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Radiance of the Seas July 19th - Southbound Review


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Good Evening! I, and my husband and son (14), just returned last night from an amazing 2 week adventure in Alaska. I love reading reviews before we cruise, and hope someone will be able to find some of this information useful. We did a DIY land tour for one week before boarding Radiance, so I am going to start with that. 

 

Day 1 (July 12th): Flight from Boston to Anchorage via Salt Lake City. We flew with Delta Airlines. Upon arrival in Anchorage, we got our luggage and hopped on the hotel shuttle bus. We were booked at the Microtel at the airport, but it was overbooked, so we were put up in the Motel 6 (at no cost to us, of course!). We were super tired, but that, and the 4 hour time change, did not prevent us from getting up early.

 

Day 2 (July 13th): Picked up rental car and drove to Fairbanks. There we stayed for three nights at the Best Western Pioneer Park Inn. It was about a 7 hour drive, but we did stop for lunch at the "49th State Brewery" in Healy, just north of Denali. A great quirky place with very yummy food. I had crab stuffed jalapeños wrapped in bacon (very Weight Watcher friendly) and my husband and son both had Yak burgers. 

For the next day we had booked a 14 hour (roundtrip) excursion to the Arctic Circle, so we need to buy snacks for that trip, and for the hotel, e.g. wine and chips. There are 2 Fred Meyer stores in Anchorage, and we went to the one closest to the "mall" as I wanted to check out the local author section of the Barnes and Noble there. As it turned out, our tour guide to the Arctic Circle wrote a book, so I went back to the store a day later to pick up a copy. The Barnes and Noble store there has a fireplace for cozy reading!

After shopping we went for a dip in the hotel's heated pool and went to bed. 

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Day 3 (July 14th): Arctic Circle! Our tour van picked us up promptly at 7 am, and then went on to pick up the other 4 passengers. Our transportation for the day was a mini-van that certainly got a work out on the Dalton Highway. 

 

First Stop: Alaskan Pipeline Viewing Station - here we could wander about, and under, the pipeline, and read some interesting signage about its construction. Our guide / driver was a cargo loader for airplanes as the pipeline was being built, so he had some great stories. He also has a photo album to pass around of the cabin he had built, the game he had hunted, and lots of airplane pictures. He was the perfect guide, and he was a true Alaskan. 

 

Second Stop: Breakfast at the Hilltop Truck Stop famous for their pies, of which I had a piece for a healthy start to the day

 

Third Stop: After some nodding off (by the passengers), we came to the sign to mark the beginning of the Dalton Highway as seen in Ice Road Truckers. The road got very bumpy, and no wonder one should not take a rental car on it. I am sure people do, but I felt better in the van. 

 

Fourth Stop: Yukon River Camp for a break and to put our orders in for dinner on the way back.

 

Fifth Stop: Finger Mountain - a natural formation which pilots and travelers have used as a guide. My 14 year old of course asked, "Which finger?" Ah, teenagers... 

It was such a beautiful place to stop, and feel very small. Nothing to the East or West for 1,000 miles...

 

Sixth Stop: the Arctic Circle! Yes, it is simply a sign in the middle of nowhere, but very cool nonetheless. One cannot beat seeing the expanses of nature on the way there and back. It was quite warm that day, about 75, so my T-shirt was sufficient. 

 

On the way back we stopped again at the Yukon River Camp for dinner (we had ordered salmon burgers) and then headed back to hotel. We were back at 9:30 pm. 

If you have a chance to do such a tour - do it!

 

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One more entry for tonight

 

Day 4 (July 15th): Day trip to Denali National Park. If there is one thing I would have like to have seen more of, it would have been this national park. I am thankful though for the time we got to spend there! It was a 2 hour drive from Fairbanks, and we got to the park around 10:00 am. We stopped at the visitor center for a look around, and then drove the rental car to farthest point the paved road goes, which is Savage River. Beyond that, one would need to take one of the park busses. We had a nice easy hike along the river, and saw a porcupine, a ground squirrel and Dall sheep up in the mountain. If there is one thing you absolutely need in Alaska, it's a good pair of binoculars. 

