For those who have not been on a cruise before, we would highly recommend it if you want to be pampered, waited on hand and foot, and fed amazing food without having to cook it yourself. You can do what you want basically when you want, and whatever you choose is organized down to the finest detail with no worries to you. We just spent a great seven nights on board the Infinity from Celebrity. We have sailed to Alaska on her before but the people we were traveling with, Jag and Rupi, had never cruised before. They were amazed! From the shrimp cocktail available every night to the fabulous show in the theatre each night to the chocolates on our pillows in the evening, it was the ultimate in relaxation.
The schedule for the trip was as follows:
Sunday, September 2 - set sail from Ballantyne Pier in Vancouver at 5:45 pm - right on time! Boarding was incredibly organized and smoothly run, with none of the hassle you have at the airport. When on board, Christopher from Jamaica served us our welcome aboard drinks and taught us the Jamaica handshake. Just ask Larry or Jag for a demo! Lifeboat drill just before we sailed. We had our first introduction to Brent Nixon, Naturalist, tonight who is very entertaining and informative. He's lived in Alaska for over 30 years, sea kayaks just about everywhere, and has seen 98% of the State. Our Captain, Dimitrios from Greece, is very funny and in addition to his welcome announcement, makes an announcement from the Bridge every day at noon and ends with "This is your Captain speaking from the Bridge", then he hesitates and says the word "Out". He likes that word. We met our waiter Henry from Guatemala for the first time at dinner. Throughout the cruise he would provide excellent service.
September 3 - sailing the Inside Passage. Passed where the BC Ferry, Queen of the North sank in the Grenville Channel and continued up the inside passage. This channel is so narrow there has to be a ship pilot on board. It was our first formal night tonight. Our clocks had to be set back an hour before we went to bed for Alaska Time! A musical featuring Broadway showtunes was playing in the Theatre tonight.
September 4 - a storm whipped up overnight and we found out later the next day that our Captain decided to head out of the inside passage and into open waters and that he successfully outran the worst of the storm. However, in addition to the large tidal swells hitting us sideways, we also had big waves from front to back (fore to aft). It took a while to get to sleep - the drawer in the closet opened and banged shut with each wave. Sometime during the night we came back inside to head for Ketchikan. We arrived there at 7 am. We had to go ashore by tender today as there was no more room at the dock. In case you are wondering what "Tendering" is, they put 4 or 5 life boats in the water and you board these and they take you ashore. There were five other ships in port while we were there. This is one of many towns in Southeast Alaska that have no road or rail service out of town. Everything comes either by air or by sea. We started out with a logging show that was a lot of fun. Then went for lunch. Then we went on a City Tour on a horse drawn trolley. These are inexpensive shore excursions and you are treated to knowledge and stories from local people who are usually driving and/or guiding. The co-pilots were two beautiful Huskies. Comedy of Jeff Nease in the Theatre tonight, he plays Las Vegas regularly. Also watched the Newly Wed, Not-so-Newly Wed game and saw the "Death by Chocolate Buffet" at midnight.
September 5 - Hubbard Glacier. We started to come into the Yakutat Bay at about 1:30pm and were closest to the Glacier about 3:00pm. Our Captain attempted and was successful at beating his season's record of his approach to the Glacier - less than a ¼ mile. Brent Nixon narrated the approach and visit to the Glacier over the PA system. These glaciers are so large that when "Calving" happens (meaning the ice falls from the Glacier) these pieces of ice are like 25 story buildings falling into the ocean creating some large waves. We caught some wonderful calving events on film as you can see. The ship slowly spins in front of the glacier so from our balconies we had the best view. The narrator said that the temperature was at freezing or below freezing and can attest to that as we had to go inside to warm up the hands from holding the camera. We left there and headed for Juneau.
September 6 - Juneau - 7 am - the Capital of Alaska - again no road/rail out of town but 50 miles of beautiful four lane highway. We took another City Tour here in a bus driven by Tony, Tlingit on his mother's side, Raven and Wolf Clan. He shared some great stories. This bus also went to the Mendenhall Glacier. While the Hubbard Glacier is actually growing, the Mendenhall has retreated about 1500 feet in the last five years. Saw salmon spawning and hoped to see some bears but all we saw were closures of the trail. Lunch at the Red Dog Saloon - a world famous landmark with sawdust on the floor, a line up out the door and amazingly still-friendly waitresses! Wyatt Earp actually left his gun at the Marshall's office in 1899 and didn't retrieve it when the boat he got on the next morning. It is sitting in a glass display behind the bar at the Red Dog Saloon. Jag and Rupi were carded here which made them feel really good. Tonight in the Theatre was a performance by Jamaica's #1 Comedienne Mathilda (a very funny ventriloquist act).
September 7 - Icy Strait Point and Hoonah. This is a new stop for Celebrity and was quite beautiful. Because there is only room for one cruise ship at a time, the town only grows by 2,000 instantly instead of 8,000 or 10,000 like other stops. It was a very peaceful spot, with halibut fishing available as a shore excursion as well as a very long Zipline the longest in the world at 5300 feet long. When we disembarked (by tender) we were given a cedar wood chip to be placed on the welcome fire that was going on the beach - rub it and make a wish and throw it on the fire. Otherwise not your usual collection of high-end jewellery stores and T-shirt shops. Rupi and Maureen took the opportunity to walk the 1.6 miles to Hoonah, a very tiny village. They chose to take the bus back! Left at 2:30 to begin the sail home. Brent Nixon gave a talk on Bald Eagles. Tonight is our second formal night, otherwise known as lobster night. In the theatre, a musical production called Celebrate the World. After that, in case you haven't had enough to eat, is the Grand Buffet. It takes the Chef 48 hours to put it together, it has 25 ice sculptures which take from 2-4 hours each to create, and the most amazingly displayed food. Photos could be taken from 11:45 to 12:15 am and eating is from 12:15 to 1:15. We managed to stuff more food in (Larry was good and didn't eat anything!)
September 8 - At sea today. Somewhere along the way the sun began to shine for only the second time. Brent Nixon gave a talk on Orcas. Other talks he gave during the trip were Seals and Sea Lions and Black and Brown Bears. The last night in the Theatre was a mixture of song and dance and comedy.
September 9 - Vancouver - 7 am.
- Prior to boarding, you pre-register your credit card and on board you use your "Seapass", affectionately known as the Magic Card. Then you can watch your account grow (drinks, shopping, etc) right on the television in the comfort of your room! One lady even tried to use it at the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau - didn't work!
- Shopping on board is very limited but we discovered on the last day at sea that because it was near the end of the season, anything with the word Alaska on it was 50% off.
- Photos were taken at many different places on the trip - when you arrive, at first formal night, at second formal night, disembarking at towns, etc.
- Somewhere along the way the four of us developed nicknames: Captain Mo, Master Navigator (this was Jag who kept the daily program in his pocket at all times and kept us from missing anything important, such as Bingo), Stickwoman (this was Rupi's totem pole name and at one point we had a whole story going), and Gone with the Wind (this was Larry, who every night made us walk out on the deck from the restaurant to the front of the ship to the show - mostly it was very windy, freezing and misty or rainy).
- Martinis were in abundance - one particularly good one was served in six separate small glasses on a glass tray - six different one ounce martinis for $9.50. Not bad!
Maureen & Larry - Out!