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Carnival Spirit Alaskan Cruise Review : September 11, 2012 - (lots of pictures)

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This is my review of our amazing cruise onboard the Carnival Spirit on her final voyage ever in Alaska. Born on April 27, 2001, the Carnival Spirit was the first “Fun Ship” to cruise Alaska, and has done so each season since. This September 11 sailing was her final trip to Alaska as at the time of this writing she is sailing towards Hawaii and finally on to Sydney Australia where she’ll reside on a full time basis.

 

This review is organized in two sections:

1. The Trip – all about our experience in Alaska

2. The Ship – details on the Carnival Spirit

 

I organized it this way so that in the future if someone is searching for details on the ship but isn’t interested in Alaska, they can simply jump down to section two. So if that’s you, simply scroll down. This review is fairly detailed, and I’ve included a number of pictures. I’m not a “travel log” writer, so apologies in advance for not capturing everything in the right order. I’m happy to answer questions if you have any.

 

 

Section 1 : The Trip

 

This cruise was booked intending to be something special, and that it was! It was designed to be a celebration of my wife’s birthday, and an opportunity for us to get away together for more than 2 nights for the first time since our first child was born nearly 17 years ago! We couldn’t have picked a more wonderful experience.

 

I booked the cruise the very day it opened up, nearly 18 months in advance. I specifically wanted the Glacier Bay sailing, the Carnival Spirit, and the top floor aft wrap, so I checked daily for weeks waiting for the cruise to open. I booked cabin # 8268 which is the port side aft wrap visa suite on the Panorama deck. Details and pictures of this room are below in section 2.

 

The room we selected wasn’t cheap, but we wanted this experience and were willing to pay for it. When I booked the cruise I paid the required deposit and prepaid gratuities. Six months later as a Christmas gift to each other we paid the balance of the cruise, added insurance, and booked travel.

 

The itinerary for this cruise was:

 

Tuesday Sept 11 – Depart Seattle

Wednesday Sept 12 – Sea Day

Thursday Sept 13 – Juneau, AK

Friday Sept 14 – Cruise Glacier Bay

Saturday Sept 15 – Skagway, AK

Sunday Sept 16 – Ketchikan, AK

Monday Sept 17 – Cruise Inner Passage

Tuesday Sept 18 – Vancouver, BC

 

Day 0

After months of waiting, planning, preparing, and wondering, the day to depart to Seattle finally arrived. We spent the weekend prepping Grandma and Grandpa on our crazy life of taking care of four very busy and active kids (2 in high school, 1 in middle, and one in elementary). We’re grateful that they were willing to spend the week with their grandkids, and hope they’ll start talking to us again in the near future. :)

 

One thing we did that really helped was that we created a daily hour by hour schedule for Grandma and put it on a clipboard. That way she could cross off each activity as she went through the day, staying on top of various football, gymnastics, swimming, band, scouts, church, and school activities. We also created a medical care permission for caregiver document that came in handy when Grandma had to take one of the four to urgent care. Eeek!

 

Anyway, we were dropped off at Denver International Airport where we checked in our bags. I had booked Classic Plus tickets on Frontier Airlines which allow for two checked bags per person without extra fees. We decided to check three of our four bags, placing in the fourth key items that we couldn’t live with in case the airline lost our luggage, and we carried that one on. The flight was on time and smooth and after watching the finale of Hell’s Kitchen on board (Frontier has TV’s at each seat) we arrived in Seattle.

 

Since our tickets were Classic Plus, our bags had been marked as Priority and were the first to come off at baggage claim. We stayed at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront, which from experience I knew to be about a $38 cab ride from the airport. When we went to line up for a cab, we saw parked next to the taxi line a limo company offering flat rate $45 to downtown, so we splurged and took it. They put us in a big stretch limo! Wow, now we’re traveling in style!

 

Upon check in at the hotel they upgraded us to a junior suite on the water side. Again, wow! How fun for us. Our room was HUGE, with a big sitting room and separate bedroom. The bathroom was enormous and had two doors (a detail that would come back to bite us later). We decided to order room service for dinner and stay in.

 

 

I took this photo with my cell phone from our hotel room as the sun was setting. This was going to be a good vacation!

 

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Day 0 Highlights:

• Getting upgraded to a Junior Suite at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront

• Riding in a stretch limo

 

Day 0 Lowlights:

• Nothing so far!

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Day 1 – Embark

 

Being on Pacific Time it felt like we were sleeping in since we were used to getting up pretty early in order to get kids to school by 6:30 AM. I was so excited that I just wanted to go go go! But I knew we didn’t really want to leave for the port until 10:00 AM, so we took it easy and walked down the street to buy bagels for breakfast. I also bought some Hot Tamales (candy) to take with me on the ship.

 

The view from our hotel room made me really excited.

 

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This boat looks to be someone’s summer home. Now that would be an interesting life.

 

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The night before I had talked with the bellman transportation to Pier 91, which is north of downtown. Our options were to take a cab which they said would cost about $18, or take the shuttle which would cost $7 each. Or, we could schedule a town car for $20. We decided to take the town car, and at 10 AM our driver picked us up and drove us to the Pier and dropped us off. Wow, we’re really doing this!

 

Here is a picture of the drop off area of the port facility at Pier 91. It seemed pretty efficient since the only way to get there is by vehicle – you can’t walk there.

