time zone, after 10 pm the ship becomes a ghost town. 3. It was not as cold as everyone says. We are from Florida and didn't need jackets to walk around town. Next day was Sitka, the only port where the ship does not dock. Not too much to see here so it was a good idea to wait for the first crowd to disembark and then get off the ship before lunch. We found this staircase that leads to an overlook of the bay which was very nice. You can find it right as you walk into town on the right before all the shops start. Next day was Juneau, a nice scenic town with many cruise ships docked with us. We scheduled the Flight-seeing Adventure on float-plane for 9:30 am...a mistake as we found out. Weather was cloudy and the morning flight was canceled as usual. If you book a flight, shoot for later in the day. We kept rescheduling but they had to cancel. We finally went at 2pm, but by then we got lucky because everyone else was trying to reschedule and they had no more room. While we waited we took the tram up the mountain and I recommend it. You can purchase the ticket and it is good all day long. There is a great restaurant at the top, hiking trails (where there was 6ft of snow), a science center with a movie and great views of the bay. The float-plane was a great tour...very smooth flight and scenic. We also did the whale watch. The boats were amazing...very high class with a small buffet on board and plenty of binoculars for all. We didn't see many whales but the sight of one up-close was worth the trip. Another thing to consider: time of year. Go in May and see the mountains covered in snow all over, but whales are not there yet. July or later see more whales but looks like Colorado...much of the snow has melted from the scenery leaving beautiful green mountains, but being from Florida we wanted to see snow. Skagway was the next day and a great port to walk around. We did the Skagway street car which was a lot of fun but the seats are very small on the street car, barely fits 2 regular size adults and they pack them in. We did the White Pass railway and that was great. It won't matter what side you sit on because the train goes up and when you get to the top they make everyone switch seats for the way down. One more day at sea which was nice then Ketchikan. This was the nicest looking port city in my opinion. Looks like a postcard picture. We did the lumberjack show and it was so much fun and very entertaining. Overall the Alaska cruise is great!! Every excursion was super! You can get tours at the pier of every port if you cant make up your mind which one to go on and other passengers commented that they saved a bunch of money by doing a tour not purchased on Carnival. We liked the security of knowing what we were going to do and when, and knowing we would be refunded if it canceled. The Carnival Spirit was a great ship with a few things worth noting. 1. The Nouveau Supper Club was definitely NOT worth it for us. The service was terrible, worse than the dining room and it wasn't even crowded that night we went. The food was good, but with a deck-level view of people walking past your table outside, not worth it. 2. No need to "get there early" for good seats to any shows. The shows were not well attended despite the high quality of entertainment. 3. Casinos close by midnight due to lack of participation. Actually most lounges are empty all night. 4. Enclosed pool...who are you kidding? Saw 2 people in the pool the whole cruise. 5. Heard many passengers complain about the slow-to-flush toilets in staterooms. Ours was slow, but didn't bother us. 6. People lined up early for dinner..why? 10 minutes after dining room opens, you may walk right in and get served. *****And the one thing I wish people had told us*** 1. Every room has a lack of outlets to charge phones, cameras, etc. BRING A POWER STRIP, standard electricity, to plug in your stuff. Too much to tell...Alaska is a must-do if you travel. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
Prior to Embarkation - Stayed one night in Anchorage. Not a great town, very expensive and hotel left much to be desired. Train trip to Whittier from Anchorage was a beautiful trip and well worth the cost ($60) which was less expensive ... Read More
Prior to Embarkation - Stayed one night in Anchorage. Not a great town, very expensive and hotel left much to be desired. Train trip to Whittier from Anchorage was a beautiful trip and well worth the cost ($60) which was less expensive than the bus transfers offered by Carnival. Embarkation - very small terminal, but the easiest embarkation I have ever experienced. Cabin - The cabin was located on the rear of the ship. Plenty of room and provided for a great 180 degree view, but was quite wet at times as there was no overhang and the weather in Alaska is not always the best. In spite of wet chairs, I would still do it again. Food - Dining room food for dinner is always excellent on Carnival. Lunches are better on the Lido (I don't recommend the dining room for lunch at all) and breakfast is decent in either place. Good omelet bar on the lido and pretty good breakfasts in the dining room. The late night pizza bar or hamburger and hot dog bar usually satisfy if you are a late night person. Room service is adequate, but not a huge selection. The supper club is superb and well worth the expense for a special treat. Service - We received great service in all areas - dining, room stewards, bartenders, etc. The staff was great and always remembered our names and our preferences. It made us feel important. Ports - Sitka was beautiful. There was more to see than we had time for. The tendering experience was good, but not great. There was quite a wait to get off the ship, but once we were in port, it was well worth the wait. Juneau had the worst weather, but it was one of the best ports. We did not book an excursion through the ship, but just happened into Orca Enterprises. If you read a lot of reviews on Alaska, you will see a lot about Captain Larry. As soon as I heard it was his place, we book immediately. We were very fortunate to be the first excursion in over a week to actually see the orcas - a whole pod of them!. Everyone sees humpbacks on his tours which are absolutely fascinating. But the orcas were incredible. The naturalists on his vessels are very knowledgeable and the whole experience was not only beautiful, but it was a lot of fun. I would highly recommend booking through Captain Larry if you can. Skagway was next. It was a beautiful area, but not a lot to do. We booked a bus tour through the ship that included Liarsville. It was a lot of fun and the scenery was great and the price was right. But it was probably the least memorable of the ports. The final port was Ketchikan. We booked the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's tour. It wasn't cheap, but it was worth every penny. In addition to seeing the now famous boat from Deadliest Catch and watching how they do their work, we also made a stop where we saw at least 40 to 60 eagles which absolutely made the trip. It was a great day to really enjoy God's beautiful creation and to also learn a lot. The crew was great and the presentation very fascinating. The sea days at the beginning and the end provided for some very beautiful scenery with the glaciers and occasional whale sightings. We docked in Vancouver and spent one night there before heading home. I was not real impressed overall with Vancouver, but we got some of the best food and most reasonable of any of the ports. One important suggestion - Take a GREAT camera with you. We took our digital which allows us to make some of our pictures better, but it was totally inadequate for some of the things we got to see. This cruise was for our 20th anniversary and there is no doubt in my mind that we will fondly remember this experience for the rest of our lives. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
Our first cruise to Alaska and I can not say enough good things about it! I was expecting a lot and it did not disappoint. Having cruised the Caribbean many times, this cruise was more laid back and generally has an older crowd on average. ... Read More
Our first cruise to Alaska and I can not say enough good things about it! I was expecting a lot and it did not disappoint. Having cruised the Caribbean many times, this cruise was more laid back and generally has an older crowd on average. This was a good thing though, as we did not want the "party crowd" on this particular cruise. Don't get me wrong, there was a lot to do both on and off the ship, so it was never boring, but you can really set your own pace. Also, get the balcony cabin! it would have been a completely different cruise if we did not have a front row seat, whenever we chose, to the sights, wildlife and scenery. DAY 1 - Anchorage Arrived in Anchorage without luggage, it was delayed by the airlines. The airlines were somewhat helpful but not much. Took the MAGIC BUS shuttle to Whittier and had a great trip. The driver took us to the conservation center and really gave us a nice tour on the way. When we embarked, I went straight to the pursers desk just to "let them know" about luggage that may be arriving in Sitka. They immediately took control and genuinely seemed to care. After taking all of our info, She stated that from this moment we need not worry about our bags as Carnival would call the airlines and make sure our bags were in Sitka waiting for us. Nice piece of mind and excellent customer service! Dinner was waiting on board and there were activities, but almost everyone was pooped from the travel day and we got to relax without thinking we were missing something. The ship was in amazing condition and looked new. Day 2 - Prince William Sound Awoke at 6:30am to view the glaciers surrounding the sound. Although we were not fortunate enough to witness any calving of ice, the scene was surreal as the sunrise came up over the ridge, It was beautiful. Then we cruised through the day and again, had a chance top recoup after a 15 hour travel day. Day 3 - Sitka As promised by the purser's desk, our luggage was on the first tender to the ship and we got our stuff before we went ashore. GREAT SERVICE from the purser's desk. We did not have an excursion booked in Sitka so we just walked and shopped a little, walked to the Raptor center to check it out, It was nice and informative. Sitka is a quaint small town and easy to walk. Day 4 - Juneau This was our big day. We awoke early at 6am to eat breakfast and to go on our 1st excursion, whale watching with Orca Enterprises and Captain Larry. (highly recommended) As Orca can not be booked on the cruise line, it tends to be less crowded and cheaper ($114 ea) As luck would have it, on the first tour of the morning, we went on the newest boat that held 75 people. Our group consisted of (7) seven people! Yes Seven, which meant we had the entire boat to ourselves. We saw no less than 30 humpbacks, Dall Porpoise, Bald eagles, Harbor seals and sea lions. It was awesome. Then we went on a helicopter flight with Coastal Helicopters which we booked through Orca as a package and it only cost $199 ea (as opposed to $349 on ship) this tour included landing on the Herbert Glacier and a 30 minute walkabout, It was an experience not to be missed! After our tours it was 2pm and we went to do a little shopping. then we got bored and went tot he Alaska Brewing Company for the free tour and taste. Got back on the boat for seated dinner at 5pm. Shopped a little more and headed back to see a show and relax. The shows on board were actually beyond my expectations, they were great! There was an r-rated magician/comedian and he was GOOD! Day 5 - Skagway What a beautiful town! small yet inviting, once you get out of the 3 block tourist trap area. We walked it with no problem. Ate and sampled brews at the Skagway Brewing company, went to all the little museums and almost went on the white pass railway, only to discover that in town, we could get the "bus" tour to white pass for $40 ea (as opposed to $99 for the train) What the bus also does is follow the trains exact passage, but we made at least 10 stops for pictures and sightseeing, which the train does not do. I would recommend the train for the experience, but the bus if you really want to see the pass properly. Mr Skagway was on the ship for the matinee, He was very entertaining and told a lot of very interesting stories from the gold rush days. That evening was the hypnotist show and we enjoyed that very much, 2 of the entertainment staff were in the show and it was hilarious. They were pretty popular the next couple of days. Day 6 - Ketchikan Not much in Ketchikan unless you go on a fishing charter or go see the lumberjack show ($34) same price on shore as it is through the ship excursion. If you've seen it on ESPN, then you have seen this show. We went to Saxman Village and that was interesting. My wife and I learned a lot about Story Poles (totem poles). Other than that, it was more of a kick back day and we saw another r-rated comedian who STUNK! He was horrible, many people walked out. Day 7 - Inside passage Cruising the inside passage may sound boring, but was anything but. The scenery was breathtaking, we saw whales, white sided dolphins, and a rare treat of a pod of Orca's aggressively hunting salmon. We watched the pod for 40 minutes until they finally faded out of our sight. Waterfalls and scenic lighthouses abound. A camera and video is a must on this trip. Lot's of stuff to do on the ship so even if you were not in the mood to "whale wait" you could do a multitude of activities or just relax in the whirlpools, which all have sightlines to the wildlife. Day 8 - Vancouver Arrived in vancouver early and had a later flight. (6:40pm) We opted for the vancouver city tour and airport transfer which is the only excursion we booked on the ship. For 40 bucks ea, it was a great tour and took up a majority of the time that we would have otherwise spent in the airport. Summary This trip was the best my wife and I have ever had. We would go again in a heartbeat. The Spirit was clean and kept up beautifully. The staff was excellent and the service was great. The dining room food is what I expected (I have been on 3 Carnival cruises and expected above average, which is what it was) but the Filet was to die for! that meal was absolutely the best of the trip. The gym was excellent and had great views, even from the hot tub, which is inside and comfy. The onboard activities are a bit less than in the Caribbean, but was enough because of the amount of time spent on deck or the veranda sightseeing. You don't feel as if you have to do one or the other, you can do both. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
Everyone should experience Alaska at least once in their life time. This was our first cruise and our first time to Alaska. This trip was the best vacation we have ever had and we cannot wait to go back! First I would like to review the ... Read More
Everyone should experience Alaska at least once in their life time. This was our first cruise and our first time to Alaska. This trip was the best vacation we have ever had and we cannot wait to go back! First I would like to review the ship. The Spirit is a beautiful ship that was very easy to navigate. Her overall condition was excellent..She sparkled and shined. Our cabin was a corner aft wraparound. It was laid out very nice with a sitting area that moved into a dressing room that moved into the bedroom. The bathroom was fullsized with a spa tub. I used the tub every night. Our balcony was huge. We could see behind us and to the port side. The only thing I would change for an Alaska sailing is to get the same cabin on the main deck. Those cabins have more of an overhang from the top that would help quite a bit with drizzle and rain. The aft balconies are nice because we were sheltered from the wind. The service we received was very good for the most part. Our cabin was always clean and any request we had our cabin steward did everything with in his power to make it so. We were always addressed by our names and they always had a smile on their faces. The food was very good in the dining room as was the service. The waiter remembered my husbands aversion to vegetables and made sure not a single onion touched his plate. My cappuccino was delivered every night without having to ask. The Lido Buffet was just good. We ate lunch alot at the Deli which was excellent. This area was the only part of the ship I found hard to navigate. I kept getting turned around. Room service was ok. I would have liked to have had some hot menu items. The room service was excellent. I would place the order and it arrived with in 10 mins. On to Alaska. We booked our airfare and transfers though Carnival. They booked our flight though Alaska Air. I loved flying with Alaska Air. We got to the airport early and upgraded our seats to first class for $50 each. What a way to start a vacation. Our flight arrived on time. We retrieved our bags then literally turned around and gave it to the Carnival employee. They checked our transfer ticket and took us straight to the bus. The bus ride to Whittier was about an hour. We had some time before our Tunnel time so our driver took us to a wild life refuge where we could get up close to some bears, moose and birds. This was totally unexpected. We had VIP Boarding which was nice. Boarding was a breeze. Our room was ready when we got on the ship so we just stood out on or balcony checking everything out. There were a few sea otters playing in the harbor and we watched them for a few hours until we left. Our luggage arrived at about 9 pm. Ports of Call The first morning we woke up to fog. You could hear thunder off in the distance. I told my husband that was not thunder it was glacier calving. The weather and ice worked against us at College Fjord. It was foggy with lots of ice in the water. The ice prevented us from going very deep into the fjord and we missed the Harvard Glacier. Sitka was our first tendering experience. I do not like tendering. Here we just wandered and shopped. I would love to go back and explore a little more some day. Juneau was our next port and probably the highlight of our trip. Here I booked a Tracy Arm cruise though Alaska Adventure Bound. We were excited about getting up close and personal with the Glaciers. Tracy Arm is beautiful and chock full of wildlife and icebergs. During the cruise we saw humpbacks, orcas, eagles and seals. The captain got us so close to the Sawyer Glacier you could throw a rock and hit it. The boat looked like it was floating in a huge slushie. Skagway I booked us the Best Of Skagway through the cruise ship. We enjoyed the excursion especially the salmon bake at Liarsville. Liarsville was kinda cheesy but very fun. The Red Onion was just OK. In Ketchikan we met friends that lived there and they took us to the real Ketchikan away from the tourist stops. Lovely town even though it rained. There we also boarded the crab boat Sea Star. The guys who work the boat were very nice and loved to tell stories! The Inside Passage was lovely. Lots of beautiful views. That day we just spent relaxing on our balcony watching the sights sail by. The weather for the most part was very cooperative and we hardly ever felt the need for our jackets. We had such a grand time we booked Alaska again for next year! For all you people out there talking about visiting Alaska quit talking and go visit! Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
for a little back ground on myself im a typical 23yr. old male college kid living in Texas i went on this cruise with my parents and sister and her husband after reading the reviews on here and planning everything i wanted to do and see ... Read More