We stopped for a quick snack back at the visitor center, and headed back to Fairbanks. Why the drive back and forth you might ask?? Price. The hotels in and around Denali were a bit too pricy for us, and the drive was not bad at all. I needed to save up for all the souvenirs I bought in the ports!

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Edited by seaotter15
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Day 5 (July 16th): Drive from Fairbanks back to Anchorage. Checked into hotel for night and dropped off rental car. Needed to get to sleep early as we had a taxi booked for 5:20 am to bring us to train station

 

Day 6 (July 17th): Travel to Seward with the Alaskan Railroad. All aboard was at 6:45, but it was suggested to be there an hour early, so that is what we did. We traveled Adventure Class, which is the more basic of the 2 fares and was fine for us. The Wilderness Cafe had plenty of breakfast items for purchase. You can go out to the very back of the train for fresh air if you would like. Can get crowded at times, but people did take turns.

If you can, DO this train ride - it was beautiful. The guides that point out wildlife and give some history are high school students as part of a summer program. They were marvelous! 

 

Checked into the hotel in Seward, and basically walked around town all afternoon. We had a late lunch / early dinner at Ray's Waterfront. The lunch menu is valid until 3, so prices are better than the dinner menu. We actually ate here again the next day.

The one pictures of the flowers / harbor is the view we had at lunch.

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Day 7 (July 18th): Wildlife cruise of the Kenai Fjords. We booked a 6 hour tour which included a box lunch of a chicken / veggie wrap, chips, granola bar and a mint. It was chilly out on the boat, so if you are planning such an excursion, bring a warm jacket, and even some gloves/hat. There is indoor seating, but outside is better for fresh air, seeing things, and to help prevent seasickness. If you are prone to seasickness, it is a good idea to take something ahead of time. Our go-to is Bonine. 

We saw everything but orcas, to my husband's dismay. So we need to come back! 🙂

 I love sea otters, as if my name did not give it away, so that was a highlight for me. 

The glacier was also quite impressive, and as we had done this cruise, we stayed in our cabin at the Hubbard Glaicer stop. If you look closely in the lower left hand corner of glacier picture, you  can see kayaks, so that shows just how impressively huge this glacier is. DSC_1072.thumb.JPG.1ee69cec5f81c3824cc0cb28b4e1da29.JPGDSC_1019.thumb.JPG.dea397dc801250b457c91a13437645d2.JPG

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Day 8 (July 19th): CRUISE day 1! So, when we booked this cruise way back in November, we had booked an inside cabin, and also signed up for this new thing called "The Key". Sometime I late Spring, I received a "Royal UP" bid offer, so I went ahead and gave it a try. Well, it worked out for us very well. For $450.00 (total) we got moved to a balcony stateroom. We had cabin 8662, which is a partially obstructed view, but the obstruction is simply a ladder used for window washing in port. It did not bother us one bit!

 

The Key: I can see how this offer would make more sense on a larger ship / Caribbean cruise. We did enjoy the little perks we did get. I have attached our welcome letter. On the second night we had a fruit platter delivered to our room as well. Being able to drop off the carry-ons was very practical. We had brought 2 six-packs of soda our son likes for him to drink on cruise, as well as a 6-pack of bottled water. Went right through security with no problems, and to not have to lug this around was wonderful!

 

Lunch was the Chops menu, but was served to us in the main dining room. Still not sure why it was done this way, but yummy nonetheless.

 

The Key seating for shows is up in the balcony with the suite passengers. I went to 2 shows, the Welcome Aboard Show and the magician, and my husband and son went to a comedian on the last night as well. I personally found the entertainment, other than the magician who was phenomenal (!), rather "meh". Perhaps I have been too spoiled by the shows on Allure and Anthem? 

 

The best show was to sit either up in the Schooner Bar or on the balcony and watch the world go by - except for the first day of open water, everyday offered spectacular views. (So glad I went for that balcony!) 

I had heard that Starboard side was not so good for Southbound cruises, and that Port side cabins were more expensive - really? I cannot see why. The views we had could not be beat!

