Celebrity Summit – Alaska Cruise – 08/22/2003 thru 08/29/2003
This was our first cruise. We are in our mid 30’s.
08/19 – Flight from Atlanta to Anchorage where we rented an SUV from Hertz. Overnight in Anchorage Sheraton ($75 on Priceline)
08/20 – We got up early to have Breakfast at Snow City Café (great food), then scenic drive (1.5 to 2 hours) to Whittier. We then took a Major Marine tour of Prince William Sound going to a couple of glaciers (Spectacular trip). Finally, made the drive down to Seward after the cruise and stayed at the Seward Windsong Lodge (very nice - $190 per night). Dinner at Christo’s in Seward (good Pizza…local’s hangout)
08/21 – We were up early again and drove to Exit Glacier. It was a short, scenic drive and then less than a mile walk along a nice trail to get within 50 yards of the glacier face. After that, drove back to Seward where we went Kayaking at Fox Island with Sunny Cove Kayaking in conjunction with Kenai Fjords Tours Wildlife Cruise (Kayaking was GREAT!! Wildlife Cruise was just OK). We stayed overnight at the Seward Windsong Lodge once again.
08/22 – Return SUV to Hertz where they drove us to the Cruise Terminal (very short drive, maybe 6 blocks). Dropped bags at the 2 metal boxes next to building and checked in at about 11:30. There were no lines and no problem getting on board. We were told our room would not be ready till 12:30, but went there to drop off our carry on and found that it was ready; however, they were still very busy cleaning other rooms. We then toured the ship.
08/23 – Hubbard Glacier. Weather was spectacular. Sunny/Clear and 65 degrees. We were able to see the St Elias Mountain Range clearly and could see Hubbard as we turned into Yakutat Bay. They said it was the best weather they had seen as you almost never see the St Elias Mountain Range. We were able to get extremely close to the Glacier.
08/24 – Juneau. Explored town and took the Mount Roberts Tramway (expensive at $20 per person). Nice trails at top. Met our driver at 12:00 for Northstar Trekking Glacier Trek (2 hours on the glacier). This was spectacular!!!! We were able to hike quite far and saw something neat around every corner (waterfalls, ponds, streams all on the glacier). I could not see spending less than 2 hours on the glacier (30 minutes would definitely not be enough time). Northstar equips you with everything you need to hike on a glacier (special boots with crampons, ice axe, etc). This was $319 per person booked independently. Did a little shopping then back to ship
08/25 – Skagway. Explored town (didn’t take much time). We met up with Southeast Tours for our independently booked Horseback Riding in the Yukon ($149 per person). This involved a 1.5 hour van ride up in the mountains just passed Carcross (saw the desert, Bridal Veil Falls, Emerald Lake, etc). Met Joannie (owner of the horseback riding place) and got on our horses. This was a nice long ride (couple of hours) with views of Emerald Lake. Also, it was more than just a slow ride. We got to get up to fast trots and even a full gallop several times (better than a ride at Six Flags). Joannie was great. Had a snack and coke after the ride, then van ride back to Skagway. Our guide stopped wherever we wanted to take pictures or look around. This was better than renting a car as we could devote our attention to the sites. Also, our guide was full on information about the area that you normally wouldn’t get if you drove it by yourself.
08/26 – Sitka. We took the tender into Sitka, did some shopping, and walked to the National Park where we hiked the .75 mile trail. The trail was a lot nicer than I thought it would be. We got to see our first salmon (hundreds) running up a stream. This was our “day off” so we went back to the ship early.
08/27 – Ketchikan. More shopping and town exploring. Make sure you get back to Creek Street, as some people missed it due to most shopping being near the piers. We met up with Island Wings at 12:00 for Bear Watching at Traitor’s Cove ($250 per person). Michelle and her floatplane were great; however, her dog was at the vet (apparently, he was OK, just a little sick). Landed at a Lake and took a van down a dirt road for about a mile, then walked on a trail (mostly wood planks) to the bear viewing platform. We had over two hours to watch for bears. While we were there, 2 cruise ship groups came and left (they only had 30 minutes and one group didn’t see any bears due to their short time). We were able to see about 4-5 different bears and a cub, some of which came back multiple times. You have to be patient as the bears are not on a schedule. During our first hour, we saw no bears and then all of a sudden they started coming out of the woodwork.
08/28 – Inside Passage. Weather was GREAT!!! Sunny and 65-70 degrees (we were in shorts and T-Shirts). Saw some whales from the ship. Enjoyed a relaxing day.
