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I went on a 7-night cruise to Alaska. Here are 16 things that surprised me the most.

15 May 2024
Elizabeth Wright

Royal Caribbean's 2024 Alaska cruise season just began, and I took a week-long trip to experience it.

Elizabeth went to Alaska on a cruise

Growing up, my family exclusively cruised to the Caribbean, primarily on Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class. Having matured and wanting to see more of the world, I've started to broaden my horizons, which is why I booked a 7-night cruise to Alaska on Quantum of the Seas! 

Now that I've returned from the trip and settled back into my daily routine, I find myself missing the snow-capped mountains, lush greenery, and crisp air more than I thought I would! It was tough returning home to 75° weather in North Carolina. 

As with any cruise, however, it wasn't without its pros and cons. Here are 16 things that I loved and hated about my Alaska cruise aboard Quantum of the Seas. 

I hated the embarkation process


In the past, I've always arrived at the cruise terminal to be greeted by porters ready to assist me with my larger pieces of luggage. This wasn't the case in Seattle. After we got out of our Lyft, we were instructed to step to the side amidst a long line of passengers who had just disembarked. 

After that, there was little instruction regarding where to drop off our bags. One port employee told us to head inside the terminal; however, I thought that seemed strange. Turns out that it was his first day on the job and he wasn't too informed. 

As we made our way back towards the crowd, we saw a ton of suitcases condensed near a kiosk, so we figured that was probably where we needed to go. 

Read more: 30 cruise ship embarkation day do’s and don’ts


Rather than have porters readily available, guests checking in must drop their bags off themselves. If you happen to forget your luggage tags— don't worry! There's a kiosk with a port agent available to assist you. It, however, is separate from the line to drop off bags. 

Thankfully, the check-in process inside the terminal was much more organized. We were through security and on the ship in no time, even though we arrived about 45 minutes prior to our scheduled arrival appointment. 

Disembarkation was a complete 180. Though we didn't have a super early flight, we wanted to be off the ship relatively early, as I had to check a bag and didn't know how long the line at the airport would be. Initially, group 15 was estimated to be able to disembark around 8:40am; however, we were called while eating breakfast around 8:05! 

Read more: 15 Royal Caribbean boarding process tips


The only difficult part was figuring out where the rideshare pickup was. We saw one line and learned that it was for a shuttle to the rideshare area. Instead of waiting, we decided to take the short 5-minute walk and were en route to the airport in no time, arriving a little after 9:10am. 

I loved Two70 


Having sailed on Celebrity Ascent recently, Two70 reminded me of Eden. The floor-to-ceiling windows made it a great place to take in all of the amazing scenery while staying warm. Plus, guests don't have to leave for lunch, as the Café @ Two70 is just steps away. 

In addition to being a great place to relax, it hosted a lot of ship-sponsored activities, ranging from the sailaway party to Bingo, lectures, dance parties, original production shows, and more. If you're cruising on Quantum, there's a chance you'll visit Two70 at least once!

My dad and I grabbed a light lunch at Café at Two70 a few times throughout the cruise, and we enjoyed listening to a live band one evening after dinner. Starwater, the only show onboard requiring reservations, is also held in Two70, rather than the Royal Theater. 

I hated the virtual balcony


Truthfully, hated is a strong word. I didn't hate my cabin as much as I wished I had splurged on a balcony, especially considering my dad was tagging along. It was his first time staying in an interior room, and though he didn't mind the experience, he wouldn't cruise without a balcony again. 

When sailing somewhere as scenic as Alaska, having a balcony can truly make or break your experience. There were times we wished we had the ability to open up the door and step outside on our personal verandah, rather than getting dressed to sit on the upper decks. 

While I appreciated the virtual balcony more than a standard interior room, as I was able to see whether it was rainy or not before going outside, it's impossible to fully appreciate Alaska's beauty from a screen. 

Read more: I went on a 7-night Alaska cruise and stayed in a windowless cabin for $1,900. Here's what our 166-square-foot room was like

I loved RipCord by iFly


Royal Caribbean's Quantum Class ships are the only cruise ships in the world to feature a skydiving simulator. On port days, guests can take advantage of a complimentary one-minute flight, while a two-minute session on port days costs around $100 per person. 

Unsure if we'd like the experience or not, my dad and I didn't want to shell out $200 for the RipCord, so we booked an included session while the ship was docked in Icy Strait Point. To be honest, I'm surprised my dad was willing to do it! 

I got the hang of the basics pretty quickly, and while I thought it was a neat thing to do on a ship, I wouldn't have paid for it. There's an iFly center about 20 minutes from my apartment that charges $140 for four flights, which I think is a much better deal. If, however, your schedule allows you to take advantage of the complimentary sessions, I'd recommend giving it a shot! 

I hated the Windjammer


When it comes to cruise ship buffets, I tend to avoid them. They're usually way too crowded for my liking, and there are higher-quality options elsewhere on the ship. 