 

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The outside of the facility is fairly unremarkable, although the inside is very nice and setup well.

 

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Since we booked a vista suite, we had VIP boarding. Upon entering the building, the port agent directed us to a special line to drop our bags. I had previously printed luggage tags for all four of our bags, carrying only my briefcase with my laptop and camera and my wife carrying her purse. By the way, I thought I might use my laptop on the cruise to check in with work or upload photos, but I never did! Awesome!

 

After dropping our bags we went up the escalator to the upstairs where we went through the metal detector and waited for a few minutes for our turn to check in with Carnival. Everyone was so polite and friendly. We gave them our boarding pass, showed them our passports, and they gave us our S&S cards and a VIP boarding card and directed to the waiting area. There was plenty of seating, but we were too excited to sit, so we walked around and talked to people, and did a lot of people watching.

 

They told us that boarding would start at 11:30, so by the time we were done with check in we had about 45-50 minutes to wait. It was fun to watch the crowd of people arrive. Carnival photographers were taking pictures, and everyone was chatting away. Most people were in really good moods. Since we chose not to sit, as it got close to 11:30 we stood near the front of the queue anticipating the boarding process. When we saw a large wedding party start to board we knew we were next!

 

Then, wow! When they called for VIP boarding it was chaos! Lucky for us we were standing near the front, but quickly we were crowded and almost pushed and shoved aside as a mass of people advanced on the line. At first I was a little confused since most of the people jockeying to get in front of others had boarding zones with numbers like 7 or 4 or 5, etc. Then I realized what was going on – they were showing their platinum S&S cards to the Carnival reps to get priority boarding. That makes sense, since that is one of the platinum benefits.

 

Now I want to be careful – I’m not suggesting that all platinum members push and shove their way in line. But it was clear that Carnival hasn’t really thought through that part of the boarding process as they should have given them VIP boarding cards because the workers managing the line seemed to be initially caught off guard and unaware how to handle the situation since I saw one person arguing with the worker who was saying “VIP only” and the passenger was simply waving their S&S card 2 inches in front of the workers face, not saying a word but getting their point across.

 

To be honest, I wouldn’t mind if they had a separate boarding step and let them all queue up first, then called for VIP. Sure, I was anxious to get on the ship, but I really didn’t have anywhere else to go and wouldn’t have minded waiting a few minutes longer. Sadly, a few people’s poor behavior kind of put a bad taste in my mouth. But I quickly forgot about it as we had our picture taken and were walking the gangway to get on the ship.

 

Onboard the Carnival Spirit, we headed straight up to the Lido deck where we grabbed some food and headed out to the Serenity deck to eat and enjoy.

 

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After eating some lunch, we went to bar and purchased soda stickers and Carnival tumblers. The soda pass with gratuity and tax was about $52 each, and the tumblers were about $5 each. Hmm, that was a lot of $ for soda pop, but it turns out it was one of the best decisions we made. Throughout the cruise we’d often carry our tumbler with us and have it filled at the various bars with soda or juice (I swear my wife has Diet Coke running through her veins, and I usually would get pineapple juice). Since we’re not alcohol drinkers, the cost of the soda pass was easily justified.

 

We were going to explore the ship next, but they called over the PA that our rooms were ready! Wow, that was fast! So we headed down to our room to check it out. Our room was # 8268, which is the port side aft wrap visa suite on the Panorama deck. One of the reasons I selected this room is that it’s just one flight of stairs to and from the Lido deck. This made it really convenient to sneak up and grab food from the Lido buffets or refill our sodas from the Serenity bar.

 

Since we were celebrating my wife’s birthday on the cruise, I had ordered the birthday decorations, and they were all setup for us when we entered our room for the first time. This was very exciting!

 

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The balcony in this room is crazy huge!

 

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We hung out in our room for a few minutes, and then set out exploring the ship. I have more pictures of our room and balcony, and of the ship in section 2 below. After a quick explore of the ship, we refilled our sodas and ran back to the room put our luggage inside. Quickly after they announced it was time for the muster drill so we headed down to our muster station.

 

So the muster drill sucked. I think we stood there for about a half hour, in the sun, waiting for everyone to show up so they could conduct the drill. We were packed in there pretty tight, and some people tried to sit down but were told they had to stand. So there we stood, toe to toe with all these strangers, with the sun baking us, while people casually wandered their way to the drill, drinks in hand, oblivious to the fact that the rest of us had been waiting. Seems to me, the #1 thing I learned at muster drill was this: if you’re late to muster drill, you’re also first to leave. Remind me to be late next time.

 

Once that was over, we headed onto the ship and up to the Serenity deck for the sail away. The CC meet & greet was happening at the same time (and was published in the Fun Times), but my wife and I decided to be shy and didn’t introduce ourselves, and instead enjoyed people watching and sightseeing (this was her vacation so I focused on what she wanted to do :D I’m sure you understand).

 

It was fun watching them load stuff onto the ship. Pretty amazing to see them working so hard to bring on supplies, fuel, luggage, etc. We even saw them load up a few washer and dryers.

 

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The view from the Serenity deck was beautiful.

 

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You could see Mt. Rainer off in the distance.

 

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When it was time for sail away, lots of people came to the Serenity deck. This was the busiest we ever saw it the entire cruise.

 

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There was even a couple in the hot tub! In fact, the hot tubs were pretty popular at all times of day and in all kinds of weather.

