Tag: Alaska Cruise (Page 1 of 2)
Our Alaska cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas was unlike anything else I have ever done before. The scenery was unmatched and the service was spectacular. This trip was full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences!
Our trip started off on a rough note because embarkation in Vancouver was a nightmare. I should start off by saying there were three ships in port that day and the other two ships were much larger than the Serenade so there were a lot of people leaving Vancouver that day. It took us a full two hours from curb to ship. It took one whole hour just to get to the porters to drop our bags off because there was only one large elevator that went to that level. We saw a lot of people just carry their bags on, but they still had to drag them around the port for an hour. I heard people around me mumbling “never again” to sailing out of Vancouver. One thing that makes it more complicated than most other embarkation ports is that you are in a foreign country sailing into the United States, so you have to go through customs. We met people at dinner one night who have Global Entry and they said that helped shorten the wait some. If you are planning on sailing out of Vancouver, pick the earliest check-in time you can and get there early.
While we had beautiful weather on our port days, every sea day was cold and rainy. We had hoped to play Pickleball as we did on our Caribbean Cruise, but because of the weather, it was never open. We tried to enjoy our balcony, if you wanted to be out there for an extended period of time, you needed to seriously bundle up. On our way back from Alaska, we had the roughest seas I have ever encountered on a cruise. Seriously, they had barf bags placed around the ship for those prone to seasickness. I have to say, I had never seen that before.
The Serenade of the Seas is the smallest ship I’ve ever sailed on. Having sailed on the Explorer of the Seas almost exactly three months prior, I was doing a lot of comparing in my head while onboard. Small ships like the Serenade have their pros and cons, the pros being that they can get into ports where the larger ships don’t fit. The Serenade is actually the ship Royal is using for their World Cruise in 2023. The biggest con, of course, is that there is less to do on board. I don’t know if it was because we were usually the smallest ship in port, but we always ended up at the dock farthest away from town (left).
Since our cruise on the Explorer was when Royal Caribbean was getting back into sailing at almost full capacity, a lot of my complaints from our spring cruise had been resolved. Crew members were no longer serving everything in the buffet and service in the dining room was much smoother. With my time dining, they didn’t try to seat you in the same table every day like they did on the Explorer so we didn’t have to wait as long to eat.
From the sail-away show, I knew the entertainment on this ship was not going to be for me. John, the cruise director came on stage singing Sweet Caroline and had everyone play Simon Says. I felt like I was in the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel when she goes to her camp in the Catskills (for those of you who aren’t familiar with this show, it takes place in the 1950s. That’s really all you need to know for this reference). Shortly after that, the assistant cruise director came out to sell you Bingo cards. I felt like the youngest person on board by at least 40 years. Royal Caribbean is known for being a family cruise line so I was not expecting this at all.
In my review of the Explorer of the Seas, I was blown away by how many activities were going on around the ship when we were in port each day. That was not the case on the Serenade. We had three sea days on this cruise and I felt like there was nothing to do. Because of the weather, everyone was indoors. There was trivia twice a day that was standing-room only. There was a small movie theater where you wouldn’t get a seat if you didn’t show up half an hour early. There was an enrichment lecture by Canadian Mountie that we went to because…what else was there to do? We did enjoy the production shows and the comedian made us laugh. We kept running into him in port, which was funny.
While this review may seem like it’s full of complaints, I really did enjoy this cruise. I think if I were to sail to Alaska again, I would choose a ship that was purpose-built for Alaska, like the Norwegian Bliss. It has many more indoor areas to get out of the cold, rainy Alaska weather at sea. After this cruise, we are taking a break from Royal Caribbean. We have another cruise booked, this time on Celebrity, which will be interesting.
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week as we begin our journey from Vancouver to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.
When planning our Alaska cruise, one of the excursions I knew I wanted to do was dogsledding. The cruise lines offer amazing dogsledding excursions at most of the ports, some of them even involving flying a helicopter to a glacier to have a more “authentic” experience on a dog sled. I really wanted to do one of those helicopter/dogsled excursions but it was really hard to justify a single excursion that cost more than the whole cruise fare. So, I went for the compromise called dogsled and musher’s camp in Skagway.
