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A 99 Day Journey to Alaska (Serenade by the Sea) with a Teen and Young Adult (over 21)


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On 3/26/2022 at 7:19 AM, JoyMouse said:

For Vancouver, look at hotels near Hornsby Street in the lower part of downtown. It’s walking distance to the ferry to the Granville Island Market, the port (not with luggage), museums and has some trendy restaurants south of it in converted warehouses (I’m sorry I don’t recall the name). There’s a Residence Inn on Hornsby with a Holiday Inn and Sheraton nearby.  I would book sooner rather than later as prices will just keep going up.

Thanks for your suggestion - I followed your advice and took a room in the area - I found one of these for a decent price with a decent rating. Many of the hotels in the area are asking $600 and up.

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Really enjoying your report. We’ll be sailing Serenade on July 17 as part of a multi-generational large family trip that’s been in the planning stage since 2018 (booked for 2020 and twice deferred). Our itinerary is similar to yours, but trades Ketchikan for Haines. We also debated an itinerary that includes Glacier Bay, and had some people say we’d regret not seeing it, but overall for our group this is the right week, ship, itinerary, destination, cost etc. There are so many factors that go into planning a trip like this, not just one destination you’ll be at for a small fraction of the whole trip. 
 

Looking forward to following along.

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19 minutes ago, tallgirl97 said:

Really enjoying your report. We’ll be sailing Serenade on July 17 as part of a multi-generational large family trip that’s been in the planning stage since 2018 (booked for 2020 and twice deferred). Our itinerary is similar to yours, but trades Ketchikan for Haines. We also debated an itinerary that includes Glacier Bay, and had some people say we’d regret not seeing it, but overall for our group this is the right week, ship, itinerary, destination, cost etc. There are so many factors that go into planning a trip like this, not just one destination you’ll be at for a small fraction of the whole trip. 
 

Looking forward to following along.

 

I agree, you are preaching to the choir - it comes down to what is best for you and your family. 

 

Twice deferred?  That's got to be a tough one to keep rescheduling with a large family trip - especially with multiple schedules and time restrictions to synch up.

 

I have not done much research about Haines, but I have read a lot of good things about the port (the "Adventure Capital" of Alaska. That part of the itinerary was out of my hands, Haines was not on the schedule for the window of time we are able to cruise due to work and school schedules.

 

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Posted (edited)

July 5, 2021

Where to Find Alaskan Port Information

I was performing my research early this morning when I came upon a thread about “the best” ports to choose when visiting Alaska. One of the members replied to check the schedules to see how many ships will be in the port that day. The website that contains this information is: claalaska.com. [This is a good website to jot down for your own planning.]

 

I thought that I would visit the site myself, just to see what was on the site (I know that I will return later in my research process to record the # of ships for each port and provide the information in this review). I discovered that not only did the website provide times for the individual ports, but it also included the times for destinations, such as Endicott Arm.

 

A quick look at the schedule shows that the Norwegian Bliss will be in the Endicott Arm from 5 PM to 9 PM on June 28th (and not midnight).  I cannot believe that the NCL representative was so wrong. Well maybe I can believe it; being on these boards long enough I have ready many stories where these reps/agents have gotten info completely wrong – and it is not specific to any particular cruise line.

 

[Port schedule for Endicott Arm Attached]

 

I am still very glad that I am on RCI itinerary, but at least I found the answer to the Endicott Arms timing question.  I also made sure to go back and post this information on the thread about the timing and the Roll Call for the Bliss sailing.

 

FYI – Today I also posted my introduction on the Serenade Roll Call thread. Not many on the thread (yet - not everyone is as crazy as me to book a cruise a year in advance, especially during this pandemic), but they seem like nice people.

Administrative Stuff / Cancelling and Booking a Cruise

 

Spent time at a friend’s house yesterday, followed by their town’s fireworks show. I have dedicated today for doing work for work, but will take some time to perform a little research and conduct some administrative work for the cruise, which includes:

 

1.      Cancel the NCL cruise.  I was extremely busy yesterday and spent a half hour trying to figure out how to cancel the cruise online when I found out that it has to be processed via telephone.  I was able to call this morning. I got through fairly quickly, and the Representative cancelled (both cabins) with no issue.  I found it strange that she did not ask me for a reason why. Maybe they want it to be a no-hassle cancellation, some people get anxious when asked these types of questions, or don’t want to deal with the Rep or their Manager trying to convince you not to cancel.

 

2.      Receive an extra credit for RCI: My DD turned 18 (and 21) since we last cruised with them 8 years ago and we never set her up with a Crown & Anchor #. The Rep set her (actually, both DDs) with #s/accounts.  C&A members (with the current offer) receive an extra discount for a cabin (which I had received for my own cabin).  The Rep could not process the discount immediately and asked us to call in 24 hours to receive the discount (it takes time for the new accounts to process in the system). Although doing this was easy, the quality of the phone call was horrible. What’s nice for my daughters is that they are the same loyalty level as us, so when they start taking cruises on their own, they will not be beginning their lives as cruisers on RCI at the beginning (Gold) [I do believe that they have been set up on NCL and Carnival, although not many loyalty points for those two lines].