 

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Just 10 minutes north of Seattle you couldn’t see the city and more and the landscape continued to be amazing.

 

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Once we were at full speed we went back to our room and prepared for dinner. We had the early dining time, which was 5:30 PM (originally scheduled for 6PM, but when we boarded they handed us a piece of paper stating that due to feedback they moved it to 5:30). I changed out of my shorts and into pants (go figure!) and went found our way to the Empire dining room. Turns out we were put at a table for four, and our table mates were a wonderful couple from Texas. We had much in common with them, and they quickly became one of the highlights of our cruise experience. The food was great and the service was excellent.

 

After dinner we wandered around and went to the welcome aboard show. Cruise director Stu introduced himself and the entertainment staff, and it was fun and exciting. They had a 10 piece brass band that was the focal point of the music in the theater for the cruise, and they were very good and fun to listen to.

 

So we found the entertainment to be WONDERFUL! The Punchliner Comedy Club was fantastically funny. We enjoyed the comedy shows that night, and before bed ran to the Lido deck and ordered some calzones to take back to our room with us. What a great day!

 

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Day 1 Highlights:

• Our room and balcony is AWESOME!

• We haven’t laughed so hard in years! The entertainment was great.

• How lucky are we to have such wonderful table mates.

 

 

Day 1 Lowlights:

• Pushy people in line to get on the boat.

• Long muster drill.

• Remember that huge bathroom with two doors at our hotel? Well, my wife had hung her makeup bag behind one of the doors, and that door got opened, and we missed the bag when packing and we got on the ship without her makeup bag. :’( Good news is that the onboard shops had pretty good product and she was able to replace the essentials. The Marriott was kind enough to mail her makeup back home to us (for a $31 charge on my credit card… ouch!). All in all it was an expensive lowlight.

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Day 2 – Sea Day

We slept in a little bit, and I ran upstairs and filled up our sodas and grabbed a couple of plates of breakfast and we sat in our room and enjoyed a beautiful morning at sea.

 

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We spent some time walking around and enjoying a slow day. The path that the ship took was to the west of Vancouver Island and we were far enough out to see that you could barely see the shore.

 

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There were tons of activities onboard the ship. So many we couldn’t go to everything, but the things we did go to were a lot of fun (especially Game Show Mania). After lunch we found a spot to watch the Hairy Chest Contest which was hilarious and not at all what I expected. The Fun Ship Films team was everywhere filming everything, and you could watch some of the action on the TV in your room (of course they want you to purchase a DVD). In this picture you can see the camera man getting ready for the Hair Chest Contest, and the entertainment staff is huddled on the right. The man in suspenders and plaid shirt is the Cruise Director Stu, and the man on the very right is Mr. Everson, aka Dr. E, and was our favorite. We found ourselves targeting his activities because he was so entertaining.

 

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After the Hair Chest Contest they had an ice carving demonstration. We watched for a while, and then I headed to the theater to listen to the naturalist speak. The ship’s naturalist, Michelle, was very nice and enjoyable to listen to. She seemed very knowledgeable and was approachable for questions. My wife went shopping for more make up or something, and we met up afterwards.

 

Dinner was our first of two elegant nights, and we dressed up. I even wore a tie. Most people were dressed up, some in tuxedos, many ties and other formal attire. Women ranged from fancy cocktail dresses to some gowns. All in all it was a lot of fun. After dinner we wandered to the theater for the show, and were delighted by the band, dancers, and singers.

 

During the show we noticed that the boat was really rocking, and after the show I went out on the deck and found that we were in the middle of a big storm. It was raining, very windy, and big swells on the ocean. We all walked like we were drunk! It was crazy. We made our way back to our room, changed our clothes, and went back out to party, enjoying the late comedy shows and finding room for yet more food before hitting the sack.

 

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Day 2 Highlights:

• The fun activities kept us busy and having a GREAT time.

• Cruise Elegant night was a lot of fun.

• The boat rocking was crazy and exciting.

Day 2 Lowlights:

• The boat rocking almost knocked us out of bed! Not really, but I couldn’t think of any low lights for this day.

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Day 3 – Juneau

Our first port day was Juneau Alaska. And it rained. And rained. And rained.

 

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Despite the rain, we had a pretty good time. We didn’t plan any excursions since we just wanted to do some shopping and hang out, and although it was raining, we still adventured out. My main goal was to find some more Hot Tamales (candy) because I had eaten all mine up the day before. Since we were not in a hurry, we waited until the crowd of people disembarking had died down before we exited the ship, so there was no line. While waiting though, I did see something funny. We were and the far dock, and it was a little bit of a walk into town. There were basically two paths to down: 1) walking along the board walk, and 2) walking along the road. Neither was longer than the other, but the road path pointed you more towards a certain number of shops. I noticed a young lady standing near the entrance to both paths, calling out, “Welcome to Juneau! Everything you’re looking for is right this way…” and she was pointing to the road path.

 

Well, when we got down there, I went up to her and asked, “So, who pays you to stand here and direct people to take the road path into town?” She was pretty surprised at my direct question, and fumbled a little bit in her response. She was very friendly and basically said, “Well, tourism is important to the city of Juneau, and basically they pay me to welcome you.” Not sure what that means, but I said thanks and we walked in the rain down the path.

