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Alaskan Cruise on Celebrity SolsticeAuthor: Carmen Critchlow (More Trip Reviews by Carmen Critchlow)
Date of Trip: July 2014
This was a 7 day cruise to Alaska leaving from Seattle, our 8th cruise, and our granddaughters’ 1st.
It was alarming that no one at the United Airlines check-in desk asked for the parent authorization letter for the 2 minors that I was travelling with, especially since one of them had a different last name to mine, and UA emphasized the need for this letter on their website. They were more interested in my overweight luggage, than in making sure that I had the proper documentation. The plane was delayed ½ hour, but despite that we were able to make our connection in Chicago, arriving in Seattle 20 minutes early. TSA Pre√ is great, bypassed the long lines. Arriving in Seattle we picked up our bags and proceeded to the third floor, where we had to wait for a van (cabs were plentiful) since it was 5 of us with 8 pieces of luggage. It took about 30 minutes to get to the pier at a cost of $65.00 for all of us.
The line for embarkation was quite short, and once again no one asked for a permission letter for the minors. Celebrity also emphasized the need for this or they would not be able to board. We did the mandatory fire drill sitting in the dining room and watching a film, and then we were on our way.
Day at Sea
Since we were on this ship last year we knew our way around, and took our grandkids on a tour. They were fascinated with the lawn club area, especially when they realized that it was real grass.
Saxman Native Village
This excursion via the cruise ship was somewhat disappointing. It was touted as the “world’s largest collection of authentic totem poles” and frankly I was expecting much more that what I saw. “For generations it has been tradition in Tlingit villages to welcome guests with elaborate ceremonies. At Saxman Village, visitors experience the same time honored welcome of years gone by”. Really, I certainly did not “experience” this; there was no one there but our guide and fellow passengers. Maybe because it was raining, I don’t know.
Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show
A very entertaining show, with lots of daring moves by those talented lumberjacks (chopping, chain sawing, pole climbing, log rolling, axe throwing and much more). Although it was raining, we were under an awning with overhead heating and cushioned seats. The MC kept the audience interested and involved, and a great time was had by all.
We enjoyed impressive views of the Mendenhall Glacier with icebergs floating in the lake, and a lovely waterfall. We watched a very interesting short film about the glacier at the visitor’s center, a few informative exhibits were around, and you can touch a piece of a 200 year old iceberg, very cool, literally.
Tracy Arm Fjord
Tracy Arm Fjord is a sight to behold. The steep mountains that just drop right into the sea, the blue/white ice that just floats by, and the misty fog so low you feel you can reach out and touch it. Several waterfalls drop off the cliffs into the water below, photo opportunities at every turn.
We boarded a catamaran especially designed for wildlife observing, with large windows for optimum viewing. Complimentary binoculars and souvenir route maps were provided, along with snacks and beverages. We had a great captain who was in no hurry, so we were able to see at our leisure a lot of whales. The captain positioned the boat so that we had a great view of the whales and sea lions at all times, she did this on many occasions so we were always where the action was. The onboard naturalist was very enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable. I bought some homemade Alaska Blueberry Jam on board and it is simply delicious. My daughter bought some Sockeye Salmon. It was a quite an enjoyable adventure.
White Pass Summit
We had a wonderful and knowledgeable guide and he made it a very satisfying experience. He was a great story teller and had all of us fascinated with stories about the hardships and daily life struggles the stampeders faced. We stopped at many places and took incredible pictures. He even took a picture of my family and me, and was such a gentleman offering his arm to the ladies to help them step down off the bus.
Gold Rush Cemetery
Granted there is a lot of history here, but was surprised to see it so unkempt – fences and tomb stones decrepit, grass and weeds overgrown. My grandkids had a great time as they were chosen by our guide to reenact the scene between Frank Reid and Soapy Smith.
After our tour to White Pass Summit and the Gold Rush Cemetery, we walked around downtown Skagway. Love the historic look of the buildings in this town. Bought souvenirs, met some friendly local people and took a lot of pictures, and walked back to the ship. We had a great time here.
Day at Sea
The girls were in the pool all day.
We did Victoria on our own. We took a walking/hiking path alongside the wharf that connected to downtown Victoria. Such beautiful scenery along the way, and we loved the colorful houseboats and numerous places to eat. We really enjoyed Victoria.
We had adjoining cabins and that worked very well for the 5 of us. We had dinner once in the Grand Epernay dining room; everyone enjoyed their food, especially my granddaughters, who thought the scallops were very delicious. We had the salad, shrimp, duck, steak and lamb, and everything was cooked to perfection. All other times we ate at the Oceanview Café and the food there was very enjoyable.
We went to a few shows and they were very energetic. Their “Cirque du Soleil” type show was very good, but not as long as it was last March.
We used the Valet Luggage Program for the first time and that worked out perfectly. We put our baggage outside of our doors and the next time we saw them, it was at our destination airport. At the cost of $20.00 pp, it is well worth it.
Overall, it was a great cruise, Alaska is beautiful. My granddaughters are eager to cruise again.
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