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SteelMagnolia9

Mini-Review - Puget Sound and San Juan Islands - September 8-15, 2018

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I am starting this thread for my mini-review of my Puget Sound & San Juan Islands Cruise, September 8, 2018 to September 15, 2018. It was a beautiful cruise with 71 passengers onboard. I'll share my impressions from this past week on my ship experience as well as information about the ports and shore excursions.

 

 

Next: Travel Day and Pre-Cruise Package

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Hi. I am looking forward to reading about your adventures. I will be cruising on the Constellation on Oct 12.

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Travel Day and Pre-Cruise Package:

 

It was a looong travel day (Sept. 7th) with two flights across country to Seattle. I was traveling with a friend and we had opted for the pre-cruise package which included a one night hotel stay at the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, 113 6th Avenue in downtown Seattle, a city tour and transportation to the ship.

 

We took a taxi to the hotel from the airport and our fare was $49.39. Upon check-in, we received a Welcome Packet from American Cruise Lines outlining the pre-cruise activities for the next day. We were tired from the flights and had dinner in the hotel at the Regatta Bar & Grille. The hotel is an older Holiday Inn, a bit tired, but it was adequate for one night. I am an IHG member and upon request, the hotel credited me points for the one night stay. Breakfast was not included. We ordered room service for breakfast the next morning to give us the maximum time in the room and some extra rest from our travel day.

 

We met in the lobby with a representative from ACL at 8:30 a.m. (Sept. 8th), presented our boarding passes and identifications before boarding the bus for our city tour. Our luggage was earlier picked up inside our room and would be taken to our cabin on the American Spirit. The city tour was approximately 2 1/2 hours and was comprehensive with an option to be dropped off and picked up at Pike Place Market for a 45 minute visit. Surprisingly, no one took advantage of this. My friend and I had both been to Seattle in the past and had no plans to spend any additional time in the city beyond the city tour which we both enjoyed.

 

The American Spirit was docked at Shilshole Bay Marina and we arrived at the ship around 11:30 a.m.

 

Next: Embarkation and Cabin

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Embarkation and Cabin:

 

Embarkation was very easy. Staff was waiting outside the ship under a tent and checked us in and we were on the ship. The Chesapeake Lounge was open and had refreshments available; however, our cabin was ready and we decided to go directly there and get settled in. Lunch would be served at 12:30 p.m.

 

Cabin:

 

We were in a Category A cabin. It was 258 sq. ft. with a large picture window. We requested twin beds and were very comfortable in the room. Our room was kept very clean twice a day by our cabin steward.

 

Next: Dining and Wi-Fi

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Dining: The food was outstanding. Service in the dining room was excellent. The Hotel Director and Assistant Hotel Director were visible in the dining room during the meals overseeing the staff and would circulate among the tables to ensure good service.

 

Wi-Fi: I was able to get online in my room as well as other areas of the ship, although once in awhile there was no service, but it was likely due to the ship's position. I could send text messages and retrieve my emails. I had difficulty sending pictures to friends. At times, some websites I tried to access would not load (my local newspaper at home and the Weather Channel, for example). I utilized the ship's public computer in the second deck lounge to check into my flight home and print my boarding passes.

 

Next: Entertainment and Lectures/Enrichment

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Entertainment:

 

The entertainment was good and except for one evening when we had an enrichment lecture, all other evenings were musical groups or vocalists brought on board from the local ports. On my past cruises with ACL, staff had brought around ice cream sundaes, root beer floats and popcorn during entertainment. On this cruise, they did not do this. I noticed after entertainment concluded the first evening, the ice cream sundaes and root beer floats were sitting on the back bar area, half melted, along with a few bags of popcorn, apparently just left there. Staff never brought them around or announced they were there. Some nights I didn't see anything brought in and another night I saw the same melted mess on the back bar.

 

There was Bingo offered one afternoon, neither my friend nor I attended.

 

The Cruise Director was very visible on the ship, engaged with the passengers, energetic and helpful. I'd love to see her on a future cruise, she's a person I'd hire/want working with me and I hope ACL can retain her.

 

Lectures/Enrichment:

 

The lecturer was Ian Sampson, a naturalist/historian. I know him to be very knowledgeable as he was the lecturer on my Columbia & Snake Rivers cruise in 2015. I went to his introductory lecture the first day onboard which was an introduction to the history of the San Juan Islands. I would definitely recommend going to the first lecture to get an overview of the history of the area. I did not attend the other three lectures offered.