 

Once into town, we saw a line of shacks (like lemonade stands) with tour operators standing in them, trying to get people to sign up for their whale watching torus or whatever tours they were selling. I walked up to one of them and asked him where I could buy some Hot Tamales, and three up them brainstormed and agreed that it would be hard to find them in town, and would likely have to take a shuttle out to Wal-Mart to buy some. So then I told them about the girl standing down by the ship directing people along the road path. One of the guys spoke up and said, “Oh yeah, she works for the same company as I do. We’re owned by those stores over there,” pointing across the street. Ah ha! Then, a competing tour operator spoke up and said, “Sir, you’d be doing me a big favor if while you’re searching for Hot Tamales you could stop by the visitor’s bureau and make a formal complaint about that girl, telling them that she’s harassing tourists.” Turns out this guy’s company owns shops on the OTHER side. LOL Now this is getting fun.

 

So the first guy and the second guy start arguing about this, and we all laugh because it’s all in good fun. To his credit, the first guy did offer to go buy me some Hot Tamales if I bought a whale watching tour from him. We laughed again, we continued our shopping quest.

 

Well, now you’re going to find out that I’m crazy, because after visiting several shops and not finding any Hot Tamales, we were soaking wet and happened to walk by a taxi cab. I said, “Please take us to Wal-Mart,” and off we went. Yes, we actually made going to Wal-Mart in Juneau our own excursion. I bought all the Hot Tamale boxes they had, plus some Milk Duds and M&Ms. My wife bought some Q-Tips (she’s very practical) we went back to the waiting taxi and he took us back to the ship. It was actually pretty fun and interesting to see the different things they carry as compared to our local stores.

 

Anyway, we got back on the ship, and we were soaking wet, so we went back to our room and enjoyed watching people returning to the ship in the rain. All in all it was a fun day.

 

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Dinner was wonderful, and since there wasn’t any comedy club that night we decided to try out karaoke. Wow. Now that is an entire sub-culture right there. It was find, although we were too shy to get up and sing ourselves. I was suckered into losing $20 playing bingo, and we chilled in the atrium listening to some great live music and chatting with new friends.

 

 

Day 3 Highlights:

• Our mini-adventure to Wal-Mart!

 

 

Day 3 Lowlights:

• No comedy. :mad: We really enjoyed the comedians and wish they would have been there every night.

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Day 4 – Glacier Bay

 

I’ve struggled with how to write this part of my review. I’m not a writer. Glacier Bay deserves more than I am capable of. I now understand why many people consider Glacier Bay a “bucket list” experience. To be honest, I was unsure of my expectations at first. I have been to Alaska before, and I have seen glaciers before. So going in my expectations were that I’d probably see more of the same. Wow… that was wrong. My experience in Glacier Bay was unlike anything I expected. It blew me away with its surreal peace and beauty.

 

Glacier Bay is a national park and preserve for a reason. What is going on there before your very eyes at a geological and glacial level is simply amazing. I learned that you don’t visit Glacier Bay – you “experience” it. Now, perhaps not everyone on the ship enjoyed it as much as I did, but if you’re a fan of nature, you can’t help but fall in love. Photos don’t convey the experience, so you’ll either have to trust me or go for yourself and find out. 

 

I got up early and headed up on the top decks to watch the sun rise. The clouds were low in the sky, and it was pretty cloudy all day, with a few occasions of blue sky peeking through. I’m glad it wasn’t raining like it was in Juneau.

 

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Just after 7:00 AM we slowed down and picked up the park rangers. They climbed aboard and spent the day with us. One of them provided narration throughout the day of what we were seeing and where we were going. His narration was outstanding, providing lots of detailed information in an easy to understand and thought provoking way. He would peak your interest by hinting about what he was going to say next, and really took the experience to a new level. One great thing was that his narration played on the cabin balconies. In fact, it was the only time I heard the speaker on the balcony make a sound – I wouldn’t have known it was there otherwise.

 

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After we picked up the rangers, I ran down to the Lido deck and filled up a couple of plates for us for breakfast, and went to our aft wrap balcony where I spent the day. This is when that balcony earned its keep. I paced back and forth back and forth just taking in all of the amazing sights. You’d think a day in Glacier Bay would be relaxing. Funny thing is, it left me exhausted. My legs and feet were very tired from pacing back and forth on my balcony (I could have sat down, but it was too exciting, I didn’t want to miss anything). And I was mentally tired from the overall amazing impact that the bay had on me.

 

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We cruised up to the Margerie Glacier in the Tarr Inlet, passing some smaller glaciers and hanging ice and other fascinating sights along the way. The further up you go in Glacier Bay the milkier the water becomes due to the silt in the water. At times would stir up big plumes of silt and dirt – it was amazing to see.

 

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We approached the Margerie Glacier very slowly – and it was so quiet and peaceful. The glacier itself is very impressive with its size and character. The brilliant blue colors and dirty stripes just pop out of the surface of the glacier. The ship was full of excitement, with heads leaning out of every balcony and railing. Even the crew was excited, as several sneaked outside on deck to take pictures of the glacier.

 

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The captain put the port side of the ship facing the glacier and sat there for a while, then spun the ship around so the starboard side could also enjoy it. All this time, our park ranger narrator was describing what we were seeing, the history of how it was created, the future of what it’s becoming, and helping us all understand the geological significance of it all. It really was fantastic.

