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Drrbey

My Alaska Cruise on Explorer

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Since I used this board extensively prior to my recent Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska on Explorer of the Seas on June 30th (and gained valuable insights from Matt's podcasts), I thought I'd share my experience with future cruisers. I traveled with my 15 year old son, so my perspective is a little different since I wasn't with my wife or a big group. All in all, we had a good vacation, but it wasn't a great vacation.

We flew into Seattle the day of the cruise (this is really easy if you live on the west coast) and used the cruise shuttle at the airport. I didn't have a reservation and intended to take Uber, but everyone must have had the same idea because the Uber charge quickly escalated to over $100 by the time our luggage came off the plane. The shuttle was only $27 per person and allowed bags to be dropped off right to our room. They were pretagged and this made things very easy. Our cabin was a balcony cabin on the 9th floor on the hub near the elevators. I loved the convenience of the location and we never heard anyone in the hallways.

Check in was easy and we headed up to the Wind Jammer to have lunch. Exploring the ship that day was an awesome experience and the excitement of our fellow passengers on the decks at sail away was contagious. The sun was out and the weather was warm. Kids (there were a lot of them on this particular cruise) were swimming in the pools and adults were enjoying drinks at the bars. Unfortunately, this was to be the last day of warmth and sunshine that we would experience until we arrived in Victoria 6 days later.

At this point, I'd like to mention that I thought the food was very good everywhere we ate (except at Johnny Rockets where the burgers were just ok and not worth an extra charge). We had My Time Dining and, being a party of 2, could usually get seated at anytime without a wait. Lobster night in the MDR was a highlight. We had breakfast at the Wind Jammer every morning and the hot tip is to go to the omelet bar to have your eggs made fresh. I sometimes just had a scramble made with ham...you didn't need to order an omelet per se. If you are traveling with kids who are picky eaters (like my son), they will have tons of options for food.

The negatives of this cruise were related to the weather. After sail away, the weather became chilly, rainy and (unfortunately) foggy for the entire time we were in Alaska. I couldn't take a decent picture and never saw any wild life in the ocean or on shore. The supposed beautiful scenery the Alaska is famous for, was hidden by low clouds and fog. I recalled listening to Matt's podcast with Stephanie Miller (travel agent) about Alaska and she made the comment "be flexible" when it comes to your tours. I couldn't agree more! Our helicopter trip to the glacier in Juneau was cancelled (we took a bus to Mendenhall Glacier instead...easy to do last minute, by the way) and the ship couldn't enter Tracey Arm Fjord so we basically just floated around the entrance and viewed small ice chunks in a foggy bay.

In Skagway we chose not to do the train because I really wanted my son to get some physical activity at this point. We did a hike/float trip that was "OK", but it was chilly, very windy in town, and on the hike, and we still didn't see even an eagle! 

The next two days were spent on ship with little to do due to weather. Because of rain and wind, you really couldn't spend time on the outside decks. RC did keep one pool open, as well as the jaccuzi's, but they got little use due to the temperatures on deck. The rock climbing wall, flow rider and even the mini golf were all closed most of the time. That kept you in the inner decks of the ship and I felt that this was too much time to not get a little physical activity. Ice skating was crowded and had limited openings, the gym was packed since there weren't a lot of other options and the shows were just "OK", with the exception of the ice skating show which was outstanding.

When we finally got off in Victoria, the sun was out again. We rented bikes near the dock (my son wasn't so interested in visiting gardens) and rode around for 6 hours. Ironically, the port that I was least looking forward to ended up being our favorite because we could finally enjoy some nice weather.

We kept our luggage the last night and were able to self-depart the ship without any issues, in very little time, and had quite a few Ubers available to take us back to a hotel in Seattle that we reserved for the final night of our vacation.

Here are a few random thoughts:

The ultimate drink package turned out to be an excellent value, especially since you tend to be on the ship more on this particular cruise. I got my money's worth with a cocktail or two, several beers and a cappuccino every day. I also used it for bottled waters for both my son and I (though I know you really aren't supposed to share the benefits with another person). I like IPA's and RC is really lacking on this trend, but they did feature Alaska Brewery beers that included some delicious craft beers.

The casinos were pretty busy, and smokey, but the dealers were really nice and the table limits were reasonable ($5 craps), if you like to gamble.

As other bloggers have reported, the ship never seemed crowded! I don't know how this was possible, considering we were pretty much stuck inside for a good portion of the cruise.

The internet was spotty while in Alaska so don't expect to download a book, or even check email, for half of the time you are out at sea.

The teen club didn't appeal to my son, but the arcade room was popular. It added up, though, to around $100 at the end of the cruise. I allowed him charging privileges on my credit card so he could play games and have an occasional soda.

The extra money spent for a balcony cabin turned out to be a waste since the rain/fog didn't allow us to use it even once on our cruise. 

