Greetings Royal Caribbean Blog. My name is Adam and I am from Ohio. This is my first ever post on the forum and I am excited to start contributing. I have been ghost reading the blog and forums for a over a year now. It has immensely helped my girlfriend and I book and plan our first Royal Caribbean cruise in the March of 2018 as well as planning our upcoming Alaska Adventure. We depart in 11 days! Below is a summary and kind of a play by play on how our vacation has come together. I hope to provide daily updates during the cruise. I am not to sure if the photos will upload or not so that may be a bit delayed.
My girlfriend and I started planning our 2019 summer adventure back on our Freedom of the Seas cruise in March of 2018 while on board. We visited the Next Cruise and gathered ideas on future cruise options. We both love traveling and seeking out new places in the world to visit and explore. There are so many cruise destinations, however, Alaska Cruises really intrigued us. We didn’t book any cruises while board. Mainly because we were blown way by the cruise price at first and the thought of airfare to Alaska. Since we are in our early to mid-20’s and are not too established in our careers yet, planning our vacations thoroughly is a must so we can find the most cost-effective option.
About 10 months or a so ago, after deciding what summer vacation to pursue we settled on an Alaska cruise leaving from Seward, AK (Fly in Anchorage). The two options we looked at was either a week-long or so western US National Park Adventure (Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton) or an Alaska cruise. Our National Park Adventure will have to wait till next year…
After lots of debate on which Alaskan itinerary, cruise line and what month to travel we finally chose the Radiance of the Seas Southbound leaving July 19th. We explored all the other cruise lines and ports of departure just to make sure we were making the best possible financial and itinerary decision. Itinerary was a must for us, our focus was for port heavy cruises. I went as far as looking into what ships are in each port for the months of June, July and August in Alaska. It appears the sailing we selected has one of the best days in each port this summer in terms of lack of other cruise ships in port.
Radiance of the Seas cruise pricing for the most part seemed less expensive for cruise fare than for cruises leaving Seattle or Vancouver, however, airfare to Anchorage was a bit steep as well. It took a few months of watching airfare to finally jump on it when pricing appeared to be as low as it was going to go for a decent flight. We plan on arriving a full day early in case of any flight delays and to explore Anchorage some. Because the cruise leaves on a Friday, it would have been a bit difficult to take off more than 7 business days in a row. Therefore, cutting down on pre-cruise time in Anchorage.
Below is a more in depth look of the cruise, our plans beforehand, on-board and excursions (Thank you Twangster for the live blog format):
Day Port of Call Arrive Depart
1 Seward 8pm
2 Hubbard Glacier (At Sea) 3pm 5pm
3 Juneau 9am 9pm
4 Skagway 7am 830pm
5 Icy Strait Point 630am 3pm
6 Ketchikan 9am 6pm
7 Inside Passage (At Sea)
8 Vancouver 7am
The Ship and Cabin
After doing my daily research of potential future cruise ships to cruise on, it appears Radiance of the Seas is a wonderful mid-size ship with many areas to soak in the Alaska landscape. Having sailed on the Freedom of the Seas last year we got started off on the larger end of the ship spectrum with RCL. I am excited to see what the Radiance class has to offer.
I believe I saw a quote somewhere calling Radiance the “Dining” ship in Australia. That’s perfect for me, I’m always thinking about my next meal while consuming my current meal. The indoor Solarium and abundance of food options will be clutch during our time on sea days and in the evening time prior to dinner on some port days.
We originally booked a Guarantee Inside stateroom. Shortly after booking we were placed on deck two. We were not too bummed by the selection. Closer to the entrance and exit to get on and off the ship and likely pretty quiet at night. And pretty smooth down on deck two. Someone correct me if I am wrong on the smoothness the lower you go. If I remember correctly on Freedom, deck two was actually a little spooky.
A month ago, I was sent a Royal Up email for Ocean View and two Balcony options. I bid slightly over the minimum. I actually forgot about it till about a week ago when I got an email saying we were upgraded to an Oceanview! Hooray! Not a balcony, but at least we can possibly spot some sea life through our port hole when we wake in the mornings.
We fly to Anchorage with a connection in Seattle arriving at noon thirty the day before the cruise departs in Seward.