Overall, my dad and I agreed that the Windjammer onboard Quantum was probably our least favorite. My dad remarked how the quality of the buffet seemed to have gone downhill since his last cruise onboard Harmony of the Seas in 2018. 

There was only one dish that was particularly good, while everything else was slightly below average, in our opinion. Laksa, a noodle dish that's popular in Southeast Asia, was served one afternoon, and my dad thought it was so delicious he got a second bowl! 

Read more: 11 things you should never do at a cruise ship buffet

I loved sailaway


Having departed from Florida more times than I can count, bundling up for a chilly sailaway from Seattle was a welcomed change. In fact, since the sailaway party was held in Two70, the top decks were pretty empty.

I had no desire to watch passengers dance while the ship departed Washington, so my dad and I grabbed a drink from the pool bar and watched the skyline disappear. 

Sailing into the mountains was more enjoyable than listening to blasting music, which can be done on any cruise! 

I hated the unorganized shore excursions and long lines to disembark the ship


Our arrival into Icy Strait Point was slightly delayed due to the strong winds that we encountered en route from Seattle. By 12:00pm, passengers were getting a bit angsty, as they were ready to get off the ship. 

The line to get off the vessel snaked through the Royal Esplanade before we were cleared to disembark. Those who arrived after 12:45pm found themselves waiting past the pub. When we were finally cleared, it was almost like a scene from The Hunger Games

The only other disembarkation process I've seen that was more chaotic was on a cruise onboard Carnival Elation when we were waiting to tender to Half Moon Cay. 


The next day, we had a Royal Caribbean-sponsored excursion in Skagway. Our scheduled meeting time at the Royal Theater was 8:15am; however, when we arrived, we found a line that extended into the shopping area. 

As we were checking in, they began instructing passengers to leave the theater and descend to Deck 3, where we'd walk from the front of the ship to the aft's gangway. One passenger was distraught by this, claiming that there should have been a more centralized meeting point. 

As we made our way to the gangway, a mother and daughter tried to leave their cabin, only to be greeted by a hoard of guests! 

I loved the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, as well as Skagway in general


After the chaotic disembarkation process in Skagway, we boarded a train car for a three-hour ride along the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway. Though rainy and foggy, we didn't let the weather impact our excitement to ascend 3,000 feet up the summit. 

Everything from the greenery to the blanketing snowfall was pictureworthy. When packing for my Alaska cruise, I didn't expect to see so much snow. In fact, I've never seen that much snow in May! Though I'm sure the pass is equally beautiful in the latter half of the season, the snowfall made it seem more magical. 

I'd recommend sitting by either the front or back of the train car, as you're allowed outside when ascending and descending the mountain. Otherwise, you'll be walking back and forth quite a bit, as the best views were outside, especially when passing through the tunnels and seeing the train car snake around the track. 


When we arrived back in Skagway, we got off at the depot in town, rather than returning to the cruise terminal. Though we encountered the worst weather of the cruise while docked, we wanted to walk around the quaint town and find some delicious seafood for lunch. 

We stumbled upon the Skagway Brewing Company and decided to give it a shot, especially since my dad loves to try local beer. While the most expensive meal of our trip, coming in at around $200 for two people, it was worth every penny. 

Everything from the fresh crab legs to crab artichoke dip and cajun french fries was delicious! Plus, we had a great conversation with a local employee, who told us that she drives her children two hours into Canada for swim lessons since Skagway doesn't have a pool! 

Read more: Local’s guide of what to do in Juneau, Alaska

I hated Icy Strait Point


Again, hate is a strong word. It's hard to truly hate anything on a cruise, especially when sailing somewhere as beautiful as Alaska! 

Icy Strait Point has a lot to offer cruise passengers, from whale-watching tours to the world's largest ZipRider. If, however, you don't thoroughly research the port, you might be left disappointed. 

Looking back, we should have booked a whale-watching excursion in Icy Strait Point, visiting just Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau and having some time to explore the area around the port. Instead, we did both activities in a single day, opting to go off on our own while docked in Icy Strait Point. 


After a mediocre lunch at the Crab House, we purchased shuttle tickets to the nearby town of Hoonah. 

While it was neat to see how those in remote Alaska live (I can't imagine paying $50 for Kirkland brand K-Cups!), we heard other passengers rave about the excursions they took, whether they were booked through the cruise line or not. 

I loved Sonic Odyssey


Between Starwater and Sonic Odyssey, I'd recommend the latter in a heartbeat. While I didn't dislike Starwater by any means, it started off much slower. It didn't seem to captivate much of the audience until the female singer began her "Diamonds" cover. 

Sonic Odyssey, however, was interesting before it even began. It was hard to ignore the long harp stings that extended over the lower level of the Royal Theater. 

The Earth Harp was developed by William Close, and, according to our Cruise Director, there are only five individuals capable of playing it, one of which was on our cruise! 


Everything from the talented violinist to the wall of drums was entertaining, and the singers harmonized incredibly well. Truthfully, it was my favorite original production I've ever seen on a cruise ship! 