 

3.      Email NCL. Later in the afternoon I felt obliged to email NCL to let them know why I had cancelled the cruise with them.  Over the years I have heard about cruise line representatives (from all lines) giving out incorrect information. This time they lost $ for a cruise (4 pax in 2 cabins), so maybe they might do a little more with representative training, which will benefit customers (all of us – travelers and customers) in the future. In hindsight, I hope the Rep does not get into trouble – I believe it is an issue with training, not with their abilities. The Rep was actually very nice (via the chat) and seemed to be helpful (I did mention that in my "complaint"). Also, the word “Overnight” displaying for the depart date on the schedule in their website also made it even more misleading. If I receive any additional feedback from NCL, I will post it.  I would figure that a notification about having to cancel two cabins would at least warrant something other than a template response; but we shall see. What I would like is for them to admit that there was an error, and that their employees will be trained properly in the future – or if the Representative does not know the answer, respond to us (the customer) that they will research the question and get back to us as soon as possible.

 

[In Hindsight (3/29/22): So far, there are not many comments or questions on this thread – but thank you to all who are reading and following.  But wait until I bring up topics such as

  • Dress Code,
  • Chair Hogs,
  • Smoking,
  • the Windjammer vs. MDR, and
  • Teenagers and Young Adults.

Except for the topic of Teenagers, it will mostly be a few short comments/opinions since I don’t want to beat a dead horse that has been buried for years. The topic of rum runners will not come up since it is a thing of the past, and since COVID is a taboo subject on here it will only be brought up in terms of process and procedure instead of my feelings on the subject. As for teenagers and young adults, I will have a lot to say.  My DDs have been teens in prior cruises, so I have a bit of knowledge on this – and there is usually not a lot of info on here, except when asking specific questions.  There is also very little information/discussion young adults (those over 21 and into their mid 20s) - except for Spring Break, the ships are full of young kids and us older generations - where do the young adults fit in? If my Roll Call is an example of the breakdown of this cruise, there will be a number of passengers in this group cruising. But I will bring up my opinion on one topic right now - I do miss those little mints on my pillow at night.

 

As for former hot topics on CC – when we last cruised (much too long ago – can’t believe it’s been almost 5 years), taking lobster off the menu at the MRD was a big topic at that time (no, it was not served on our last cruise). After conducting a quick search, it looks like lobster tails are back in the MDR on one of the formal nights (second on a 7-day cruise) [e.g., see]. However, I am interested, when was lobster re-introduced into the MDR? A discussion of how “good” the lobster tails taste will be provided during a later post.]

 

As the lyrics go . . . . "Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun, but mama that's where the fun is." [Manfred Mann's Earth Band]

 

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Edited by Travel R
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[Today]

Keeping Busy & Exercising on the Cruise

 

It has been tough trying to do research on Vancouver. Like everyone else, life gets in the way. Lately I have been overly busy.  Besides being my usual busy time at work, I am working on a huge project that is sapping most of my time during the day (and my workday is a lot longer than usual).  Besides a bunch of personal/family stuff, I am also training for a 120+ bike ride in early fall and a Half Marathon + early next year.  The 120 miler is a charity ride in memory of my dad, so I am also busy with the logistics of setting that up as well. I took most of COVID off from exercising, so I have a long way to go until I am in shape to either of these events any time soon.

 

Although I have marked off the week of the cruise as a “Rest Week” in my exercise schedule (yes, I am a planner in this respect as well; my exercise plan goes out for months) expect to see me on deck early on those cold mornings taking in a few laps on deck. Although I love the feeling of running on the deck with the sun rising and looking out at the ocean and whatever landscape we are passing (and sometimes docked in), the weather does not always cooperate, so you may also see me at the fitness center. I find exercising relaxing. Note, I am done with going to the weight rooms/areas on cruises – I got sick during my last cruise, and I believe it was because I had used the weights or machines in the gym. You figure that those that use the machines and weights on a cruise are probably more likely to be gym rats and understand the concept of cleaning off your machines after use, but no they do not (as I have observed). The treadmills and stationary bicycles I assume were not cleaned off properly and will do so before I use them.

Vancouver Planning

 

Although I have been busy, I did manage to book a hotel in Vancouver, and we are beginning to narrow down the activities we will be doing.  The hotel has even emailed me back and will be happy to hold onto our luggage until a room comes available while we explore the city (not that I worried that they would not). The hotel seems to be in a central location, which is good – and probably why it is so much money, and their tourist season is probably only half the year (comparatively, it is more expensive than average hotel rooms in NYC).