We looked at either an Air bnb or a hotel depending on price and location. Ultimately it made more sense to book somewhere pretty close to the train station since we depart at 645am the following morning. The Voyager Inn in the heart of the city caught our attention and we booked it at a reasonable rate compared to other Anchorage hotels.
Since we are arriving a full day early, it is a must we do some hiking in Chugach State Park (right outside Anchorage) and then some eating and drinking in Anchorage. Our plan, if the weather is in our favor is to pick up the rental car near our hotel, hopefully check in to the hotel and drive about an hour south to Girdwood and drive up to the Crow Pass Trail head. The Crow Pass Trail is a 23 mile or trail from Girdwood area all the way to Eagle River. We will likely only hike about 4 miles in and 4 miles out. I’ve heard this is one of the best hikes in the park so fingers cross weather is solid. Then we drive back to Anchorage to eat and drink good food and beer.
At 645am ish the next morning (Cruise Day!) our train from Anchorage to Seward departs. I’ve heard this is an amazing train ride and has me excited. We’ll get in around 11am. Instead of following RC Blog protocol and board the ship as soon as possible we will actually take a shuttle to the Exit Glacier Visitor Center in Kenai National Park just outside Seward. Looking to be there a few hours and hope to be on the ship by 5or 6pm. I believe technically we don’t need to be on till 630pm.
Specialty Dining and Drink/ Internet Package
Purchased the three-night dinning package and Ultimate Drink Package for me and UDP w/ Internet for my GF. YOLO
We had a bad experience in Chop’s on Freedom. May skip Chop’s this cruise.
For sure will hit up Izumi and Giovanni’s. Debating if Samba will be worth it or go to Izumi twice.
I did a simple price comparison between drinks on our own (guessing the amount of drinks we would buy on average per day) or buying the package. Made sense to get the package since the price was solid. Also, no stress purchasing drinks on-board is a plus.
The top reason for this cruise was the ports of call. My girlfriend and I went all out on excursions. We also went against RC Blog protocol and did not book any excursion through Royal. We felt we could get a better experience with smaller groups and highly rated tour companies. Since we are in port longer, we feel we could take the risk to go with third-party tours.
I’ll post a quick summary of what each excursion entails. If anyone wants more info on the excursion or company please let me know and I will provide!
We are hiking a glacier! We are going on a trek to the Mendenhall Glacier and then hiking up on top of the glacier. The tour starts at 930am and is completed by 530pm or so. All transportation and most of the gear is provided. Should provide us with a couple of hours to eat some dinner or a snack and check out Juneau a bit after the excursion.
Heading over to Haines on the fast ferry and doing some kayaking at Chilkoot Lake. Hope we see some great wildlife while on the lake. Our excursion starts at 930am and arrives back to Skagway at 345pm. This was the only timeslot left. Consumes most of the day but will totally be worth it.
After the kayaking we will explore Skagway a bit and hopefully have some time to explore some of the local trails. I don’t think we will have much time to hike. Which is a bit of a bummer since I have heard there are some great places to hike nearby.
Icy Strait Point (ISP)
Since it appeared the best places to whale watch in our ports of call are either Juneau or ISP, ISP became the official whale watching stop since the glacier trek will be an all-day excursion in Juneau.
I googled the best whale watching companies and I believe I booked with the top-rated company. Now I’m going to assume that doesn’t guarantee we will see whales; but it is going to be a lot nicer to be on a boat with 4 or 5 other folks and not 50.
This is the grand finale excursion. One of the top reasons my girlfriend and I wanted to go to Alaska. To see wildlife! Well it doesn’t get much better than this. We are taking a float plane trip to Anan Creek to see the bears feast on salmon in their natural habitat! I believe this is one of the few places in the world where brown and black bears eat in the same location. The feeding period is only July through August and I believe we will be there at peak time. The National forest service which operates Anan Creek only allows a certain number of permits given out every single day. There is an observational platform near the creek where you can watch the bears gorge themselves with salmon.
There is a lottery system that decides who gets them on what days. The lottery occurred back in November but I reached out to a few companies in September so they could put us on their list if they got permits. In order for us to increase our chances of selecting the company that got permits we chose a cruise date with no other cruise ship in port. It happens this sailing, there are not other cruise ships in port this day. While we were able to get permits very easily, it was nice knowing for sure we will be basically guaranteed permits since no other ships are in port.
Let me know if you have any questions about our upcoming trip! I can’t wait to share with y’all.