We had a phenomenal time. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Our critiques are real, but ultimately we really enjoyed ourselves.
If you look hard, you can tell the Millie is not a new ship. There are some layouts that clearly would not be picked if you were building a new ship (Qsine blocking a stairway, sushi on 5 in the middle of a wine bar). In other places there is a lot of paint trying to cover corrosion. I would not, however, describe her as worn or tired. She is in good shape and I think the revolution likely helped substantially. We liked the “old look,” but we like the “new look” too. The new colors are much brighter and it did not feel like ikea to me.
We stayed in CS 8106. Overall, we were very pleased with the room. It looks nice in person and met our needs for the cruise. There were, however, “Kelly Hoppen” functionality issues in both our room, my parents room, and the retreat areas.
On the balcony, there were only two seats, a table, and a couple of monolithic footrests. There was easily room for a third chair, but that request was too much for my stateroom attendant (who was otherwise very good). Having the aft balcony of the pair was nice and we spent substantial time out there.
No USB outlets were available in our room that I could find. The only bedside plugs were stolen by bedside lamps. Limited plug availability in the rest of the room.
As previously stated on the boards, the couch faces the TV instead of the great windows. I “accidentally” rotated it 90 degrees the first morning while everyone was asleep. Based on the carpet color and cleanliness underneath, I would guess I was the first one to do this in 8106 on Millie since revolution. This blocked one of the many underused cabinets, but was otherwise great. Staff didn’t say a word about it but very quickly vacuumed.
My parents stayed in SS 8117. They had the now infamous chair that doesn’t slide under the desk. There were some orange highlights they did not enjoy, but it was not offensive to myself or my wife. The blue highlights in our CS were nicer.
The couch on their balcony was nice, but there is a pole that is not ideal. We needed that stateroom to support our configuration, but I would not pick it if I had more flexibility.
My kids were in 8119. There were more plugs and USB outlets in their room than in my room and my parents room combined. The stateroom attendant for 8117 and 8119 was Jay. He was great. At some point my 9 year old was about to get lost on the ship and Jay rescued him.
I will try to find some pictures, but there have been previous photos on the boards of both 8117 and 8106.
In general, Kelly Hoppen furniture is poorly thought out from a practicality perspective. Thankfully there are hundreds of throw pillows available and they work quite nicely at making oddly shaped chairs more comfortable.
Most nights we ate at Luminae and loved it. Rolando was our server and he was phenomenal. Menu was varied and we were able to find something enjoyable with each experience. Even when we had the full party of 6, we did not have to wait for a table. At the strong suggestion of the maitre’d Bochi, we did try to aim before or after the big rush of 6:30 or 7. We definitely noticed improved service when it was less busy, but we weren’t terribly dissatisfied at any point. Wine by the glass with the premium drink plan is just awkward. If you want to get better than the equivalent of $10 a bottle stuff (retail price), it gets frustrating. The “sommelier” was nice but seemed to struggle with getting me things in the $12 to 20 dollar a glass range. One night I ended up getting a bottle because I was annoyed by his selections. He also seemed a little too revenue-driven. For example, the Caymus others have gotten for $55 a bottle when on the drink plan, he offered to me for $90.
We also ate at sushi on 5. I have no strongly positive or negative perspectives on the experience. I would probably do it again if the cruise was long enough, but I found myself questioning the value.
We worked our butler, Nelson, to the bone with room service breakfast. They weren’t perfect-a couple of times a side dish got forgotten. The one time it was “important,” Nelson noticed on his own and got it fixed. To their credit, I made it hard. Every order form had special requests. My wife likes a latte- handwritten in every day. A bowl of berries for the kids handwritten in every day... Bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese handwritten in one day... to their credit, they did it right with capers and red onions. Room service breakfast is never going to be as good as fresh in the restaurant, but when you have a wife and kids that sleep like mine, it really made our vacation much less stressful and I am thankful for it.
The OVC/buffet food was quite good for a buffet. It was not fancy like Luminae, but there were plenty of options and the international options were nice. I was pleasantly surprised with the food.
Conversely, the service was inconsistent. For bar service, they should just set up convenient bar stations and let us go get our own drinks. Trying to do it with inadequate staff is a recipe for frustration. More than once, I just went to the closest bar to get my own drink. Similarly, at one point my daughter spilled pasta all over the place. No one noticed or helped even after we notified them. Thankfully there was no sauce on it... Lastly, the ice cream station got overwhelmed and the scooper desperately needed backup. Conversely, the food stations were kept fully stocked and the staff that was available were almost entirely competent and kind. None of the the issues caused me to have a bad vacation!
We used both the retreat lounge and sun deck fairly extensively. We liked the personalized service. Mary, the lead bartender in the retreat lounge, was of particular note. She was smart, attentive, and good at mixing drinks and interacting with my kids.
The sun deck is nice, but not world class yet. It seemed a little underutilized with the notable exception of the Hubbard glacier day.