 

Once we settle on what activities we are going to do, I can start arranging them. For example, can we visit them all via the Hop-on-Hop-off (HoHo), or is it going to be an excursion that takes out of the city for a bit (I know, then why would a centrally located hotel matter)?

 

However, I have been looking at some DIY walking tours, which seem to hit many of the main highlights of the city . Most begin within a few blocks of the hotel, however, I will probably look at a few and create one that works best for us; which might include taking taxis from/to the different parts of the city (and probably cheaper than 4 HoHo passes). [Walk from hotel to Gastown & Chinatown (explore the area w/ Dim Sum breakfast), then taxi to Granville Island (explore the area w/ lunch at the market), then taxi to Stanley Park (explore the area w/ dinner), then walk or taxi back to hotel. – the HoHo would be about $200 for the four of us, three taxi rides will be closer to $75].  I will see what the other two members of my family would like to do and would hit a few of the places already listed by myself and another member of the family.

 

Planning a DIY tour will require a lot of research -- awesome! I hope that is what we do.

 

I have discovered the Vancouver is the Sushi Capital of North America, so also going to be researching some of the local sushi restaurants around the hotel. However, a Japadog is also going to be a snack at some point during the day, and if we begin our day in Chinatown, maybe some dim sum for breakfast.

 

The only other thing is to find out about COVID testing in order to fly back to the US; will it still be needed, and if so, where can I get tested in Vancouver? [As an aside, if I was leaving straight from the cruise/port, how would I be tested?]

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14 hours ago, Travel R said:

The only other thing is to find out about COVID testing in order to fly back to the US; will it still be needed, and if so, where can I get tested in Vancouver? [As an aside, if I was leaving straight from the cruise/port, how would I be tested?]

 

Quick note: Great news! Pre-testing to enter Canada is going to be suspended as of Friday (although they may randomly test at the airport).

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Posted (edited)

  

7 hours ago, perfect match said:

Great report! As a planner myself, I love reading about how other planners do their planning. 😀

 

Thank you!

 

I guess that is why I am writing this thread.  For the most part, many members will write a review of the cruise itself, with very few going into the ins-and-outs of the thought process and the trials an tribulations that go into the planning (there are some great reviewers that do add this glimpse, so I am not the only one).

 

I know that all readers will not agree with my thought processes and decisions (e.g., not going to Glacier National Park), but I am okay with that - it will not cause me to undergo years of therapy, nor will I be changing my plans. Unless, there is a factual basis to change.  For instance, if someone suggests using vendor ABC, which will be half the price of vendor XYZ, and they are rated the same, and will visit the same places - I am going to cancel my vendor.  However, if it is based on something subjective, I will balk.  For instance, I was underwhelmed when I finally saw Old Faithful, where others have marveled at it. I am glad I did get to see it, but to me it was driving through/around Yellowstone Park itself that was the highlight of the day (absolutely beautiful).

 

That being said, I do like to read others opinions. No opinion is wrong as long as it is the right thing for you and/or your family.

Edited by Travel R
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2 hours ago, Travel R said:

 

That being said, I do like to read others opinions. No opinion is wrong as long as it is the right thing for you and/or your family.

Alaska is a beautiful place to visit and hopefully, everyone will get to visit all its charm and beauty at some point in their lives.  I have always said that everyone needs to do their research when it comes to an Alaskan cruise.  What works for someone might not work for me.  Suggestions are wonderful and it's always nice to share experiences.  However, in the end, it is your trip and you do have to do what is right for you and your companions.  You will be making YOUR memories to treasure for a lifetime.  Looking forward to hearing the rest of your journey.

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Posted (edited)

July 6, 2021

 

I am continuing with my research into the Alaskan ports, but I finally had a chance to review the staterooms we chose/were given.

Our Cabin Selection on the Serenade of the Seas

While we were on the phone with the RCI Representative, we were simultaneously looking at a diagram of the deck plan (on our own computer) as he read off the room numbers for potential cabins.  Our main concern in choosing rooms being the distance between our balcony and our daughter’s cabin.  Although I saw that the balcony cabin the rep suggested was on the end of a hump and “close” to the girl’s cabin, I did not know much more. Usually, I do more research into cabin selection, but I did not have as much time to do so in this instance. It is much easier trying to find a single cabin, doing the research, then booking for that cabin. In hindsight, I could have probably performed similar research for a balcony stateroom and an inside and found two that were close-in distance myself.  But in the end, I am happy with what I chose (although I am sure I will tell you exactly what I think when I provide the review of the cruise itself).