 

Drink Packages: my husband and I both had the Ultimate Drink Package. It was for each of us $47.00 per day. We had purchased this in the Spring. There is always a "is it worth it or not" question, and for us it is always worth it. In the morning I get my fresh squeezed OJ, then a specialty coffee, and 2 soda mug refills, a bottled water and 1-2 cocktails during the day. At dinner I had my martini and glass of wine, and in the evening I got a whiskey and another bottle of water to have while sitting out on the balcony.

We did have pool time every day for 2-3 hours. The main pool is heated, and the Solarium Pool has family hours everyday. Both pools are saltwater pools.

 

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Edited by seaotter15
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Cruise Day 2: At Sea / Hubbard Glaicer - relaxing day of trivia, pool time and balcony time at Hubbard Glacier. The captain does a 360, so all get a good view if you are not on the helipad. I saw many people out on their balconies.

Also in this post are pictures of the bar menu in the Colony Club - the ONE time I remembered to take pictures. Also the pool picture - could be in the Caribbean except for that totem pole and the mountains. 🙂IMG_4901.thumb.JPG.8fcb617b556eb020eb2112dfe4818e25.JPG

 

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Cruise Day 3: Juneau

 

We had been, and always really were, blessed with great weather this entire trip. Today though, of all the days, I was hoping and praying for good weather, and my prayers were answered. We had a dog sledding excursion booked for this day, and the helicopters would not fly if the weather was bad. For the 4 days before we got to Juneau, all of the dog sledding trips of this company had been cancelled.  We had booked this excursion on our own (privately), and it was a smooth and well organized trip. 

 

The company was there with a minivan to pick us all up, ride to airport, safety briefing about helicopter rides, flight up to glacier, dog sledding, cuddling with puppies, flight back to airport, and transport back to ship. I can say enough positive about this whole experience. We had on snow boots, winter coats, hat and mittens. It was indeed cold when we first got there, but eventually had to take off jackets as it was so warm. All 3 of us got sunburns - I had sunscreen for this very excursion, but I left it back in cabin...doh!

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Cruise Day 4: Skagway

 

We explored this town on our own. There is a shuttle bus from dock to town for $2.00 (per person) each way, or $5.00 (per person) to ride entire day. If you want to see the Goldrush Cemetery, you need to buy the day pass, which is what we did. The bus drop off point is about a 10-15 minute walk to cemetery / waterfall, but all flat, so an easy walk. Up the waterfall could be problematic for some as a bit steep in 1-2 spots, and lots of tree roots, so just be careful. Worth the short hike!

 

If you collect National Park Passport stamps, there is the Klondike Gold Rush visitor center right in town.

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Day 5: Icy Strait Point

 

Here again we simply walked around "town". This is a shore excursion / shopping heavy port. We had a nice walk on the beach and saw some very pretty starfish, and I did buy a mousepad with a sea otter on it, but that was it. We spent tops 1.5 hours on shore. The people that did go on the whale watching excursions did see a lot and were very happy.

With my binoculars I followed the whale watching ships and saw 6 humpback whales from our balcony. Quite nice!

For some reason the Cruise Compass is missing for this day, but I do have the map.

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Day 6: Ketchikan

 

In this port we did have a ship sponsored shore excursion, which was a trip to Potlatch Park (Totems) and the Lumberjack Show - both very fun! Our bus driver from port was also the tour guide through Potlatch Park. After dropping us off back at ship, it was a 3 minute walk around the corner to the lumberjack show. 

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Day 7: Cruising Inside Passage

 

Very relaxing day of watching the world go by. 🙂 At the end of the day, husband and son went to comedy show while I packed. We decided for self walk-off, so did not have to put out our luggage the night before, but still, I did not want to be packing last minute in the morning. As you might have seen on the Cruise Compasses, it is Royal's 50th Anniversary, so during dinner each table got a mini cake. 🍰

 

On this day we also did the Sushi making class - awesome! As we were out in open water during the night and morning, there were quite a few nauseated people on board, so only about half showed up for the class. By the afternoon, when we back closer to land, the seas smoothed out all the way to Vancouver.

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Arrival in Vancouver:

 

We brought all of our luggage to dining room and had a lovely "Key" breakfast. Hubby and I both had the Crab Benedict. It was 7:30 when we finished, and that is when people were allowed to start leaving. We had a personal "Key" escort off the ship, and were able to skip the huge line. 

