Alaska Blog/Review June 5-12
Thursday - June 4th.
Seven of us flew on Delta from Florida the day before the cruise. Flight was uneventful. We had 10 checked bags that arrived in baggage claim right when we walked up. ... Read More
Alaska Blog/Review June 5-12
Thursday - June 4th.
Seven of us flew on Delta from Florida the day before the cruise. Flight was uneventful. We had 10 checked bags that arrived in baggage claim right when we walked up. We then waited 20 minutes or so for my aunt and cousin who were arriving from Michigan. After the whole gang was together, we went to the Shuttle Express kiosk and waited for our pre-booked van. The van arrived within 10 minutes. The driver was VERY talkative on the trip to our hotel. Arrived at the Residence Inn Marriot in Lake Union. We had originally booked 3 rooms at this hotel for $200 a night via the Marriott website, but we later bid via Priceline and got the rooms for $60 a night. We then got a free upgrade to a 2 bedroom suite. Very nice hotel - friendly staff. We had dinner at Buck's Charter house right across the street. Good chowder and food - nice view of the lake.
Friday - June 5th
Woke up and had a wonderful free buffet at the hotel. Then 6 of us took the trolley (located right down the street) to downtown Seattle. Trolley stopped right at Nordstrom's, so we shopped for last minute items there and at Macy's . Hopped back on the trolley and went back to hotel. We had made reservations for Shuttle Express for 11:25 and they were there waiting for us - great service! Arrived at Pier 91 in 15 minutes or so. Although there were hardly any cars there - we were required to park at the very end of the drop off area and had to walk quite far (my Aunt is 87 and has some difficulty walking long distances). We checked all our bags and headed right up the escalator. At the top of the escalator we were all handed a piece of paper and then directed to stand in line. I didn't read the paper as I was the designated organizer and since we had 9 of us, ranging in age from 16 to 87, there wasn't much time. (More on this later). Within 5 minutes, all of us were sent to different desks to check - in. We were done within 10 minutes - pictures and all. We were each given numbers of when to board. I had group 1 as I was in a suite. The others were given group 6. I waited with the others and we were all boarded within 20 minutes. This was by far the easiest embarkation I have ever had. (I have cruised 5 other times - a Baltic cruise with HAL and several Caribbean cruises with Carnival.) Everyone was directed to the Lido for lunch - which wasn't too crowded.
After our lunch we all headed to the Navigation Deck where our cabins were located. My daughters' and sister and niece had the "secret cabins" on the aft deck. Both rooms were set up with the beds together. There was a room steward finishing up down the hall so we asked if he could separate the beds - his facial expression was one of disgust! He said.. "yes, yes -I will do it!" We all looked at each other like - "oh gee, hope he isn't our room steward." We then headed down to my aunt's room right down the hall and hers was fine. My Aunt has some difficulty walking long distances so we had arranged with Care Vacations to have a wheelchair rental for the week. The wheelchair was waiting for her in her cabin.
Next up, our suite. We were in cabin 7016. The room was ready, so we all went out and sat on the balcony. It was really nice out there. We brought out 2 of the chairs from the living room and still had plenty of room to move around.
An hour later our luggage arrived and we spent a little time unpacking prior to the muster. There was plenty of room for all our luggage - although not enough hangers. Muster went well -the weather in Seattle was beautiful so it wasn't too bad in the life jackets.
After the muster, we headed back to the cabin and then went exploring the ship. The Zaandam is in good condition. Seemed very clean and had no problem getting around (although my Mom got lost throughout the cruise.)
I then checked out the Neptune Lounge. I was really looking forward to the lounge as I love lattes and espressos in the morning. Our suite was just down the hall from the Neptune. No key card was needed to get in. Nette was the concierge on duty when I first arrived. She introduced herself to me and I inquired about possibly changing one of the key cards. We had paid for my younger daughter (16 years old) to be in our Suite so she did have access to the Lounge, but she wanted to hang out with her sister whenever she wanted. Her sister was in cabin 7086. Nette informed me that if we changed key cards, my daughter would not "be allowed in the Neptune Lounge." This I did not understand. We paid for her in the Suite - we just wanted her to have access to my other daughter's room. The accounts were all under my name so this was not the problem. I spoke with my daughter, and she figured it was more important for her to get into her sisters room - so she gave up the Neptune Lounge access. I did, however, occasionally bring my daughter a cookie or two from the Lounge when she wanted one.