 

Next: Ports and Shore Excursions (my experiences, descriptions and prices)

Just a little note - I have my traveling shoes back on and will be away for a week beginning tomorrow. I'll continue my mini-review when I return. Feel free to comment, add your own experiences if you've been on this cruise or ask any questions in the meantime (I'll respond when I return).

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Ports and Shore Excursions:

 

Anacortes, WA

 

We arrived in Anacortes, WA (pop. approx. 15,000) at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 8, 2018 and departed on Monday, September 9, 2018 at 6:00 a.m. There was a full day in port. One can certainly "do it yourself" in the ports; however, there are also a number of shore excursions from which to choose. After three cruises with ACL, all of your shore excursions are complementary with the exception of Signature shore excursions (this applied to me). The descriptions are from the shore excursion information received on board. I have put my personal comments in bold after the descriptions.

 

Excursions:

 

Anacortes Experience: Situated on the most accessible island in the San Juan archipelago, Anacortes is a thriving seaside town with a past that reflects its fascinating boom and bust history as well as the entrepreneurial spirit of the area. Your local guide will provide an orientation of the town while you admire the colorful murals depicting the history of the city. Complementary

 

I signed on to this walking tour which departed at 9:00 a.m. The city's Town Crier, who represents the city in events locally and throughout the state, came on board to greet us and was one of the tour guides. We were self-divided into three walking groups - fast, moderate and slow. Each group had the same tour, although if you planned to go on the Deception Pass Jet Boat Tour, you were requested to be in the fast group to timely meet your bus at the visitor's center. The walking tour is a good orientation to Anacortes, even if you plan to "do it yourself" the rest of the day in port.

 

Deception Pass Jet Boat Tour: Learn about Deception Pass, the bridge, and surrounding area on this amazing jet boat tour aboard the Island Whaler - an aluminum jet catamaran! Take a unique ride on a seated open-deck boat and enjoy a 360 degree unobstructed view of the National Historic Landmark, Deception Pass Bridge. Learn about the tales of characters who one navigated these waters. The tour route includes Deception Pass Bridge, the Old Prison Rock Quarry, Deception Island and a bald eagle's nest. $45.00

 

I signed on to this and met the bus for this excursion at the visitor's center. If you do not go on the walking tour, you will board the bus at the dock and then proceed to pick up those on the walking tour. It departed at 10:15 a.m. 33 maximum on this excursion. Everyone who wanted to go was able to do so. I loved the jet boat tour and it was one of my favorite excursions on the cruise.

 

Skagit County Museum & SeaBear Salmon Tasting: Visit nearby LaConnor, WA and learn more about this charming town as you explore the downtown area and visit the local Skagit County Historical Museum. A stop will be made at SeaBear Smokehouse for an exclusive tasting and tour. Since its founding in 1957, SeaBear Smokehouse has been smoking salmon in the centuries-old tradition of the Pacific Northwest. During your visit, sample a variety of smoked salmon including San Juan Sliders and Smoked Salmon Chowder. $35.00

 

I did not sign on to this excursion. The excursion departed at 1:45 p.m.

 

Next: Friday Harbor, WA

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Posted (edited)

Curious about the quality of cellular service and which carrier asea and in port. Enjoying your reviews and looking forward to our trip. Thank you, kindly. MR

Edited by mrprd
to correct an error.

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Posted (edited)

Friday Harbor, WA

 

NOTE

 

A correction to my Anacortes post - we departed there on Monday, September 10, 2018 at 6:00 a.m.

 

We arrived in Friday Harbor, WA (pop. approx. 2,100) on Monday, September 10, 2018 at 8:00 a.m. and departed on Monday, September 10, 2018 at 6:15 p.m.

 

Excursions:

 

Signature Whale Watching Tour: Depart Friday Harbor for an exciting whale watching cruise. San Juan Island is considered the one of best places to view orca whales. Salmon, which are their prime source of food, travel up and down the west coast of San Juan Island and outlying areas, resulting in spectacular viewing of the whales in their natural habitat. $99.00/Signature Tour

 

My friend and I both signed on to this whale watching tour. It departed at 8:40 a.m. We saw birds, seals and deer, but no whales. I'd never been whale watching previously and wanted the experience. It was a scenic cruise with onboard commentary and I enjoyed the time on the water. As we saw no whales, everyone was provided with a "rain check" with no expiration date to come back at another time and try again with no charge. Of course, that's not possible while on the ACL cruise and one would need to do so on your own at a later time. You may have better luck whale watching on your cruise.

 

I recommend the Deception Pass Jet Boat Tour in Anacortes over this Signature Whale Watching Tour unless you've never been on one.