 

We have had side-hump cabins before (sometimes called a pie-cutter cabin) and have always enjoyed the little extra room on the balcony.  This one is on Deck 7 in the center of the ship. It is cabin #7592. [Video of cabin 7592 on the Brilliance.] I liked the one we had in the past for the main reason is that it provides one of the largest balconies available for that class of rooms. [If you look at the deck plan (below), it may be almost 50% larger than the standard balcony (without being in the aft). I am not sure I would like the aft – maybe if there is a cabin crawl I will see one for myself.] This balcony is also forward facing so that effectively I have the ability to look in the direction that we are sailing while lying on the lounge chair.

 

I enjoy having a balcony room and expect to use it a lot on our cruise – yes, even in Alaska, with the cold temperatures. Maybe I won’t be hanging outside at midnight when it is 40 degrees, but during the day, that is where you will find me much of the time if not roaming around the ship or in port.

 

[Image of the location of my room on the deck plan – see attached . . . .]

 

I looked at the cabin more closely today, reviewing photos and a video (of the same cabin on the Radiance) and it is what I expected.  However, the photo did show a partial obstructed view when looking downward – part of the covering for the life rafts does obstruct a straight look down. Not ideal, but worth the larger semi-forward facing balcony.  Although there are only cabins above us, there could be noise issues from deck 6, with Vintages located directly below us. 

 

Luckily, it is a wine bar and does not play any music; and in my research, I have not found any complaints about it. The only other concern is with Business Services/RC Online being close by, but those services are not open very early in the morning or late at night (looks like 8 AM to 9 PM – but wondering if people can still use those computers before/after those house), so the noise “should not” affect us. But with this hump balcony that is near my daughters, I would rather not move.  The other negative (which I knew from the last time I had this cabin) was that you did not have any views behind you (since another cabin was blocking the way) – but I am okay with that; I will be able to see where I am going, not where I have been. My DD’s cabin does not seem to be above or under anything of note beyond other cabins.

 

We chose a starboard-side cabin because this itinerary goes north from Vancouver through the inside passage and to the Hubbard Glacier.  On the return trip we will most likely be seeing a lot of the ocean from the stateroom and beautiful sunsets (the ship will most likely sail west of the islands on their return south).

 

[Updated 7/9/21: I began reviewing the deck plans for the ship and noticed that the space across from our outer door that I had originally thought was non-usable space is actually part of the Centrum.  It is open space where we can look out and see Deck 6.  I think I am actually going to like that – a change from opening up your door and looking at either a wall or another door. I am sure I will let you know what I think when I write my review of the cruise itself. Although I like this idea, I am concerned that there will be some noise. However, under further investigation into reviews of this cabin and those near it, noise is of very little concern (to those that have taken time to review).]

An Early Look at the Ports / Excursions in Alaska

I have already begun looking at the history of each port and possible sights to see and excursions.

 

Although it is early, very early, I am ready to suggest the whale watching & Mendenhall Glacier tour for Juneau and a DIY (Do-it-Yourself) walking tour of Sitka.  I am looking at either DIY in Ketchikan which seems very walkable (w/ shuttle to see Totem Poles) or maybe suggesting a Kayak tour. I have not begun doing any research on Vancouver as of yet, but want to figure out something in case we decide to stay an extra day or two pre or post cruise (the cruise leaves on Sunday afternoon, so a flight in early Saturday morning would provide us with ample time to see the city).

NCL’s Response to my “Complaint”

 

NCL customer service responded promptly (see prior posts), but with pretty much a template apology letter:

Dear Mr. XXX:

Thank you for writing in.

As a company, we are committed to continuously improving customer satisfaction by enhancing the guest experience on our vessels and ports of call. To that end, we take your feedback very seriously and use it as a gauge for improvement. Please be assured the constructive feedback you have offered has been forwarded to the appropriate management, so they may be aware of your impressions. Nevertheless, we sincerely apologize for any disappointment in this regard.

Thank you for allowing us the time to respond and we hope to welcome you aboard a future Norwegian Cruise Line voyage.

 

I told a friend about what happened, and they asked if I had included anything in my initial email about getting something from NCL for my “inconvenience.” To tell you the truth, I did not think I would have, even if I had thought about it beforehand. I did not send my email to make something off of this, but did so because I believe that a huge multi-million dollar company like that should provide better training to their employees, especially when it comes to something as important as answering a question about itineraries (or placing less confusing itinerary information on their website).

 

If NCL was to send me a voucher for credit or anything on a future sailing, I would not be disappointed (and be a good motivator to book another cruise with them in the future). How does this affect me personally? When it comes time to plan another cruise and it is between NCL and another cruise line with the same or similar itineraries, this situation will be remembered and listed as a negative under the “con” column.

 

The Bliss drama has now come to a conclusion on my end. I am hoping that this issue has been forwarded to the proper people and will be acted upon (and proper training initiated). However, with the receipt of a template letter, as a realist I am not very hopeful – in retrospect, since when has one little customer complaint really moved a mega-corporation to action?