We were assigned fixed traditional early seating on deck 4 of the Rotterdam. However, after I inquired, I was told that half of this floor was for "anytime dining", so there was a line at the maitre d stand (Ronny). We were informed to pass the line and go to our table - which we did, but it seemed that we did get some strange looks on our way - like "why are those people cutting the line?" The meal was very good - although the desserts were not that great (I am a huge dessert fan!) and my Mom said that the meat was very "chewy." Our server (I believe his name was Eric) was very nice and accommodating.
Later that night as I was getting ready for bed I happened to see the letter that was given to us just prior to checking in... I was quite surprised. It said that on the previous cruise there were reported cases of the swine flu and we were given the option of cancelling our cruise with a full refund. Wow! I am quite sure that no one took this option as they most likely did not have time to read the letter prior to checking in?? Anyway, we all vowed to be even more diligent in our cleansing and hand washing!
Saturday June 6th - Sea Day
The trip to Juneau was smooth (for me anyway). A few in our group felt a little seasick and had to take Bonine and Dramamine.
My Mom went to Mass and said it was nice.
After breakfast in the lido I went to the gym. This area is smaller than what I had seen on other cruise ships. It was also difficult to get any of the machines. The treadmills, elliptical, and recumbent bikes were full. After waiting for 10-15 minutes, I was able to jump on an elliptical and got a pretty good workout.
We all went to the Battle of the Sexes game show. Two in our group were selected to be on stage. If they hadn't, we probably would have found this a bit boring. But, since we knew the competitors, it was funny to see them up on the stage.
My Mom went to the Pilates class in the gym - she said it was pretty good - a little slower than what she was used to at home.
A few went to the Bingo game - but didn't win.
Dinner was formal. Most were dressed very nice - some tuxes but not a lot. The food was good - but, again the dessert was disappointing. This night we had Aquis? for our server. He was great - very accommodating. My daughter was a bit seasick and he brought her tea and ginger. He also had her meal come right away as he said it would be helpful. We all wished he would have been our server the rest of the cruise (more on this later.)
Later we went to the Wajang Theater and watched the Yes Man - which was pretty funny. It was rated PG - although it did have a few risquE scenes. Right after a particularly risquE scene, several older folks got up and left the theatre. The rest of the movie I sat and worried that my Mom might be offended (she is 76) but she ended up falling asleep. Ha!
Sunday June 7th - Juneau
Beautiful day. Weather was perfect - maybe even a little too warm.
We arrived at the pier a little before noon. It was a little chaotic disembarking. Long lines (we were right up front as our shore excursion began at 12:30. Within 20 minutes we got off and were on our way.
We had a private whale watching tour booked with Orca enterprises. Captain Larry. They seemed a bit disorganized at check-in but soon enough we were all on the van to the pier. There were maybe 20-30 folks on our boat. Smooth waters. Saw bald eagles, humpback whales (mom and baby), and orcas. Got great pictures of all. I spent most of my time on the top deck (when we weren't moving fast). Did not feel crowded at all. I saw the boat the cruise ships use for their shore excursions and was happy I hadn't gone that route. They were 2-3 deep with people. They did seem to be following us a lot that day, though!
After the tour, Orca took 6 of us in one van to meet up with Coastal Helicopters for our helicopter/dog sled tour. 3 others were taken via Orca to Mendenhall Glacier.
Coastal was wonderful! We had to get on the scale to get our weight and then they set us up in our gear - nice pants, boots, etc. We then waited a few minutes for our helicopter. Our pilot, Brad was super nice. I was a bit nervous, but he made us all very comfortable. I was surprised to hear that we were going over 100 mph as it felt like we were hardly moving. At the dog camp, we met our mushers - Jessica and Robert. These 2 are veterinary students and couldn't have been nicer. It was just our party at the camp. Everyone had a great time and we all had a chance to "mush." The dogs were all very friendly and we were able to spend some time visiting with the dogs and took a lot of pictures. It was such a gorgeous day - we didn't even need jackets. On the helicopter trip back, my sister was the co-pilot and got to "help" start the helicopter. She loved it! Great experience and well worth the money spent here. My kids and niece said that this excursion was their favorite of all.
