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About moneeman

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  1. Good replies, so I won't repeat what has been said, but will add a couple of points. We read before our first Alaska cruise many years ago that it was best to book a room on the side of the ship facing the mainland (on a one-way cruise). We did so, and were rewarded with the most magnificent snow-peaked mountain view when we opened our blinds the first morning on ship. That really made an impression on us, and we were sold. Fast forward to this year and we again made sure we booked to face the mainland, and on this cruise (same basic itinerary as before) we felt the side of the ship made no difference at all. That mountain wasn't there this time, and most mornings we were in port when we opened the blinds. You will find some that swear by this, and others that see no advantage either way. The second comment relates to your question about when to book, though it is more so about upgrades. When you read through the message boards, especially the one for your chosen cruise line, you will see a lot of people talking about upgrading their room. This can happen many ways, but I will tell you how and why we upgraded. We booked our room 9 months out because we had very specific dates we were tied to, and because we wanted a balcony on the mainland side of the ship. When you book that far out, you are paying some pretty expensive rates. The cruise line may be throwing out some "free drinks" or on board credit to sweeten the deal, but just know that the rate you pay at that point is comparatively pretty high. It does come with the advantage of good room choice. Booking that far in advance requires a small (or sometimes no) downpayment. You then have to pay the balance of your cruise something around 100 days before departure. It is after this "final payment date" that the rates for the remaining rooms suddenly drop. The Concierge level room we booked for $2,800pp eventually sold for about half that price 4 - 6 weeks out from departure. Of course, availability was limited. The plus side to this was the room categories above Concierge were also dropping in price, and we were able to upgrade to the lowest level suite for the price we originally paid for the Concierge level room. (Oh, and we LOVED the "suite life"). If you book early, then after final payment date, do a quick price check of your cruise (without logging into your account) every day or two and watch for significant drops. They can go up and down a bit, so don[t worry if your desired category pops up one day. It will likely eventually come back down. When you feel the time is right, call your TA and ask to be rebooked into the higher level room. You will get a much better room for the price you were willing to pay months ago for a lesser one. I hope this is helpful. Good luck in your planning!
  2. Thanks for the note. You can see bear pictures and more here: https://alaska2019ultimateadventure.shutterfly.com/pictures/71
  3. Final Post I will spare any comments about a non-eventful flight home, but I do want to share some pictures. I’m not a Cruise Critic expert, but it appears you have to first post pictures elsewhere, then link to them in order for a picture to show inside a post. I don’t have a place to post the pictures like that, so instead I created a share site on Shutterfly. The pictures are in order of our trip, and I added a short description on each one. You might have to click on “See 1 comment” to show the first one, then I believe the rest will show automatically. Thanks for hanging with me and my trivial commentary. I hope some of this is useful, and that you enjoy the pictures. Link to Shutterfly Share Site: https://alaska2019ultimateadventure.shutterfly.com/pictures/71
  4. Friday, August 2 – Disembarkation and Vancouver Everyone is assigned a meeting place for disembarkation. One of the benefits of being in a suite (even the lowest level like ours) is priority disembarkation. We were instructed to gather in the Retreat Lounge (after one final nice breakfast) at 8:00, and we walked off the ship at 8:15. The Vancouver port is a bit of a maze, but generally you just follow the crowd. We located our suitcases without any trouble, and headed toward the exit. I normally rent cars from Enterprise, as I qualify for the Florida state rates (and personal use is allowed). That contract allows one-way travel with no drop-off fees. We were renting a car to drive back to Seattle for our return flight the next day, but the Enterprise contract does not allow international rentals. Instead, I booked through Costco. I remembered that the reservation was through Avis, and we followed the signs to the car rental area. Avis had a mini-bus that transported us to a nearby downtown location. The mini-bus should have jolted my memory, as I know the address for the booking was Canada Place (the port). But, it didn’t. I waited in line for 15 minutes, walked up to the counter and handed over my reservation papers. He immediately handed them back and said….”this is an Alamo reservation”. YIKES!!! Thankfully, our only requirement for the day was to drive to Seattle, so this wasn’t a huge setback. The Avis agency was next door to a Fairmont, so we wheeled our luggage to their entrance and hailed a cab to take us back to the port. We found the Alamo counter (IN the port, as I knew it should have been), and I was lucky enough to get in line behind an older guy who wanted to pick up his car there even though his reservation was miles away across the bay. He was VERY