I think RC did as good of a job as they could have with keeping passengers entertained (games, lounge singers, bingo...), but this round trip cruise had too many sea days for my taste. I think, in retrospect, a one way north or south cruise may be a better option because it has an extra port and fewer sea days, but I did like the convenience of flying in and out of Seattle.

I hope this is helpful to anyone going on Explorer to Alaska this summer and I hope the weather is awesome!

 

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Great review, thank you for sharing. 

I have a couple of questions for you....

  • You mentioned internet was spotty. Since you are in Alaska, how is the cell signal there? Or is there no cell service once on the ship?
  • It sounds like your Uber idea was nixed because of surge pricing.  Were you able to take the shuttle without a reservation? Is it located in the airport?
  • What day did your cruise depart? I was surprised to hear it was chilly in July! Did not expect it to be 90, but I enjoy a good chill.  Was the Solarium open to all guests?

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Hi Matt,  Our ship departed on June 30th. I chose this week because I really thought the weather would be ideal. In Juneau, I got a comment from a local stating the we already missed their "week of summer". It seems like it is very unpredictable. Now we did receive record snow on the west coast this past winter, so maybe this is the reason why the conditions weren't very summer-like this year.   We did not have a reservation for the shuttle and this wasn't a problem. They seem to leave every 20 minutes or so. This (outside) service also handled other cruises leaving that day (Celebrity).   Cell reception was as poor as wifi. I kept roaming off, of course. It was ok until we were north of Vancouver and ok in Juneau and Skagway. 

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Thanks for post. I will be cruising on Explorer in 10 days, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for better weather. This will be my second cruise in Alaska i went with virtual balcony because last time I did not spend too much time on my balcony do to the cold weather.

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4 hours ago, Drrbey said:

Our ship departed on June 30th. I chose this week because I really thought the weather would be ideal. In Juneau, I got a comment from a local stating the we already missed their "week of summer".

Good to know.  I don't mind cold, but rainy and cold is no bueno

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Really like your attitude!  So many would have taken the weather out on RC as if they had some kind of control.  Sorry the weather didn't work out for you this time.

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I'm sorry you had this experience.  We did this cruise in September of last year.  We knew the weather would be questionable & packed for cool & rainy weather in Alaska.  We really lucked out b/c the weather was fabulous (though not "warm").  We saw lots of wildlife, especially in Juneau.  Our only rainy day was in Skagway, where it was really just overcast & drizzly in the morning.  Of course, while the pools were open, no one was using them.  It was too cool for even the kids to swim.  However, we knew this going into it and specifically booked during the later part of the tourist season.

We also had a good experience with uber in Seattle.  Granted, we flew in a day early and used uber from our hotel to the port.

I totally agree with you on the sea days.  Our next Alaska cruise will be a one way trip w/ a land tour added on.

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I got off of the Explorer the first week of June and the Captain (can't remember his name) announced that this was the best weather for any Alaskan cruise he has sailed. Tracy Arm was around 40 degrees and Juneau, Skagway and Victoria were about 68-70 degrees. I have taken 5 Alaskan cruises and this was the best weather yet. I most have gotten the one good week  of weather.

I never found the Explorer to be crowded but I agree that the internet was very spotty. When in Skagway I made a call to the U.S.A. with no problem but had to wait about 5 minutes for my emails to download while there.

Victoria was better for internet.

All in all, it was a great cruise for us.

Tracy Arm Glacier Blue Ice #2.JPG

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Guest toodle68

We are planning our Alaskan cruise in 2019 and thinking of going in June because of the cheaper cost.. but I know it can be hit of miss with the weather.. but it is no different than traveling to the UK in April, May, September or October.. you might get great weather or you might get rain every day.. 

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You can never predict the weather in Alaska. I've been to Alaska both in late May and early June and had food weather both times, but I still needed to dress in layers as it is pretty cool in the mornings. However, by mid afternoon it can climb into the 70s if you're lucky. My fondest memory in Alaska is having a snowball fight with my son in a  t-shirt at the top of Mt. Robert's in 70 degree weather. 

I'd also recommend water proofing everything you plan to wear ashore. We used this same strategy with our British Isles cruise. 

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On 7/29/2017 at 0:58 PM, DocLC said:

You can never predict the weather in Alaska. I've been to Alaska both in late May and early June and had food weather both times, but I still needed to dress in layers as it is pretty cool in the mornings.

Cloudy with a chance of meatballs huh?  Good to know!

...I know, it's your auto correct 😉...

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1 hour ago, RestingBirds said:

Cloudy with a chance of meatballs huh?  Good to know!

...I know, it's your auto correct 😉...

Good catch. Mobile devices . . . Love/hate.

Alaska is all about the crab, which autocorrected to cream, but I caught it this time. Tracy's Crab Shack gets rave reviews in Juno, but I thought the prices were high for the legs. However, the crab bisque is worth the visit and the price. 

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