This was my first cruise and after reading many reviews on this website, I decided to book the 7-night Alaskan cruise from Radiance of the Seas.
The overall experience was very positive for me. We splurged a little and booked the balcony which was quite worth it. Imagine watching snow mountains and glaciers out of your window 24/7! Plus the days are so long in Alaska (the sun sets at 11pm in Seward) you want to be able to have at least a window to look outside.
By day 1, all the servers remembered our names and were able to recall our names for the rest of the cruise, which was pretty darn impressive given that there were some 2500 passengers. Speaking of which, the crowd is not what I had imagined at all: mostly retirees and very few families with kids. I'd say the average age on the cruise was 50. However, there still was lots of entertainment on the ship. Amy, the cruise director was amazing. So were the orchestra, the singers and dancers, and all the headline shows. They threw a 70s disco party in the Centrum which was the BEST party I have ever had. It was seriously a great time. Food was amazing. Not the most luxurious food I've ever had. But hey, this is a cruise! I had tiger shrimps, Alaskan salmon, lamb shank, king crabs etc. And they were all done to perfection. Speaking of food, we were very pleased with their My-Time(TM) dining, which allows you to dine at a different time everyday (at your request). The flexibility was AMAZING.
The weather was seriously fabulous. We did not have a single day of rain, which is quite rare from what I hear of Alaska. Even Ketchikan, the wettest town in the country (with 300+ days of rain a year) was sunny and bright with beautiful blue skies. As a result, we did not get to use any of the heavy rain coats, or water-proof hiking boots that we brought (boy were they heavy!). The ports of call were BEAUTIFUL. However, the excursions were EXPENSIVE. I mean like 500/person/2-hour excursion expensive. We easily burned through $5000+ for the whole trip (and that's not including flights!). But they were so worth it. I will give a detailed port-by-port list below, but in general, things you want to do in Alaska are: whale watching, glacier watching, (snow) mountain hiking, rain-forest hiking, wild-life (bears) watching, and TRAINS (who would have thought)! The trains were seriously the highlights of the ENTIRE trip. Then there were small ports with essentially nothing to do (Icy strait point, AKA Hoonah). That's where you do the world's longest zip line (which was SO MUCH fun).
Food and Dining
5 out of 5
Amazing food and service. Even with the My-time dining, we requested to go back to the same server (Eduardo), who was amazing.
5 out of 5
Love the Quest game. Love the 70s disco party. Seriously, have to check them out.
5 out of 5
I never imagined entertainment on the cruise would be so good! Seriously, the singers and dancers were so good and the two headline shows they put up were simply amazing. Matt, the piano man is very talented. So was Julianne the singer (we were joking that she was too good for the cruise).
5 out of 5
N/A we don't have kids. There were also very few kids. But I noticed all the servers worked extra hard to make the few kids happy. Perhaps they have small kids far away back at home. It really warms my heart.
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
LOVE Amy the cruise director. Also Ramil our stateroom attendant, Eduardo and Tyzar, our diner servers, clearly stood out.
5 out of 5
It was a great ship with basic ameneties. You can tell, however, that it was last renovated years ago. And the wifi (which was $170/7days) was EXTREMELY slow. But hey, you are on a vacation. No wi-fi means no work.
Cabin / Stateroom
5 out of 5
Stateroom was beautiful. The stateroom attendant was very detail-oriented. He even made three towel animals for us which was quite a pleasant surprise.
Even though it's cold out, you can go to Solarium (the indoor pool) 24 hours a day. So don't forget to bring swimming suits.
Bring sunscreen for the trip!
Don't forget to check out all the headline shows! (Piano man, City of dreams) And the activities (Quest game, and 70s disco night).
Please, take the train from Anchorage (6:45am) to Seward. Remember to check in one hour early, they will check your luggage and they will be waiting for you at your stateroom! Amazing! However, don't forget to bring a heavy coat (see below). The train is 4.5 hours non-stop beautiful scenery. We also had breakfast at the train cafeteria, which has an amazing window for the view. We ended up staying near the cafeteria for the rest of the trip to take pictures. When you arrive at Seward (11:05am), I highly recommend the Kenai Fjord tours. The advantage of the small boat (as opposed to the big cruise) is that it can get A LOT CLOSER to the glaciers and wild animals. Seriously, breath-taking! Also, don't forget to leave a heavy coat out of the checked luggage at the train station. We didn't realize it would be so cold on the sea (the temperature forecast was quite deceiving). The tour crews were kind enough to lend me a blanket. So very nice of them.
So much to do here. Mendenhall Glacier is a must. Buy the coach tickets off the cruise. $20 round trip. It was beautiful! For lunch, we went to Tracy's King Crab Shack (get the combo!), just like everyone else recommended. It was AMAZING. In the afternoon, when the sun came out, we went up the tram at Mt Roberts. Some people we met on the cruise thought it was just a tram up and down and didn't do it. Oh boy did they regret that! There's a snow-mountain trail on top of Mt Roberts. You can do between a 30 min hike or a 6 hour trek to the top (depending on your fitness). It was BEAUTIFUL and breathtaking. Also there was a rescued eagle named Lady Baltimore. It's probably the one time you can camera a bald eagle up close during the entire trip.
Skagway, mehh. But, Yukon, yay! Highly recommend the white summit train that takes you up the Klondike highway. It was BEAUTIFUL. You can either get off the train and hike in the snow terrain in Yukon, Canada, or take the train all the way and ride it back. We did not know and booked the 7 hour excursion with coach one way and train the other way. DON'T DO IT. You probably waste 4 hours sitting on the bus when we would have loved to hike some in the snow. Also, don't do the dog sled here. It's sledding with wheels in the forest. NOT the REAL DEAL. The only real thing is when they helicopter you to the top of the glacier, and have dog sled on the snow. It is expensive though ($520-600/person).
There's really not that much to do here. So we did the zip line. It's the worlds longest zipline. Takes 40 mins to get up, and 90 seconds to get down. You start higher than the Empire building, and end up 60+ mph. Very much fun! The view is breath-taking if there are no clouds. And we were fortunate enough to have perfect weather.
There's really not much to do in Ketchikan, either. It's the Salmon capital of the world (used to be Lumber). And it's the wettest town in the country (although we were lucky enough to have beautiful blue skies). We did the Great Alaskan Lumberjack show. It was AMAZING. We also did the duck tour (it's a duck boat, which goes both on land and in the water). It was NOT that exciting. Basically just a tour of the town with very little history. I didn't really care for where the high school, or hospital, or McDonald is in Ketchikan.
Really. It was a day wasted. The Inside passage, how do I put it, was just some mountains on both sides of the ship. We had mountains out of the balcony pretty much throughout the trip. So what was the point of Inside Passage exactly?
Beautiful city. Go to Stanley park! Also take the Canada line! I had a business engagement on the computer so couldn't tour the entire city. But I loved the hotel we stayed at (Radisson in Richmond). It was near the airport, with easy access to the Canada line, had a shuttle to the airport, and a sleep-number bed! How great is that!
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