insistent, and kudos to the Alamo counter agent for his patience. It took a LONG time, but they finally got him straight, and we got our car without a problem. We had enjoyed Granville Island on previous trips to Vancouver, and since it was not too far from lunchtime, we decided to go there before heading south. The GPS first took us to a spot where you catch a water taxi to the island, which is not what we wanted. We found another address, and this time we finally made it there. It was still early for lunch, so we meandered around and visited a few shops, and finally worked our way back to the public market. We enjoyed the bountiful selections, and after lunch we headed towards Seattle. There was a lot of traffic, but it moved OK. All was good until we turned onto the main highway heading to the border and saw a sign indicating an hour wait. The sign was wrong, as it was well over an hour. Once we made it past the border and got on the Interstate, I then realized we were going to hit Seattle at prime rush hour. There was no way around it, as our hotel was close to the airport, and downtown was right in-between. Looking at the red lines on Google Maps, we chose to stop for dinner north of town and let the traffic die down a bit. That was helpful, but we still had to endure about a half hour of bumper-to-bumper traffic to arrive at our destination. Once checked in at the hotel, we filled the car up with gas and returned it at the airport since the hotel had a free airport shuttle. Given all we had to do this day was “drive to Seattle”, it was much more exhausting than anticipated.
  5. Thursday, August 1 – Sea Day – Inside Passage There isn’t a lot to write about this final sea day. There was a continual slow drizzle/mist all day, which kept everyone indoors. The inside passage is beautiful, as is all of Alaska, and the fog made for some interesting views and pictures. The ship schedules a lot more activities on sea days, which draws some interest, but generally not more than 20 or 30 people (except bingo). Slot tournaments, the final art auction, last-chance pictures, and of course everything is “on sale” in the boutiques. We also had to pull out the suitcases, pack, and get them in the hallways before dinner. The last day at sea is also when many choose to give their tips to waiters, room attendants, etc. We booked on a deal that included pre-paid tips, but without knowing how much each one receives (likely not much), I still tipped as much as I would have if I had not had the pre-paid tips. Perhaps I would have felt differently if I had chosen to pay $X for pre-paid tips, but ours came as part of the package deal. Amazingly, considering the complex ins-and-outs of excursion fees and refunds, our final cabin bill required no corrections!! I was thrilled, though I felt sorry for non-financial people (I am a CPA) that had to decode their charges.
  6. Wednesday, July 31 – Ketchikan Five days into the cruise, we have our routines down. General times for meals, what we love at Café al Baccio, where to sit in the theatre, the Retreat lounge, etc. Everything is good fun and good food. Kudos to Celebrity for knowing how to put on a great vacation. Could I nitpik? Sure. No one is perfect. But truly, the cruise was outstanding. The M-class ships “only” hold around 2,000 people, and the ship is set up to handle that number extremely well. I may have mentioned this before, but I was especially impressed by the workers at Café al Baccio, and I think that Café plays an important role in the inner workings of the cruise, It is in the very middle of the ship front-to-back and almost in the middle up-and-down. It was constantly busy, but never over crowded. The seating area was nice, and you could even grab a window seat with just a bit of patience. The servers were wonderful, and would bring you whatever you like…without judgment – ha! This was our last port day – Ketchikan. The weather forecast was iffy, but it turned out to be a beautiful day. All four of us booked the floatplane flightseeing excursion, which left shortly after breakfast. We walked off shortly after 10:00 with an established meeting time of 10:15. We quickly found our tour, then stood around until the official tour time of 10:30. A van took us a few miles down the road to the floatplane dock, and gave us a nice little tour along the way, including the very short one-way tunnel that was built with a government grant that was supposed to be used for emergency management. Once we arrived at the dock, we went into their building for a safety briefing. Then we almost immediately were introduced to our pilot, and after the obligatory pictures, the four of us loaded into the plane. None of us had ever flown in a floatplane before, so it was fun experiencing a very different takeoff and landing. I thought of the tragic crashes earlier this year a couple of times, and while feeling horrible for those lost and their families, I felt perfectly safe the entire tour. The views from the plane were magnificent. Ketchikan is the southernmost Alaska port, and you don’t see the huge mountains with snow. Instead, there are an innumerable number of small and large forested mountains with bays, river, and lakes in-between. We flew to Misty Fjords, and yes, there was some mist around. Enough to show up in pictures, but not enough to disrupt your view. The mist certainly adds to the mystique of the area. We flew for about 25 minutes, then the pilot landed in an inlet. He said he usually lands at a different place and pulls up to a dock, but that it was raining at that location, so he flew to another