for a little back ground on myself im a typical 23yr. old male college kid living in Texas i went on this cruise with my parents and sister and her husband after reading the reviews on here and planning everything i wanted to do and see for months the day finally came and off we went. for some reason carnival placed my parents on different planes different stops and different times considering everything was booked in advanced at the same time im not sure why they would do this but it resulted in us getting on the ship with plenty of time and the ship having to wait for my parents as well as several other thousand people...as far as i know none of this was weather related so it seems someone dropped the ball... after arriving in Anchorage it was on a bus that takes you to the ship in Whittier, our driver was very interesting and talked all about different things and provided laughs for everyone... actually everyone in Alaska seemed friendly and full of laughs through out the whole trip. after a short ride that involves a tunnel among other things you arrive at the Spirit and we had no trouble at all no long lines no waiting a short check in and on to the ship(after the photo-op. of course) First morning we woke up to the thundering of glaciers calving its hard to explain but absolutely incredible to watch. our first port was Sitka and for some reason me and my brother in law decided on sportfishing and lets just say its something everyone still talks about haha. the fisherman guides said it was a little bit rougher than normal and that the waves were about 8 ft. however being on a 30 ft. boat and standing there looking up at the water i would have to say the waves were much higher i didnt ever feel unsafe but i was outside my comfort zone haha in Juneau we went to the mendenhall glacier even got some pictures of a bear wasnt expecting to be so close but a very cool experience also i think this is where we went whale watching also something i think everyone should do at least once in Skagway we took a train up into the mountains and over the Canada border its a great experience being in such a different place but i must admit this might not be the greatest for keeping the kids entertained at 23 i did get kinda bored after a while haha in Ketchikan we went on a crabbing excursion it was a great experience out on the water-in the wild and when we returned to the lodge they had a crab feast waiting on us. as far as the Spirit goes the only real "complaints" i can mention would be the tender lines although they werent really long it just seemed you waited forever considering the tender holds a fairly large of people and they always had several running back and forth...but still only a minor thing and after hearing everyone talking about the "Nouveau supper club" we all decided to try it and i must say it was a terrible experience the food was great but the service was not. it was as if you walked into it 5 minutes before it closed..keep in mind it was like 7:30 and everyone was just standing around and it was not busy at all...after going and finding someone to ask about our food they simply said "i dont know we will check" and yet still more waiting.....after reading other reviews and finding nothing negative about the Nouveau it seems odd we had such a different experience.... the main dining was nothing but incredible i tried everything new i could possibly try and not once did i find something i didnt like all in all i would highly recommend a trip to Alaska and everyone knows "the worst day on a cruise is still better than any day at work" Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
ALASKA SOUTHBOUND ON CARNIVAL SPIRIT I planned this trip over a year ago as my 40th birthday present to myself. Originally it was booked two years ago but had to be canceled due to a relocation, so I then rebooked last year after moving. ... Read More
ALASKA SOUTHBOUND ON CARNIVAL SPIRIT I planned this trip over a year ago as my 40th birthday present to myself. Originally it was booked two years ago but had to be canceled due to a relocation, so I then rebooked last year after moving. I have no regrets at all. I had studied the Carnival website about my specific itinerary and the ship practically on a daily basis, and it was also fun to count down the days with the little counter on Carnival's website that tells how many days until the cruise. Needless to say my excitement and anticipation were in high gear. My one regret was going alone as that costs almost twice as much because of the double occupancy price issue. On the other hand, one could come and go as they pleased and didn't have to deal with anyone else, so that was a plus in its own regard. Carnival booked both my cruise and my airline tickets. While that made it easier, I was not able to access my flight information on the airline websites or select my seats. Other than that one non-cruise related detail, it was great. We arrived in Anchorage on time and proceeded to the baggage claim where we were met by our Carnival representative. To be honest, THAT part of the entire trip was the most disorganized, but not a catastrophe by any means. They didn't seem to have any priority of getting people from the airport on to the shuttle buses to Whittier (90 minutes away). Once we got on our buses and were on our way, everything changed. The driver was most informative and professional. The drive from Anchorage to Whittier is incredibly beautiful and a fantastic part of the trip. At first I upset because of a long commute to the ship, but that turned out to be a part OF the adventure. Upon exiting the Whittier tunnel, there sat the Spirit in gleaming white with the mountains and harbor behind it. It was bigger and more impressive than I had ever expected. For me, the ship is half of the excitement of that type of vacation, and this one rendered me speechless by its sheer size and beauty. As the stern was facing us as we emerged from the tunnel, I was even able to see my balcony and where my state room was located. Lord knows I had studied the website and deck plans enough prior to getting there! Embarkation in Whittier was incredibly quick and professional, and the desk agents could not have been any friendlier. Leaving the bus and walking through the front door of the ship took 15 minutes or less, despite the huge number of people waiting to board; they were that quick and well-organized. Walking out of the little building and standing there before that massive leviathan was an indescribable experience, I had never seen anything like it in my life. Then, walking up the gangway into the ship I remember swaying to myself "I'm finally here!" A year in planning and waiting and the reward was now going to happen. The midship elevators where we entered, on the port side, were locked and being used by the staff to get the luggage to the cabins, so I walked to the aft elevators and went up to deck 8, the Panorama deck. Knowing where the cabin was located, I walked straight to it. Upon entering I was quite pleasantly surprised at its spaciousness and beauty. Though I had really wanted a mini-suite or even full suite with a wrap-around balcony, I took this category 8-I stateroom because of price and location and was not disappointed in the least! My balcony was an extended balcony and was quite spacious indeed. The furniture was in very fine condition, and everything looked brand new. The bathroom, though smaller than other bathrooms I have seen on other ships, was still roomy enough, with a great shower and a lot of storage compartments and shelves, and like the rest was immaculate and very well kept. The location of my stateroom was wonderful as it was on the back of the ship and, from the balcony, had a panoramic view to the rear and both sides. I am hooked now. There also seemed to be quite a bit of privacy and quiet back there that the main corridors along the sides of the ship don't seem to have. Now, my parents book inside cabins on lower decks and they say it's because one only sleeps and showers in the cabin. I always spend time in my room, and this one was VERY comfortable and pleasant. Also, as Alaska is known as the land of the midnight sun, I was concerned about early morning sun and light in the evening when trying to sleep. Not a problem- Carnival's black out draperies were perfect and, even in the middle of day, the room was completely pitch black! Wonderful! Upon unpacking I walked down the starboard corridor in search of the atrium. WHOA! It is a true thing of beauty and elegance that really reinforces the overall massive size of the ship. It is done in dark woods with indirect and stained glass lighting, and lighting from the Nouveau Supper Club skylight which is actually the front part of the funnel. Glass elevators with stained glass ceilings and bottoms go up for nine floors from the Atrium main floor. Huge winding staircases and rich wooden banisters align them on tither side. There is gold and lighting and marble and terrazzo, plants and stained glass. Where others call it glitzy and "Las Vegas style," I call it downright sumptuous and most elegant. Do I think it's the same as a Cunard or former White Star vessel? Probably not in the same way, but every bit as decorative and eye catching. One literally stops and looks and just takes in the beauty and detail of these magnificent vessels. They render one speechless. From the atrium I went right up to the deck 9, the Lido Deck and the really cool LaPlaya Cafe. Decorated in bright, clean colors and really trendy stained glass lighting, it definitely was an eye-catching space and added to the ship's excitement. After eating something it was time to do some exploring. The staircase to the Nouveau Supper Club on the 10th deck is GLASS, and winds OUT and OVER the open atrium, nine floors below! THAT is an experience as you walk out and up on those stairs! Wow! Eventually, and after a LONG day of travel, eating and exploring, it was time for bed. Carnival's beds, as advertised, are new as well as their linens and bedding. They are very comfortable, to me, and I rested quite well. Other reviewers have said the opposite and have commented that the beds were too hard for them. Well, as someone with intermittent back problems, a marble slab would feel good to me and I think these bads do give much needed support but are also soft enough to satisfy just about