I hated that the North Star wasn't operational 


I knew that the North Star was out of commission before I boarded; however, that didn't completely eliminate the disappointment I felt as I passed the gigantic arm while walking on the top decks throughout the sailing. 

Supposedly, the North Star is out of commission for the entirety of the 2024 Alaska season, so those with later sailing dates shouldn't get their hopes up. 

While there are tons of other activities to do, being unable to ride the North Star, an amenity exclusive to Quantum Class ships, was a letdown, especially when sailing through Alaska.


I bet the views from the unique observation capsule would have been amazing, whether at sea or when docked in port! 

I loved sailing through Endicott Arm


I'm usually not the most pleasant morning person. Though I prefer mornings to nights, as I'm far more productive when the sun's out versus when it's dark, it takes a lot to get me up early.

However, when we were sailing through Endicott Arm, I only hit snooze once; I wasn't going to miss the breathtaking scenery of the fjords. Thankfully, and I mean THANKFULLY, there was coffee nearby in the Solarium, so I was able to caffeinate moments after leaving my cabin at 5:30am— there was no reason to hang out in the cabin when passing beautiful snow-capped mountains and icebergs. 

It was one of the most memorable mornings of the cruise. Neither my father nor I had seen an iceberg in person before that moment, and though we were only able to get a glimpse of Dawes Glacier, I can see why scenic cruising is just as appealing as thrilling shore excursions in Alaska. 

I hated that we weren't able to get too close to Dawes Glacier


Speaking of Dawes Glacier, we weren't able to get too close due to all the ice. Before the cruise, I knew this was a possibility, as Alaska is just now warming up after the winter. 

Considering that the base fare for our 7-night cruise was just $950 per person, including gratuities, I thought this was a fair compromise. Rather than sailing close to the Glacier, we cruised to Alaska relatively cheaply, putting more money towards add-ons like excursions and specialty restaurants. 

Still, like the North Star, I was optimistic and hoping that my gut feeling would be wrong and that we'd end up being able to approach Dawes Glacier. 

I loved the specialty restaurants onboard


Overall, I wasn't a fan of the included dining experience on Quantum of the Seas. Though nothing was inedible, there wasn't really anything worth writing home about, either. After two dinners in the Main Dining Room, I was grateful we had decided to pre-book two specialty restaurants, in addition to Jamie's Italian for lunch. 

From the juicy filet mignon at Chops Grille to the decadent desserts at Wonderland and fresh pasta at Jamie's, they were easily the best meals we had onboard. 

Growing up, we'd typically splurge on a single specialty dinner on our vacations; however, as I've matured and begun to cruise frequently without my dad and sister, I've started to appreciate specialty restaurants more. In fact, they're becoming more of a priority, as the main dining experience can become repetitive to frequent cruisers.


Out of the three we tried, Jamie's was our least favorite— it's hard to beat perfectly cut steaks, jumbo shrimp cocktails, and the unique experience at Wonderland. 

Read more: How does specialty dining work on Royal Caribbean?

I hated how everything closed on the last evening


As we pulled into Victoria, British Columbia, we noticed that the majority of bars began to close. Though we expected certain amenities, namely the casino and onboard shops, to close due to local regulations, I had never seen so many bars closed on the final night of the cruise, especially around 4:30/5:00pm! 

Having spent so much time in the Harp & Horn Pub listening to live music throughout the week, we were upset that the pub didn't reopen until 10:30pm. Knowing we had a long travel day ahead, we didn't feel like waiting, especially since the singer wasn't scheduled to perform. 

Note that if you're planning on doing any gambling, it's important that you check the Cruise Compass for times, as you don't want to miss the last chance to visit the cashier and receive your winnings! 


Likewise, those who want to do some last-minute shopping shouldn't bank on hitting up the shops late on the last night. Instead, prioritize purchasing all of your souvenirs early on the last day.

I loved seeing the Northern Lights


Seeing the Northern Lights is a bucket list item for many, and I was lucky enough to cross it off of mine during my cruise onboard Quantum of the Seas. As we sailed through the Inside Passage, we got a glimpse of the lights thanks to the extreme geomagnetic storm that made its way toward Earth. 

Though friends and family back in the continental United States saw the Nothern Lights, too, they didn't witness them illuminating the snow-capped mountains of Alaska, which was such a unique and once-in-a-lifetime sight. 

They were certainly worth staying up until 2:00am to see, even if I had been awake since 5:15am to take in all of the scenery of the Endicott Arm fjord. 

Read more: Photos of the Northern Lights from cruise ship passengers that dazzle at sea

Elizabeth graduated from New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute with her M.A. in Journalism in May 2023. Growing up, she had the privilege of traveling frequently with her family and fell in love with cruising after sailing on the Oasis of the Seas her freshman year of high school. She wanted to pursue a career that highlighted her passion for travel and strengths as a writer. 

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