 

We were in our rental car by 8:15 heading to Seattle. We did not fly home from Vancouver as we found good flights with Southwest back to Connecticut from Seattle, plus, if any of you are fans of Funko Pops like my son is, then you know the headquarters are in Everett, WA. We had to make a stop.

A few random pictures to end - Funko and the window washer outside out balcony. 🙂

Hope you have enjoyed and have a great trip!

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Excellent review!  Pictures are great!  Thank you for taking the time.

We fly to Achorage in 2 days and board the southbound Radiance on Friday.  We are also renting a car in Vancouver and driving to Seattle before flying Southwest to Maryland.  I want to see Chihuly while on the west coast.  We also have the NPS passport and have it ready to pack.  We have a ranger tour booked in Skagway.  Thanks for the info about getting to the cemetary and waterfalls.

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12 hours ago, seaotter15 said:

Day 3 (July 14th): Arctic Circle! Our tour van picked us up promptly at 7 am, and then went on to pick up the other 4 passengers. Our transportation for the day was a mini-van that certainly got a work out on the Dalton Highway. 

 

First Stop: Alaskan Pipeline Viewing Station - here we could wander about, and under, the pipeline, and read some interesting signage about its construction. Our guide / driver was a cargo loader for airplanes as the pipeline was being built, so he had some great stories. He also has a photo album to pass around of the cabin he had built, the game he had hunted, and lots of airplane pictures. He was the perfect guide, and he was a true Alaskan. 

 

Second Stop: Breakfast at the Hilltop Truck Stop famous for their pies, of which I had a piece for a healthy start to the day

 

Third Stop: After some nodding off (by the passengers), we came to the sign to mark the beginning of the Dalton Highway as seen in Ice Road Truckers. The road got very bumpy, and no wonder one should not take a rental car on it. I am sure people do, but I felt better in the van. 

 

Fourth Stop: Yukon River Camp for a break and to put our orders in for dinner on the way back.

 

Fifth Stop: Finger Mountain - a natural formation which pilots and travelers have used as a guide. My 14 year old of course asked, "Which finger?" Ah, teenagers... 

It was such a beautiful place to stop, and feel very small. Nothing to the East or West for 1,000 miles...

 

Sixth Stop: the Arctic Circle! Yes, it is simply a sign in the middle of nowhere, but very cool nonetheless. One cannot beat seeing the expanses of nature on the way there and back. It was quite warm that day, about 75, so my T-shirt was sufficient. 

 

On the way back we stopped again at the Yukon River Camp for dinner (we had ordered salmon burgers) and then headed back to hotel. We were back at 9:30 pm. 

If you have a chance to do such a tour - do it!

 

 

We are doing this Aug 23, we booked it through a well known company (name starts with a "V"). They are going to pick us up at the Walmart parking lot. We don't dare drive our rental RV on the Dalton! Thank you for the pics and info!

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20 minutes ago, breezy_carol said:

Excellent review!  Pictures are great!  Thank you for taking the time.

We fly to Achorage in 2 days and board the southbound Radiance on Friday.  We are also renting a car in Vancouver and driving to Seattle before flying Southwest to Maryland.  I want to see Chihuly while on the west coast.  We also have the NPS passport and have it ready to pack.  We have a ranger tour booked in Skagway.  Thanks for the info about getting to the cemetary and waterfalls.

Awesome! Have a great trip!!

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18 minutes ago, wolfcathorse said:

We are doing this Aug 23, we booked it through a well known company (name starts with a "V"). They are going to pick us up at the Walmart parking lot. We don't dare drive our rental RV on the Dalton! Thank you for the pics and info!

Get ready for an awesome, bumpy ride 🙂 Enjoy!!

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  • 1 month later...
  • 2 weeks later...

 

On 9/23/2019 at 3:25 AM, cruisequeen4ever said:

You guys did a good job covering a lot in your DIY week! 

Thank you! It was a blast!

On 9/23/2019 at 3:25 AM, cruisequeen4ever said:
9 minutes ago, CRZAHOLIC said:

Do you remember the name of the singer in the Quill and Compass?

We never went to that pub - sorry 

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