anyone. My stateroom attendant was very sweet and she and her staff took very good care of my room the entire time. It and the bathroom were always immaculate and in good order, ice was refilled in the ice bucket and clean glasses and towels were left when necessary. Excellent service. By the way, the entire ship was immaculate almost to a fault, I was quite impressed. The Spirit really is a clean, beautiful, sumptuous vessel with a definite wow factor inside and out! I must also credit Carnival Cruises in their itinerary planning and implementation - BRAVO! Below, I tried to keep it as brief as possible, but here is a synopsis of my adventure for you to read. The first day at sea was great, uneventful and more time to explore this magnificent ship. We were supposed to cruise Prince William Sound and College Fjord but had to divert routes due to a huge storm in the Gulf of Alaska, and the captain was emphatic about the safety of the passengers, crew and vessel. No biggie, although I really wanted to see those things, being on the ship is half the fun for me anyway. I can always go back again, which I fully intend to do as soon as I can, in fact- this very same cruise with the addition of the Denali National PArk next time as well. The first port of call was Sitka. We were tendered in and Carnival had this process down to a science. They would give out tickets and call you in the order of the tenders being sent. This eliminated long lines and long waits to board the boats. Very well organized! Once there, it was easy to see that Sitka would be easy to walk and learn one's way around. My chosen excursions were the city tour, the Russian Dancers, St. Michael the Archangel Russian Orthodox Cathedral and the Raptor Center. For me the Cathedral, its history and the Raptor Center and its residents were quite impressive and a bit touching given the care these wounded animals are given and the way some are rereleased into the wild and others are kept and cared for for the rest of their natural lives. All very enjoyable and I had a great time. That evening the seas was VERY rough and one of the people I met on board said that I had turned several very interesting shades of green after dinner and the seas had started rocking and rolling, and I was told that the Purser's desk had pills for just such an occasion. It was so bad that people were tripping and catching themselves on furniture and anything else locked down. So, the purser gave me two little packets, each containing two little yellow pills. One of the bartenders told me to only take one if I wanted to see daylight the next day. I got to the cabin, and beware if you ever take these- they work EXTREMELY fast and I slept like a baby. I awoke the next morning refreshed and feeling quite well. The second port of call was Juneau, the capital of Alaska. These port towns in Alaska are really nice to see from the ship as they are nestled into the hillsides and foothills of the mountains, right at the water's edge. I love places like that and they are every bit as quaint and charming as one would expect. My excursions included the Mendenhall Glacier and the Tram and Trek. Again, I very much enjoyed them and would highly recommend them. Going to Alaska and not seeing a glacier would be a real waste. I also got to see things in and around Juneau that others did not as I have some professional acquaintances there that picked me up an took me around. I also experienced some great local shops and a restaurant not on the tour schedule that were great and that I hope to return to again one day. The third port of call was Skagway. I loved this one! I took the Bordello and Breakfast excursion along with the Liarsville via Trolley excursion. The "ladies" at the Red Onion Saloon were quite entertaining and did a very funny and fine job of explaining the history and culture of the gold rush towns of the past century. Most enjoyable. The trolley ride out to Liarsville was really cool and also quite entertaining. Liarsville WAS a real place, by the way,m and is historically accurate. I must say that the driver of our particular trolley was the best tour guide of the entire trip. He was part of the attraction and was very entertaining and informative. Liarsville is just a really cool place. It's like a camp, way out in the wilds and woods, where they banished reporters and hustlers who would coax people to the great northwest with promises of untold wealth and an abundance of gold, only for them to come back empty handed or not come back at all. It's like a tent city, with a general store, an amphitheater and troughs where visitors can pan for gold. The show is VERY funny and very musical and a lot of fun as they tell the stories of Liarsville and some of the characters that went through there. Then we all panned for gold, that was pretty cool too. I don't know how they do it, but everyone got little gold flakes in their pans and could take something home with them afterward. After that we were taken to a scenic overlook that showed the town of Skagway and the entire bay/channel/port where our ship was docked right next to the Seven Seas Mariner. The Carnival Spirit completely eclipsed the other ship! The difference in quality, in our favor, was also rather apparent, at least on the outside. From this overlook we took some really beautiful pictures and got a good idea of the lay of the land. From there we went to the Gold Rush Cemetery, which is beautifully situated on a hillside just inside the woods. The lush greenery and foliage added to its beauty and gave it almost an ethereal quality. In addition to Skagway being a really wonderful little port town, we also had the White Pass Railroad trip which stopped, literally, right next to the ship on the dock - very convenient! As with the other towns and stops, I want to return and do further exploration and shopping. As we departed we sailed through Lynn Canal which was quite beautiful and clear with its greenery, trees and snow-capped mountains. The next day we found ourselves in Ketchikan. Very similar in appearance to Skagway and Juneau by the way it is situated at the foot of mountains and right on the water, Ketchikan had a very well laid out shopping district and some great shops and restaurants that I want to return to one day. Here, the ships were able to park literally right next to Main Street where everything was, very convenient! Here, we were docked right in front of the Holland America Volendam which, compared to our ship, looked very old and very run down and very tired. I know that HA ships are supposed to be quite posh inside, but the outer shell didn;t impress me, sadly, nor did the broken our glass panes on some of the decks with their temporary plywood covers. I must also say that our captain, Captain Scala from Italy, did a very good job at beating all of the other ships to port and getting us the first or best location for docking. That was rather evident and much appreciated. The 6th day of the cruise was a day at see where we cruised the Inside Passage and saw not just a few but MANY killer whales. The ship's naturalist and captain both commented, more than once, that we were seeing a very rare thing indeed and that they had never seen that many killer whales at one time in that concentrated of a location. It's almost as if the whales were putting on a show for us and it was great! I found the food aboard the ship to be quite good all around. It far surpasses the assembly-line type of food one might expect on such a large and busy ship. The LaPlaya Cafe offered "Tastes of the Nations" with a different country being featured every day. To me, the French food was especially excellent, but it was all good that I tried. In addition to that, the LaPlaya Cafe also features a deli, fresh Chinese food and American-style cafeteria type fare each day as well. All was very tasty and well prepared. The deli and its staff were excellent! There is also the LaPlaya Grill located next to the Dome Pool in midship. They have their traditional hamburgers and hot dogs, with all expected accoutrements, not to mention endless beverage selections. Very cool and convenient when one doesn't want to sit down and dine in a more formal or leisurely setting. I am sorry- sometimes one just craves a big ole greasy burger! Ha! There are countless other eateries around the ship as well, and I honestly have to go back again to find out where everything is and what all is actually available beyond what I saw and tried myself. There were a couple of nights that I was very thankful for the 24 hour pizzeria, room service and ice cream machines! The library and internet cafe were quite nice and I used them a lot. The gym and spas were also very elegant and quite sizable - I was surprised at how much is there, and they had machines and things that I had never even seen before. It's right in the front of the ship and has a beautiful view on all three sides. Regarding the rest of the ship, I can honestly say that there are lounges and places I didn't even see this time, giving me a reason to go back in addition to just wanting to see Alaska again. My one complaint would be the smoking of some people, but they have this limited to certain areas. Even so, I don't like smoke and think it should be banned in all public places. And before any of the smoking advocated yell at me about breaching their civil rights, well - I was born with a civil right to breathe the clean air that God created. End of discussion. Moving on... Dinner in the Empire Dining Room was a wonderful experience. The service is impeccable, and the food was even better. They serve THE best prime rib I have ever had anywhere. Being a classical musician I was especially impressed and pleasantly surprised to find a trio of musicians playing live on a little musician's gallery in the center of the dining room at one end of the balcony. They consisted of a pianist, violinist and cellist - all from Poland. One of the other pianists that caught my eye and ears was a lady from Russia. Fabulous, bravura playing in