We just returned from our 1st cruise to Alaska. I cannot begin to describe what a beautiful state it is. The scenary is outstanding! Don't forget your camera and binoculars! You will need them everyday!
Getting on the ship in Seattle was no problem. The lines were long but seemed to move quickly. We boarded around 12PM. Our luggage was brought to our room around 2PM which gave us time to grab lunch at the buffet and explore the ship. Getting off the ship when we returned took longer than they expected. We were "scheduled" to be off at 8:30AM. It was 9:45 before our colored luggage tag was called. Getting thru customs was very quick and easy. The lines look long, but move quick!
If you like sodas, buy the "coke card" for $25. It's all you can drink and most of the time my husband and I just drank off one card (no need to buy two).
Our main disappointment was the "anytime dining" in the Sterling, Santa Fe, Pacific Moon, and Vivaldi restaurants. Before we left for our cruise, I read every review on the ship I could find. Obviously last year those restaurants served speciality meals along with what was also being served in the dining room. I read that Santa Fe served fresh made guacamole with the meals, Pacific Moon served sushi rolled table side, etc, etc, etc. Well, NOT this year. All the dining rooms served the exact same thing as the (International) main dining room. So the only reason to book "anytime dining" is so that you can eat "anytime" they are open. The Vivaldi restaurant doesn't open until 8PM, so we never ate there since we like to eat between 6:30 and 7PM. The reservation service is a joke unless you book very early in the day. Don't wait until 2-4 in the afternoon because they won't have anything available until later. It's much easier to just "walk in" the restaurant and wait for a table. We never had to wait longer than 10 mins.
The other disappointment was getting off the ship in Juneau. With 3000 people all trying to get off 2 gangways at the same time--there was little organization and it was mainly just a mad rush (imagine leaving a major rock concert as soon as it's over and they only have 2 doors open leaving the stadium). YIKES! We were pushed, shoved, and touched inappropriately buy the people behind us as they tried to move ahead. Getting off at Skaway and Ketchikan was much easier because we dock very early when most people were still sleeping.
Just a little heads-up about some things. --No organization to the buffet line. It a feeding frenzy. Watch out! The food is good once you get it. --You have to pay for Ice Cream at the Ice Cream bar, better to just order it after dinner for dessert since it's included in your meal. --Don't expect to make it to every port. We were unable to go into Tracey Arm due to fog and safety reasons and we were 1.5 hrs late into Victoria BC because of engine trouble which slowed us down. All excursions were cancelled since we aren't there very long to begin with. We also heard that another ship on another cruise line missed two of their ports because of weather. --It is a very big ship but easy to find your way around if you carry the little map they provide in you state room. Enjoy!
Dana and Jon Abney