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Edited by Travel R
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[Today]

 

Air n Sea

 

I went with the Air n' Sea option for the first time for this cruise.  My thinking was that if I reserve through RCI it will be easier to make changes or cancel due to COVID.  So far my flights have been changed three times.

 

What to Do in Vancouver

 

Three of the four members of the Travel R family have looked at, and submitted their top three choices for what to do in Vancouver (and the fourth has given some opinions, but has not provided an actual list yet).  Although the Gondola and Suspension Bridge looks really awesome, we know that it is not going to be a go, since not all members of the family will enjoy it.  Some of the top choices are shopping (not my pick) in various areas, Gastown, Granvill Island (via Aquabus), Chinatown, and places to eat. The most interesting choice so far has been the Police Museum.  

 

My top choice is the Museum of Anthropology, but so far there have not been any other votes (and I am sure it will not be on the list for the final respondent).

 

I did bring up a few of the suggestions brought up on some of the threads on CC.  Interesting is that on member suggested the aquarium, and both of my DDs looked online for info on it and both said no. When they were young, aquariums were always on their list of things to do (we have visited them all over the US and abroad).  We also lived ~3 miles from the NYC Aquarium where we had an annual pass, so we were there at least 1 or 2 times each and every month when they were young (and that included the winter).

 

So far it looks like our day in Vancouver is shaping up to be a DIY tour (with taxis and aquabusses from the various areas of the city).

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There’s lots of fun stuff to do in Vancouver, even without going out to Capilano. Don’t miss Stanley Park for some beautiful views and totem poles, and La Casa Gelato is home to a world-record 238 flavours - it’s fun to go sample some of the weirder ones before settling on your purchase.

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On 3/20/2022 at 12:50 PM, SilkySal said:

DH favors salmon but I do not like it very well. However, I must admit that the salmon grilled in Alaska (took the small sea plane in Juneau over the 5 glaciers and landed at a remote resort only accessed by water) was absolutely delicious, which is either because of the way they cooked it or the ambiance of the area! From the plane, the glaciers resembled the ocean, as you could not see the end of the ice and the deep blue waterfalls from up there were jaw dropping! Sorry for someone's fear of heights but I just had to mention it! We cruised on the RCCL Radiance from Seward to Vancouver for 7 nights with a pre-cruise land tour from Fairbanks to Anchorage to Seward for a total of 3 days. Wish we would have done the 6-day land tour. Inside Alaska is beautiful, so plan to go back again! Try to see as much of the areas as time permits and, if you can't, you will definitely want to return!! Bon Voyage and cheers to you and fam!!

We're doing the Taku Lodge Floatplane tour in Juneau.  So excited for this one

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9 minutes ago, Heather.canada said:

We're doing the Taku Lodge Floatplane tour in Juneau.  So excited for this one

OMG! Hope you love it like we did! TIP: If plane is full, someone is allowed to sit up front, next to the pilot, so head on up there! Tom sat up there on the way to the lodge and then let somebody else sit up there on the return flight! That was our best excursion ever! The salmon was delicious! Be sure to take a good camera! After your lunch at the lodge, everyone proceeds to the front porch to watch the black bears forage for any leftover salmon but you'll be warned not to get off of the porch until they've gone! Please try to let me know how you liked (or loved) this excursion! Cheers!

 

Another TIP: Be sure to take mosquito repellent or even a netted hat! There are some huge skeeters out there!! As Sheldon would say, "bazinga"!! haha!

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July 7, 2021

 

Cruise Critic – A Vent

[Today: I had originally written over a page and a half (on WORD) venting about some rude members on Cruise Critic in addition to the Pandemic.  I have decided to not recopy them in the public forum.  But to summarize:

  • Rude and "All Knowing" members.  Back when I wrote this entry, during the prior week I had received a few rude comments from members on Cruise Critic. Although I normally have thicker skin, one of these people really struck a nerve (the context was that I was a moron for not going to Glacier Bay).  Unfortunately, there have been a few rude members over the years, but luckily they at most only a handful and are few and far between. When I was writing the journal last July I must have been really PO'd from what I had re-read.  As myself and others have written, each journey is our own and what is best for us may not be best for you (and vice-versa).
  • Pandemic - Although nothing really outrageous, my comments were in regards to some of the very interesting comments that members on these boards have made about the pandemic, and what my responses would be if I could answer them.  But since this is a taboo topic on CC, I shall remain mum.

Yeah, the 1 1/2 pages have been dwindles down to the above two bullet points.

 

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This will be our 3rd Alaskan cruise and have never cruise Glacier Bay but loved both of our previous cruises.

 

Can I ask where you are staying in Vancouver?  Just started looking at lodging and airfare.

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Posted (edited)
28 minutes ago, flpenguin said:

This will be our 3rd Alaskan cruise and have never cruise Glacier Bay but loved both of our previous cruises.

 

Can I ask where you are staying in Vancouver?  Just started looking at lodging and airfare.