the grand atrium and one of the other public areas on the ship. The Empire Dining Room is quite beautiful, is open for two floors and has woodwork everywhere, decorated with golden angels and eagles surrounded by laurel leaves, stained glass sconces and three ENORMOUS crystal chandeliers in the center. Also, there are windows on three sides to the open sea and landscaping of the Alaskan coastline. Carnival has come a long way from being called "floating frat parties!" They do NOT resemble what they began as AT ALL! I cannot recommend them highly enough. Even the activities for youth and children are well organized and at areas of the ship where the kids can go and have fun to themselves while the adults do the same. I played a little in the casino, and saw three very fine shows in the Pharaoh's Palace. This auditorium is wonderful, and richly decorated in a style that brings one into the very center of King Tut's tomb with all of its gold and finery and jewels. The first show was "Spirit-something-or-another" I forget the title, but was very well executed and quite enjoyable. The music, dancing, lighting and overall impact are pretty incredible! One show was "Singing With the Big Bands" followed by dancing on stage. As I also love big band-swing music, this one was a real toe tapper. The final evening featured "Carnival Legends" which featured auditioned passengers in the starring singing roles. They were accompanied by the Spirit orchestra and dancers with all lighting and energy and flashiness one would expect. It was VERY well done and one heck of a production! After that, it was a last wandering around the ship, a couple of final ice cream cones and then back to pack and put the luggage outside my door for the porters. Because of their new disembarkation process, which is wonderful, this would be the last time I saw my luggage until I arrived back home in Indianapolis. The next morning, sadly, we docked in Vancouver. Carnival and some others now offer an expedited disembarkation process which I used, and was quite surprised with the expediency and organization with which they exit people from the ship. We went to the auditorium, got our boarding passes, lined up on one wall for just a minute or two and were led literally right off the ship and onto the bus to the airport. On the way we got a really nice tour of the city. Upon arrival at the airport about 45 minutes later, we were taken right into a special customs used only for cruise passengers and, when we walked out of that area, were literally right at our gate. Again, Carnival has done a fantastic job all around. People can complain about this and about that, and find fault with this meal or that mattress, but all in all - anyone taking one of these incredible journeys should consider themselves lucky that they are able to do so and enjoy such a special and beautiful home away from home. That is the Carnival Spirit and its staff. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
The itinerary was why we chose this cruise. (Did the Vancouver RT on Celebrity with most of the same family in '92.) Traveled with a group of about 20 family and close friends. Alaska is a port intensive cruise, and most anything ... Read More
The itinerary was why we chose this cruise. (Did the Vancouver RT on Celebrity with most of the same family in '92.) Traveled with a group of about 20 family and close friends. Alaska is a port intensive cruise, and most anything one does while in port will be fun. I have decided to concentrate my review on the ship, line, and Carnival cruise experience. Arrived in Anchorage two days before to join friends who live on the Kenai. Took the train to Whittier at 10am on Wed. Nice trip. Embarkation VERY SMOOTH and QUICK. Had a balcony cabin (booked as a guarantee) on Deck 6 portside. View was good, but would have been better from about 3 more cabins farther aft due to the forward bump out, but that's what ya get when you go "guarantee". Storage was adequate. Like the hangers in the closet. Shower seemed small and lacked shelving for soap, etc. Not everyone wants to use the mystery blue shower soap or Dove all purpose shampoo! Amenities basket had gum, EmergenC packets, toothpaste, razors, etc. The bedding was soft and comfy; the pillows both firm and squishy to please all. The mattresses didn't seem any different, but our backs never hurt, so they must be okay! It was nice having the bed next to the balcony. (Celebrity and NCL have their sitting area near balcony) This was our third cruise with Carnival, the first being in '94 on the Holiday and our second on the Elation in '93. Things sure have changed since our last cruise! Service was pretty good. Cabin was clean and tidy, but only the minimum amount of effort was extended by our stewardess. (yes, I understand the season is ending and contracts may be coming to a close, but we paid just as much as cruisers at peak season!) The towel animals WERE awesome tho! I t was a chore to contact our stewardess the first night. Were told we HAD to keep the cabin door open because they hadn't finished cleaning all the cabins on our deck. WELL, if you're not ready for guests then don't let me onboard...duh!!! (We felt we heard alot of "NO" on this cruise. Not sure why, but it happened many times. It started to put a damper on things for my DH and I.) ANYWAY...on to the food. Found the Galley tried too hard to "gourmet the selections". If you can't cook the basics correctly, you can't correct it with a sauce! Carnival should stick to doing simple foods WELL. Get the basics down, then maybe move on. Stop trying to compete with the more upscale lines in your mega-sized dining rooms, Carnival. The deli (Lido deck) did a fabulous job of providing simple food that was tasty, fresh, and well presented. The made to order omelettes are good too, but the system for ordering is stupid to say the least! People line up in front of a buffet area with bacon, sausages, hash browns, scrambled eggs, etc. causing those that just want this quick food to have to ask, "excuse me, are you all waiting for omelettes, or may I cut in for some bacon?" Besides, who wants to get their sides just to have them get cold before the omelette gets there. Wow, am I dwelling? The buffet kept closing early this trip. Not sure why. The dining room is very nice. Our waiter, Jesse, was fabulous! All the waiters and assistants were very attentive and patient! We had three tables and 6 kids spread around these tables. The waiters were quick with diversions for the kids, cute folded napkins, crayons, etc. This helped make dinner less of a "drama" for the adults!! The food was generally good, especially the "basics". Our informal poll decided that the roasted meats were the Galley's specialty. Prime rib was perfect. The lamb was also very good. Tender and spiced nicely. I had salmon twice, and it was never dry, nor was it oversauced. There were differing views on the lobster. Some loved it, others said it was rubbery. Most of us could have done without the "waiter dances" each night, but many in the dining room enjoyed the performances, so c'est la vie! Sushi from 5:30 to 8:30 was basic. Lots of Philly Rolls. Sometimes we got hand rolls. They didn't seem to use the local fish. hmmm. The nouveau Supper Club is not to be missed!! This is where you will get a true gourmet meal on par with Spago, or a great NY Steakhouse. We spent about $150 for the evening (with a very nice bottle of Cab-Sauv)and know we would have had to pay three times that on land for the same meal. GO! Have the 24 ounce porterhouse, 9 ounce filet, or NY Strip. YUMMMMMMM The entertainment was good, but nothing I haven't seen before! Some of those kids need to learn how to find their light. lol.The orchestra is, by far, one of the best I've ever seen. Karaoke was entertaining, but underattended. They had a hard time getting people for the Legends show. The disco was also underutilized by guests. Kinda sedate (read boring) nightlife for a Carnival ship...hmmm. The casino was busy, but not sure if anyone really won big. Never made it to the piano bar as there were many private parties there. Ports: Was raining in Sitka...but doesn't it always! Juneau was warmer and less rainy. Did the Mendenhall float trip. FUN!! Water was high, but the rapids were fairly sedate. Never enough time in Skagway. Took the Yukon and Whitepass Railway train trip to Canada RT. Understand you can buy this for lots less in town from street vendors. The 12:45 trip cuts it close to reboarding the ship! If you book in town or with the train station you cannot board from the dock, but you can get off on the dock! Ketchikan was sunny and nice. Took the "duck" tour. Fun. Always plenty of salmon to see, eat, catch here. All in all the Spirit is a beautiful ship. Not sure if her opulence is a good fit for Alaska, but that's where she is...for now. The service is generally better than the food in the "free" venues. Cabin service is adequate. Room service was quick and error free for us, but we DID tip. An enjoyable trip despite some problems, but my DH says we will not be going on Carnival again. It's time to go back to Celebrity for us. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
Awesome, Amazing, Spectacular, Breathtaking, Majestic Alaska...Words do not do her justice. Embarkation We flew to Anchorage early on the day of our cruise, took a taxi to town and dropped our luggage at the museum where our independent ... Read More