We were dropped off by coastal back at the pier - it was still early as we weren't leaving until 10 pm so we headed to a pizza place right next to the pier and the kids had a pizza. We then went back to the ship and went right to the Lido for a late dinner. Dinner there was nice - not too many choices. The dessert was OK. Ice cream line was very long and had to wait a while. It was a long day, so we all headed to the cabin and went to bed.
The 3 that had gone to Mendenhall Glacier after our whale watching tour were picked up by Orca and taken back to the pier at the designated time. All 3 said the Mendenhall Glacier was not that great. They got back to the ship early, but were too tired to go to dinner, so they all ordered room service. My Mom said the BLT and chocolate cake were wonderful.
Monday - June 8th Tracy Arm (NOT!)
I had set the alarm to get up early so as not to miss any of the glacier trip, but unfortunately, we were not able to go into Tracy Arm. The captain made an announcement and from what I could hear (it was difficult at times to understand him in the room), is that they had attempted twice to assess the channel into Tracy Arm and found there to be too much ice? Therefore, he made the decision to go into Endicott arm instead and see the Dawes glacier. I had not heard anything about this area in the message boards so I really didn't know what to expect. We saw some small "icebergs" heading toward the glacier. There were a ton of seals on the pieces of ice. It was nice to sit out on the balcony and enjoy the scenery, however it was a little disappointing. The glacier itself was just "there"- nothing to really view. The ship turned left and right to give us different viewing of the glacier...it got old very fast. We walked the lower promenade deck and then spent most of the day playing catchphrase and spoons in the cabin - that was fun!
We had ordered an appetizer party for 3 that afternoon from the Neptune Lounge. It arrived right on time and consisted of chicken wings and some cold appetizers.
Dinner was smart casual. This night we had Eddi? for our server. I am sorry... but, he was awful. He was not pleasant and we felt uncomfortable asking for anything "special." My sister was even afraid to ask for extra caramel on her ice cream.
We all went to bed fairly early tonight.
Tuesday - June 9th - Sitka
Another nice day - a bit overcast but cleared up later.
We arrived in Sitka a little after 8 am. We had booked 2 separate private tours for 1 pm, but we wanted to explore the town first, so we went down to the tender level shortly after 9. We only had to wait a few minutes to get on the tender. The staff was very helpful with my Aunt's wheelchair - they carried it on the tender and took it off for us. It was difficult to get her up the ramp at the pier as it was quite steep. Once in Sitka, we walked to the Raptor center. This was an easy walk for us but was made a little difficult because of the wheelchair. We had walked through the park (which was very pretty) and it was dirt and stone, so my Aunt had to walk.
The Raptor center was very nice. The staff there was informative and the animals were beautiful. We ended up taking a taxi/van service back to the pier. I had been given a card at the pier, so I called them and they were there in 5 minutes to pick us all up. 5 of us then met with Jim Seeland of Sitka Sound Tours. I had had many emails with Jim to set this excursion up and he was very patient and knowledgeable. Unfortunately, his boat had some mechanical problems on the day of the excursion, but he was able to get another boat chartered. The group that went with him had a great time and said Jim was very informative - they saw whales, otters, seals, puffins, etc. My sister was in the group and got seasick. The waters were very calm - like glass in most areas - but, whenever they stopped the motion got to her.
My younger daughter and I went with Capt. Davey on the Esther G. There were 3 other folks on our tour. We saw the same animals as the other group, except we spent a little more time with the grey whales (one was right by our boat) and more time near a rocky island that had a ton of seals lounging. This was an exhilarating experience. I would have to say that this was one of my favorite excursions. Capt. Davey was terrific! And we also were given some amazing chocolate chip cookies - remember, I am all about the dessertsJ Last tender back to our ship was at 4:30, so Capt Davey got us back just in time.