area where the weather was good. We all got out of the plane and stood on the pontoons, taking a few pictures and admiring the beauty from the water. We all switched seats for the return flight, and enjoyed more magnificent vistas along the way. We were in the plane for around an hour and fifteen minutes, which seemed to be a good length of time for what we saw. We had to wait a while for another van to come take us back to the ship, but it wasn’t a terribly long wait. We returned right in the middle of the lunch rush, and decided to walk over to the nearby Alaska Fish House. This place was EXTREMELY busy, but the lines moved pretty quick. We did have a short wait to get a table after ordering. I was concerned that we wouldn’t have a table when the food came out, but we spotted a family packing up to leave and jumped on the table (well, we didn’t actually jump “on the table”). The food was good, though we liked Twisted Fish in Juneau and Skagway Fish Company (which I forgot to mention earlier) better. Nothing wrong with Alaska Fish House. Portion size and food were good. Just not AS GOOD as the other two local restaurants we sampled. We decided to venture up to Creek Street after lunch. It’s a neat area with a few authentic Alaska shops, but we felt it was better in 2002. Not bad, though, and we enjoyed browsing. We walked up to the salmon ladder, which is just past the Creek Street shops. The salmon were just starting to work their way upstream, but it was a lot of fun to watch them try to navigate through some pretty strong waterfalls. It was hard to follow them all the way, and we saw a bunch of different fish fail to make it and get pushed back to the bottom of the falls. However, we walked on up past the falls and saw plenty that did make it, so it is indeed possible! On the way back to the ship we stopped at a store a block or so from the port that advertised “hundreds of museum-quality gifts”. Looking now at Google Maps, I think this place was called Royal Treasures. Very interesting store. Many of their items are geological. Mary spotted a rock that was a beautiful deep blue color. She knew the kind of rock, but I had never heard of it (and don’t remember it now, either). It was very striking, and was about 24” x 36”. The young lady said it was $3,600, but when Mary lingered for no more than 30 seconds, the price came down to $2,600. They also offered personal in-home delivery (without knowing where we lived) as long as we could wait until after the tourist season ended. We did not buy it, but we were impressed with the quality of their inventory. Wednesday night was the second “chic” night, and an outstanding menu selection. This is the one night where I ordered two entrees (as did Greg). We did two different versions of surf and turf, as lobster tail was available. Greg paired his with a steak, and I paired mine with rack of lamb. For dessert, we all had the wonderful and iconic Baked Alaska. SOOOO GOOD!!! The Wednesday night show was a production show, and included a surprise role from the two Russian acrobats. It’s a lot of fun to have a good show following dinner.
  7. Tuesday, July 30 – Icy Strait Point Mary and I were really looking forward to Icy Strait Point for an unusual reason. A chance to rest and relax. We knew that by this point we would have been going strong for 11 straight days and the idea of having a day with nothing scheduled was attractive. The excursion options centered around whale watching, bear viewing, or adventure boats. Greg and Tammy went whale watching, and had a great trip. They followed both a pod of Orcas and some Humpbacks. Lots and lots of blows, humps, and tails, but no breaches. They seemed very pleased with the excursion. I don’t know the name of the vendor, but it was booked through the ship. We slept in a bit this day and went to Luminae for a late breakfast (after a mocha and pastry from al Baccio, of course). We decided to do the short nature walk just off the ship, then look around “town”. The nature walk was very nice and peaceful. The path started along the waterway, then wound into the rain forest. I think it was less than a half mile, so it didn’t take long at all. Part of the nature walk wound around, in-between, and under the adventure rope course. We watched a couple of people on it, and decided that it looked pretty good. We didn’t opt to join them due to time, but it definitely looked better than I had imagined. At the end of the nature walk we heard a buzzing noise that first sounded like the hiss of power lines, but it kept getting louder. We eventually realized it was the zip line, and we watched a few people end their ride on the world’s longest (I think) line. It looked pretty cool as well, though it’s a pricey ride. We then walked through quite a few shops that sort of connected with each other. The shopping was pretty good. The shops sort of connected in large buildings, and the products had a more native Alaska feel to them. Not as commercialized as the other ports. We really liked this port. Luminae was open for lunch this day, so we finished up shopping and headed back for lunch. They had a fantastic chocolate cake thingy with ice cream for dessert, and since Tammy and Greg weren’t there we asked Alfredo to set back four more for dessert after dinner. The Tuesday night show starred a Russian couple who a wide variety of Cirque-type acrobatic routines. The lady was a former Olympic gold medalist (which Celebrity relentlessly promoted in the show). They were VERY good, and their routines varied enough so that the show did not get boring. We were very impressed.