 

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We pulled away from the Margerie Glacier and headed towards Johns Hopkins Glacier up the Johns Hopkins Inlet. On the way we passed some smaller glaciers (I think the pictures below are the Lamplugh Glacier) and some amazing geologic rock formations.

 

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The Johns Hopkins Glacier is enormous.

 

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Our park ranger narrator made it sound like a very big deal that a ship of our size was going up to Johns Hopkins, saying that this was the first time this year the he personally has been up to the glacier. Typically the inlet is so choked with ice that most ship captains are unwilling to make the journey. So we were very grateful and impressed that we were able to push right up to it.

 

As we pulled away from Johns Hopkins I finally sat down. Using my binoculars I just stared in awe as I witnessed the largest calving of the day. The splash was huge and filled the entire viewing space of my binoculars. There were many audible gasps and shouts of amazement (I think I screamed “Holy Cow!”) and the thunder of the calving echoed with a loud bass feeling. We were lucky to be on the back of the ship to see this amazing sight.

 

We slowly cruised out of the bay, dropping off the park rangers around 4:30 PM. That night my wife and I dined alone in the dining room (our tablemates were at the Steak House), and spent the evening hopping from one live music venue to the next, just chilling and being almost overwhelmed by the beauty we experienced that day.

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Day 4 Highlights:

• Glacier Bay. Period.

• We watched an iceberg float by counting seven seals sunning themselves on the ice. Very cute.

 

 

Day 4 Lowlights:

• Trying to take a deep breath of fresh glacier air only to get a lungful of second hand smoke from a neighboring balcony.

• Watching those same people flick their cigarette butts into beautiful Glacier Bay. :mad:

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Day 5 – Skagway

 

There are lots of options for cool excursions in Skagway. But again we opted to do my wife’s favorite activity: shopping! :) I was just happy to be with her. After breakfast we got ready to go into town. The weather was pretty cloudy, but warm. There was a short line to get off the ship, and we started walking. We were at the far end of the dock, and after being on my feet all day yesterday in Glacier Bay, my legs were trying to convince me that town was far away.

 

Our morning got exciting when, as we passed the ship my wife noticed something swimming in the water. We got in close for a look, and it was a seal. The cute critter poked his head out and eyeballed us pretty good, then swam away. It was pretty exciting.

 

Speaking of critters, our list of wildlife we saw during the cruise included:

 

 

  • Whales
    *Humpback (several)
    *Fin (just one)
    *Orca (too many to count)
  • Birds
    *I don’t know enough about birds to classify them
    *Bald Eagles
  • Bear – one forging on the shore in Glacier Bay
  • Mountain Goat – several, very white, in Glacier Bay
  • Seals – swimming, on ice, and once covering a small island like carpet
  • Salmon fish in the stream
  • Sea Otters

 

Back to Skagway – I didn’t take my camera that day, and instead just focused on being with my wife. We walked the entire town (didn’t take long, it’s such a small place), did some shopping and talked to some locals. We walked back to the ship taking our time and walking through the campground there near the pier. It started raining on us while we walked back, but we didn’t care. We were together holding hands enjoying the beautiful sights. We didn’t have a care in the world.

 

Dinner was fun as we sailed past the Eldred Rock Lighthouse. It was a beautiful slight, and made for a nice relaxing dinner service. After dinner we again hopped around to different venues enjoying the live music and basically chilling.

 

Speaking of music, each night there were several options. There was always a man signing in the atrium bar, and a singer in the casino bar. Karaoke was every night, as was the piano bar. Then often you could find some other live music happening somewhere, either in the artists lounge or the lounge under the main theater. They advertised the options in the Fun Times. I’ve read other people complain about the lack of live music, but I didn’t see that on our cruise. During the day, yeah it was pretty much just DJ music, but in the evening there were multiple options.

 

 

Day 5 Highlights:

• Seeing the curious seal swim by

• Holding hands with my beautiful wife

 

Day 5 Lowlights:

• Can’t think of any…

Edited by MileHighAko

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Day 6 – Ketchikan

 

As we approached Ketchikan the clouds were hanging very low. Although I had checked the weather in Ketchikan almost every day for the last 90 days, I had no idea what to expect. Seeing the clouds I was a little worried that it would just be rain, rain, rain. After all, they measure annual rainfall in Ketchikan in feet, not inches.

 

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But, to our amazement, as we got closer to down, we literally sailed right out of the clouds and into an amazing day of sunshine! So much sunshine that later that day I was kicking myself for not wearing shorts! It was beautiful. The various sights we saw as we approached Ketchikan were really fun and made us excited.

 

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There was one other ship at port when we arrived, the Celebrity Infinity. We parked right behind her and saw this poster hanging from one of the balconies. It was fun to wave at each other.

 

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I love Ketchikan, partly because the ships dock right up close to old town and you can see all over.

 

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Really lovely photos. Bringing back memories of our cruise to Glacier Bay first cruise of the season this past May. Glacier Bay is truly spectacular and I agree that there really aren't words to describe it.

 

Thank you for taking the time to write your review.

 

Andrea

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We decided to do the duck boat tour. I know, it’s corny and expensive for what you get, but it was fun and we laughed at all the dumb jokes our tour guide told. Our tour guide was a third generation Ketchikanian, and told us a lot of great information about the town that we didn’t know.