My daughter and her boyfriend had an excursion through HAL - the Ultimate Adventure - Boat raft and 4 X 4. They both loved it and said it was a great excursion. They did come back quite dirty as the paths on the trail had not seen rain for a week.
Once onboard, we got dressed for the second formal dinner. Some in our group were tired and my sister was still a little seasick so it was just me and 4 of the "kids" (16-19 years old) for dinner. Since we were not our usual 9, I asked if we could be seated at a different table and were given a 6 top. It was perfect - right by the windows and thankfully, we had a different server. He was very accommodating, and friendly. My niece had ordered the night before for today's dinner (a vegetarian meal) and he was able to find her order and she loved it. Again, most dressed appropriately - some tuxes, but not the majority. The food was good.. just not great We had an early day scheduled in Ketchikan so we went to bed pretty early.
Wednesday - June 10th - Ketchikan
Gorgeous day - really could not have asked for a more beautiful day!
Today 7 of us were scheduled for a floatplane tour (5 with Michelle on Island Wings and 2 through HAL) and the other 2 (my daughter and her boyfriend) were booked with HAL to zipline.
The 5 with Michelle met her van at the pier and had a very short trip to the plane. We met Michelle and soon headed off in the plane. The water was calm and take off smooth. It was truly beautiful to be in the air and see all of the beauty this area has to offer. We were all given headsets and were able to communicate with Michelle and the others in our party. Michelle also played pretty music while we were flying. It was very surreal. Michelle pointed out different areas and was very knowledgeable about the area. Michelle landed so smoothly in a lake I didn't even know we had landed. We stopped on a small island to enjoy the majestic view. Quite beautiful and amazing...no words can describe the beauty.
On the way back to Ketchikan, we saw Orcas "playing" in the water and Michelle circled around 3 times so we could get good views (and pictures). The other 2 on the HAL floatplane said they also had a wonderful trip - however, they did not get off on an island and they didn't see the Orcas.
Later, Michelle mentioned that she could have taken our whole group although there would have been 7 of us. I was surprised as I had thought there could only be 6 on the plane, but I guess I was thinking of the boat tours? Michelle said the limit was 8 as long as the weight was under 1200. Since we were all thin, we would not have had a problem meeting the weight requirement L We didn't tell the other 2 this information as I know they would have been disappointed to know that they could have flown with Michelle, too. Anyway - Michelle was absolutely wonderful. It is very apparent that she loves her job. It is now difficult to decide which the best excursion was for me as all were more than we could have asked for...
After another super smooth landing, we got off the plane and a young man drove us back to the pier. We inquired about good places to eat and he recommended several in the area. My sister and I went to Burger Queen just past the tunnel - great burgers. My aunt, Mom and cousin ate at Annabelles - right across from the pier. They said it was very good. My daughter and niece ate at a "wrap restaurant" down the street from the Ketchikan sign (Mission Ave I believe). They loved them.
We got back on the ship just in time for sail away. We would have like to have had much more time here in Ketchikan as it seemed to be a nice little town.
We all got dressed - smart casual- and headed to dinner. We were back at our regular table and again we had Eddi as our server- not good. My daughter's boyfriend asked for another appetizer after we had finished our first appetizer and he said "no - it is not allowed" very rudely. Aquis had no problem bringing extra appetizers or desserts to any of our party, yet Eddi said that it would mess everything up in the kitchen. My niece again had ordered her vegetarian dinner the night before (like we were instructed to do) so we told Eddi this... his reply "oh, really?" We said yes, he said there was no order for this. I told him we had given the order to Nette in the Neptune and she had told us that morning that she had placed the order. Eddi stated that it would be very difficult to have her order now and she would need to order from the regular menu. Well, my niece is a strict vegetarian and was somewhat disappointed. When Eddi passed the table we asked again if he could check with Nette and he looked very displeased but said he would. Lo and behold, he comes out with her vegetarian appetizer and meal. When our desserts came we liked the chocolate mousse so we asked for extras - again, his expression showed disgust. He brought the extra desserts and practically threw them in the middle of the table. Later, I spoke with the maitre d about why we had different servers every night. He said the first few nights, our server was sick so we had others "fill in" for him. Obviously, Eddi was considered our server for the trip and we were not too happy about this. Never once did we see him smile. I think this might have been related to being on the anytime dining floor (although, we had traditional dining.)