  8. Monday, July 29 – Skagway When planning the trip, we went back and forth about what to do in Skagway. Thre are so many good options! We did the gorgeous drive to Emerald Lake many years ago, so we sort of favored other options. I seriously considered booking a private flightseeing tour that a couple of people recommended (sorry, lost the link). I believe he flies out of Haines, but for an extra $50 or so he will come pick you up (and drop you off – ha!) in Skagway. We decided against that because we did flightseeing with our bear tour, and we were scheduled for a Misty Fjords tour later in the week. We finally settled on the Glacier Point Wilderness Safari, which I think was the perfect choice for us. The tour begins with a boat ride for about an hour to their “base camp” at Glacier Point. From there you hike a short distance, then load into 7-person “canoes” (with motors??). You paddle for a half mile or so, then they turn on the motors after everyone gets tired (or perhaps bored…). Finally, you hike up to the base of a glacier and explore a bit before returning back in reverse order. I don’t intend to be negative as overall our trip was great, but we had significant excursion problems for the second day in a row. We again woke up to questionable weather, but for the most part the rain was holding off. After yet another wonderful breakfast, we headed out to meet the tour guide. This tour had a significant number of participants, perhaps 50 – 60. The guide told us the seas were “a bit better” than the previous day, when they had 6-ft. swells and even HE got sick!!! WHAT??? That’s not what we signed up for! Anyway, I was the only one of the four who took seasick medicine (Bonine) the night before. The guide said the nearby supply shack sold Dramamine, so we backtracked to pick up a package. Mary and Tammy each took one, and Greg decided he needed two (big mistake) because he weighed twice as much. Back to the boat, we got on the larger of the two boats in the back, as recommended by the guide to reduce the effect of the waves. We were moving a decent speed in protected waters, and were about 10 minutes from the departure point when the boat slowed to a crawl. This continued for a few minutes until one of the crew announced that “the motor is making strange noises and we are going back to the dock to check it out. We hadn’t even made it to the rough waters yet! The boat made it back…slowly… and we just sat in the boat for about five minutes, then they made an announcement that “the motors are acting better, so we are going to give it a try”. We all looked at each other with trepidation. They hadn’t had time to fix ANYTHING. At this point the boat would be departing a full hour late, which in turn would mean a late return. The tour operators were offering a full refund for anyone that did not want to go back out. IN part due to not trusting the motor, and in part to not wanting to endure 5 ft. waves, we opted to cancel. So, now what do we do? We took a good half hour looking at excursion brochures and finally decided on….I don’t even remember what, and it doesn’t matter because that excursion was full. As was our next choice. As was our next choice. We did decide to go on a City Tour, which was actually pretty good, and the ladies went to a glassblowing class later on in the afternoon. Mary had actually been wanting to go glassblowing for a few years. Tammy basically “went along”, but it wasn’t really her thing. Mary did enjoy it, and ended up with a very nice glass ball. Oh, and Greg… Remember the double dose of Dramamine? Let’s just say he slept it off that afternoon, and was still a bit groggy throughout the evening. Monday night’s show was the second production show by the Celebrity entertainers, this one with a bit more up-to-date music. However, when I say “up-to-date”, I mean mostly 80’s and 90’s with perhaps one or two more recent ones. The entertainment all week was noticeably geared to the “older” generation, which was OK with us since we are in our 50’s and early 60’s. Every show in the main theatre was also family-friendly.
  9. Thanks, Anita. I don't see a way to edit, so I guess the double post will have to stay. I have a few more days to cover, including one I am posting now.
