We are first time cruisers. There were three couples, in our 50's and 60's, all from Michigan.
We decided to fly into Vancouver a day prior to our cruise. We took United Airlines flights, arrived on time and proceeded through customs. We had superior rooms reserved at the BLUE HORIZON hotel, wonderful rooms and the view was breathtaking!!!!! The six of us and luggage took two taxi's, and the fare was $35.00 each cab. Once we arrived at the Blue Horizon, one of the couples discovered that they had left one of their bags at the airport. They had miscounted and simply neglected to take it off the baggage claim conveyor. The were in a panic, as it would now cost them another $70.00 to taxi back to the airport, pick up the bag and then taxi back to the hotel. Upon calling the airport and talking to United's service desk, they found the bag and delivered it to the hotel FREE OF CHARGE!!!!! We were amazed and very thankful.
We left our hotel at check-out time and took two taxi's to the pier. The cost was about $12.00 per cab.
The RADIANCE OF THE SEAS was beautiful!!!!!! We checked in, got our SeaPass and headed to the Centrum bar for a drink. We loved our waiter, SHORTY, and visited him many times during the trip.
We then decided to have lunch at the Windjammer Buffet while waiting for our rooms to be ready. I walked up to the "sandwich station" and picked the tong utensil up from the tray to get a sandwich, once I was finished I was looking for an empty space on the tray to re-lay the tong utensil down and the station employee grabbed the tongs out of my hand and spoke forcefully to me, telling me to "put them down!" The lady next to me looked at me and we both had a look of "Oh My God, I thought he was going to spank me" I was really upset and thought, what have I done, spent all this money for a cruise to be treated like this? Well, let me assure you that was the ONLY employee that ever acted like that. Everyone else, and I mean EVERYONE else, was kind, courteous and wonderful.
Formal Nights and Dining Our men opted for dress shirts and ties for formal nights, ladies for dressy pants outfits, and we all fit right in. Tuxedos were rare, suits were common, and dress shirt and ties were VERY common. The food in the dining room was wonderful!!! Our waiters Cecilia and Reynaldo were excellent.
The rooms were wonderful, the shows were wonderful, and we had a wonderful vacation. The only negative thing we had was the weather. For the week of July 18th-July 25th, it was one of the coldest on record in Alaska, with temps in the 54-59 range. We were prepared and did a lot of layering, lot of fleece and thank goodness for those thermal underwear we brought.
Excursions We did the Taku Glacier Floatplane and Feast in Juneau, and I highly recommend this excursion. The flight was awesome, the food was great, and you talk about seeing bears? I mean up close bears. One fellow is grilling salmon, while the other two have sticks to chase the bears back!
The Railway Trail and Camp Adventure in Skagway was another excursion we did. We took the bus up to Liarsville, saw the show, panned for gold and took the railway back. I think this is a ONE time excursion that you need if you want to see the beautiful scenery from the train, but I would not do it again if I went back. It is important to sit on the left side of the train if you are going up, and to sit on the right side if coming down.
We did the Zip Line excursion in Icy Straight Point. WOW! This was awesome and all six of us did it! I would do this over and over if I could. What they don't tell you until after you buy your ticket is that if you get to the top of the mountain and chicken out, they will drive you back down, but no REFUND. So make sure you can do this before you pay, but it is sooooooo worth it.
Disembarkation and Seward We had to fill out a questionnaire and it asked about your travel arrangements after the cruise. This is how they decide what color of luggage tags you are given and when you are called to leave the ship.
We opted to stay for the day and night in Seward, making reservations ahead of time at the MURPHY MOTEL. I would only stay here if you are looking for something on the cheaper side, as you get what you pay for.
My HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION, whether you are traveling to ANCHORAGE upon departure or not until the next day, is using MAGIC BUS transportation. I picked up the recommendation for them from another Cruise Critic, and what a great choice this was!
We were picked up on Saturday morning (they can also pick you up at the pier, or in Anchorage to travel to Seward). Our driver "Patrick" came for us in a shuttle van, and we could have fit 11 passengers in that van, with luggage tucked in the back. But we only had the three couples and tons of room inside! Patrick gave us many options, and would discuss each one, explain what they were, how much time and then let us make the decisions. We stopped at Summit Lodge for a rest stop and to browse the gift shop, then on to the Wildlife Reserve which was really great and only cost $5.00 per person. There we saw buffalo, moose, musk ox, bear, elk, eagle, and caribo. What a great stop. We stopped at the Alpine Inn and saw the beautiful hotel. They also have a tram car that you can take to the top of the mountain and have lunch. We saw wildlife along the drive, a moose on the side of the road and Patrick turned that shuttle around and got us some great photo ops. We saw a bear walking right down the middle of the rail tracks, and we had a bear walk across the street in front of the shuttle and watched it go up onto the porch of a house! Patrick told us about a flea market shopping experience in Anchorage, and we opted to do that. He dropped us off, gave us his cell phone number and let us shop until we were ready for pick up. We had dinner reservations at the Glacier Brewhouse in Anchorage (based on Tim's recommendation -- owner of the Magic Bus) and the dinner was excellent. Patrick picked us up and showed us around Anchorage until it was time for us to be dropped off at the airport. Patrick told us many stories and brought pictures of bears that he or friends had encountered while in Alaska, and we could not have been more pleased with the service. It was a perfect ending to a great trip.
We will never forget our trip!