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Ovation Goes North, Way North to Alaska! 11 Nights, May 13, 2019

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Finally the 2019 Alaska cruise season is beginning and so has the single digit dance!

Looking back I always put off an Alaska cruise despite all the good things I heard over and again.  Now I can't get enough.  This will be my fourth cruise to Alaska and hopefully it will not be my last.   Why did I wait so long to cruise to Alaska?  

Itinerary

Day              Port of Call                                        Arrive       Depart

1                   Vancouver                                                            5pm

2                   At Sea

3                   At Sea

4                   Icy Strait Point (ISP)                           9am        8pm

5                   Sitka                                                      7am        6pm

6                   Hubbard Glacier                                  8am        11am

7                   Juneau                                                  7am        9pm

8                   Skagway                                               7am        8:30pm

9                   Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier     7am        12pm

10                 At Sea

11                 At Sea

12                 Seattle                                                  6am

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source: CruiseCharts.com

The Ship

This is a special cruise in many ways.  This will be Ovation's first cruise to Alaska and the first time a Quantum class ship visits Alaska.  It will be the largest cruise ship ever to visit Alaska edging out the NCL Bliss by a small margin.  It's a repositioning itinerary unique for this season, starting in Vancouver and ending in Seattle.  There are two glaciers on the itinerary, Hubbard and Dawes.  The itinerary includes two ports not normally on Royal itineraries from the South - Sitka and Icy Straight Point.   It's eleven nights compared to the normal 7 night Alaska cruise.  This will be the earliest in the Alaska cruise season for me, beating out my previous early Alaska season cruise by several weeks.  

Hubbard Glacier is pretty far North and it's not normally on Seattle based itineraries.  Sitka is infrequently on Royal itineraries.  Icy Strait Point is a favorite port for me and usually only found on Royal's North or South one-way Alaska itineraries.   

When considering any Alaska cruise paying attention to the times in port is important and Royal has planned some awesome times in each port on this itinerary.

Ovation is a "cold weather" ship which should pair very well with Alaska.  The ample sized indoor pool will be great for families leaving the beautiful Solarium for adults to enjoy the sweeping views forward as we sail the Alaskan inside passages.  Combined with the sweeping views aft from Two70° and this is shaping up to be a fantastic Alaska cruise experience.

Pre-Cruise Plans

I fly to Vancouver with a connection in Salt Lake City arriving noon the day before the cruise departs Vancouver.

I found a nice but inexpensive hotel near the airport with a free airport shuttle.  Vancouver features a train system that will allow me to reach downtown pretty easily while saving substantially by not staying downtown.  

Once settled I plan to visit downtown and may even head out to the Lion's Gate Bridge Sunday evening to watch Ovation arrive being the largest cruise ship ever to visit Vancouver harbor. 

Cabin

I normally scale back my cabin to Alaska so I can splurge on excursions but Ovation changes the math.  Quantum class ships have a much higher balcony cabin count relative to interior or ocean view cabins.  Because of the balcony cabin ratio on Ovation the marginal price difference to book a balcony was small enough to motivate me to spend a few extra hundred dollars and book a balcony plus it's eleven nights.  In years past an interior cabin was less than half the price of a balcony so the savings basically paid for the excursions.

Consequently this year I am in a 2D ocean view balcony on deck 11 forward port side.  On these ships I like being close to the pool deck so I can take the stairs and my cabin is a few steps to the elevator lobby.

Specialty Dining

None planned.  My travel agent did throw in one specialty dinner so I'll probably visit Jamie's based on an Anthem cruise where I really enjoyed Jamie's over all the other options. 

Excursions

To experience Alaska you need to get out of the ports and see Alaska.  To this end I always plan a healthy Alaska excursion budget and this year's excursion budget approaches $900 per person.

When I booked this cruise I grabbed a bunch of Royal excursions as place holders while I looked at all options.  Several cruise planner sales occurred and I was able to save hundreds by cancelling and rebooking my excursions.  With those price drops I couldn't find many cheaper options and all things being equal I always prefer booking excursion through Royal in case of itinerary changes.  I did find one Viator excursion in Sitka that looked interesting so I booked it outside of Royal.

Icy Strait Point (ISP)

With Royal gaining access to Glacier Bay in future years I thought a fly over Glacier Bay National Park would be a great way to look forward to a future visit by ship.

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Going on a bear hunt to shoot pictures has always appealed to me in ISP so these are my two excursions for this day leaving lots of time to explore ISP on my own.

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Sitka

The raptor center in Sitka sounded like a great way to see some birds including (hopefully) some Eagles.  Throw in a nature walk and it sounded like a winner.

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Having hopefully seen bears by this point, I thought beers and bears sounded pretty good so I found this Viator option in Sitka. 

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Juneau

Visiting Juneau I have always watched the float planes coming and going but always found something else to do.  So this year I am going to continue my small plane obsession and see some glaciers from the air in a SeaPlane.

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Skagway

Glass blowing has always fascinated me and having done many of the other must do Skagway activities this year is going to blow.  I figure what better way to find a keepsake memento from an Alaska cruise than on a glassblowing activity leaving me a lot of daylight to explore Skagway on my own.

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Internet

I bought Voom Surf and Stream on sale for $11.99 per day.  Given the 11 night duration this was more economical compared to buying it on board with my Crown and Anchor discount and waiting until day two. 

While Ovation uses the newest O3b satellite platform I'm not sure that is going to help North in Alaska where O3b has "limited services".

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source: www.ses.com/our-coverage

A Royal O3b enabled ship has never ventured this far North into the limited services area so I'm not sure what to expect from Voom.  If the ship switches to conventional satellite internet I know from past experiences that can be hit or miss at times while cruising Alaska.  Consequently this may not be a live blog and I might have to finish and post pictures once home.

With that the count down continues...  more to come.

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Huzzah! Another Twangster blog! And with some awesome-sounding excursions, to boot! 😁

Have a fantastic trip! Fingers crossed that the internet holds up for you, but if not then take advantage and just enjoy every moment to the fullest. We know the pics will show up here sooner or later. 😉

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Well, you know I'll be following - the blog is a double bonus for me (Twangster blog + we'll be following a month later in June on Ovation).  We're already thinking about our next Alaskan cruise, and I'm jonesing to go to Sitka and Icy Straight Point, so I'm really looking forward to seeing those from your blog perspective (and sharing the blog with Mr. SpeedNoodles along the way).

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5 hours ago, Auto said:

This blog may be what I need to convince my wife for a future Alaska cruise...

Better get that credit card ready.  It is pointless to refuse now. @twangster blogs have a certain reputation for motivating people to spend 🤣 Proven track record!

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Well, Viator emailed and my Sitka tour lost the brewery.  Apparently the brewery has decided no tours this year.  The local tour operator is offering a town bar in it's place, but I don't need to pay for a tour to visit a bar.  

Consequently I cancelled this tour and will make my own beer sampling event in Sitka.  

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10 hours ago, Lovetocruise2002 said:

Better get that credit card ready.  It is pointless to refuse now. @twangster blogs have a certain reputation for motivating people to spend 🤣 Proven track record!

Glad I already have my Alaska cruise booked...  Although this blog will probably lead me to spend money on camera equipment...

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