  10. We were in a Sky Suite with a smaller balcony and LOVED it! The location near mid-ship was wonderful. Close to everything. The room was a good size, not cramped at all, and the balcony was big enough for a love seat and table. We initially booked a Concierge room 9 months out, and were able to upgrade to the Sky Suite for the same price after final payment date due to the price drop. Luminae was fantastic! Enjoy.
  11. Sunday, July 28 – Juneau Mary was truly excited about this day’s adventure. When we went to Alaska in 2002, we went dogsledding on a glacier. I don’t know if it was the picture-perfect day, the excitement of our at-the-time-12-year-old, the fact that the glacier was ours alone that day, or perhaps the perfectly playful puppies, but our memories of that excursion are peaceful perfection. So we probably set ourselves up for disappointment by dogsledding again. This time we decided to book the extended dogsled tour where they take you on a 5-mile sled run. Well, the forecast was not good, but the predicted rain held off, and our excursion was a go. We were scheduled for a 10:00 departure, and walked off the ship about 20 minutes early to make sure we found our way. That wasn’t a problem, as a couple of young ladies were holding a sign with our tour and told us to stick around for a few minutes. When time came, we were directed to a nearby van for the trip to the helicopter pad. After a quick trip, we were dropped at their office where we sat through a short briefing, then were divided into groups based on weight to balance out the helicopters. We were disappointed that Greg and Tammy were directed to a different helicopter, but not a big deal. The weather continued to hold, though it looked as though it could start raining at any minute. Nevertheless, the helicopter ride was great, and the views were gorgeous. We flew over the Juneau Ice Fields for about 15 minutes before landing at the dog camp. It was here that they told us bad weather was on the way, and our extended tour was being cut down to a regular tour. Very disappointing, but we were still happy to be on the glacier rather than have a full cancellation. They had the 5 of us who were in the helicopter together in a little hut trying to figure out who would sled with whom when Greg and Tammy suddenly appeared and said “they told us to come over here”! So we were thrilled to be able to share the adventure with our friends. We were matched up with a professional sledder, who was in her second or third year. The dogs were already hooked up, so it didn’t take long to find our positions and get started. Two sleds were hooked to the dogs. The front sled had two seats, one behind the other, as well as a place to stand in back. The guide took the standing position on the front sled in order to lead the dogs (no complaints there!). The second sled had one seat and one standing position in back. The person standing in the very back had to help with the foot brake. The dogs were great, and the sledding was a lot of fun. Though we had fun, when comparing to the idyllic tour in 2002, this one fell short for several reasons. First, when we were on the glacier, there were at least 4 other sleds in our vicinity. The guide stops the dogs every few minutes for pictures (I guess) and to give the dogs a break (though these are supposedly Iditorad dogs). Anyway, whenever they stop, they bark. So the glacier seemed to be full of barking dogs. Our memory from years ago was have the glacier mostly to ourselves. We distinctly remember stopping only once, and having the feeling of perfect serenity. I think the warmer than usual summer has also taken its toll on the glacier, and the snow was well-trampled where we were sledding. Finally, as we rounded the last bend of our trip we started getting pelted by sleet. The last five minutes coming back were spent with our heads tucked. Now that’s no fault of the tour company, and I don’t hold it against them at all. It just put a damper on the experience. We DID still have a good time, and I WOULD still recommend dogsledding. The forces of nature were simply not helpful this time around. At the end of the tour, they brought out a couple of one-week-old puppies for us to cuddle. Earlier they said the dogs were quarantined due to their age, but I think they felt sorry for us and brought them out to make up for the less-than-desirable weather. While the tour disappointed us in several ways, we didn’t let it get in the way of enjoying the tour. We asked the van driver to drop us off in downtown Juneau (or at least in the tourist area) so we could get some lunch. Having done some research, we looked at what was nearby and found the highly rated Twisted Fish Company. We were a on the tail end of lunch hour, and were able to get a table right away (though the room was still packed). Twisted Fish had a great menu with a wide variety. A couple of us got fish & chips, one got the fried halibut sandwich, and Mary (who can’t eat fried food) had the halibut platter. Every one of us were thrilled with our food. Since our ship docked at the most remote pier, we waited for the free shuttle and were subsequently treated to a singing bus driver. How fun! I want to pause and recognize some of the hardest working people on the ship – the staff at Café al Baccio! First, the baristas can barista all over Starbucks. They have it down to a science. The Café is always busy, but the line is never too long. They make espresso drinks, serve soft drinks, and distribute pastries continually from morning to night. The coffee drinks were excellent. I thought the pastries were hit or miss, but others would probably love them all. The lemon and chocolate tarts were consistently good, and I liked the croissants as well. The cookies were usually too crispy for my taste, and a lot of their cakes had a gel-type layer on top that wasn’t my favorite (but wasn’t bad). No telling how much weight I put on just from the Café! The Monday night show was the first production show by the ship’s production group. It covered favorite music of the 60’s and 70’s. We thought it was entertaining, and having grown up in the 70’s, the music was very familiar. The entertainers were very talented.