 

TheWhale Museum: Join a docent at the Whale Museum for guided tour or explore on your own. In the Gallery of Whales, learn about the natural history of marine mammals, with a special focus on the orcas of J, K, and L pods living in the waters of the San Juan Islands. Explore a fascinating collection of exhibits, artwork, models, and artifacts, including real whale skeletons and a family tree of the resident orcas. Listen to the "songs" of various species of whales in the Whale Phone Booth and view an educational video on the Pacific Northwest orcas. Guided Tour - $20.00, Self-Guided Tour - Complementary

 

I did not go to the Whale Museum. The docent led tour was at 9:15 a.m. You could go to the museum for a self-guided tour from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. You show your ACL name tag/lanyard for complementary entrance.

 

Signature San Juan Kayaking Tour: Take a guided kayak trip in serene Griffin Bay with San Juan Kayak Expeditions, the island's original sea kayaking company. Paddle by small islands and hidden coves with the possibility of seeing a harbor seal haul out, bald eagles, river otters, and a variety of local and migratory sea birds. Majestic Mt. Baker and the Olympic and Cascade ranges create a picturesque backdrop for your sea kayaking experience. You will paddle in the comfort and safety of stable tandem fiberglass kayaks, with therma-rest seat cushions and light weight carbon-fiber paddles. $99.00/Signature Tour

 

I did not go on the kayaking trip. It departed at 1:15 p.m. The number of participants was limited to 9, so if you are interested in this, you may want to pre-pay before your cruise and some participants did.

 

San Juan Island Adventure: Take a tour around San Juan Island to see this interesting and unique island by bus. Our first stop will be at Roche Harbor, a historic resort that was the site of an active lime kiln industry for several decades. View the original hotel, company store, and kilns, as well as a beautiful garden and landscape. Visit an alpaca farm, followed by a stop at Lime Kiln State Park where you can walk to an active lighthouse and take in the scenic views across Haro Strait to Vancouver Island and Victoria.

 

I did not sign on to this excursion. It departed at 2:00 p.m. I heard many positive comments from those who did participate and particularly about the alpaca farm.

 

Next: Indian Cove

Edited by SteelMagnolia9

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Curious about the quality of cellular service and which carrier asea and in port. Enjoying your reviews and looking forward to our trip. Thank you, kindly. MR

 

See my comments in my section on Wi-Fi above. To add to that, I had no problem with the quality of cellular service while onshore. My personal carrier is AT&T. It was better earlier in the morning and later in the evening on the ship as there were probably fewer online. It would likely be difficult to stream video.

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Indian Cove

 

We arrived at Indian Cove on Monday, September 10, 2018 at 6:45 p.m. and departed on Tuesday, September 11, 2018 at 8:30 a.m.

 

Indian Cove is a scenic cove not too far from Friday Harbor, WA where we were anchored for the night. There was no cellular service.

 

Next: Port Angeles, WA

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Port Angeles, WA

 

Note: I failed to include the price of the San Juan Adventure in my Friday Harbor post. It is $25.00.

 

We arrived in Port Angeles, WA (pop. approx. 20,000) on Tuesday, September 11, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. and departed on Thursday, September 13, 2018 at 6:00 a.m.

 

Excursions/September 11, 2018:

 

Olympic National Park and Hurricane Ridge: Spend time exploring Olympic National Park, known for its scenic beauty and diversity of ecosystems. The park is home to some of the largest remnants of ancient forests left in the country. A stop will be made at Hurricane Ridge, the most popular attraction of Olympic National Park, where you can enjoy breathtaking views of one of the most famous vistas in Washington. $45.00

 

My friend and I signed on to this tour. It departed at 2:15 p.m. I really enjoyed seeing a part of Olympic National Park as well as the views from Hurricane Ridge. It is a scenic tour and worth participating.

 

Heritage Port Angeles Experience: Port Angeles has a very interesting and colorful past. Walking at a leisurely pace for just under a mile, explore areas of town exclusively available to people on this tour. $20.00

 

This walking tour departed at 2:30 p.m. The tour goes underground.

 

Next: Port Angeles Excursions/September 12, 2018

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Port Angeles Excursions/September 12, 2018

 

Butchart Gardens & Victoria City Signature Tour: Take a scenic ferry ride across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to beautiful Victoria, British Columbia. You will be greeted in Victoria by a friendly local guide who will take you on a brief tour of the city on your way to the Butchart Gardens. As you make your way around the gardens, walk on picturesque stone paths along streams lined with colorful arrays of flowers and trees. Before heading back to the ship, enjoy a picnic luncheon in the midst of the garden. **Passengers MUST have passport for this tour as you are traveling to Canada. $145.00/Signature Tour

 

Do put this on your "must see" list for this cruise if you have never been. Both my friend and I signed on to this excursion. The gardens are gorgeous. I had been previously in 2015 after an Alaskan cruise and was happy to return. I would point out, the description indicates a picnic lunch in the midst of the garden which is not accurate. Everyone is provided a $15.00 (Canadian) voucher to use in one of two eating establishments on the grounds. The excursion departed at 7:45 a.m. The ferry is within walking distance of the ship and there is also a provided shuttle to the ferry for those that need it.