Awesome, Amazing, Spectacular, Breathtaking, Majestic Alaska...Words do not do her justice. Embarkation We flew to Anchorage early on the day of our cruise, took a taxi to town and dropped our luggage at the museum where our independent tour bus operator stowed it for our trip to Whittier. We toured the area on foot and walked to the mall to buy shoes since I neglected to pack them. We enjoyed not paying sales tax in Anchorage for our mall purchases. At 3:00 our bus to Whittier departed Anchorage. Our driver was also our tour guide as he narrated the entire trip with lots of interesting details about the ecology of the area and its history. We had a fifteen minute wait at the tunnel that seemed longer because we knew what was waiting on the other side. In Whittier, our tour bus operator checked our luggage at the ship, dropped all of the other passengers there, and dropped us at the kayak center for our first excursion. We kayaked Prince William Sound to a nearby salmon run. While kayaking, we were greeted by many eagles including a giant juvenile preening itself on a boulder just above our kayak. This was an exhilarating experience. Our kayak guides dropped us at the ship terminal for embarkation just before 8:00 p.m. We walked through the terminal showing our doc's and getting our cruise sail and sign cards. We missed all of the heavy boarding traffic by doing our excursion before boarding. The cruise staff was pleased with our independent tour bus operator for having checked our luggage before our excursion. Dining We enjoyed our first meal in the main dining room. This was our first experience with traditional early and late seating on a cruise. It was different from personal choice dining, but we got the hang of it quickly and really enjoyed our servers and our table mates. We dined in the Supper Club (upcharge) once and wished we could squeeze it in one more time. Stateroom We booked our cruise with a guarantee for an inside stateroom (TBA). Our room was upgraded to a window with an obstructed view and was larger as it was handicapped equipped, and apparently not booked for such purposes. We never really saw our cabin steward after the first morning, but he took excellent care of our stateroom all week. Cruise only day We woke at the face of Harvard Glacier. AWESOME! The thunder; the calving; the creation that we beheld...Our naturalist gave us ongoing narration at the face of Harvard Glacier and continued throughout the day as we left the College Fjord and Prince William Sound. After our kayaking excursion and the long traveling day the day before, we were tired. We took some time to orient ourselves to the ship. Excursions (all independent tour operators) In Sitka, it drizzled steadily but did not dampen our enthusiasm. We took a wildlife boat tour. AMAZING! We saw humpback whales in abundance, as well as otters, stellar sea lions, and puffins. From Juneau we toured to Tracy Arm. In Tracy Arm Fjord we witnessed the most SPECTACULAR calving of the season. It is called a shooter because it shot up as it calved, breaking off first below the water line, bouncing up and down, and finally resting on its side. Our tour guide said that his next tour group would be able to circle around it. It was by far larger than our boat. The size if the iceberg it created was bigger than my house. From Skagway, we rented a car and drove to the Yukon Territory where we rode horseback to enjoy the scenery and views of Emerald and Spirit Lakes. Nothing could top the eagle soaring overhead as we stopped on our horses to take in the BREATHTAKING view. In Ketchikan, we rented bicycles for an eight mile scenic trek to Herring Cove where we spotted a bear in the creek before taking a taxi back to Creek Street to turn in our bicycles. We hiked back to the visitors' center for our floatplane excursion over the Misty Fjord. MAJESTIC! the views; the sheep on the side of the mountain; the cobalt blue hue of the hanging lake; the bear running along a stream as we flew overhead; the experience of landing in the fjord and creeping out onto the pontoon for a quiet meditation with nature collectively spoke to the MAJESTY of Alaska. Our trip was enjoyable not only because we booked incredible excursions, but also because we knew what we were going for, ALASKA. She delivered above and beyond our expectations. The great thing about Carnival Spirit was her itinerary. I selected this ship because of the longer port times and the scheduled southbound itinerary. It was a bonus to have quality of service and amenities onboard that we are accustomed to on our cruises with competing cruise lines. To be honest, I was expecting less, but I was pleasantly surprised--impressed actually. Almost everything was five star! Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
My wife, our two sons (19 and 16) and I cruised on the Carnival Spirit leaving from Whittier on June 21, 2006 and headed south to Vancouver. We did a 1 week land tour that I planned myself before the cruise but that is a subject of a ... Read More
My wife, our two sons (19 and 16) and I cruised on the Carnival Spirit leaving from Whittier on June 21, 2006 and headed south to Vancouver. We did a 1 week land tour that I planned myself before the cruise but that is a subject of a different review. Weve been on several other cruises, all in the Caribbean. Boarding was easy. We boarded around 1:00pm on Wednesday and spent the day resting from the previous week. Our stateroom (5192) was plenty big enough for the two of us. Plenty of storage. We had a second cabin (5188) that was considered an obstructed view balcony. Our boys couldnt see down the side of the ship, but they were able to see everything else from the cabin. This was a very good compromise for us on cost. I would recommend the obstructed view balcony cabin to anyone wanting to save a few dollars. Carnival is actually bragging about their new beds. I must say that I wasn't impressed. I wasn't expecting a plush, luxurious bed, but it definitely could have been softer. I just can't believe anyone would actually want to buy that bed. Our stateroom attendant wasnt as friendly as the ones we have had in the past. She seemed put out when my wife was seasick our first morning at sea and she didnt come out of the stateroom until that afternoon. We told her to just leave us some towels because she wasnt up to leaving the cabin. I guess that set the tone for the rest of the cruise because she seemed short with us and not nearly as friendly as other attendants we have had on other cruise lines, including Carnival. The food on the Spirit was good, but started to get monotonous by the end of the cruise. We made a big mistake in taking the early seating. We were never able to make it back from our excursions for dinner so we only ate in the Empire dining room twice (sea days). This meant that almost all of our meals were on the Lido deck and that is where it was monotonous. The food was good and it wasnt Carnival's fault that we didnt get back in time. The Deli was quite good but I could only eat so many sandwiches. The boys enjoyed the pizza and the grill. The entertainment was not as good as previous cruises. The ship dancers and singers did a good job, but the shows seemed sporadic and pieced together. The final show, Standing room only was the only one that I thought was good and worthy of being called a 'Las Vegas Style' show. The entertainment wasnt horrible, just not as good as my previous cruises. The entertainers that were flown in were pretty funny. The midnight 'Adult comedy' shows just involved curse words, and even then very few. I didn't consider them racy. Our first day at sea brought us into College Fjord. We came up to the Harvard Glacier and we had plenty of time to watch the glacier calving. The ship spent at least an hour at the glacier, turning once so that everyone on board was able to get a good look. Just spectacular. The rest of the day was spent cruising and watching the gorgeous scenery. The naturalist was pretty good, and we could turn the TV to channel 15 if we wanted to hear what she had to say. I thought that worked out quite well. Our 16 year old went to the O2 club for teens on the Spirit and met a group of other kids that he had fun with during the trip. They didnt stay at the O2 club after the second day because they didnt like the person running it. She was gearing it toward younger teens and it wasnt what my son and his new friends enjoyed. By the end of the cruise, only two or three teenagers hung around the O2 club and the rest avoided it. They had a great time going around the ship, working out in the gym, playing ping pong, and jumping in the pool. The pool slide was closed, but it was really too cold to use it anyway. I was disappointed in Carnival for not providing someone in the O2 club that they could connect with. Our 19 year old was stuck in between. He was too young to go to the disco or the bars and drink, and the O2 club was only for kids up to 17 years old. He pretty much stuck with us and seemed to have a good time. Toward the end of the cruise he started hanging out with the group my 16 year old son was with and they seemed to have fun together. In Sitka, we took the Sea Otter Quest tour offered by Carnival. This was a pretty good tour and we saw a lot of wildlife. We saw Humpback whales, Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, and Sea Otters. It wasnt too crowded. I would suggest this tour. The town of Sitka is very nice and we had a great time walking around. Definitely give yourself time to walk around this town. The people were very friendly and we had a great time. In Juneau we booked a helicopter tour and glacier landing with Coastal. We had done a flightseeing tour and glacier landing of Mt. McKinley out of Talkeetna earlier during our land tour, and I was worried that this would be much of the same except with a helicopter. The experience was VERY different and we enjoyed both very much. The Mt. McKinley glacier was covered in about a foot of snow and it was very quiet and we were the only ones on the glacier. The helicopter tour with Coastal landed us on a glacier that was hard ice near a pool of bright blue water and a stream running in and out of the glacier. Our guide was very informative and we had a great time. Definitely a highlight and suggested. Coastal did a great job. We toured Juneau for a while and enjoyed ourselves there. I stopped in at the Red Dog saloon and had a few beers while my wife shopped and our sons went back to the ship. The Red Dog, complete with sawdust floor was a nice place to relax. We had planned to rent a car in Skagway and drive up to Emerald Lake, but