  12. Saturday, July 27 – Hubbard Glacier I must say I was really impressed with the new mattresses put in as part of the recent renovation. They are very comfy, and the amount of covers was just right. So many hotels put on thick, hot comforters, but won’t let the A/C go below 70 degrees (in real temp, not what the thermostat says), but I digress. I got my first of many mochas (and a pastry) while Mary showered and dressed, then we headed back to Luminae. I learned later in the cruise how to hold back on breakfast, but that first morning I ate a yogurt parfait, fruit, bacon and eggs and another pastry (this one REALLY big) from the irresistible pastry tray. The breakfast choices seemed almost endless. Today was Hubbard Glacier, so the morning was a sea day. Mary had a spa appointment, so I got caught up on work email (yeah, I know, but I had to handle the big stuff). She came back a couple of hours later a VERY happy lady, saying it was the best hot stone massage she ever had. Greg and I opted the night before to reserve two spots at the special king crab lunch, held in one of specialty restaurants. The ship’s price was $45, which is less than on-shore restaurants, but we had obviously already paid for lunch in the price of the cruise. The crab was very good, which was the main point of the meal, though the rest of the food was average. Mary and Tammy went to the spa café, but didn’t see much they wanted and ended up at the buffet (meh). Shortly after lunch we started seeing Hubbard Glacier in the distance, and over the next hour we pulled up, according to the announcer, to the closest of the season and the closest allowed by law. Hubbard is massive, and it was not hard to see the calving. We hung out at the glacier for perhaps an hour with the captain doing the customary circle for all points before heading back out towards the ocean. The glacier is amazing, and we were thrilled to see it, though I don’t know how to write much about it. Given how close the big ship got, I sort of felt sorry for the large group that paid $249 to board a smaller ship that couldn’t get any closer than we did. I failed to write down what we ate each night, and at this point weeks later I couldn’t begin to tell you what was on the menu. However, I can tell you that in a rather diverse group of eaters none of the four of us ever had trouble finding something we liked on the menu. Overall we thought the food was very good, along the lines of what we get when we go to a restaurant with $20 - $30 entrees. It is NOT a $50 - $100 per meal restaurant in food quality, but I would match their service against ANYONE. This evening’s show was a singing group called Horizon, and they sang old Motown tunes. The music was very good, though the group tried way…tooo….hard… to be funny. I didn’t mind the humor attempts, as I love comedy in general, but their timing was a bit off, and it was overdone. The show was still enjoyable, and I recommend it if they are playing on your cruise.