08/29 – Vancouver and Disembark. We were off the ship by 9:30. Collected our bags (ingeniously marked with some fluorescent cord to make them easy to find), and walked to the Marriott Pinnacle ($50 on Priceline). Taxi was out of the question as the lines were very long. The 4 block walk was easy even though we were tired. Very nice hotel. Upgraded to a bay/mountain view room for $25. Walked to Stanley Park and went to the Aquarium (overrated). I have definitely been to better aquariums. This one seemed tired and rundown. Walked back to Robson street and had dinner at Da Pasta Bar (excellent Italian…best Lasagna). Good Gelato next door at Mondo Gelato.
08/30 – Walked to Gastown (neat touristy area) and Chinatown. This is not a touristy type of Chinatown (as in San Francisco or New York). It was neat, but not really worth the walk. If you’re not careful you could end up walking in some pretty sketchy areas on the way there. Also, went to a couple of malls that were within walking distance of hotel. We took the 6:00 Amtrak train to Seattle. Scenery was beautiful (especially on the right side of the train). You spend a lot of time along the various bays and inlets on the way to Seattle. Arrived at Seattle about 10:15 and took a cab to the Grand Hyatt ($65 on Priceline). The Grand Hyatt was the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in!!!
08/31 – Flight back to Atlanta at 11:30.
The ship: Very nice and clean. The staff was all very friendly and helpful.
The food: Plentiful and good. I would comment that the food, while good, was nothing I would go out to a restaurant to eat. It was your basic mass banquet type food. Desserts were nothing to write home about. They all looked good, but seemed to be missing something. I ended up having After Eight ice cream every night after asking our waiter if he could have it available.
The entertainment: The shows were OK. However, we enjoyed watching the Talent Show, Newlywed/Not Newlywed Game, and the various trivia contests. Even if you don’t participate, watching is really fun!!
Liquor: We were able to carry on a couple of bottles of liquor with no problem. They went through the X-ray but nobody ever hand-checked them.
Dress Codes: Basically, most people stuck to the dress codes. However, there were some people in jeans and sweatshirts every now and then. Informal night really runs the gamut from coat and tie to slacks and turtlenecks (basic rule seemed to be “look nice”).
Ports: Ketchikan (followed by Juneau) was the best. Sitka was kind of disappointing (not nearly as much Russian architecture as I was expecting). Skagway was small but neat.
Excursions: Book Independently!!!! Saved money and never worried about getting back to the ship on time. We usually saw more and did more interesting things than the cruise ship tours. Favorite was the Glacier Trek with Northstar Trekking followed closely by Horseback Riding with Southeast Tours.
Pre Cruise: The glacier cruise with Major Marine out of Whittier was probably the best/most memorable tour we had. We got within a couple of hundred yards of the glaciers and sat there for about 45 minutes at each watching them calve. At one point, such a large chunk broke off that the captain had to turn the boat into the wave that it created. Even though we didn’t have the recommended 5 to 7 days to make it up to Fairbanks or Denali, we still felt our 3 days were GREAT and well worth the extra effort for a one-way cruise.
Post Cruise: We were definitely ready to get home. The second day in Vancouver seemed to almost drag by. We were ready to get on the train to Seattle. We had arranged our trip to have a day off after we got home. You must do this, as there was no way I could’ve gone to work the next day after all the traveling.
Best Thing we took with us: A digital alarm clock. There are no clocks in the room and I like to see what time it is if I wake up in the middle of the night.
Thing we needed more of: Underwear and socks. We never had time to do laundry in town, so we finally had to break down and pay for the ship laundry service.
Thing we didn’t end up needing: Bug Spray. The only place we encountered any bugs was the Bear Watching Excursion out of Ketchikan and they had bug spray there. I was told the mosquitoes are worse further in the interior, so use your best judgment.
Clothing: Layers, Layers, Layers!!! Just like everyone says. Somedays we were in T-Shirts and shorts and other days in fleece and waterproof jacket. The lightweight waterproof jackets were the best thing we took and got the most use out of. We were actually debating taking along our heavier leather coats, but decided not too. We absolutedly did NOT need anything heavy and those coats would have just taken up valuable packing space.
Normandie: Initially we weren't going to do this, but decided to on a whim. We did it on the first formal night so that it wouldn't mean an extra night of dressing up (good decision on our part). This was one of the highlights of the cruise. The service and food were GREAT!! You must have the Goat Cheese Souffle. The service can be a little intimidating if you've never had this many people wating on you (but you get used to it). Be careful of the Somelier (spelling?) offers of champagne and wine, it can increase your bill greatly.
Overall a fantastic trip that we will never forget!!! We went at a great time of year to see the salmon running and bears feeding. The shops were all having big sales trying to clear out their merchandise for the end of the season (we got some T-shirts for $3 - $4).