 

Ferry Transportation to Victoria: Take the ferry ride over to Victoria, B.C. to enjoy a full day on your own exploring this quaint town. ** Passengers MUST have passport for this tour as you are traveling to Canada. $35.00

 

You depart at 7:45 a.m. and can return on any ferry at your leisure.

 

Heritage Port Angeles Experience:

 

This walking tour was also offered the first day in port (see description and price under September 11th excursions). The tour departed at 9:00 a.m.

 

Lake Crescent Lodge at Olympic National Park: One of the most unique aspects of the nearly one million acres of Olympic National Park is the diversity of its environments. This tour allows you to witness the beautiful turquoise waters of this glacier formed lake. A stop will be made at the Lake Crescent Lodge for time to explore and sip a complementary beverage while viewing the breathtaking landscape.

 

This is another opportunity to visit Olympic National Park. The tour departed at 2:00 p.m. If you opt to go to Butchart Gardens, you will not return in time to be able to go on this excursion.

 

Next: Port Townsend, WA

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Port Townsend, WA

 

Note: I left off the price of the Lake Crescent Lodge at Olympic National Park excursion for Port Angeles, WA in my previous post. It is $50.00.

 

We arrived in Port Townsend, WA (pop. approx. 9500) on September 13, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. and departed on September 14, 2018 at 4:00 a.m.

 

Excursions:

Historic Port Townsend Exploration: Port Townsend's National Landmark Historical District is a treasure of Victorian architecture. Historically costumed guides escort visitors on entertaining tours of the once-rowdy downtown and reveal the waterfront commercial district's disreputable past. Guides point out interesting architecture, unique history, and the many colorful characters who built Port Townsend and optimistically called her the "New York of the West." $20.00

 

I signed on to this walking tour. It departed at 10:15 a.m. The walking tour provides a very good history of Port Townsend and I enjoyed it. In the afternoon, I also walked around town exploring it more on my own.

 

High Tea at Pippa's Real Tea: Take a short one-block walk to Pippa's Real Tea and enjoy a lavish, traditional English High Tea in a former Bordello on Port Townsend's historic waterfront. Twice voted Best Tea Shop in Seattle, Pippa's Real Tea is famous for its "proper" scones and real clotted cream (which Pippa makes herself). With a cozy fireplace and a stunning courtyard garden, Pippa's is welcoming in any season. In addition to the traditional tea sandwiches, scones and clotted cream, and a selection of pastries, each guest will receive a complementary pouch of special custom blended tea. $55.00

 

My friend and I both signed on to the tea. Loved, loved, loved it. The tea was at 12:15 p.m. and was in lieu of going to lunch on the ship. There is limited space for the tea, approx. 20 (give or take) due to the number of tables available in the tea room. If you can't eat all of your goodies, they will give you a box and you can take it back to your cabin. It is further than the short one-block walk in the description.

 

Fort Wordon State Park: Step back in time on a step-off tour of the National Historical Landmark site, Fort Wordon State Park. Built in 1902 as part of the "Triangle of Fire", Fort Wordon has a rich and fascinating on-going history to be explored. Sites include: Officer Row, Parade Grounds, Point Wilson Light House, Gun Emplacements, Alexander's Castle, Dinky Locomotive, and McCurdy Pavillion. $50.00

 

I did not sign on to this excursion. The tour departed sometime after lunch/tea; however, I do not have the exact time in my notes. You would have time to go to the tea and then Fort Wordon State Park.

 

Next: Poulsbo, WA

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Poulsbo, WA

 

We arrived in Poulsbo, WA (pop. approx. 10,500) at 8:00 a.m. on September 14, 2018 and departed at noon on September 14, 2018. This was a tender port.

 

Excursions:

 

Suquamish Museum: Explore the Suquamish Museum and Cultural Center, just up the hill from the Old-Man-House village site. Set in a natural landscape of native plants, the 9,000 square foot space designed by Mithun Architects (Seattle) reflects the traditional Big House architecture of the Coast Salish. Enjoy a guided tour of the museum and learn about the Suquamish tribe's history and culture. Continue on to Chief Seattle's gravesite, before traveling to the center of town for free time to explore. $40.00

 

I did not sign on to this excursion. It departed at the tender at 8:15 a.m. I did hear positive comments from others who went on this excursion.

