I was one of the members of this group and I'd love to add my opinion along with my friends here. I will follow his format!
Who: My immediate party was in two balcony connecting cabins, husband, mother, tween daughter, myself. The rest of us have been described above.
Itinerary: I didn't hate it as much as others in my party, but it was pretty lame that we didn't make it remotely near the glacier or have anything else to do. I did notice that Celebrity offers a round trip Seattle itinerary that is MUCH better with just a 'courtesy' visit to Victoria and more Alaska time. I wish RC would offer this as well as the airfare is so much cheaper and easier for us flying from far away to do a Seattle roundtrip option.
Embarkation: We showed up around 11 and it was a HUGE CLUSTER****!!!! 30min to get into the port to drop off my people, 15min to get back out to the parking lot. We then just walked from the parking lot to avoid the ridiculousness that was this port. Luckily it seems that we were in front of most of the chaos once we found someone to take our bags as check in was fast and then only about a 15min line to get on the ship. Again, I get that it's a temporary port, but when you're used to the florida embarkation it was a bit of a shock.
Stateroom: My immediate group has been on Quantum and Anthem, and this class just really does the staterooms right. Awesome layout, storage, plugs, etc. Our attendant was fantastic! We never saw him, and yet our room was always done super fast even with our weird schedules.
Internet: Yeah, there is not a way to describe how bad the internet was. Oh wait, there is...remember old school dial up? Yeah, like that but worse. A few things about this...I get that we're 'on vacation' but my husband and I run our own business and need to be connected. MOST of the time in the last few years this has not been a problem while on RC cruise ships. Also, they were ADVERTISING this and charging the same as surf and stream on the other ships. There was NO way to stream, you could barely surf. Don't advertise and charge the same for a clearly inferior service. Again, if they were honest about the service and/or charged less it wouldn't have been such a big deal but they were so rude and flat out lying that it was a big turn off.
Service: Yeah, what ^ said. It was a bit depressing as we had sold our group and friends on this trip and I just felt they didn't get the real experience that we're used to. We had SEVERAL employees tell us they were leaving in two weeks and so excited to leave. Maybe that was the problem? Also, perhaps it comes from the top? None of us really cared for the captain and he seemed super low energy and uncaring.
Dining: Ultimate/Unlimited Dining really saved the cruise! We were able to get reservations for everything we wanted and get to every place we wanted except one time when we tried Izumi for lunch with no reservation and they couldn't take us. To answer a few questions that we had before sailing I will try to explain here.
- No double entrees allowed at Chops.
- Yes you can eat at multiple places in one evening.
- No embarkation lunch at Chops or Jamie's.
- Yes Amber and Oak pub food included. (really good, but had weird, bad service)
- No you cannot get the Jamie's food at Vintages.
- No you cannot get the Fish and Ships food. (Though you would NOT WANT TO, IT WAS HORRID!!!!)
I was really looking forward to the Windjammer after reading recent positive reviews, but found it pretty subpar. No 'a la minute' cooking stations, no warm cookies, and annoying staff asking for either 10's or to give up your seat!
We did sit down dining room lunch once as we love the salad bar and while that was good as normal, the rest of the service and food reminded us why we did the ultimate dining.
Cafe 270 was good as usual but never had potato chips. I even heard one guy ask about them and was told they would put them out at some point but we never saw any.
We also did Solarium Bistro one night and it seemed exactly the same as on the Oasis class ships.
Entertainment: I don't really do the ships for entertainment, but love that they've been putting real Broadway shows on them lately (except for Cats!). Kind of bummed and missed a real show on this ship. I didn't realize that the Pixels show was the same as Spectre's Cabaret. I didn't see them use 270 for too many other shows or good activities. A couple of silent parties, one where the second dj never showed up was pretty bad the first hour!
Sports and Activities: I really wanted to add in on this part. Everyone we dealt with except the iFly specific staff were really horrible people! The workers would show up late to sessions and then blame other employees! One employee complained our whole Northstar ride about the weather and how she really needed better weather and it wasn't fair! One bumper car session was cancelled (after we had all been waiting for 45min) because they had forgotten to charge half of them! And they would just leave activities early and pack up! It was soooo odd!!!
Ship in General: This is where I differ from my group. I LOVE this class of ship! I just want one with great staff and awesome clientele which I feel we haven't gotten to experience yet. It's so beautiful, modern, seems more high end, has amazing activities, etc.
Juneau - We just did our own thing here, walked around a lot, ate a lot, and donated to the Juneau Raptor Center and got to meet one of their awesome birds.
Skagway - We did the best private tour ever here!!! We used Beyond Skagway and just had a blast. Request Sam as your guide/driver and prepare to have fun. We saw four bears just feet outside our very nice van and amazing scenery. We did the sled dogs, panning for gold, emerald lake, lunch, Yukon/Alaska sign, view points, etc.
Glacier Day Sightseeing - Oh wait, nope didn't get to this. Also in the past they've usually fished out some ice and done a carving or let you touch it and they didn't do that either. I get that it's a 'safety' issue, but the captain just didn't seem to care or offer anything else. Why couldn't we stay in the prettier area longer as we were scheduled instead of high-tailing it out of there?!
Sea Days - The outside passage is definitely rougher. Rained on both big outside passage days and had some high winds and waves. Nothing too terrible though. For those making Northstar reservations I would avoid the out and back sea day, as one full day of those were cancelled due to weather.
Victoria - This stop is obviously a legality. We walked from the port to downtown and it was nice and everything but couldn't help but think why don't we just do a quick stop here and do another Alaska port like the Celebrity ship does! Seriously, we were there like 8am - 6pm then idle back to Seattle. The Celebrity ship pulled in around 5:30pm and still makes it back to Seattle the next morning just fine.
Casino: We did some VERY light playing in the casino, only on low limits tables. They were allowing smoking in part of the casino. The staff weren't super friendly and lost out on some money from our group by not letting us continue playing on a low limit table.
Debarkation - After the cluster that was embarkation we decided to do self, pretty early. We walked off at 7am, walked the 1/2 mile to our car and were in the car by about 7:30am so that was a nice end at least.
Overall, it's a cruise, it's still MOSTLY better than being at home, but I live in Orlando and frequent Disney quite a bit and wish that some of those amazing cast members trained the Ovation employees. Also, I really don't want to sacrifice ship for itinerary but I know sometimes that is necessary. I would love to see this ship do a better Alaska itinerary similar to her sister Celebrity line. I prefer Seattle to both Vancouver and Anchorage so a nice roundtrip option would make this a no brainer. I also prefer this ship to the Radiance class. What would I recommend for others? It really depends on your personal preferences, who you are traveling with, and what you want to get out of the vacation.
Hope this helps, happy to answer random questions!