  13. Friday, July 26 – Onward to Seward Having returned the rental car Thursday evening, we opted to take the train to Seward. I had read that the Gold Star service was worth the extra, so we had seats in a dome car. It was very nice, though having already seen great Alaskan vistas for a week, I’m not sure we got an extra $100 worth from it (less the cost of breakfast, which was included in the Gold Star ticket). Nonetheless, it was a very pleasant journey. Arriving in Seward, our instructions were unclear as to how to get to the cruise ship. I am generally a relentless planner, but I had failed to nail this one down. I thought there was some type of transportation provided by Celebrity, but I had no solid information. A railroad attendant on the train confirmed there would be transportation, so we figured it would be obvious when we exited. WRONG! We were in the very front car, and evidently the signage was behind us. We saw what looked like a train station ahead, so we went that way. We started asking people, but no one knew. When we finally got headed the right direction (toward the back of the train), we saw two large buses with the Celebrity logo pull away. They were a long way from where we were, and we could only watch them go. Fortunately, we only had a couple of backpacks, and the ship check-in was about a half-mile away. It was a bit cool, but otherwise not a bad walk. We just missed the ease of pleasant transportation. We knew we were paying a pretty high price when we booked our Concierge-level staterooms 9 months before the cruise, but we were particular about where we wanted to be. The higher price was worth it to have that assurance of location. We were thrilled this past May when Celebrity brought the price of their Sky Suites down to the level of what we paid for the Concierge stateroom, and with an even better location we quickly jumped on the upgrade opportunity. A Sky Suite isn’t really a “suite”, per-se, but it is a nice large stateroom with a bigger bathroom. I believe it is between 50 – 100 sq. ft. larger than most staterooms. Sizes do vary a bit, and if anything we had one of the smaller versions, but it was wonderful. There was sufficient space for a round table, perhaps 36” diameter next to the sofa on the wall with perhaps 5’ of open space between the wall and the bed. The bathroom was along the lines in size of a small guest bathroom in your home, with a short bathtub/shower combination. The shower had pump bottles of C O Bigelow shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion. I don’t know what the rest of the ship had, but I thought these products were decent quality. My favorite thing about the room was location. We were in 6117, which was only four staterooms away from the middle stairs and the main elevators. It was a very easy walk to Luminae and Café al Baccio, my two favorite locations! Truly, being in the middle of the ship means nothing is very far away. Of course, the ship itself isn’t huge, so that made it even easier to get around. We are not frequent cruisers, but we have done a couple of other cruises including one on sister ship Summit many years ago. I think the recent rehab on Millenium looks great, and we never had a problem with lines for anything. We had a butler named Ranier, who I’m sure is very good at his job, but we simply had no need for a butler. He finally gave up on us, and we didn’t even see him the last two days of the cruise. Our stateroom attendant was fantastic! He sensed when we would leave the room, and magically it was updated almost every time we left. After checking in and dumping our backpacks in the room, we immediately went to lunch in Luminae. What a beautiful dining room! Luminae does not have assigned seating, though they do try to keep you with the same primary waiter. We had Alfredo every meal, except for perhaps one or two, and he was the highlight of our trip. Alfredo had the personality where you just want to be around him, and he truly wanted to make us happy. We went off menu a few times, and he even successfully scored a couple of entrees from Blu, which is not officially available to Luminae guests. Mary and I had an outstanding dessert one day at lunch when Tammy and Greg were on an excursion, and Alfredo went to the kitchen and set aside four more so that we could all enjoy the same again at dinner. We spent a good part of our afternoon exploring the ship. It’s hard to compare to what others experienced in the MDR, but to me the Luminae experience was worth a LOT! We looked forward to each and every meal. The rest of the afternoon was spent unpacking and exploring Café al Baccio….ahem, I mean the rest of the ship. After a wonderful dinner, we had the muster drill, then sailaway, and finally a family comedian. I forget his name, but the show was really good. We had no trouble going to sleep afterwards, worn out from a long day.
  14. Thursday, July 25 We had one full day to explore the area before heading for the cruise ship, and we decided on the 26 Glacier Cruise out of Whittier. This is a 5- hour cruise, but basically takes the whole day due to travel time. Getting to Whittier requires travel through a one-way tunnel, which opens for a short while on the half hour. The cruise company suggests leaving Anchorage at 9:00 to easily make the 10:30 opening, as the 11:30 opening does not allow enough time for 300 people to get through and get on their boat. Before leaving, we had an excellent breakfast buffet at the Hilton, thanks to a $4 upgrade from the Concierge Lounge to get the full buffet. We were very pleased with the food quality. Seating on the boat is assigned, and all seats are at tables. I don’t know if it was because we purchased tickets waaaay in advance, or if we were just lucky, but we were fortunate to be assigned the absolute best table on the very front of the boat. It’s not that other tables were bad, but there is no question that ours was one of the two or three best. They serve a light lunch consisting of one of three types of soup or chowder with some crackers, fruit, etc. Fresh baked cookies were also served closer to the end of the tour. The 26 Glacier Cruise meanders through various inlets of Prince William Sound, visiting or passing by 26 (not that I counted) different glaciers. Some you see at a distance, and others you see very close up. The beauty of the glaciers as well as the forested hills and island, and the abundant wildlife made for a very enjoyable trip and many photo opps. This excursion ranked right up with my favorites from aboard the cruise ship. We were tired coming back, and had a very early alarm set for Friday, so we stopped at that Alaska favorite – Texas Roadhouse (ha!) -- for dinner on the way back. We weren’t up for fighting the tourist crowds.
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