 

Holiday Inn VC, Downtown.  It is located about  a mile or a mile and a half from Stanley Park, Granville Island, Chinatown, and Gastown. [See attached image; btw: the area in the northwest is the bottom of Stanley Park] I looked in that area based on another member's suggestion. I read a number of the reviews online on different websites (of course) and from what I have read the hotel seems decent.

 

As per the suggestion of another CC member I also took a look at hotels outside of the downtown area that are on the commuter routes - and there are some much, much better rates. I will continue looking at other options, but if we decide to stay in the downtown area and visit sights therein, I am going to keep my reservation at this hotel due to its location.

 

Three times to Alaska!!! I am jealous of you and all the others that have been there multiple times! Although I am already planning out our second trip (although most likely by land if I am able to travel here again).

HolidayInnVC.png

Edited by Travel R
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[Today]

Serenade of the Seas – Deck by Deck

 

Although I have been thinking about Vancouver excursions, I have still not heard back from the fourth member of my party as to their choices, so as mentioned in a prior post I have turned my attention to other things, like the Serenade of the Seas itself.  I have made a significant dent in writing the document.  I used an online version of the Compass from an August sailing of the Serenade (same 7-Day Glacier Highlights itinerary w/same ports).

 

I noticed a few interesting things, such as they do not always refer to some areas using the same terms throughout the Compass, or even when comparing the names in the Compass to the Deck Plans on the RCI website. [I have had sometime had to make additional entries and cross references so if you know the area by only one name you will be able to find the information for it – one example is Fairways of Serenade vs. Golf or Mini-Golf.]

 

Yes, these are the silly things that an over planner like me hones in on.

 

The other thing I had had considered before looking at this Compass is the protocols for the pandemic from last year.  Although I am going to enter the hours of operation for each venue, I will try to re-review what I have compared to early Alaskan sailings (if they share their versions of the Compass).  The only concern I have is what if RCI decides to only use the App and no paper copies – although if that happens, I will figure out a way get the information.

 

I have also begun to watch some videos taken on the ship to I can see POV aspects of the layout which are sometimes not apparent on a bird’s eye view of the deck plan.  Yes, a vast majority of people would say this is overkill, but in the wee hours of the night when I cannot sleep (health issues in the family that are weighing on me) it gives me something to concentrate on, although I have been watching re-runs of old TV series on at 2 AM that I had not seen in years (never new that Frazier’s brother actually married the aide (although you knew it was going to happen), but did not know they were expecting a baby).

 

Although this deck-by-deck guide will be a good guide for others (IMHO), by performing the exercise of creating this, I am getting to know the ship very intimately myself (from afar). In the past I have impressed my family by walking to a particular location without ever looking at the Compass or the computerized deck plans throughout a ship.

 

I will be including hints & tips particular to the Serenade within this guide – so if anyone has a few, please post them. [Thank you in advance.]

Future Cruises

 

I am going to be going off on a tangent for a few paragraphs, but it is going through my mind, and it is directly related to cruising . . . .

 

We are planning a two-week trek to Italy.  It has gone back and forth from being a part land trip in Italy with an Italy to Greece cruise.  Then due to fears about COVID, it became an all-car tour in and around Italy, then as the pandemic has begun to die down, it returned to possibly going back to the original Land + Cruise idea.

 

Then yesterday I saw an add pop up on AOL (yes, I am that old) about a Holy Land cruise.  The historian part of me thought that this may be interesting (and someplace that is on my bucket list), so I clicked on the link, which brought me to a 12-Night cruise (on Celebrity) that interestingly enough, departed out of Rome, sails to Greece (another bucket list), Cyprus, and Turkey, as well as 3 days in Israel.  I talked to my DW, and she says that it sounds very interesting and would like to do it.  If we fly in 2-3 days pre-cruise we can get to see the parts of Rome we had not seen on our earlier trip (although this would mean missing out on the rest of Italy; something for a future vacation).  But it is something to think about, and I would like to do some research on what other itineraries are out there (on other ships).

 

I sent a short text with the link to that itinerary to the other couple we are going with and they immediately expressed their love for the idea. No one actually said so, but when the Summer 2024 itineraries are released (I think November 2022), and we find one that matches, we are ditching the drive around Italy idea. We also already talked about looking for similar itineraries on other cruise lines to find the one that matches us best. 

 

So, for now looks like our belated 25th Anniversary vacation from 20221 will be a cruise from Italy that explores the Northeastern Mediterranean in 2024. Although I have already performed multiple hours of research on the various areas we would like to drive to in Italy, a cruise like this will reduce the amount of logistics we will have to plan.  It will also take us to multiple countries that I believe we would all like to see (our friends were never in Italy, so it is a bonus to them). I was looking forward to seeing the Last Supper in in person and take a romantic gondola ride with my DW in Venice, but those will have to wait for another time. The only other down point to change (as of yet) is that I will be breaking my streak of nine unique: ports of departures, itineraries, and ships.  This will be the second time we will be sailing out of Civitavecchia (Rome). Not that it means much to anyone but me, but as we added on cruises, there being just so many ports, it was inevitable.