Went to the Magic/Comedy Show - Jeff Peterson. He was really good - funny too. And the dog was adorable!
Thursday June 11th - Victoria
Another beautiful day...
We were scheduled to arrive at 7 pm today so we planned a leisurely day. I worked out in the gym for 2 hours. Very few people were there that day. By the time I was done, I was the only one in the gym - it was great. We went to bingo - no winners in our group. We played board games in the suite. Had a relaxing day.
None in our group wanted to eat in the Rotterdam dining room due to Eddi - so, we went to the Lido and had a nice meal. The Lido was not very organized. It took a long time to get our meals and many people were quite rude and cutting in lines. Also, we had a difficult time finding a place to all sit together as many folks that only had 2 (or even 1) person in their party sat at the bigger tables. We ended up having to eat out by the pool and just pushed 3 round tables together.
We were in Victoria sometime after 7. When they made the announcement that we could disembark, we headed down and found very long lines so we went back to the room and waited 30 minutes. At that time, there weren't too many folks and we were off the ship within 10 minutes. We all boarded a bus right out front ($6.50 roundtrip) and headed to Victoria. Beautiful city - weather was gorgeous. A little windy and chillier than the other days, but still very nice. We just walked around and looked at the street vendors - people playing music, dancing, etc. We shopped a little. I found the prices to be quite high. The chocolate shop was charging $4.75 for a Lindt chocolate bar that I just paid $2.50 for at Walgreens in Florida. They had a good chocolate covered cheesecake on a stick.
We all really enjoyed Victoria and wished we could have stayed a bit longer. After being dropped off at the pier, we stopped in Customs and got our passports souvenir stamped. The security guards were very nice - one volunteered to take pictures of all us next to the mural.
We had signed up for Signature Luggage so we put our bags in the hall by 1:00 am and didn't see them again until we arrived home. (Although, some of our luggage was ruined - we had brand new nice luggage that arrived with broken wheels and handles - not sure if this was Delta or HAL so couldn't really do anything about it.)
Friday - June 12th - Seattle
After such a wonderful cruise, this was a real disappointment. Thursday afternoon, we had been given a letter saying which group we were in for disembarkation. The form said 8:00 - However, since our flight was not departing until 10:20 pm we had plenty of time. Therefore, I had requested a late disembarkation. I talked with Nette in the Neptune Lounge and she stated that was fine... we could all leave anytime after 8:00 up until 9:45. I told her 9:00 would be good. So, we all ordered room service from 7:30 to 8:00. However, at 7:50 I hear someone trying to get in our room. I arrive to the door just as the door was opening and it was Putu - our room steward. He said "oh, are you just getting up." I said no, but we weren't ready to leave yet as we had not had our breakfast yet. I told him that we planned to leave by 9:00. He had a garbage bag in his hands and he wanted to come in and "clean the garbage"... I asked if he could wait as my Mom was still dressing. He didn't seem too happy about this. I understand that there are new people coming and they need to clean the rooms, but why tell someone they have until 9:45 and then come in before 8 to clean?? A few minutes later an overhead announcement was made that disembarkation had begun and passengers could begin to leave the ship. Not 5 minutes later the door is opening again (no one knocked) and it is the honor bar man. He walked right in, saw us and said "I just need to check the refrigerator" - he proceeded to empty out the champagne we had on the counter and take the orange juice out of the fridge. I was in total shock of the rudeness. A few minutes later our breakfast arrived. My Mom and I sat down to have our last meal and a quick cup of coffee before we did a final check of the room. Just as I sit down, someone knocks again and starts to enter our room - it is a man wearing a tan jumpsuit - he says "oh" and turns around and leaves. Not 2 minutes later he is on our balcony (he had crossed over from the next suite) and he was hosing down the balcony - picking up the rug - moving the furniture. A few minutes later, another man joined him on the balcony. My Mom hurried off the couch and finished getting dressed. Read Less