 

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After our duck boat tour, we walked around town and did some shopping. It was our last port, and we had several people left to buy for, so we took advantage of the late season sales.

 

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After shopping we waved goodbye to the Infinity as it left port before us. We chilled in our room and watched people returning to the ship, and prepared for our second elegant night. Dinner was fantastic as we caught up with our fun tablemate friends. That night the band, dancers, and singers did a wonderful show focused on New Orleans music. It was pretty amazing with very detailed props and sets, including pyrotechnics and laser lights. It was almost over the top – this production on a cruise ship was very exciting.

 

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And, the great news is that we picked up two new comedians, and so the Punchliner comedy club was back in business. Again, we haven’t laughed so hard in years. The late comedy show took a much unexpected turn as an older Italian passenger got up and sang to the audience. It was crazy, spontaneous, and a riot.

 

 

Day 6 Highlights:

• Wonderful weather in Ketchikan

• Comedy!

 

Day 6 Lowlights:

• My wife got a little motion sick on the duck boat tour. Although the tour guide was great, the experience itself is pretty expensive for what you get. As you can see, we were not adventurous with our port excursions.

Edited by MileHighAko

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Day 7 – Inside Passage

 

Well, we made it to our last day. Since I was lazy at the beginning of our trip and didn’t take good ship photos, I got up a little early and wandered the ship and took a lot of pictures. You can see them below in section 2. After taking pictures, I grabbed us some breakfast from the Lido deck and went to wake up my wife. She was already up and chilling on the balcony. We expected to be at the beginning of the inner passage around noon and would be picking up our Canadian pilots at that time, so I decided to take a morning nap. Oh how I love vacation.

 

After catching some sleep, I woke up to the sound of the horn on the ship going off every minute or two. I asked my wife what was going on, and she said look outside. Yep – sure enough, we were in a thick fog and going very slow. Soon the captain come the PA to give us our regular update, and he notified us that due to the fog, the meeting with the pilots would be delayed for a few hours, and that was the reason for the reduction in speed. On the TV channel that shows the map it indicated we were going 5 knots, and for the next hour we laughed at our track as the captain was doing loopty loops in the water.

 

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I was a little disappointed since I was looking forward to enjoying the inside passage, but there was plenty to do on the ship (like watch crazy people pushing and shoving for the opportunity to spend $20.00 on a $3.00 wrist watch… we bought 2). And in the afternoon we went to the dining room to take the galley tour. That was a lot of fun to learn about how they prepare our meals, what goes into making the kitchen run, and how the crew is trained to be able to serve so many passengers. The tour was free, we just had to show up.

 

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The ship finally started moving faster, but we were still in fog with the horn continuing to blow every few minutes. I figured we had picked up our pilots, and were starting to make up time as we had been going 5 knots for about three and a half hours. We got ready for our final dinner and made our way to the dining room where we had a wonderful meal and great conversation. Our wait staff sang up us and waved goodbye.

 

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We were sailing in and out of fog, and the sun was about to set, so we went up to the Serenity deck to enjoy the sights. We were thrilled to spot over a dozen (yep, we counted them) orca whales swimming in the water.

 

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We had already packed most of our bags earlier in the day, so we went to some movie trivia thing (and realized that we don’t watch near enough movies), and then hopped down to the comedy club to laugh our last laughs. We said goodbye to our new best friends (our table mates) and went back to our room and closed up our bags and set them outside. They were picked up within a few minutes. Is it really over? I didn’t want to go to bed, but I did.

 

Day 7 Highlights:

• The galley tour was very interesting.

• Seeing the orca whales was incredible.

 

Day 7 Lowlights:

• Missing much of the inside passage due to fog.

• Having to pack our bags to go home.

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Day 8 – Vancouver and Home

 

I had set the alarm and had a wake-up call since we had to get up early and be in the theater by 7:15 for our Direct-to-Bus debarkation. The Direct-to-Bus program was for passengers with a USA passport flying directly from Canada to the USA before 4:00 PM that day. When I found out about the program earlier on the cruise I purchased the Carnival transfers and signed us up for the program. The benefit being that your luggage meets you at the airport. You don’t have to handle your luggage until that time, so you simply debark and get on a bus to the airport and collect your bags in the terminal when you get there.

 

All in all it was a pretty flawless process. We woke up, got dressed, and watched us sail into Vancouver from our balcony. Neither of us were interested in eating breakfast so we skipped it. We were excited to go home to see our kids, but sad to be done with our wonderful cruise. At 7:10 we wandered to the theater where we waited for about a half hour for the Carnival port representatives to come on board and explain the process to us. Then, by groups, they walked us out of the theater and off the ship where we showed a Canadian border agent our passport, and got on the bus.

 

Our bus driver was nice, and we got a seat up front. The driver gave us the “.50 cent tour” of Vancouver while he drove, which was actually pretty good. It was well rehearsed and he knew all the right things to say. Upon arriving at the airport they dropped us off at the USA terminal of the airport where we went and fetched our bags from inside the terminal where Carnival had dropped them. Easy process, no real complaints (although some people were complaining… one couple in particular was hilarious as the husband followed his wife shouting at her “you made me come! I didn’t want to come, but you made me!” while she fetched the bags herself… it was nuts).