The staff there was nice, but it was a lot slower to get drinks or food. At times we would visit and there didn’t seem to be anyone there who did bar service, just someone who cleaned things up. A short drink menu of things they can turn around quickly with their local limited bar would help them and their customers. At one point my wife ordered a cosmo and that just about blew their minds. While a gin and tonic might come out fast, other drinks could easily take 10 minutes. Whirlpool temperature should be 5-10 degrees warmer too.
On the Hubbard glacier day, it would have been a no brainer to have mimosas and bloody Mary’s circulating, but alas it was not to be. They did circulate warm pea soup and beef consommé or broth or something.
Shore side concierge was very kind, but useless to me. I asked for the mini bar to be cleaned out and no kiwi, walnuts, or pecans to enter the room because of my daughters allergies. That was a fail on both counts (kiwi on fruit plate for room service).
My children, being young, were able to partake in all the suite things gratis.
Embarkation was awkward. Vancouver makes you do a lot of walking. Some of it seemed quite unnecessary. We had all pre-taken pictures, but the person insisted on retaking several of them. Security was very annoyed by my retake which was apparently quite bad. I found that humorous. I saw the “special delivery,” drop off for RS and PS, but there was no escorting aboard and the lines were equally short for everyone. Not that we really needed one. Instead I escorted my family to the retreat and to Luminae soon after. I got to visit the naughty room! The staff onboard was quite amused that it was called the naughty room. For some reason I had decided to lug along my kids white noise machine (marpac). It is literally a fan in a box, but that was baffling to the security guys. I tried them to get an electrician involved, but it wasn’t going anywhere and I had important drinking to do. We have apps on our devices that can be used in these situations!
All of the main ports were suffering from the cruise ship profit-making apparatus. Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway all were overwhelmed with diamond stores and other tripe like that. Not sure why people buy diamonds on vacation from chain stores. Thankfully, Mother Nature was not far away. We found it very easy to get out and enjoy through many short hikes and excursions.
In Ketchikan we took the Bering sea crab tour. Officially it was “on our own,” although the official celebrity tour cost more... they sat right next to us. If you booked through Celebrity, you got a sticker too! After lunch at Annabelle’s (an old brothel), we hiked the rain bird trail. Taxi up to the college parking lot and walk back to the ship. The last mile or so is on city streets, but downhill. You can have cab pick you up if desired. Internet describes it as “easy,” but be aware that rating is by people who hike a lot. With younger kids I would say it was intermediate.
Icy Strait Point is unique. It is commercialized by the tribe, but only by local businesses. It is hokey, but in a nice way. We took a private tour through Hoonah Whale Tours that was phenomenal. An orca actually swam under our boat (boat was off & orca turned and swam towards us). It turned out the boat captain’s mom owned a shop in ISP. I would definitely take a private tour over those big boat tours if you can. That area in Alaska definitely seems to be better than Juneau or Skagway for whale watching. The nature trail on the property is very, very short and pretty short on nature too. Be aware they are building additional new docks. It appears ISP will be over-run next year.
In Juneau we did the ship’s gold panning tour. It was cute, the guide was nice, and our 9 year old was happy. Amazingly, you actually can get flakes of gold out of the stream even today. We also did the Mt Roberts tram and hiked around on our own. Then we took a lyft to the hatchery, which is also good for kids and people who like salmon. Plan ahead- it is much less interesting when the fish aren’t running.
Skagway we did the train ride and lunch at the brewery. The weather was rainier there for us, likely impacting my impression of the place. I had already done the helicopter tour thing, but if you haven’t, Seward is a good place to do it.
Hubbard glacier was jaw-dropping. If you can cruise with an afternoon time slot (I think the southbound tours), your odds for better weather are improved, but we did fine. I certainly didn’t cruise away thinking “gosh I wish we had gone to glacier bay.”
Seward disembarkation was easy from the boat perspective. The small bus transfer up to anchorage was a little awkward, but that was mainly my fellow cruisers’ fault. I will neither condemn nor praise the vendor.
Afterwards, the guys went fishing for several days in Elfin Cove at Elfin Cove Resorts. It was a ton of fun, but their guides don’t have very much experience right now. I will refrain from doing a full review on cruisecritic.
We had one of those cautionary tales about booking margin into your calendar. We had about 22 hours of margin to sail away in our planned schedule. Our first flight (Pittsburgh to Toronto) on Air Canada was cancelled due to a mechanical issue with the plane (a CRJ-200, well known in aviation circles for reliability issues). After much waiting on hold and standing in line, they were going to be unable to re-book us on any practical schedule that would assure us we would make the cruise.
In a reminder of the value of flexibility, we saw how many flights happened between Toronto and Vancouver and rented a car on our own and drove to Toronto. Air Canada was then able to rebook us on a later flight the same day. We ended up about 8-10 hours late into Vancouver.
Air Canada refunded the price of the Pittsburgh to Toronto leg after I submitted a request, but nothing beyond that.