When we docked in Skagway (at the pier that has been closed since it had a landslide just a few weeks after we docked at it) and took a bus to the Musher’s Camp. Like a lot of Skagway, this felt very cheesy and like it was built for cruise ship tourists. From the base camp, we loaded onto this giant all-terrain vehicle to get to the dogs. We were the first group of the day and the dogs were excited to get going! They were yipping, howling, and pulling at their leads. We divided up into several groups, six people to a cart, and finally got to be pulled around by a group of canines.
On the drive up, our tour guide Laryn, explained the dogs we were about to meet are professional athletes. And once we got loaded onto our cart, our musher explained that the dogs that were pulling us are her team and they actually race the Iditarod together. She explained the commands she uses (“gee” and “haw”) to tell the dogs which way to go. She also explained how important camps like this one are for the dogs. Not only do they work on strength training during the summer, but being around the all the tourists prepares them for all the people the dogs will encounter at the checkpoints along the Iditarod. So, while we were in a cart, not a sled and going over a dirt path, not snow, this time is important for these dogs. So, yes dog sledding in Alaska is a tourist activity, it has its benefits for the dogs and the musher as well.
After we got done with our ride, we went back down to “basecamp” where we met another musher who told us the history of the Iditarod and showed us some of the gear they carry on the race. She explained that the “Alaska Husky” is actually a mix of breeds that they breed for their racing ability.
From there, we got to go to my favorite part where we cuddled the puppies (above)! Mine fell asleep in my arms. My husband didn’t get to hold one because I wouldn’t let him go. I really wish we had more time with the puppies before we were pushed to look at “teenage” dogs sleeping.
If you are planning an Alaska cruise and want to do a dogsledding excursion, I highly recommend it! We had a great time in Skagway with Alaska X excursions! While I’m sure the helicopter/dog sled excursions are amazing, once-in-a-lifetime kinds of experiences, the dog-cart experiences are in no way “fake” and are a great way to get to experience sled dogs without paying as much as your cruise fare for a single excursion!
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when I review our time on the Serenade of the Seas! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.
After our long day in Juneau, the next day we visited two ports: Skagway in the morning and Haines in the evening. This was our first time visiting two ports in one day. We had planned to take a dogsledding excursion through the cruise line for Skagway, but we just planned to explore the town of Haines on our own.
Skagway is a town with a lot of history. After the United States purchased Alaska from Russia, the border between Alaska and Canada was only vaguely defined. When the Canadian government requested a survey in 1871 after being united with British Columbia, the United States thought an examination of the land would be too expensive. In 1896, gold was discovered in the Klondike region of Canada’s Yukon Territory prospectors began heading to the Last Frontier to make the 500-mile trek in search of their fortunes.
Their journeys began by crossing the mountains over the White Pass or the Chilkoot Trail near Skagway. It is estimated that in the spring of 1898, 1,000 prospectors came through Skagway each week. Of all the people who flooded north in search of gold, no more than 4,000 prospectors found any, and only a few hundred became rich.
The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad opened in 1900 over one of the routes the prospectors took in search of their fortunes. The railroad still exists today and is a popular shore excursion for travelers visiting Skagway. This summer, because of Canadian border restrictions, the train was turning around before crossing the U.S./Canada border. I think this would be my first choice the next time we find ourselves in Skagway.
Downtown Skagway features about 100 buildings remaining from the Gold Rush days and is the home of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, so of course, we had to stop in and get our National Park Passport stamped and watch the video about the area’s history. Of course, we also stopped at Klondike Doughboy for their famous Alaska Fry Bread.
All-in-all, Skagway was my least favorite port. I know the town is rooted in history, but it felt the most inauthentic of all of our stops. Everything there exists for tourists in a way that was different from Sitka and Juneau (Haines is the other extreme and you can read about that below). When I travel I really look for authentic experiences and that felt hard to find in Skagway.
Haines is just south of Skagway and refers to itself as the adventure gateway to Alaska. Haines is known for its bald eagle preserve and Historic Fort Steward (its not there anymore but you can read a plaque about it). If you haven’t made plans for Haines, there really isn’t much to do there. It felt like they stuck a cruise port in small-town America. We walked around for about an hour and just got back on the ship. One of my biggest regrets about this trip is that we didn’t book the evening canoe safari or another excursion in Haines because this ended up being a wasted stop for us.
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop back next week when I recap our dogsled excursion in Skagway! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.