 

The downside to the direct-to-bus program, other than not getting to spend any time in the city, is that it happens pretty early in the morning. It was just before 9:00 AM when they dropped us off at the airport, and our flight wasn’t until 2:30 PM, and you can’t check into your flight until four hours before departure. So we grabbed some food and cooled our heels for a while. I synced my email and realized that there was life outside of vacation.

 

t there was life outside of vacation.

When it was time, we checked into our flight, made our way through USA customs (I love seeing the “Welcome to the USA” signs… in Canada), and went to wait for our flight. I had booked first class tickets home as a birthday surprise for my wife, but regretted it as the flight was only half full and we would have had a row to ourselves otherwise. Oh well – at least they fed us lunch on the plane. Never mind, after enjoying the wonderful food on the Carnival Spirit we were disgusted by the microwaved burger they tried to feed us on United. LOL

 

The one benefit to first class was that our luggage was first off, and we left the airport to head home.

 

Day 8 Highlights:

• Debarkation was easy, and we didn’t have to carry our bags.

• Seeing our family again after our long vacation.

 

Day 8 Lowlights:

• We didn’t get a Canada stamp in our passport! I guess with the direct-to-bus program since they don’t officially process you into Canada or something, they never stamped our passports.

• We came home.

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Well – that’s the end of Section 1.

 

I’ll add Section 2 there in a couple of days. I took 147 pictures of the ship features which is probably too many to post here, so I need some time to pick out the best ones. :confused: I’ll update this post as soon as I get them sorted out and my commentary written.

 

Thanks for reading!

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MileHighAko - This is the nicest review! Thank you for taking me back to Alaska. You're right when you say, words and photos hardly do the place justice.

 

I'll come back for section 2!

 

:)

Edited by tea4ular

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Kinda cool to see Stu is still the Cruise Director...he was pretty cool...albeit a bit cheesy.:D Did he throw down with the disco afro and threads?

 

The pictures were beautiful. Alaska is breathtaking! I did that tram ride in the middle of that port area of Juneau...kinda cool...and since it was the beginning of May when we went, snow was everywhere and the scenery was awesome! If you do Alaska again, consider doing the "Best of Juneau" tour...it starts with whale watching and ends with the MOST AMAZING salmon bake EVER....then buy out EVERYTHING at Taku! :D

 

While in Skagway, we did the Dog Mushing (Iditerod racing) excursion and the Train into Canada.

 

What I'm trying to say, while it's so sweet and awesome that you did what the wife wanted to do...and you've got brownie points into the next lifetime....you've gotta do this cruise again and do the excursions! :)

 

The Spirit is definitely getting some miles on it! Before we sailed on her in Alaska, we sailed on her to Mexico in 2005...from San Diego to Manzanillo, Ixtapa & Acapulco. She's a great vessel. :)

 

Really, really enjoyed your review. Can't wait to write mine in 6 weeks!

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Just re-lived our August Spirit cruise thru you. Loved Alaska, loved the cruise. Thanks for posting the beautiful pictures!!

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I did this one June of 2010 (before the ship upgrades). It was, BY FAR, one of my most favorite cruises to date. I loved the Spirit even before the upgrades.

 

Loving your review so far...makes me want to go again! :-)

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Thank you for sharing your cruise review.

The pictures are awesome.

It was great to relive our June/July experience cruising Alaska!

Your wife is a lucky lady to have such a kind and caring DH!

 

One thing is bothersome, however.

A) I find it hard to believe that you "FILLED a lung" with second hand smoke from a neighboring balcony while on a aft wrap balcony!

We have had 2 of these cabins and it seems highly unlikely.

B) If those same neighbors threw cigarette butts into Glacier Bay you should have, WITHOUT ANY DOUBT reported that ASAP!

DID YOU?

It is a CRIME against nature, the ship and other passengers!

 

These 2 points make me wonder if you are just a do-gooder trying to force your anti-smoking agenda.

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Two years ago, DW and I went to Alaska on the Grand Princess - same ports. I discovered the name of the beautiful blue color of the ice in the glaciers and the small bergs that float in the bay. It's called "Windex Blue"!! I thought that name fit perfectly!

 

Thanks for your review!

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Thank you for sharing your cruise review.

The pictures are awesome.

It was great to relive our June/July experience cruising Alaska!

Your wife is a lucky lady to have such a kind and caring DH!

 

One thing is bothersome, however.

A) I find it hard to believe that you "FILLED a lung" with second hand smoke from a neighboring balcony while on a aft wrap balcony!

We have had 2 of these cabins and it seems highly unlikely.

B) If those same neighbors threw cigarette butts into Glacier Bay you should have, WITHOUT ANY DOUBT reported that ASAP!

DID YOU?

It is a CRIME against nature, the ship and other passengers!

 

These 2 points make me wonder if you are just a do-gooder trying to force your anti-smoking agenda.

 

Well, I hope I'm a do-gooder - isn't it a good thing to be a do-gooder? But nope, sorry, no anti-smoking agenda here. Although I don't smoke, if you want to smoke that's your business and I respect your right to do so. To be honest, the smoking on cruise didn't bother me. Our balcony neighbors were out on their balcony just as much as we were, they were generally smoking all the time, but I didn't really find it bothersome, and that's why I didn't mention it in the main part of my review.

 

The irony of this incident, however, was that it occurred while we were floating through an ice field, and in the stillness of the water you could hear the ice popping as they were melting and releasing air gasses that had been trapped in the ice for centuries. Our national park ranger narrator explaining the sounds we were hearing, and then he encouraged us to take a deep breath and breath in the fresh glacial air. I tried to do it, but the freshness was lost on me as all I could really smell was cigarette smoke.