 

Yeah, I know . . . .once again, third world problems.

 

But then where to next? . . . Our 30th Anniversary is in 2026, as is our younger DD's graduation from college; what cruises will be in our future.  A big bucket cruise for my DW is Hawaii, which is a possibility (sans our daughters), although two top bucket cruises for me are Australia & New Zealand and East Asia (a cruise that hits all of the ports that will allow us to visit all three Disney Parks (Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Shanghai - and maybe coordinate the schedule with an Asian RunDisney (if they have them there by then)). However, we have also discussed river cruises - maybe something down the Rhein, Nile, or maybe something closer to home, following the the tale of Huck down the  Ole' Mississippi.

 

What does the above have to do with our cruise to Alaska?  Absolutely nothing, I am just extremely excited about this future cruise. In the next few months (after we get back from this next cruise, some of you may see me on the Mediterranean boards (Summer 2024 cruises are not yet published). Now back to Alaska . . .

 

CDC Cruise Warnings

 

As you all probably know, earlier this week the CDC has removed its warning against cruising!

Not much more to say on this, but at least it is another step forward and a positive sign for us in the cruise community.

 

Now back to work . . . . .

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7 hours ago, barbienj said:

Following this, I will be on the Serenade July 31...

 

Thanks for following along on the journey. Hopefully there are some parallels.

 

Q: Are you on the Haines or Sitka alternative itinerary?

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July 10, 2021

Excursion Research with 350+ Days to Go: Ketchikan, Juneau, and Sitka

 

I’ve been busy with work the last few days, but when I have had the chance/time in the evening hours, I have been researching the ports and the possible excursions we could take.

 

I am trying to find activities and attractions that my family will enjoy without costing us an arm and a leg.  Out of all the tours, I am sure my DD’s would love riding huskies on the glacier, but we have done dogsledding elsewhere, and I refuse to pay $1600 for the four of us to do so in order to say that we have also ridden a husky sleigh in Alaska. Although one member’s fear of heights also negates us taking a helicopter or small biplane.

 

My very, very early ideas for port stops are as follows:

 

Juneau – Whale watching w/ Mendenhall Glacier Tour

  • Reasoning: According to research Juneau is the best place to see whales among all of the ports we stop (or even of the usual ports stopped on any cruise).  In fact, most places provide a guarantee to see whales. The time of year we are sailing (late June/early July) is supposedly an exceptionally good time for viewing these behemoths of the seas.

Sitka – DIY tour of the town

  • Reasoning: Comparing the three ports we are visiting Sitka is the most “laid back” according to research.  There are also many places to stop in the town to get a sense of history (former Russian capital of Alaska), Tlingit culture, and wilderness (trails in park & Eagle rehab preserve). Walking through Sitka, IMHO, is a way to get a sense of Alaska, its people, and its history. Not to mention that this is probably the best port of the three to DIY (Do-It-Yourself), which will save us some $.
  • I have already created a possible walking tour of the port:

DIY Walking Tour (1h 3min - 3.0 miles [without stopping])

[?Lunch prior to leaving ship?]

§  Shuttle from Pier to Town (drops us off at Harrigan Cent. Hall)

§  Harrigan Centennial Hall

§  Sitka Historical Society

§  Russian Bishop House

§  Sheldon Jackson Museum

§  Sitka Sound Science Center

§  SE Alaska Indian Cultural Center

§  Sitka National Park (Trails, Totem Poles, Park Museum)

§  Alaska Raptor Center

§  [Snack break (try Pizza from Alaska?)]

§  St. Michael's Orthodox Cathedral

§  Baranof Castle & Castle Hill (where Cessation Treaty was signed)

§  Harrigan Centennial Hall

 

[Try to limit the full walk to 3 - 3.5 hours max (not including 30 minute shuttle ride, plus waiting on the line for shuttle) to get back to the ship to shower and change before dinner. We will decide which of the above locations to stop at]

 