we decided a walking tour of Skagway sounded like more fun. We went on the Goodtime Girls and Ghosts tour. Our guide was very good. She was funny and informative. Dont worry folks, it wasnt R rated. I believe it was barely PG rated. We ended up at the Red Onion saloon for a tour upstairs. I dont think Skagway was a pretty as Sitka, but it wasnt bad walking around there either. Our last port of call was Ketchikan. We had booked a fishing charter with Northern Lights for the afternoon. We didnt catch anything but rock fish, but it looked like no one else was catching anything that afternoon either. My boys had fun and Im glad we went on the charter, but to spend that much money and time and come back empty handed was a little tough on me. I couldnt tell you much about Ketchikan because we spent most of our time with the charter. The last day at sea was relaxing. We did a few things around the ship, such as trivia contests and even a bingo game. There were plenty of things to do. Debarkation in Vancouver went VERY quickly. I dont think Ive ever gotten off of a ship so fast. We stayed at the Westin in downtown Vancouver. The Westin is a beautiful hotel and the rooms were wonderful. We loved walking around the downtown and docks area. We also went to Grouse Mountain and Capilano bridge. The next day we walked around the park in downtown Vancouver (very pleasant walk and the weather was beautiful) and caught the Amtrak Cascades train to Seattle. The train ride was very scenic and relaxing. We stayed at the Doubletree in Seattle and flew out the next morning. We really enjoyed our trip. If I were to do it again, I dont think I would cruise Alaska. We all agreed that the land portion and going wherever we wanted was much more fun (not to mention cheaper). If I were to do another Alaska cruise, I would select a different cruise line. I think Carnival is great for the Caribbean, but they are just OK in Alaska. Read Less
Sail Date June 2006
Carnival Spirit May 24 - May 31, 2006 Alaska Cabin 8182 We used cruise line booked airfare for our journey. The cruise line booked my family of 3 with 2 other families on the same reservation and had seat assignments all over the plane. ... Read More
Carnival Spirit May 24 - May 31, 2006 Alaska Cabin 8182 We used cruise line booked airfare for our journey. The cruise line booked my family of 3 with 2 other families on the same reservation and had seat assignments all over the plane. It was hard to get seat assignments changed because we were part of a larger group and the airline reservation agents had trouble separating us from the group. We arrived in Anchorage around 5:00pm and had a good 45min-1hr wait for a cruise line bus to the port. The bus trip is 1 1/2 hours and goes through a tunnel that consists of one lane and alternates which direction of traffic goes through it. It alternates every 1/2 hour so depending on when you hit it, it could be a wait. Embarkation was a breeze since we were getting there later in the day. It took us all of about 10 min. to check in get our stuff and go to our cabins. The boat was supposed to leave at 9:00pm but left around 10:30pm and luggage did not arrive until almost midnight. Our luggage arrived very dirty and one piece was ripped. The 1st day at sea we sailed the College Fjords. It was amazing and the on board naturalist did a great job of lecturing over the intercom while we sailed. She was very informative and added a lot to a day at sea. The ship has a covered pool and stage area which came in great for those who like to swim when it is too cold outside. I will say that the weather was very mild during the trip. The cabin was cleaned and well maintained during the cruise. We had an extended balcony which was great for viewing the glaciers. The common areas as mentioned in other posts are very eclectic but tasteful as we really enjoyed the fun-ness of it. The food in the dining room was fair. We were on the Carnival Glory in September 2005 and the menu was basically the same only the food on the Glory was better. The waiters had too many tables and could not give personalized service. The buffets on the other hand were outstanding. The lines were usually very small to non-existent and the food was very good (normally the same food as the dining room) There is a deli open 11am to 11 pm and pizza and ice cream 24 hours a day. The fountain card on the first day was available for $44 (we embarked at 8:00pm) it was then available during the day at sea for only $33 it's worth the several hour wait to get tit that much cheaper. The shows put on by the dancers and main singers were good, the fly in entertainment had something to be desired. There was one night where the main show was a silent comedian named Pepper that used plywood to balance on - it was by far the worst show I have ever seen. The other shows were Ok. We booked all of our shore excursions online through Carnival prior to the cruise. It was great because several were sold out. All of the shore excursions were great and none of them left us disappointed. All in all it was a very enjoyable experience on a very lovely ship. We can't wait to go back to Alaska and see the things we missed this time. Read Less
Sail Date June 2006
We started our trip out of North Carolina on Jun 7th, we had a stop over in Memphis, Seattle and finally Anchorage........the flights were ok, but an all day process, which we expected. The bus from Anchorage to the port of Whittier proved ... Read More
We started our trip out of North Carolina on Jun 7th, we had a stop over in Memphis, Seattle and finally Anchorage........the flights were ok, but an all day process, which we expected. The bus from Anchorage to the port of Whittier proved delightful and the bus driver (Jason) explained all little tide bits of info about Anchorage. What a breathtaking ride it was. Weather was a little overcast, but we did not have to wait at all for anything or anyone. When we got to Whittier, we had no wait, escorted with our documentation and boom boom there we were!!! The Spirit is a very clean ship. I had read the boards and came away at first with a feeling of dread, because most were negative about Carnival and the Spirit. The food was very good, we only ate lunches in the Empire dining room, and our dinners we ate at the La Playa.......a grand amount of food, with a wide variety of foods. We went and had dinner at the Nouveau Rest., all I can say is MAGNIFICENT.....for $30.00 per person..........it was well worth it. Kudos to the chef and staff in the restaurant. The food served daily in the La Playa was great, a big variety with different foods served with a neat selection of japanese,pizza,prime rib, salads,pork , you name it,and it was there, along with plenty of sweet deserts and juices. The casino...we had a ball, won a few bucks, and the bar in the casino became one of 2 home based bars for the week. "Made" was a great bartender, he was always pleasant. To tell you the truth, we really did not see any crew members that were in a bad mood, or not being friendly. We only took one tour, and that was the Salmon Bake which was very good..... At other ports we walked around and spent more money. That's what vacations are for........spend money and have a good time. The Atrium in the Spirit was our place to chill out and have a few drinks or more then a few. The barkeeps there were great and accommodating! Every nite there a lot of folks at this bar....it turned out to be one of the hot spots of the ship. We are in our early 50's and still like to party. I would say the age groups were 1/4 in the 20/30 year old range, 1/2 in the 40/50/60 year old range and 1/4 up and above the 70's. The shows were entertaining and not boring, and we had a ball with the Juggler/comedian. We played some bingo and watched some adventurous folks play games in the Pharaoh's lounge and Karaoke in the Versaille. The only negative I have to say is that the bathroom in the cabin had a bad smell, as did most cabins, but our room steward, Armonde told us to put the seat cover down and it got a little better. Armonde and his staff , again, were great and accommodating. De-embarking was very fast, we were 1st off..........no problems at all. I would like to say that this was my 3rd cruise with Carnival..........the last ones being in the early 90's. In ending....we are booking another cruise to Alaska on the Spirit for next May or June.......by the way the weather was in the 70's. Thanks to all the crew for making us feel at home and special!!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2006
We arrived in Anchorage a week early to visit our daughter who is in the Air Force and is stationed at the Air Force base there, saved on our hotel bill anyway. We did rent a car from Thrifty, a great deal, a Chrysler 300 luxury sedan, for ... Read More