 

So yeah, maybe I didn't fill an entire lung full of smoke - but you get the metaphor. This didn't ruin my day or anything, but when I made my mental lists of highlights and lowlights, this was the latter.

 

As for the second part of that, flicking cigarette butts into the ocean, nope I didn't go tell on them or report them or even yell at them. I simply was disappointed. Does the fact that I didn't report them make me responsible? Ah, think what you may, but I had other priorities than to play litter police.

 

Also, before I forget, and take this for what its worth since I'm not a smoker and therefore it's hard for me to be completely objective, but the ship and cruise seemed to be fairly smoker friendly. I saw people smoking on their balconies, around the sun pool, in the Club Cool bar, in the Casino, and on the upper decks. None of their smoking ever really bothered me, and I can't say that I ever felt like you could smell smoke in other areas of the ship.

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Kinda cool to see Stu is still the Cruise Director...he was pretty cool...albeit a bit cheesy.:D Did he throw down with the disco afro and threads?

 

Yes, Stu did engage with the ship quite a bit, at least more than I expected. He did a disco night, and sang badly in the piano bar, and was fairly accessible to the passengers. I ran into him in the hallway when we were about to talk into town in Juneau, and you could tell he was in a hurry to get somewhere, but I stopped him and asked him a question, and he took the time to answer me, and even walked with me back to the shopping experts desk to get me a shopping map. As soon as we were done, he rushed back to whatever it was he was doing, but I appreciated that he took time to engage with me.

 

 

What I'm trying to say, while it's so sweet and awesome that you did what the wife wanted to do...and you've got brownie points into the next lifetime....you've gotta do this cruise again and do the excursions! :)

Yeah, you're right. Good news is that my wife agreed that we should do it again and take our teenage boys and do as many adventure excursions as we can, so now the planning starts all over again! :D

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Well, I hope I'm a do-gooder - isn't it a good thing to be a do-gooder? But nope, sorry, no anti-smoking agenda here. Although I don't smoke, if you want to smoke that's your business and I respect your right to do so. To be honest, the smoking on cruise didn't bother me. Our balcony neighbors were out on their balcony just as much as we were, they were generally smoking all the time, but I didn't really find it bothersome, and that's why I didn't mention it in the main part of my review.

 

The irony of this incident, however, was that it occurred while we were floating through an ice field, and in the stillness of the water you could hear the ice popping as they were melting and releasing air gasses that had been trapped in the ice for centuries. Our national park ranger narrator explaining the sounds we were hearing, and then he encouraged us to take a deep breath and breath in the fresh glacial air. I tried to do it, but the freshness was lost on me as all I could really smell was cigarette smoke.

 

So yeah, maybe I didn't fill an entire lung full of smoke - but you get the metaphor. This didn't ruin my day or anything, but when I made my mental lists of highlights and lowlights, this was the latter.

 

As for the second part of that, flicking cigarette butts into the ocean, nope I didn't go tell on them or report them or even yell at them. I simply was disappointed. Does the fact that I didn't report them make me responsible? Ah, think what you may, but I had other priorities than to play litter police.

 

Also, before I forget, and take this for what its worth since I'm not a smoker and therefore it's hard for me to be completely objective, but the ship and cruise seemed to be fairly smoker friendly. I saw people smoking on their balconies, around the sun pool, in the Club Cool bar, in the Casino, and on the upper decks. None of their smoking ever really bothered me, and I can't say that I ever felt like you could smell smoke in other areas of the ship.

 

Thank you for your clarification, I appreciate your honesty and frankness! :D

I almost added a bit about you having better things to do than alert security about the incorrigible act of your neighbors.

But, sincerely, I do wish you would of taken a moment to pick up the phone. IMHO, they should have been put off the ship!

Not only did they litter a precious natural glacial area, but they endangered the ship and all the passengers because the cig butts could have blown back on the ship and started a fire!:mad:

Their selfish act (and also other rude passengers who do the same) endangered the other passengers who responsibly smoke and could give Carnival and the anti-smoking brigade reasons to even further the restrictions on smoking :mad:

 

I'm glad to hear your planning on doing it again with your children and including some excursions next round!

Thanks again for your review and great pictures!

Edited by silvercrikhix

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Cruising Alaska has been something I have read about for a long time....your pictures were breath taking and I imagine not even close to reality...but as one that can't take this trip right now I am thankful that the pictures you took can take me there at least in one dimension....and I am so thankful...they are beautiful....and awesome....wow....and your relationship with your wife is special.....again thankyou....

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I'm not exaggerating when I say that your pictures are some of the most beautiful I have seen on Cruise Critic.

 

Thank you for taking the time to write this. I've always wanted to cruise to Alaska, and this review just makes me want to more! Someday...

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Great review! Your pictures are great! One day I will get to Alaska, it is so beautiful. Looking forward to your next section!

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Great review, enjoying the narrative as well as the photos.

 

Looking forward to the next part, we have the same cabin booked next August, so will be glad to see more.

 

Not wanting to start a non-smoking debate either, but we are so happy when the Spirit comes down under, there will be very limited smoking locations, and smoking will not be allowed on the balconies.

 

Hilary :)

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