KetchikanUndecided, but Kayaking is one of the more likely choices

  • Kayaking: My DW and myself enjoy sea kayaking, and it was kind of our “thing” when we went on cruises pre-children. [My DDs have gone canoeing many times with us, but I do not think they have gone kayaking before.] It would be a great way to visit and enjoy the Alaskan wildlife first-hand without being in a large ship, a car, bus, ship, etc. We can get up-close and personal. I was looking at a tour that takes us around Eagle Island – although Eagles (and nests) would most likely be seen, there is a good possibility of seals, salmon (we may be a little late in the season), and sea stars.  Some of these touring groups say that whale spotting is possible (in the distance), but that is probably rare (although would be cool). Of course, we get to see this island and the port of Ketchikan with the majestic mountains in the background.
  • Totem Poles: Ketchikan (in and around) is home to the most totem poles anywhere in the world, but not sure how many my family would want to see (we may be seeing more in Sitka), but could be part of a DIY walking tour.
  • Other tours – there are lots of different excursions: Rainforest sanctuary, Misty Fjords, Creek Street, etc. I will probably create a list of what there is to do along with a summary of each and give it to the family.
  • DIY: There are a few things to see around town (which has been remarked many times on these boards and elsewhere that this port is very walkable). However, it seems a lot more crowded and touristy than Sitka.  There is a Lumberjack show (produced by Disney) in port which seems interesting (and a tourist trap) and a brothel museum, but I will need to spend more time researching other excursions and activities so I can find something that my family may enjoy (and agree upon).

[In Hindsight 4/6/22: Looking back at my thinking, I was fairly accurate with what we are now planning to do in Juneau (whale watching) and Sitka (DIY walking tour). However, I was way off in Ketchikan, I really thought kayaking would have been our choice, but my DW and DDs believed that it would have been too cold to really enjoy it. Also note, although the Sitka DIY walking tour will remain predominately what I had listed above, there are some minor modifications to the tour (and will post at a later date for anyone interested in using it).

 

I will also be adding a list of all of the activities in each of these ports which I had researched and consolidated into an Excel Worksheet.  I will provide the spreadsheet in a separate post so that the CC community may use it. Some on my Roll Call have already used it and found it useful.  Obviously, the spreadsheet has been updated as of today and not how it appeared back in July 2021.

Alaska is Expensive; I Can’t Afford to Do or See Everything

 

The big problem with choosing what to do in Alaska is the fact (and reality) that excursions are very expensive in Alaska.  The tourist season is short, even shorter this year, and non-existent last year, so they have to make a living somehow and make up for what they had lost out on.  Even pre-COVID, Alaska was expensive – one reason is because they have to import many of their everyday items from far away. I believe half the population of Alaska lives in Juneau, and Juneau is not accessible by any type of automobile.

 

The coinciding problem is that neither I, nor my DW are made of money.  This vacation with just the cruise and airfare by themselves are already expensive enough.  Add to that the possible whale watching tour plus possible hotel (before/after), food & trinkets in-port, clothing and items purchased for the cruise, etc., it really adds up. We would not be going if we cannot afford it, but some of the big item extras may not be in the budget.

 

Some people may insist that some of these excursions are once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and you should do them even if they hurt you in the pocketbook. Maybe those people do not understand that not everyone has that type of expendable income. This cruise vacation to Alaska is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which I would have never imagine taking when I was the age of my daughters. By the time I graduated college, I had only travelled to a sum total of two countries outside of the United States. The first was Canada (Southeastern) a handful of times by car and the second was Mexico as a college student [I got a $99 round trip fare to anywhere in the Continental US, so I went to California with some friends, it was during that trip where we sojourned to Tijuana for one day; we parked the car then walked across the border – that trip to California was only the second time I was ever on an airplane].

 

[Hindsight [Today] - If you have been reading along, I am already looking at booking another once-in-a-lifetime cruise for the Eastern Mediterranean. We are not rich, but "almost comfortable" - so we do need to watch our expenses.  As I have stated a hundred times, I am so fortunate to be able to afford such luxuries as going on a cruise, and still will not be able to afford a suite or take those $1600 excursions, but we will enjoy ourselves nonetheless. Back as a kid and even through college, the idea of going on a cruise (except maybe a cheap booze cruise) was a dream.]

 

In contrast, my daughters have been to multiple countries on four continents by the time they graduate High School and College. So once again, if I do not spend that $400/pp for an excursion, I am okay with it and there will be no regrets. I am already having my once-in-a-lifetime cruise experience with my family for the third time (the first two being cruises to the Mediterranean and the Baltics). For those that can go on those excursions, all the best to you.

Just a note – there are a number of lower-cost activities and attractions to see at each of the ports, especially if you experience them DIY. If you get a great price on a cabin to afford the cruise, you can still have an amazing time without the high-cost excursions.

 

I am writing this journal as per my point of view and the budget I have for this cruise, but I know that not everyone is in the same boat [no pun intended].  There are those that have cabins in steerage and only doing minimal excursions (which were most of our early cruises), and those in the President's Suite. However, I hope that there is enough information that all cruisers will find it helpful.  Another little insight into me: I am a voyeur when it comes to posts about suites, having a concierge, and the private areas of some ships. Although I may not be able to afford it (right now), I do enjoy reading about those services. And who knows, maybe one day . . . . 

 

As always, I am so thankful and grateful that I can provide my family with the gift of seeing the world.

 

So, how is this thread going so far? I hope I have not bored everyone to sleep.

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