We arrived in Anchorage a week early to visit our daughter who is in the Air Force and is stationed at the Air Force base there, saved on our hotel bill anyway. We did rent a car from Thrifty, a great deal, a Chrysler 300 luxury sedan, for only $99 dollars (unlimited mileage) for the week. We did a lot here with our daughter. We drove to Seward, Alaska and took the eight hour Kenai Fjord Glacier/Wildlife cruise. We had a wonderful time; we saw Orca, Hump Back and Gray whales, stellar sea lions, mountain goats, bears, and eagles. The Glacier was beautiful, the water was crystal clear, and the glacier calved several times for us to the sound of thunder. We stopped at Fox Island on the way back and had a salmon bake. Later in the week we panned for gold and Cold Creek, for $8 dollars you can rent a gold pan, shovel and a bucket and keep all the gold you find. We found that Cold Creek deserved its name, it was cooold. The only one finding any gold was the guy renting the pans. We had a wonderful time panning though. We went form there to the Alaska Wildlife Center and looked at bears, elks, magpies, reindeer and buffalo. It was kind of small, but definitively worth the stop. We went to a reindeer farm just a few miles north of Anchorage in Palmer, Alaska. It was so beautiful, and the reindeer were so gentle, my wife and daughter got to hand feed a day old reindeer and I got to feed a 1500 lb Bull Elk. I was in heaven. We saw so much wildlife, just around the Air Force base, and even out my daughter's apartment there were three moose, we took videos of, right out her window, so close we could have petted them. We had dinner one night in the Sourdough Mining Company one night and took in the "Dusty Sourdough" show outside. Fun for kids and Dusty is a pretty good story teller and singer. Right across the street is the Wild Berry candy factory. They have the largest chocolate fountain in the world, giant stuffed animals, souvenirs, and, oh yeah, candy. During the afternoon they have free tours of the factory and you can watch them make candy, and even sample it, for free. But after a week, we had to go on our cruise south. We took the railroad trip from Anchorage to Whittier, it was so easy, we dropped our bags off with the train porter in Anchorage, and they wound up in our room on the Spirit before we set sail. The train ride to Whittier is wonderful, and you're allowed to go to all parts of the train, so you don't have to sit in one chair the whole ride. There is a dining car, and an observation car, but my wife and I spent most of our time between cars taking pictures. Embarkation was a breeze, step off the train, walk across the street to the Carnival terminal, we stood in line maybe 30 minutes, then it was get our picture taken and then on the boat. Our cabin was on the Main Deck, room 4179, Cat 8a balcony, it spoiled my wife, and we'll never be able to book a window room again. Lots of room, with a king sized bed, a sofa and table, and a vanity with a small chair. There was a TV in the room, with movies for all ages, and you could purchase movies if you wanted something more current. We did have a small refrigerator that was locked, but we asked our steward to unlock it so we could use it and there was no problem. Our steward was Payna, he did a wonderful job keeping the room up, always had lots of ice, and toiletries. If we needed anything extra, we had but to ask. We had the late seating in the Empire dining room. The food was very good, the lobster was cooked very well, and their prime rib was cooked exactly as requested. The taste and variety of desserts has greatly improved. Our waiter was Armando, who kept us smiling all night, and would always leave us with a laugh as we left the dining room. His assistant Inyoman always kept our glasses full and brought me Cappuccino every night. The entertainment was very good. The stage shows were full of energy, the comedians were hilarious. Although I find them funnier in the family show, than the Rated R show. It's like they're forcing crudeness and it isn't as funny. The "All Star" show at the end of the cruise was outstanding. You never knew there were so many talented passengers on the ship. The dancers joined in, the cruise directors helped out, costumes for the singers, wow! Great job. Our first day was cruising Prince William Sound and the college glaciers. This was an awesome sight. Even thought we had a balcony, we still went up to the Lido deck to look so we didn't miss anything. The ship does arrive early (6:30 am), so we called room service for 6:00 and they showed up right on time. So we opened our curtain and watched the ship sail past ice bergs and sea otters, while we sipped hot chocolate and ate croissants while we woke up. The Glaciers are beautiful, the colors are amazing. The Harvard glacier didn't calve very much for us, but it was early in the season. The life boat drill was at 9:00 am, as it was very cool outside, this was an easy drill to live with as the vests just kept us that much warmer. A very relaxing day at sea followed. The first stop was at Sitka, we signed up for the semi-submersible tour, this was kind of disappointing as the water is very murky and you can't see much. We took a similar tour in Jamaica and saw all sorts of sea life. The only sea life you saw here was jelly fish, and what ever the divers found for you on camera, and then they would bring up one or two for you to look at through the windows. Save your money on this one. Everything in Sitka is within walking distance of the pier. The Indian dancers are five minutes away, the Russian cathedral is five minutes away, and the Raptor center is a 30 minute walk. We enjoyed all of those after the submersible trip. Exiting the boat is by tender, which can be very annoying even with a shore excursion. Wait in line to wait in line, Carnival really needs to do something about all the lines. The second day was Juneau. This is our longest port time, get there at 8:00 am and don't leave until 11:00 PM. You can do plenty of excursions here; it's most popular for whale watching. Wow what a beautiful area, we didn't book an excursion from the boat, you can walk to the tourist center and get a combination Mildenhall Glacier/tram ticket for $45 per person. But save your money just buy the tram ticket for $21 dollars and catch the shuttle to Mildenhall Glacier for $6 each way. The excursion only gives you 50 minutes or so in the park, and that's not nearly enough time. Take the shuttle and stay as long as you want, the shuttles run until 6:00 PM. So many photo ops; beaver ponds, water falls, and icebergs just feet from shore. Beautiful! We ate lunch at the Red Dog saloon, very fun tourist trap establishment, well worth the stop. The tram to the top of the mountain is nice, but you're not at the top, that's a good mile hike form the nature center, very beautiful stroll. There was still snow on the ground and even had avalanche warning areas. We loved it. By the time we got back to the boat, we were ready for a snack and a nap before dinner. Day four was Skagway, so cold and blustery. We didn't take an excursion here, but shopped instead. We toured the Red Onion Saloon/Brothel for 5 dollars ($5 for fifteen minutes just like the "old days"). It was very entertaining. We found the Back Ally rock shop (free). Very impressive stone sculptures, made on site, we toured the ivory museum (free). You need to walk around and look for these things, but they are there for free. The next day was Ketchikan. We took the Saxan Village and Lumber Jack show. By the time we got to Ketchikan, we had toured so many Indian villages, community centers and seen the dancers, so we were under impressed with the Saxan Village. The Totem poles were interesting though. We loved the lumber Jack show, no video cameras allowed. They team you up by country (USA or Canada) and it really doesn't matter which side you're on, the whole show is a hoot. Day six at sea. Packing, playing in the casino, wishing it didn't have to end. But it did. We bought the transfer to the Vancouver airport when we bought our tickets, well worth the money. We waited for our color tag to be called, no lines, and we got straight on a bus to the airport. The driver pointed out interesting sites along the way; I have never gotten off of a Carnival boat so quickly and easily. We had to wait 30 minutes at the airport for the luggage to arrive, but that was a small inconvenience. We loved this cruise and loved the Spirit. This was our third cruise. We sailed the Inspiration in 2001 and had a wonderful time. We cruise the Elation last year and had a horrible experience. This cruise was the tie breaker and Carnival came through. This boat was so nice and the experience far exceeded our expectations and I would recommend this boat and cruise to anyone. Read Less
Sail Date May 2006
This was our 12th cruise with Carnival since 1998 with our 2 sons. Embarkation was a breeze. We used Carnival to transfer us from Anchorage (the Hilton) to Whittier. We found the ship to be clean and beautiful. The staff was excellent. Our ... Read More
This was our 12th cruise with Carnival since 1998 with our 2 sons. Embarkation was a breeze. We used Carnival to transfer us from Anchorage (the Hilton) to Whittier. We found the ship to be clean and beautiful. The staff was excellent. Our room, with an wonderful view from our balcony, was spacious and our cabin steward was perfect. Our sons have outgrown Camp Carnival, but the CC staff has always been professional. My youngest son is a special needs child and I am extremely overprotective. The CC staff has been an absolute dream on every ship we have sailed. I heard equally wonderful things about this Camp Carnival staff. My son did participate in the older teen activities and had a great time. He is 17. He made lots of friends. We had already done a week in the Alaskan Interior (and our youngest son can't do standard shore excursions) so we did not participate in those. However, I heard rave reviews about the train in Skagway and the whale watching in Juneau. The food was fine on Lido, as well as in the formal dining room. The staff in our formal dining room were attentive, but not overbearing. There was plenty of selection from the deli to pizza to the lunch offerings during the day. And of course, room service 24 hours a day. The entertainment was fine. My husband enjoyed the shows. We also enjoyed the various musicians playing through out the ship. The ports were interesting and easy to get around on your own. There was lots of Alaskan flavor at every port. Overall, a well-maintained ship and excellent staff (combined with breathtaking scenery) made for a wonderful cruise. Debarkation was painless....even though we have to go through Canadian customs as we exited the ship and American customs the next morning at the airport. Read Less
Sail Date July 2005
Carnival Spirit Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.5 4.4
Dining 4.5 4.0
Entertainment 4.5 3.6
Public Rooms 3.5 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 4.0
Family 5.0 4.0
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.7
Enrichment 3.0 3.5
Service 5.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.5 4.1
Rates 4.0 4.2

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