July 6, 2005
This was our 12th Carnival cruise, but 1st time in Alaska. We arrived in Anchorage one week ahead of the cruise and rented a car for a tour of the interior. We did a complete circle from Denali to Fairbanks to Glennallen and back to Anchorage. Unless you are into fishing, if I had it to do over again....I would simply concentrate by time between Anchorage and Fairbanks on the Denali side, with a side trip to the east to walk on the glacier just east of Palmer. (Mile marker 102 Hwy 1) Well worth the $12.50 per adult to drive your car up to it and walk on it.
We stayed at the Hilton in Anchorage (right next to the Egan Center). But be advised that you will have to pull your luggage about 1 1/2 blocks to the Egan Center. We were blessed to have our luggage ready, when they were picking up the luggage from the rooms for a 8:30AM Carnival tour, and we gave the bellman $7 (for 4 pieces) to pick up our luggage with theirs.
We paid for the $49.95 per person for the Carnival (Holland Tours) transfer to Whittier. We arrived at Egan around 10:15am and there is a very nice conference room where you wait. You check-in right there (but don't pick up your room keys until you get to the ship). If you are pulling your luggage, you give it to a very nice young man before heading down the escalator to the Conference Room. We were on the second shuttle to be called that left at 11:00AM. (The first shuttle left at 10:30AM) Very nice coach ride down. Since you can only go through the Whittier tunnel ( one lane) at a certain time, we stopped at the Wildlife Reserve just before you get to Whittier and got to view it for free. An excellent stop. This is not always a guarantee, but they do try to stop if possible.
Exiting the bus, we simply picked up our room key,(our Platinum Sail & Sign....our 14 year old was so excited that he was Platinum) went through security and got our picture taken and we were on board by 1:30pm. What a breeze!! They have not implemented the Elite (black cards) yet, because my husband cruised 9 times when he was single with Carnival (total 21) and he still got the Platinum.
The ship is beautiful. We had cabin 5289 w/balcony(which was on Upper - Starboard side) Yes, we survived not having a port side room! Amporn was our Cabin Steward and the best one my husband has had in his 21 cruises with Carnival. We had plenty of room for 2 adults and 2 teenage boys. I would recommend you take extra hangers. A very nice room with comfortable king size bed (two twins pushed together - but you could not tell it) for us and that wonderful duvet. The boys slept on the twin bed/couch and one pull down. One word of warning about this location at the rear of the ship, I could not use my balcony as much as I would have liked because the crew smoke right below your balcony on their breaks. So if you are sensitive to smoke, do not get a balcony at the rear of the ship. If I had paid the money for the rear suite next door, I would have really been upset.
I can not address shore excursions, since our son is a special needs child....we could not do the ones they offered this trip. Since we had spent so much time in the interior (and walked on a glacier) we don't feel we missed anything. I heard great reviews from other guests about Captain Larry Orca in Juneau and the Railroad Trip in Skagway.
All ports are within walking distance with Ketchikan being the closest. Please note that if you are going to take the city bus in Juneau to the Mendenhall Glacier that it is a 2 mile walk (30 minutes) from the bus stop to the glacier. It is about an hour ride to your stop. I would recommend the $5 per person (each way) Glacier Express. You will see the the buses as you enter the welcome center of Juneau.
We had no lines or wait to get off or on the ship. But then we came and went at odd times, since we did not have any tours.
You must take binoculars...but they will sell or rent them from the ship. You can glass the mountains for dall sheep and the shorelines for sea otters, etc. Michelle is an excellent naturalist with just the right amount of announcements. Not overwhelming but informative.
Food - This is only the slight down side based on other Carnival ships. In the formal dining room, I only eat beef and the beef fares on this cruise were not as good as the previous cruises. Don't get me wrong...they were still good (commercial restaurant quality) but clearly the worst of all the ships I have sailed. Soups were great. The chocolate desserts on this ship were to strong with the chocolate...but that is a personal opinion.
Lido was fine with lots of variety. Loved the Deli. Great pizza. Great burgers and hot dogs. They kept the tables clean and neat. They were constantly coming around with coffee or tea for refills. I found all the ice cream dispensers on Lido and used them constantly.
Entertainment was fine. I am not a show person, but hubby enjoyed it. I spent my time in karaoke and had a great time with Emie. Don Russell was in the piano bar and he is ok. Not the most personable fellow I have ever met. Talked more about his knowledge of Broadway and musical history than he did playing, so I did not go in there much. I play the piano and sing and felt he played all the sing along tunes way to fast.
Michael Lee was playing guitar in the Casino and was excellent. Steve was playing guitar in the Atrium and was good the few times I heard him. They usually play the same time as karaoke....so that limited my listening time. The best entertainers of the trip were the Russell Duo (not to be confused with the piano player). I think their first names were Stan and Sue (but I could be wrong) They were the duo in Club Cool (underneath the piano bar) and they were fabulous. Extremely friendly and fun. Great musicians. This is the first cruise I have been on where the duo lounge was packed every night.
I don't do casinos, so I can't report on the gambling. My oldest son enjoyed the older teen activities and my youngest son did not participate in Camp Carnival this time (due to fears of Funship Freddie). But I did get to meet the wonderful Camp Carnival staff and they would have been a delight to have care for my children.
Beautiful weather and Havard glacier putting on quite a show just topped off this wonderful cruise.
We were the last ones off the ship (since we were spending the night in Vancouver). Please note that the taxi lines are very long, but they do move quickly. However, we saw a problem with passengers who had a Yellow Taxi voucher to the airport. There were very few Yellow taxis at the time we disembarked and they ended up paying the $30.00 to the airport just to make their flight.
So if your travel agent offers you a "deal" on airport transportation through Yellow Taxi (not all yellow taxis are "Yellow Taxi") I would say no...if your flight leaves before 1:30pm. (especially if you have a large group like these 32 folks did)
American customs at Vancouver were thorough, but very nice the next morning at 5:00AM. And we were on the way home on our 6:15AM flight.
Overall - we had a wonderful time. The scenery was wonderful, the ship is beautiful and well staffed and the ports are awesome.