Upon our return from our Alaskan adventure each friend or family member that asked how our vacation went was answered with what has now become an almost rote reply. 'It was spectacular, exceeding all of our expectations and we cannot wait to return.'
It was an expensive trip however and to book another even next year could prove a financial burden unless we were able to economize the cost in some ways. We have already put our heads together on this matter and determined several stratagies that could result in significant savings.
1) We will book are own airflights.
2) Curtail some of the more expensive excursions, excluding any helicopter/glacier hiking tour which is worth every penny.
3) Any excursions we do reserve, try to book ourselves, bypassing the cruise line.
4) Downgrade from a mini-suite to a stateroom with balcony. We loved our little suite with the extra sitting area, large deck and bathtub but we now know that we could survive nicely on a less grand scale and save a small wad at the same time.
5) Since we splurged in seemingly every area this time we can lower costs by simply eliminating all the surcharge restaurants, balcony dining experiences, special breakfasts and formal night pictures.
All of the above combined would result in considerable savings.
I understand that we could really reduce the price by cruising only and not adding a land portion to the trip but we really reveled in interior Alaska and cannot see ourselves excluding that magical aspect.
In addition, I could pick up the odd job to supplement my income. I'm not too proud to land a paper route and I can always avail myself to various pharmacutical studies.
Idle thoughts: The food on our trip was overall okay. It was a little better at the various Princess Lodges we stayed in but then again a meal for two with a moderatly priced wine was $75. On ship we found it to be acceptable. There were only a couple of meals that we really enjoyed and although we were never served anything inedible we found the cuisine to be quite bland. The description of the entrees on the menu could send the palate to watering but most of the dishes, including breakfast lacked any zest at all. The soups too were rather timid in flavor and most seemed to be artificially thickened with corn starch and similar agents. This is not really a complaint. Lesley and I went to Alaska for one thing only and that was to discover Alaska. The food was an afterthought so we did not find this to be a disappointment. Here I must add that the pizza that was available on the Lido deck was quite good. As for the buffet, we never actually ate there so I cannot provide comment. We both enjoy being served with the tablecloths and linen napkins and thus had most meals at one of the restaurants.
Eating with strangers: On our first morning we asked for a table for two for breakfast and were instead ushered to a table that already had four diners. Confused initially, we sat down and struck up a conversation. This was to be repeated each morning and we found it to be a quaint ship custom. There were always easy segways into conversation since everyone was on the same vacation and we never met tablemates that we found rude or boorish or otherwise unfriendly. Lesley and I always seemed to be rushed to get to one excursion or the other so most of the time we ate fairly quickly, chatting between bites and then apologizing as we dashed from the table.
Anytime dining: Both traditional and anytime dining had their merits but we ultimately chose anytime because we never really knew day to day what we would feel like doing at night. This coupled with the fact that we are normally late diners at home, 9:00 or so left the anytime dining a more viable option for us.
The Casino: I had previously mentioned that I never gambled at the casino though the discretionary funds were there to do so. My one lasting impression of the place was the nights just after leaving port where wandering by I would see a number of passengers sitting in front of darkened slot machines or waiting at empty gaming tables in anticipation of the ship being the alloted distance from land or whatever the legal statutes demand.
Thats it for now I guess. Thanks again to everyone who was so helpful in preparing for this trip. The information and guidance I recieved here at cruisemates was invaluable and truly helped in making this trip so memorable. Our next trip will probably be a shorter adventure to the southwest, an area neither of us has ever visited. Our next cruise? I am of course thinking of Alaska but have also entertained the thought of cruising through Scandanavia. We'll have to see what happens. Thanks again everybody.