 

Historic Poulsbo Tour: Poulsbo's long history as a destination for immigrants from Norway and Finland has shaped the town with a Scandinavian influence. Downtown Poulsbo maintains this theme in its shops and restaurants, and is a popular regional tourist destination. Learn more about this charming town on a guided walking tour provided by a member of the Poulsbo Historical Society. $15.00

 

I was on this walking tour. It departed at 8:45 a.m. at the tender. There were two groups for the walking tour and my group's guide's family had settled in this area from Norway many generations ago. The town has Norwegian inspired architecture on some of the buildings. Our guide said the architecture on some of the buildings wasn't true to what one would actually see in Norway and he described the architecture as "Disney-Norway". It was still charming. We also visited a small maritime museum and had a guided tour there. There was still time to explore after the tour ended. I did enjoy this walking tour and found it worthwhile. There is a bakery, "Sluys Bakery", do go there and try one of their Norwegian pastries (or just take a look). Yummy!

 

Next: Return to Seattle

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Return to Seattle

 

My notes don't reflect when we returned to Seattle, but it was sometime after lunch. We docked back at the Shilshole Bay Marina.

 

Excursions:

 

Pike Place Market Shuttle: Established in 1907, Seattle's Pike Place Market is the oldest continuously operating and most historically authentic public market in the country. In 1971, when the Pike Place Market was threatened with demolition and replacement, citizens of Seattle voted to establish a seven-acre Pike Place Market Historical District and a Market Historical Commission to preserve its physical and social character as the "Soul of Seattle". Hop on the motor coach for transportation to Pike Place Market and enjoy time to explore the Market and surrounding area at your leisure. Pick up a map from your Cruise Director on board and discover all that the Pike Place Market has to offer. Complementary

 

Seattle Center Shuttle: Originally built for the 1962 World's Fair, the 74-acre Seattle Center is an arts, educational, tourism, and entertainment center in Seattle. Two major attractions include the 605-foot tall Space Needle, along with Chihuly Garden & Glass. Hop on the motor coach for transportation to Seattle Center and enjoy time to explore at your leisure. Pick up a map from your Cruise Director on board and discover all that Seattle Center has to offer. Complementary

 

I did not go on either shuttle as I had been to Seattle previously and seen most of the major sites/attractions. Either of the shuttles would be worthwhile to take if you have limited time in Seattle. The shuttles departed at 2:15 p.m. and returned before dinner.

 

Next: Disembarkation, Heading Home and Final Thoughts

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Disembarkation, Heading Home and Final Thoughts

 

Disembarkation was on September 15, 2018 and was easy. You had to be out of your room by 8:00 a.m. We were given colored tags for our luggage indicating whether we were departing by taxi, going on the ACL bus to the airport or had independent arrangements.This was sorted out a few days before departure by filling out a form and returning it to staff indicating your departure arrangements. If you had the pre-cruise package, the ACL bus to the airport was complementary (I did not include the charge in my notes if you did not have the package, but I believe it was $20.00). My friend and I opted for a taxi based upon our flight time. The staff will order a taxi for you to arrive at the time you designate on the form. Our taxi arrived a little early which was no problem and we were off to the airport!

 

It was another long day flying across country and we touched down at 11:00 p.m. and I walked through my front door at 11:45 p.m.

 

This was a lovely cruise and I really enjoyed cruising Puget Sound & the San Juan Islands. It is an unique way to see this part of the country. I hope some of my comments are helpful when considering this cruise and I would encourage others who have been on this cruise on any date to add their comments as this mini-review is just my personal experience.

 

Where am I going next with ACL? I took advantage again of their 15% discount and waiver of port fees that they offer if you book onboard. I signed on to the Hudson River Cruise for the fall of 2019. Perhaps I'll see you onboard.

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Thank you for your enjoyable review.  I have a question about meals.  On line info say the dining room is large enough for all passengers.  Are all passengers served at the same time, or can you come to dinner say 30 minutes after dinner starts?

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Yes their is one seating ( usually at 6:30). There is a free cocktail hour from 5:30-6:30 and at the end of the cocktail hour people tend to walk from the lounge down to the dining room. I'm sure they would serve you 30 minutes later, but if you are at a table for 8, you will be out of syncs with your table mates. 

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I’ll also add that at breakfast, everyone comes and goes whenever they like during the stated breakfast service hours. There’s also an early risers breakfast in a lounge where you can get coffee, muffins, pastries, etc.

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